Category Archives: Windows

Why Microsoft is wrong to discontinue Small Business Server

Small Business Server 2003

As an IT consultant who delivers services to small and medium businesses, I have spent a vast amount of time with Microsoft’s Small Business Server product range. Early versions of SBS (the original “Back Office” incarnation and SBS 2000) had various quirks and problems. Since SBS 2003, however, Small Business Server has been a refined, solid and well-behaved product – the kind of product you can put into a business with confidence, with a good set of features and a high level of configurability.

With this in mind, I was actually quite sad to hear the news that Microsoft decided to discontinue the product range, on the grounds that “small business computing trends are moving in the direction of cloud computing.”

I don’t deny that there is “trend” toward the cloud. Indeed, I have clients who have migrated to Office 365 instead of moving to SBS 2011. However, just as many have no interest whatsoever in migrating to the cloud.

One client said,

“Our last system has been perfect for four years, we just want the same, but newer, and we’re not interested in the cloud.”

Another took one look at how long it took to save a large file via Office 365 on their broadband internet connection and laughed in my face.

Then there are the clients who cannot risk the data protection implications of cloud storage, those who simply have an objection to paying a monthly fee and those who are put off by the fact that, with the best will in the world, it’s going to take weeks to migrate their existing 500GB of file data.

Microsoft have effectively decided to abandon all these customers, and I’m sure that every one of the thousands of IT consultants just like me have plenty of them.

Now, I have no doubt people will be keen to point out that Microsoft has announced an “Essentials” version of Server 2012 aimed at small businesses. I accept I could recommend this to some of my clients, but it only supports up to 25 users. What about the 25-75 user segment of SME who could previously use SBS? They are now on the same licensing model as a large corporation, which doesn’t seem very fair. And what about Exchange and SharePoint?

Let’s be clear: I’m not “anti-cloud.” I use hosted Exchange myself. I have migrated companies when it has been a good fit, and I would recommend it to plenty of startups, but I think Microsoft’s decision to try to force SME in the Office 365 direction is misguided and out of touch with reality. What it will do is lead them to discover simpler, cheaper alternatives like iCloud, Dropbox and Google Apps.

Small Business Server allowed me to swoop into a company and give them an IT system that made them feel like they were working for a large corporation. When they wanted to use features like public folders and decent shared contact lists, they were there waiting. I’m sure people will disagree, but working on an Office 365 is simply not the same.

Microsoft has taken away my ability to provide the perfect system without compromises. If I have to cobble solutions together for clients, then I may well end up doing so without so many Microsoft products. Given that Apple seem to be winning over the consumers, it seems insane that Microsoft seem willing to risk letting go of the SME market too.

Multiple monitor improvements are coming to Windows 8

Multiple Monitors Windows 8

The Consumer Preview of Windows 8 was a bit of a nightmare when used on multiple monitors with the taskbar stretched across both displays, and offered no obvious reasoning behind the odd design. Luckily for us (meaning the collective Windows user base), Microsoft has confirmed via their Windows 8 Blog that positive changes will be coming to the experience. But that doesn’t mean they are going to stray too far from the Windows 7 multi-display formula.

Basically, the way Windows 8 is displayed on multiple monitors completely depends on your unique preferences when interacting with the new software. You can have the Metro Start screen on one monitor with the classic desktop view on the other. You can also have the classic desktop view on two monitors or the Metro screen stretched across both monitors. Of course, you can take any combination of the two and display them on three, four, or more screens.

Customization has been improved as well. Microsoft has enabled smart-selection for portrait-style monitors, improved shared corners, allowed more than one image as a desktop background, and the option to span one panoramic image across multiple monitors. Improvements have been made to the taskbar as well, providing the option to set a main screen to hold all your open app icons, or span the taskbar across all monitors and display app icons on whichever screen holds the corresponding open window.

But there’s more. Gestures are accessible from each monitor, which means Start, Charms, and Settings can be opened by moving your mouse (or finger if your PC is touch-enabled) into the appropriate hot corner. You can also drag-and-drop apps from monitor to monitor, a feature that works with both full-screen and snapped apps.

