How Windows XP is gambling with your security

 

Windows Xp Cover

Microsoft has announced that support for Windows XP will finish by April 8th 2014. After this date all XP users will be prone to an increased risk of viruses and other hacker attacks. According to a survey conducted by Net Applications, nearly 40% of global desktops still use Windows XP, only slightly fewer than those using Windows 7, which has 45% market penetration.

Do you really need to worry about this?

It’s true that your XP machine won’t suddenly die on the 8th, but its days are still numbered. The problem is that you may not be able to continue using XP with the same confidence as just now where Microsoft automatically send out automatic software updates and security patches to all XP machines which ensures reliability and security. On the 8th April this year these automatic updates will CEASE.

After 8th April 2014, when (not if) the bad guys detect a security hole that lets them take over an XP machine without the owner’s knowledge, they may be able to monitor your activity, read your emails and pick up sensitive corporate and personal data (e.g. online banking security, personnel data etc.).

Plan ahead to avoid the disaster

If you’re using Windows XP and your PC is connected to the Internet; you need to make plans some time before security becomes an issue in April 2014. The solution will be to move onto a later version of

MS Windows (7 or 8), but not all computers currently running XP will perform adequately with these newer operating systems. Another consideration is purchasing new licences can be relatively expensive when compared with new PC & licence price.

You need to think about all the programs that you use and if they can run on the new operating system. Many organisations run applications that are not provided by Microsoft, such as accounting packages or engineering drawing and planning. These need to be checked for compliance with any proposed changes. What happens if it all goes wrong? Do you have a disaster recovery and business continuity plan that’s more substantial than simply backing up your data?

How to implement?

Whether you are moving one machine from Windows XP, or more, it’s worth developing action plan now. Below are some suggestions on items to consider:

  • Start with the obvious: check to see which desktops and laptops are still running Windows XP.
  • Rank your machines in two ways: importance and urgency. Systems that score highly in both measures need an action plan soon. Unusual or specialist software, or machines you run accounts on, for example, should get higher ratings: they may need special attention.
  • Complete backup of data including emails and any special program data that is not held within the documents area.
  • List the programs that you require setting up on the new computer.
  • Get hold of all the discs, licence keys, user names and passwords as appropriate.
  • Find all the drivers required for new operating system.
  • Plan time to migrate – it will probably take 3-4 hours per computer. Also note that there is no automatic way to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8.
  • Plan which machines must go first if you have many machines to migrate.

Complex Situations

Complex situations will require detailed planning and testing prior to migration. It will pay dividends to seek the help of an experienced IT support company to ensure that you have a trouble free migration.

How many Windows XP machines have you got running and what is your action plan to deal with this? Give us your comments here.

Guest Blogger for this article was

David Shuster of Managed IT Experts
david@manageditexperts.co.uk
http://www.manageditexperts.co.uk

Who has the lion’s share?

touch screenWho has the lion’s share?

In this post I thought we could have a look at who has the lion’s share of the Operating system market. That’s not such an easy question anymore, as the idea of sitting at a desk and performing all your duties has changed drastically over the last few years.

 

The operating systems we use daily are now spread over the following device types:

  • Desktop Computers and laptops
  • Tablet computers
  • Smart Phones
  • Server machines

Gone are the days of the Microsoft Windows revolution, the massive change in how we used computers that made us all want one, and then get really frustrated with it as the technology kept changing. In the pursuit of progress, the Operating system was continually transformed into something else just as soon as we were just getting to grips with it. Our parent company, IT Turning Point, exists primarily to educate and inform. This keeps everyone using their systems and software correctly, and ensure they always work to their benefit.

Let’s look at the Desktop

 

Desktop operating system browsing statistics on Net Applications

Windows 7

47.53%

Windows XP

28.53%

Windows 8

10.68%

OS X

7.68%

Windows Vista

2.10%

Linux

1.48%

Desktop OS Market Share as of February 2014 according to Net Applications

 

Microsoft still has a massive share in the desktop market, primarily because of their prevalence in the business world and enterprise companies. They have the history of targeting this market successfully, and that past success really what made them who they are today. It is interesting to note the various incarnations of the Windows operating system still dominating the desktop marketplace.