So it looks like Microsoft will finally do right by their customers with Windows 8, putting the decisions in the hands of their users. The new multi-display functionality allows for any number of configurations and can even keep the Metro Start screen out of the way for those Windows purists who can’t stand innovation.

Microsoft Office 365: Reasons for Caution

I came very close to calling this article “Why Office 365 Sucks.” I refrained from doing so because I think the cloud-based office collaboration suite CAN be a good fit for some small businesses.

However, as an IT consultant working with small and medium enterprises (SMEs), I will think very carefully before I let it near another one of my customer sites.

Here’s why:

Migration is horrible

Office 365 is great for start-ups who don’t already have a load of data. Everyone else will have gigabytes of file-level data (that probably hasn’t been cleared out in years), and thousands of historical emails.

There’s no way to make the process of moving this volume of data to the cloud anything other than slow, laborious and frustrating. It doesn’t help that Office 365 is very fussy about certain characters within filenames.

While these characters are likely to have been avoided by IT-types, familiar with them since the DOS days, you can’t expect the same from the less technical. Who’d have known that a migration could turn into a nightmare because a client uses lots of ampersands in filenames?

Office 365 is Not Perfect
Office 365 is Not Perfect

Desktop Integration is Flaky

If you want Office 365 to work well, you really need a fresh Windows install on each machine to start with. Try to migrate a PC that’s been previously connected to a domain or has used other Outlook profiles, and all kinds of weird stuff can happen.

While this clean-machine approach is good practice, it does add on migration time. When coupled with a slow data migration, a move to Office 365 can end up using more consultancy time than, for example, a move from Small Business Server 2003 to SBS 2011.

Key functionality is missing

Ask Microsoft how to implement a shard contact list and they’ll tell you several options, including using SharePoint or setting people up as “external contacts.”

However, if you want a shared contact list, available to everyone as an Outlook address book and editable by a whole team, it just cannot be done without clunky workarounds. This is functionality that all of my clients have had for years. It doesn’t go down well when you have to take it away.

Poor support

Support calls can take days to resolve satisfactorily, if they get resolved at all. You can also expect to have to re-explain the problem several times.

The support forums are hugely frustrating too. In the case of the shared contacts issue above, expect to see copy/paste answers that repeat the options that are available and fail to acknowledge the shortcomings that exist.

You have no control

When you reach the point of frustration, you eventually have to tell your customer that there is nothing more you can do – that the issue is in Microsoft’s hands. You can’t remote it and tweak the server any more. Those days are gone.

Conclusion

I’ll repeat what I said at the start: Office 365 CAN be a good fit for some businesses – especially start-ups who haven’t done things differently before. Others, especially those who have become used to the flexibility of something like Small Business Server, should tread very carefully – a migration to Office 365 could feel like a huge step backwards AND make your clients think you have become worse at your job!

Microsoft Says Farewell to Aero Glass in Windows 8

When I first booted up into Windows 8 with my beloved Samsung Focus mobile phone at my side, I was appalled by the jarring visual differences when switching back and forth from the Metro start screen to the traditional Windows desktop view.

On one hand, there was this amazingly simple Start screen with a bold interface daring to standout from the crowd. On the other, an ancient and tacky faux-glass-themed, cluttered, and – quite frankly – ugly desktop interface.

I found it incredible that after putting so much thought into the Metro UI’s design, Microsoft seemed to forget about the desktop altogether. I thought they changed. I thought they cared about details, the user experience, and beauty! My disenchantment became so bad that up until a week ago I had given up on ever experiencing a truly simple and beautifully designed version of Windows.

What changed? Microsoft is getting rid of Aero Glass in Windows 8, baby!

First introduced with the debut of the ill-fated Vista, the Aero desktop design has outlived its relevancy. The days of transparency, gradients, and shadows are long behind us and especially do not belong in a modern interface like Metro that relies on flat icons and bold colors to garner attention. According to Microsoft, they also see the drawbacks of their current design and promise to start “flattening surfaces, removing reflections, and scaling back distracting gradients.”

Microsoft doesn’t see the desktop as a mode, but rather “a paradigm for working that suits some people and specific apps.” But Microsoft isn’t willing to forfeit compatibility with existing programs by drastically changing the desktop UI. To preserve their existing user base, Windows 8 will continue to use black text on a light-colored background as opposed to the white-on-saturated-color look of Metro.

In short, Microsoft gave their desktop UI a mini Metro makeover. The default color that surrounds the windows is white, rounded corners on icons and windows are now squared, and the taskbar blends even more into the desktop wallpaper. Even the ribbon will see some changes with icons treated to the same squared-off edges and stripped of all gradients to “make them feel more modern and neutral.”

Unfortunately, the Release Preview hasn’t fully abandoned the Aero theme and it won’t be fully replaced until the final release of Windows 8. We would have liked to see what it looked like in action, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

If you’ve ever wanted to read a comprehensive history of Windows design over the years, then hit up this post from the Building Windows 8 blog.

Windows 8 Boots Too Quickly to Be Interrupted

Boot Options Menu

We previously told you that Windows 8 could manage a cold boot in eight seconds flat, and that still holds true, but now there are reports that an SSD-equipped PC can manage it in under seven seconds. It’s not a huge difference in boot time, but it does create a minor and rather curious problem. Mainly, the user no longer has enough time to interrupt the boot menu.

Chris Clark, program manager at Microsoft’s User Experience team, explains in a Building Windows 8 blog post that a mere 200 millisecond window is all the time available to users if they want to make changes to a PC’s boot setup.

A new method

Since the Windows software and general computer hardware have become too fast for us puny humans, the days of reading “Press F2 to enter setup” are over and Microsoft recognizes the need to offer an alternate way of accessing the familiar boot menu. They found their top tappers could only manage about a 250ms frequency and catching that elusive 200ms opportunity was based a lot on chance. In other words, the added speed became the opposite of user friendly.

In response, the team came up with three solutions that work together to solve the issue. Clark notes in his post that “no one should need to learn how Windows is built” and the team wanted the new boot options to “just work”. A refreshing choice of words as Windows is notorious for requiring complicated work arounds for simple problems depending on hardware, software version, and general computer skills of the user. But keeping with their new, simplified design aesthetic Microsoft has decided to make a single menu for every boot option.

How it works

Microsoft’s solution is a three-pronged approach:

  1. The various boot settings that have previously been scattered from one end of Windows to the other will now be available in a single boot options group
  2. The menu will automatically appear whenever Windows is prevented from booting up correctly
  3. Microsoft is providing the user with plenty of different ways to bring up the new menu at will.

Basically, although you will no longer be able to access the boot menu from the start up screen, you’ll still be able to check it out once your PC has finished booting up. Specifically, you can bring up the menu through Advanced startup on the General tab of your PC’s settings. From there, you can choose to Restart now and choose a new start up volume during a reboot.

There’s an even quicker method built-in, simply holding down the Shift key while click Restart in your computer’s shutdown menu will cause Windows 8 to reboot into the boot menu as well.

One important note is that these changes are only applicable to newer PCs with UEFI BIOS. This exclusion, according to Chris Clark, can be chalked up to the speed restricitions of older hardware, meaning they will spend enough time booting up for a user to interrupt with the F8 or F2 keys.

Windows 8 ‘Release Preview’ Brings New Apps and Updates the Old Ones

As we assumed when various apps in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview were marked with an “App Preview” tag, the core Metro apps have been updated in the Windows 8 Release Preview. The updated applications feature some improvements to the user interface (there were some apps that really needed it), a unified app settings bar, and even some all-new applications.

The preview pages of some revised apps have been floating around online via the Windows Store, but this is the first time we are seeing the new apps in action. Though it isn’t surprising that the core apps have been updated, we are still extremely excited to see the makeover results. Some of the apps were just plain difficult to use and lacked cohesion, ease-of-use, or basic functions.

To kick things off, we begin by applauding the unified look of the app bar that drops down from the top of the screen. The options may be app-specific, but it’s nice to see a cohesive design structure being employed.