When it comes to mobile, things are different indeed

Microsoft did not see the mobile market as their main thrust, and as such they left their entry into the arena a bit late. By the time they made their move, Apple had introduced us to the touch screen smart phone, and the mobile landscape had changed. Google entered the market with Android, its operating system for mobile devices, and the landscape changed once more. Let’s look at the picture for mobile devices as things stand:

Worldwide smartphone sales to end users by operating system in 2013

Android

79.0%

iOS

14.2%

Windows Phone

3.3%

BlackBerry

2.7%

Other

0.9%

Mobile OS Market Share as of 2nd quarter 2013 Gartner

Mobile operating system browsing statistics on Net Applications

iOS

52.96%

Android

36.14%

Java ME

4.44%

Symbian

3.50%

BlackBerry

1.42%

Kindle

0.93%

Windows Phone

0.45%

Other

0.16%

Mobile OS Market Share as of February 2014 Net Applications[1]

 

As you can see, the companies in the mobile arena are very different from those on the desktop, and it’s still evolving – these mobile devices also include tablet computers as well.

Android have swept the floor with their OS, a large amount of key hardware manufacturers signing up and skinning the core Android to make it their own. Layers such as HTC’s Sense and Samsung’s Touchwiz enable these devices to stand apart despite the same underlying core. Google have kept their hand in with Android devices running an unskinned version of Android – these devices are all part of Google’s Nexus range. See our recent posts for articles on these devices.

The current statistics vary drastically, but it is now being suggested that around 72% of Internet traffic is coming from mobile devices. A very interesting statistic, and again as we mentioned at the beginning, this changes the way we do computing in a big way.

The second table above shows the Operating systems we are browsing with in the mobile market, as you can see Windows is at the bottom and Microsoft are now desperately playing catch-up.

Conclusion

Microsoft have still got a lot to offer, and they still have the main desktop market sewn up for now. They have moved late for the mobile market however, and the writer has to wonder whether they will continue in this arena or pull back and concentrate on what they do best. Considering that we are moving more towards mobile working, and more tablet computers are being bought every day, that may not be a move they can afford if they wish to maintain their own future growth.

 

What OS do you use and what devices do you have? Let us know your thoughts.

Do I use Protection?

passwords

Password protection of course.

In this post, we are looking at passwords – and what people do or don’t do with them. It was inspired by a recent report online about the most common passwords of 2013. It scares me when I see what is being used. Strong passwords are one of those things we know we need, and should be using, but tend to put little to no effort into. Then we tend to be the first to shout ‘my details were taken’ when things go wrong.

So what are the rules then? Different camps will give you different instructions, and some will claim a password is strong when in fact it isn’t.

Let’s look at the most common methods:

  1. Use Different passwords everywhere.
    Why should we have to do this when it is so easy to use our pets name at every password prompt? Well it’s simple really. If someone guesses your pets name, and believe me they will, then they have access to every site you use. A study by an online company, called BitDefender, showed that 75% of people will use the same password for their email and Facebook. If that is then also your PayPal password, and it’s discovered, say goodbye to some funds and your friends.
  2. Remember the Underwear Meme
    Seemingly the saying goes like this: Passwords are like underwear. You should change them often, maybe not every day of course. Don’t share them. Don’t leave them out for others to see. (No Post Its). They should also be mysterious and a secret to others. So make them something that they can’t guess.
  3. Avoid Common Passwords
    If the word can be found in a dictionary, it is not a strong password. If you use numbers and letter as they appear on the keyboard, it’s not a strong password. Relatives names and pets names, NO. Even if you follow them with a number. Birthdays and anniversaries are just as bad sadly. Hackers will try all these things first. They actually run programs to check all these kinds of passwords, and for the love of all that’s techie, if you use “password” as your password, please just sign off the Internet right now. SplashData has been listing the 25 worst passwords for some years now, and “password” has always topped the list as the most common password. This year it was deposed by the long-time second worst password: “123456.” No, really!

So what are you tips I hear you cry!

Don’t cry, here is some advice.

Strong Password Solutions

How to Build Strength

To create a strong password, it is suggested you should use a string of text that mixes numbers, letters that are both lowercase and uppercase, and special characters. It should be eight characters, but preferably many more. A lot more. The characters should be random, and not include words, flow alphabetically, or be from your keyboard layout.

So how do you make such a password?

1) Spell a word backwards. (Example: Turn “New York” into “kroywen.”)

2) Use l33t speak: Substitute numbers for certain letters. (Example: Turn “kroywen” into “kr0yw3n.”)

3) Randomly throw in some capital letters. (Example: Turn “kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3n.”)

4) Don’t forget the special character. (Example: Turn “Kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3^.”)

You don’t have to go for the obvious and use “0” for “o,” or “@” for “a,” or “3” for “e,” either. As long as your replacement makes sense to you, that’s all that matters. A “^” for an “n” makes sense to me.