Updated Apps

Photos

The new Photos app (pictured above) features a new smart screen complete with a full-size background photo chosen from your own collection, and smaller thumbnails pulled from your local library, SkyDrive, Facebook, and Flickr are displayed overtop. It’s very easy on the eyes and closely resembles the Windows Phone version.

Calendar

In the Consumer Preview, the Calendar app was missing a simple search function. Maybe not a problem for the average user with two or three appointments in a week, but incredibly troublesome for the power user with a growing number of time commitments. Thankfully that search function has been implemented in the latest release and answered our dearest prayers.

Music

The most exciting change in the Music app is the integration of Zune Pass, which means all of your cloud-based music is finally accessible via the Windows 8 desktop.

Mail

When we first started working with Windows 8, the Mail app haunted our nightmares. It was unreliable and clumsy at best, and though the new version still lacks threaded conversations (really!?), it’s been optimized and crashes a lot less often. The user experience has become actually, well, usable now.

Inboxes are listed on the left-hand pane, doing away with the hellish way of switching inboxes in the App Preview, which involved pressing the back button a whole lot of times. You can also pin specific accounts to your start screen in order to choose whether to check your personal or work email before launching the app. It’s still not as feature-packed as say Gmail or Hotmail, but we must admit that it’s gorgeous.

Web Browsing

The most interesting and innovative change to IE this time around comes in the form of “Flip ahead”, a feature that uses crowd-sourcing to predict which web page a user will click on next. So instead of needing to click on the suggested page, you can simply swipe or click the on-screen forward button to navigate there. At the moment it works best for flipping to the second page of an article, but hopefully with time the algorithm will prove more useful. “Flip ahead” will be turned off by default, so you’ll have to enable it manually.

Sharing options are built-in now, which isn’t too exciting, but worth noting. Flash has been enabled as well, which was inevitable. But what rocks about Metro IE’s implementation is that it’s plug-in free by default so Flash works without any additional setup.

Weather and Maps

Nothing much has changed here. The Weather app is still beautiful and information-packed. We thought Maps lost it’s dedicated search function, but it was only moved into the Charms bar.

Lock Screen

The lock-screen saw a mini-refresh as well. You can now adjust the volume and pause or skip tracks without unlocking your device, which we love.

Brand New Apps

Most of the new apps are Bing-centric, which makes sense for Microsoft’s clear dedication to all things Bing. The moniker of Bing seems a bit redundant since the apps are obviously powered by the search engine, but you can’t blame a company for tooting its own horn. Besides, each app is gorgeous, works great, and beats the pants off the competition.

Bing News

The Bing News app opens up to the top story of the moment and as you scroll right, you’ll find more top headlines pulled from several different categories. The app bar serves as a way to drill down into specific sources or trends. Of course, you can pin any category or custom topic to your start page for quick access to personalized news feeds.

Bing Travel

Basically a Metro version of the site’s trip planning feature, Bing Travel lets you do research and flight / hotel booking. If you don’t already have a destination in mind, the home page serves to inspire you by displaying a collection of pictures and travel articles from featured destinations. Once you choose a place to visit, the app provides you with plenty of helpful details ranging from maps to weather stats and local prices.

Bing Sports

As you may have guessed, Bing Sports helps you keep track of your favorite sports teams and general news stories in the realm of athletics. A top story is displayed on the home page by default and as you swipe to the right you’ll be greeted by more articles, game schedules, and a place just for you called “Favorite teams.” This section of the app is pretty self-explanatory, type in a team name and you’ll receive personalized information relevant to that team like standings, rosters, player stats, etc. And from the app bar up top, you can filter news stories by sport if you could care less about specific teams.

Conclusion

What do you think? Will Windows 8 be the next big thing or the next big flop? Sound off below!

If you’d like a more in-depth look at the Release Preview, a slideshow of all the apps (new & improved) has been provided for your viewing pleasure.

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Microsoft Small Business Server 2011: A Techie’s First Impressions

Microsoft’s Small Business Server features prominently in my life as an IT consultant. Its combination of Windows Server, Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint at a low price-point makes it a compelling proposition for smaller firms.

Dislike of Windows Vista has resulted in many of my clients continuing to maintain systems running SBS 2003 and Windows XP. Now these products are approaching the end of their support lifecycle, many of them are migrating to SBS 2011 and Windows 7. Now that I have completed the first of these migrations, I am in a position to present my first impressions.