The suggested best form today seems to be creating a sentence and type it in, including spaces. It takes algorithms much longer to crack something like that than it does just for straight words – even if you have changed the letters for symbols and numbers. (Example: “I love yellow trousers”). This believe it or not is quite secure, and has the added advantage of being easier to remember. Of course, I could also swap numbers for letters and include symbols as well.

Well I hope you got the point and the Protection is definitely needed.

To finish, here is last year’s list of the 25 most commonly used passwords. I expect to hear the cries of despair as you recognise yours. It also shows their change in rank from the year before, and includes some newcomers for this year as well.

1. 123456 (Up 1)

2. password (Down 1)

3. 12345678 (Unchanged)

4. qwerty (Up 1)

5. abc123 (Down 1)

6. 123456789 (New)

7. 111111 ( Up 2)

8. 1234567 (Up 5)

9. iloveyou (Up 2)

10. adobe123 (New)

11. 123123 (Up 5)

12. admin (New)

13. 1234567890 (New)

14. letmein (Down 7)

15. photoshop (New)

16. 1234 (New)

17. monkey (Down 11)

18. shadow (Unchanged)

19. sunshine (Down 5)

20. 12345 (New)

21. password1 (up 4)

22. princess (New)

23. azerty (New)

24. trustno1 (Down12)

25. 000000 (New)

Let us know what you think, and how you cope with remembering all the various passwords you use.

Ho! Ho! Ho! The Christmas Gadget List……

Christmas gift list

Happy Christmas from us All

It’s that time of the year again when people are eying up their Christmas want lists and gadgets are almost likely to be up there near the very top for many of us.

From a new mobile to a tablet computer there are an array of gadgets that can keep us drooling and wanting the next best thing. So who are doing the most obvious pushing this Christmas Time? Who will Santa be wooed over by when he is choosing your and my presents this year.

Phones

The IPhone 5S is still high in the popularity stakes with its clean looks and fingerprint recognition. Will an Apple at Christmas be your thing. At around £549 to buy.
HTC One is the competitor and again sturdy design with HTC’s proven record of phone technology. Fabulous sound through two front facing speakers. Made from a solid piece of aluminium. At around £479 to buy.

Cameras

The cannon EOS 700d might be the present you are seeking from Father Christmas, get the professional shots you have always wanted. 18 Megapixel sensor and great build quality; this puppy will set you around £750 to buy.
Samsung have their NX300 out as well to compete and being Samsung the name is there as far as technology is concerned. It has a 20.3 Megapixel sensor and talks to all other Samsung devices. It will take around £600 out of your Christmas savings account.

Apple again

Apple MacBook Air is still popular, the 2013 edition. Only a small upgrade to previous versions but still maybe on your Christmas list if you are and avid Apple follower. Apple never does anything by half so this baby will cost you around £849 to buy.

TV’s

A large new TV, which would be a great Christmas present. Samsung again with their Samsung UE46F8000ST, 35mm thick with e tiny 5mm surround bezel has to be a great pick. Image quality is meant to be one of the best from an LED TV. And it includes all the gesture recognition that is coming in. Basically a computer on board containing Quad cores……This screen will steal around £1800 from your savings.
Panasonic have their TX-P60ZT65, which is rumoured to be the best HD TV out there with extremely fine picture detail. Smart with Internet options and also acts as a media streamer. However the elves will raid your bank account to the tune of around £3650.

To finish our Teaser list…..

How about a JL Built-in Wine Cooler, this small cabinet fits in the smallest of spaces in a kitchen and chills the wine, 7 bottles, and is very quiet with a noise count of only 36dB. Doesn’t frost up either it seem? This will cost your around £180, so not such a sting on those savings this time.

Well, have a great Christmas and a fabulous new year and let me know below what your gadget for Christmas would-be this year.

IT Tech Point

Why the Nexus range, and do phone users even care?

nexus 7 2013

New Nexus 7 2013

I am, as you probably know by this time, into all things tech (with some exceptions) and have been over the last few years been into the smart phone market. Now, when I rummage around and find one of my old Nokia phones, I really wonder how I managed to survive with it. The smart phone market has revolutionised our opinion of what a phone should do, and in fact the phone element of any device seems the part least spoken about.

I have tried a number of smart phones over the years, and have drawn my own conclusions as to which ones are doing what I need then to do, while potentially taking the whole smart phone market further. I am always looking at what we have now, and what we could have in a very short period of time.  Apple, as everyone now knows, got this whole snowball rolling and changed the perception of the mobile phone market. Then they launched the first successful tablet computer, not the first though, as Microsoft had tried the idea years earlier – but the market place was not ready for them back in the late 90’s, and they did not take off.