First Impressions of Small Business Server 2011

As with previous incarnations of Small Business Server, SBS 2011 is designed to appear easy to use. In many ways it is, with wizards designed to make frequent tasks such as adding users, configuring software updates and sharing printers simple and intuitive.

As with earlier versions, however, these wizards are running on top of Microsoft’s complex and sophisticated Windows Server and Exchange technologies. While much of the server configuration can be done using the wizards (accessed via the SBS 2011 Administration Console), some essential tasks throw admins way into the server configuration deep-end.

Small Business Server 2011
Small Business Server 2011

As an example, I encountered a complicated feature when I increased the maximum incoming email size from the default. This landed me at the Exchange 2010 command line interface – daunting enough for someone raised on SBS 2003 – and I imagine utterly impenetrable for a non-technical person!

New Features for Admins

The Administration Console provides access to all the key server features and maintains an ongoing “traffic light” style alert system which informs admins of any issues with software updates, security and backups. These alerts link in with daily emails sent to the people in charge of the system to provide quick notification of problems.

I particularly like the fact that SBS 2011 appears to place emphasis on any significant errors listed in the Windows event logs, which encourages administrators to proactively investigate all problems in the continuing quest to obtain green “OK” statuses across the board!

Adding new PCs to the SBS 2011 network is a slick process with better integration than previous versions. For example, if an administrator grants a user delegate access to a mailbox, Outlook picks this up and adds the mailbox to their Outlook folder tree with no client configuration required.

New Features for Users

From a user’s perspective, there is a fair amount of new functionality in this incarnation of Small Business Server. How much users will notice, however, depends on how much of the old functionality they were making use of.

The new remote access portal now provides access to shared files via the Web browser – a valuable enhancement in the “Dropbox age,” and is a compliment to the existing options of remote controlling an office PC, or accessing email via Web-based Outlook. The richly featured Exchange 2010 Outlook Web App now provides this.

At the desktop level, less has changed. Essentially, users access shared files and interface with Exchange via Outlook. SharePoint looks shinier than before, but in my experience, few small businesses actually make much use of it.

Conclusion

In a world where many small businesses are considering a move to the cloud, there’s still a place for Microsoft Small Business Server. It is hugely configurable and delivers enterprise-level IT services at a reasonably competitive price. Businesses just need to make sure they have someone reliable to look after it – there’s still a lot of complexity hidden behind that shiny admin console.

Microsoft invests $300 million in Barnes & Noble; looks to spin off Nook business

In what may be considered an interesting and somewhat odd move considering past events, Microsoft has announced that they will be investing $300 million into a “strategic partnership” with Barnes & Noble to work on the future of e-reading by creating a whole new subsidiary of Barnes & Noble that will focus on all things Nook as well as its education/college business.

With Microsoft’s $300 million investment, they’ll own a 17.6 percent stake in the new business (valuing the new company at $1.7 billion), while Barnes & Noble will own the remaining 82.4 percent.

The first thing on the agenda so far is a Windows 8 Nook app, as well as working on spreading and popularizing the Nook Study software on Microsoft’s platforms. Just from these two things alone, Microsoft desperately wants content on their platforms. It seems they want their own answer to Apple’s iBooks and to offer Windows users an alternative to Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

However, this could end up being a bitter mistake for both Microsoft and Barnes & Noble if things don’t go even remotely well. Microsoft has a recent history of catching up to established markets by siding with mediocre companies (their partnership with Nokia, for instance). Microsoft’s partnership with B&N, who – let’s face it – is a lesser-performing company in the e-reading market, could become a complete flop if not done right, especially when going up against powerhouses like iBooks and Amazon’s established ecosystem.

Then again, Microsoft lacks any real strategy to compete in the e-reader business in the first place, so this partnership with Barnes & Noble is certainly a good first step if they really want to compete. It will allow them to get more content onto their platform — especially Windows 8 tablets.

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see what consumers will get out of this once the competition is in full swing.

Image Credit: George Kelly

How to give your computer a good spring cleaning this year

It’s that time of year, folks! The weather is changing and that means it’s time to do some spring cleaning on your computer at home. If you’re like the millions of computer owners out there, you most likely haven’t run malware scans in months and there’s probably random, unused files just sitting their collecting dust and taking up space. Your desktop is probably cluttered with random icons and your media files are most likely strewn all over the place.

All of this can wreak havoc on your machine’s speed and agility, but I’ll be listing off some tips and techniques for getting your PC back to how it should be.

Note: This guide is mostly geared towards novice computer users. However, I mention different tools and apps that still might be helpful for the geeks, and it also won’t hurt if you print this page out right now and lay it on a relative’s computer desk.

Delete Temporary Files

Files that are out of sight are definitely out of mind. Most likely your computer has tons of unused temp files just sitting there doing nothing. CCleaner is my favorite tool for cleaning up the unnecessary clutter. It’s extremely user-friendly and even if you don’t know what all the settings are, CCleaner automatically selects what is recommended, so all you have to do is press the big green button.

You’ll notice that CCleaner has a feature that will clean your PC’s registry, but it’s not necessary to utilize it. A lot of users think that cleaning up the clutter in the registry will increase your PC’s performance, but it actually doesn’t affect it all that much and you won’t notice a huge difference. Plus, messing around with the registry is pretty risky business anyway; one wrongly deleted registry file and your PC could start having some issues.

Programs-Be-Gone

Get rid of any programs that you no longer use. That nifty greeting card creator that you used to make your Mom’s birthday card two years ago isn’t going to delete itself. For Windows XP, simply navigate to Start>Control Panel>Add or Remove Programs. For Vista and 7, go to Start>Control Panel>Programs and Features. For Mac OS X, Simply drag-and-drop an application from the Applications folder to the Trash.

Deleting any unwanted programs you might have will most likely free up a lot hard disk space that you never knew you had. CCleaner can also delete any of your unwanted programs, and I personally believe that it does a better job at it than the Windows method. If you’re not sure what something is, it’s best to just leave it alone and not delete it, but a simple Google search will most likely let you know what it is and what it does.

Organize, Organize, Organize

I believe this is a key component to having a clean PC and ultimately a clutter-free mind. Organizing all your files and maintaining your frequently accessed folders is not only essential to having a clean machine, but also makes it easier for you to find stuff in the future. It’s also said that removing the tons of files and icons on your Mac desktop can speed it up a bit.

There are several tools that automate the organizing process like Hazel for Mac and Belvedere for Windows, but I personally like to organize manually. I put all of my music in the Music folder, all of my movies in the Movies folder, and all of my docs in the Documents folder. Sure, it takes longer and can be monotonous at times, but at least I know where I’m putting all of my files, and seeing where I put all of them helps me remember where they are for future reference.

Update Those Relics

Some of your programs most likely have an auto-update feature or give you a notification when a new version is available for download, but not all have these handy features or it’s even possible that auto-updates are turned off. Back when I ran Windows, I used FileHippo’s Update Checker to make sure all of my programs and drivers were up to date. What it does is check what programs and hardware your PC has installed and then checks its own online database of programs and drivers to see if it has a newer version than what you’re running. After it finishes checking, it’ll send you to FileHippo’s website where you’ll be presented with a list of all the programs and drivers you need to update, along with a handy download link for each.

For Mac users, a good alternative to FileHippo’s Update Checker is AppFresh.

As for updating Windows itself, most users have auto-updates enabled, so that’s not too much of a problem, but if you’re not sure what your update settings are, you can simply navigate to Start>Control Panel>Automatic Updates in Windows XP and Start>Control Panel>Windows Update>Change Settings in Vista and 7. I personally tell Windows to notify me of updates, but let me choose when to download and install them.

Mac OS X users can go up to the top-left corner and click on the apple icon, then click Software Update. From there, Apple will automatically search for system updates that need installed.