The Battle was on!

After the launch of the first iPhone, the battle for control of the smart phone market was now on.  Apple had stolen the early lead with the touch screen phone and tablet market, wrestling market share from Nokia and it’s aging Symbian system. Other phone manufacturers could only try and catch up, some with more success than others.

Today, Nokia mobile are no more – the technology now owned by Microsoft who are using it to drive the Windows platform forward. Motorola Mobile are now owned by Google, a purchase that solidified the patent armoury most corporations have these days. Blackberry did not react fast enough, at time of writing they company is currently facing being sold off to various bidders (including names like Lenovo) in various packages.

The challengers

After their initial domination of the market, Apple began to face a challenge; Google acquired a company called Android, Inc (who unsurprisingly produced the Android operating system) and then got various manufacturers to buy into using Android for smart phone device and tablets – with these manufacturers they formed the Open Handset Alliance in order to further Android sortware and corresponding hardware. It had suddenly stopped being a one horse race, and Apple now had serious competition for their smart phones and tablets.

Through development of Android, Google has continued to push the boundaries of what can be done, and more and more manufacturers have joined the OHA. Apple has stuck to their tactics of premium prices and quality build, backed by a locked down operating system that is partially customisable.  The story again, at time of writing, is that there are more Android devices switched on per day than Apple and all other phone operating systems combined.

In an attempt to aim for a premium phone experience, Google have created a range of devices branded Nexus. Hand chosen manufacturers have been asked to build these, and Google work closely with them on the software and hardware designs. The final products run a vanilla build of Android, and are pushed updates instantly as they are released.

This was partially in response to the problem Google encountered with other Android device manufacturers (such as HTC , Samsung etc.) would take the raw Android operating system, and then skin it with their own logos and interfaces in order to brand it as their device. While this allowed these manufacturers to make their phones unique from their competitors, it did mean the end user was at the mercy of the OEM for their Android updates, and many handsets are still several versions of Android behind, despite being less than a year old.

The Nexus Range

The latest incarnations of the Nexus range are the Nexus 5 phone (launched November 2013), and the Nexus 7 tablet (launched July 2013). There is also the Nexus 10 tablet (launched November 2012), but a new one is due to be launched imminently.

The benefits of a Nexus tablet or phone are the instant Android updates, and the fact that it all works with the hardware flawlessly. The devices all synchronise via the cloud, so data transfers seamlessly between them to allow mobile working at its best.

We test drove the Nexus 7 2012 version, and the Nexus 7 2013 version on this very blog – check them out and see what our thoughts and findings were.

So what do the public think?

Does any of this behind the scenes work affect what the public think about their next phone? I think for the majority it probably doesn’t, and it’s the next clever advert that may sell them their next phone. But for anyone who is, dare I say it, slightly geeky and interested in where their phone has come from – and, perhaps even more importantly, interested in where their phone might be going,  this info might just sway their opinion.

What is your take on mobile development and where it might be going?

Thanks to Graham Thomson for his input into this article.

Rumours Surface about Surface 2….

touch screenRumours are surfacing about Microsoft being about to launch their next generation of the Surface tablet computers. These remember are the computers that they have a huge stock of in warehouses that is costing them more in Rent for the storage space than it did to make the units.

They have scheduled a press event on the 23rd September in New York and are emailing out media invites, but are keeping very quiet about any other details….oh the intrigue.

The rumour mill of course has been running all the time and snippets have been released about the various new Surface units that might be emerging. For example, it is rumoured there will be a Surface 2 and a Surface Pro device. Also a refreshed version of the Surface RT device. Hardware is expected to be improved to the Tegra 4 CPU with 1080p screen and 4Gb of RAM. Improvements to the battery life have also been muted.

Of course Windows 8.1 is expected in October so all these devices are rumoured to be running this version.
But is it too, little too late for Microsoft. Or will they make the breakthrough they expect to make in this catch up race with IOS and Android devices?

What are your thoughts and do any of you have a Surface just now?
If you do let us know your thoughts on it?
If not, would you rush out and buy a new Microsoft Surface device?

Don’t Touch My Screen!

touch screen

“To touch or not to touch that is the question?”

I thought I would put an article together on the use of touchscreens. I recently tweeted about the use of touchscreen on laptops and desktops and how people are having to lean forward to use the touch screen and then back to type and then forward. Which might be great exercise but may also cause health problems.

The question is has Microsoft seen the mobile revolution and thought this is great for the office and laptop market and not thought this through? I must admit I sit at home in an evening and have my phone by my side and my tablet PC. I use the touch all the time and rarely change my position.