Shun Your PC of All Evil

We’ve all heard the V word before (“virus” for those who didn’t catch on). While it’s more than likely that you’ll know if you have a virus simply by the way you’re PC is acting up, several other forms of maliciousness are a different story. These little fellas can stake out on your PC for weeks before you even notice. Viruses and other malware alike, there are numerous programs out there that are great at getting the job done. You should definitely have an anti-virus program running at all times in the background. AVG offers a free version of their anti-virus program that’s just as great as the other programs that you usually would pay for.

Microsoft’s own Security Essentials is another free solution that can get the job done, but of course, the number one preventive measure for a malware-free computer is simply safe web browsing and common sense.

Defrag Your Hard Drive…Or Not?

Defragmentation is basically the process of squishing all data on your hard drive together into a tight space, that way seek times are reduced. With older operating systems, like Windows XP, it was pretty much required to defragment your hard drive every once in a while, but today’s operating systems do it automatically. The same goes for solid state drives. SSDs don’t need to be defragged, whether it’s on an older OS or newer. However, do make sure TRIM is enabled on your SSD if you’re running Windows 7.

If you happen to still be using Windows XP and need to defrag, go with a free, third-party program like Defraggler. It does a way better job than Windows’ built-in defrag utility.

Conclusion

So there you have it. You should now be staring at a refreshed computer that has been given quite an internal makeover. If you have any questions or other suggestions for spring cleaning a computer, please feel free to leave a comment.

Image Credit: awjmfotos

4 Reasons Why We are NOT in a Post-PC Age

Is the Desktop Dead - Tablets have been Tried BeforeSales of desktop PCs and laptops are falling. It’s impossible to read any technical media without hearing about the “death of the PC.” And both Apple and Microsoft are soon to release operating systems that seek to merge the features of the computer operating system with those available on tablet devices.

All this evidence mounts up to suggest that the Steve Jobs-coined “post PC era” is upon us. Well, I’m going to stick my neck out on this: I don’t buy it.

Don’t get me wrong – I possess and adore an iPhone 4s, and if I need to quickly look something up online in the evening, I am as likely to reach for that as I am my laptop. I also think that Apple have done enough with the incredible specification of the latest iPad that I will finally give in to temptation and buy one, even though I don’t NEED one.

The ability to perform tasks via phones and tablets that would previously have required a “proper” computer is undeniable. Often these tasks can even be performed more effectively and flexibly on these devices. This, logically, accounts for the falling desktop and laptop sales figures…but “post-PC?” Don’t be daft.

Here’s why:

1. Business

Walk into any office and what will you see? Everyone working with email. Staff using office applications, bespoke databases and commonly used apps like Photoshop and InDesign. Move further into the business, and PCs and traditional servers are powering everything from car production lines to restaurant EPOS systems. Is this going to change overnight because the new iPad has a retina display and a 4G mobile connection?

2. Gaming

Phones and tablets now have power and graphical grunt to rival dedicated consoles. However, can they play Skyrim, World of Warcraft and Deus Ex? Do they have the ability to utilize the classic keys / mouse combo necessary to play the leading first person shooters? Do they even have a D-pad and A button to rival the original monochrome Gameboy. No, no and no.

3. Ergonomics

Imagine the legal fallout if offices switched from desktop PCs and made staff hunch over tablets. There’s a reason office workers use ergonomic office chairs and monitors located on desks – it stops them damaging their spines.

4. Practicality

What, really, is an iPad with an attached keyboard? It’s basically a laptop. What, really is an iPad with a BlueTooth keyboard? It’s basically a desktop with a screen that doesn’t stand up on its own. Without any ports.

Now, I am aware that my stance may seem non-progressive. The kind of thing an old-school techie may have said about the iPad when it was first released. This is not the case. If I didn’t love technology, I wouldn’t have got into the industry. Furthermore, there are wonderful ways to use the iPad right across the consumer and business sectors. Creating music and graphics in an iPad is a pleasure impossible to emulate without the tactile experience of a tablet.

However, why should everyone do everything on a touch-based device simply because it is possible? I have no doubt that over the next couple of years I am going to witness plenty of clients make poor decisions by trying to squeeze computer shaped square pegs into iPad shaped round holes – and all because they read “post PC era” somewhere and took it too seriously. We all need to calm down – the computer’s not going anywhere.