But when I work at my desk I use a standard desktop computer, keyboard and mouse and have done for years. Now, the for years argument, is not one I normally use because if that was the case we would never have changed anything and we would all still be using telegrams to send messages.

However, in this case I wonder if the future interaction is purely touch and voice activation and typing will be a thing of the past?

One article I read online from my friends at IT Portal said,

“In my research leading up to the Windows 8 announcement, I never heard people voice a desire for touch as a way to navigate among apps. They were quite comfortable using a mouse and track pad as they had been doing for years. Even now our research shows that many folks feel that lifting their hands off their keyboard or mouse to touch the screen is unnatural.”

Of course this doesn’t mean that we have to stay the same as we have always been, but some thought in how these things are forced upon us maybe necessary. Apple has not yet put touch screens on their MacBook’s or imac’s.

What are your thoughts on this?

There’s an App for that………

appsThe phrase that Apple have made famous by their Apple store advertising. We all expect an App for almost anything we want to do. We are getting so used to doing things on the hop now that everything is mobile. Smart phones for smarter working.

We thought we would look at the current race for having the most Apps available for users. The race is between the three main players, even though there are really, at this stage, only two, Apple and Android. Microsoft and Blackberry (RIM) are around but playing catch-up in this volatile market place.

Here are the latest stats at time of writing this article.

Apple store                                                        775,000+ apps available

Android Market Place                                        667,647+ apps available

Microsoft Store                                                  150,000+  apps available

The obvious question is, do we need all these apps and if so how did we ever perform without them. Now remember I am a self-confessed geek and use a good number of apps and technology that I never used in the past and find them to be some of the most useful kit I have and now rely on them, probably too much. That feeling of when your phone decides to not work, being the equivalent of your right arm being cut off. So I am not anti apps and new ways of doing things.

Apps tie you in

I have also found that apps tie people in, so there is another reason to be on the front foot when producing them. I told a friend of mine that they should try an Android based phone and see what they thought and they said that they couldn’t as they had spent so much money at the Apple store on Apps and other Apple related stuff that they would be losing out on a lot of money they had spent. So there is motive in the madness of App production.

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on the Apps race? Do you over rely on them or do you think there is an app that would be great and nobody has produced it yet. Or are you just an Angry Birds gamer and like all the gaming that can happen in the mobile arena.

Whatever your take, this is a race worth watching and we certainly will be keeping our eye on what is happening in this area. Follow our blog and we will keep you up to date on all things techie.

Ian Thomson

Founder/Trainer/Consultant

Windows 8 is on the shelves, will you change?

windows 8Microsoft have launched the latest incarnation of the Windows operating system and it’ s again a major revamp to tap into the mobile tablet market, where they have been lagging behind for some time.

Is it too little too late? Well that remains to be seen, they still have 2.5 billion desktop users worldwide and they have to be maintained and brought into the next operating system. This proved hard with Widows Vista where less that 30 % adopted the new operating system. Windows 7 redeemed them slightly and has now been adopted widely and clients and enterprise networks moving into Windows 7 with gusto now. Of course this was on the back of Microsoft dropping Windows XP, by far best incarnation so far and the one that just runs and runs.

So what of Windows 8?

Well it is a change again from what we are all used to and is designed primarily to attack the tablet market and mobile devices. The Start menu has changed and the desktop layout is completely changed.

In the main guts of it the system itself has changed, better power usage, more difficult to hack, faster to boot up as it leaves some of the operating system on a hard drive space in a memory slot so it can boot quicker, similar to the hibernation system we have had in Windows for some time and it works. There will be the inevitable learning curve and complaints about where everything now can be found. But that’s progression for you.

Adoption

As usual we predict that the larger organisations will stay with an older version of the operating system until Windows 8 has been proven and the first or even second service pack is launched.

This is always the case and nothing new for Microsoft. The biggest up take will be home users and the new computer purchases, which will drive the sales forward. Also the launch of Microsoft Surface, which is another name for the Windows 8 on a tablet. So the tablet market may take off big time. So look out for bargains of the older stock that retailers will get rid of.

Will you change?

Well it is this author’s opinion that it is a personal matter of the individual user as to when you change; just make sure that all your existing apps will work with Windows 8.

For companies it is always advisable to wait for the fixes to hit before adoption on a large scale.

Check out the buzz on the Internet now about Windows 8 and read as much as you can before you believe all the hype and take that plunge.

Good luck.

Ian Thomson

Founder/Senior Trainer/Consultant