Windows XP Support Ending Soon

Microsoft Windows XP And Office 2003 with hit the end of it’s support lifecycle on April 8th, 2014.

Why?

Microsoft’s product lifecycle requires that Windows and Office version be supported for a minimum of 10 years. This includes 5 years of mainstream support (improvements, service packs and regular updates) and 5 years of extended support (critical updates only). Windows XP was released in 2001, about the same time that Palm Pilots were popular and flip phones were the rage. As with all technology and certain Toronto mayors, sooner or later it gets a bit long in the tooth and needs to be replaced.

What?

End of support for Windows means that no further updates of any kind will be provided for Windows XP or Office 2003. Also, support options, both free and paid, will be removed from Microsoft’s offerings. A lack of security updates leaves remaining Windows XP users open to any future security vulnerabilities and puts their computers at risk. With this lack of support from Microsoft, most hardware companies and third party software companies will also end support for Windows XP and Office 2003, meaning that any new issues encountered will go unaddressed. (Don’t get too angry. When these products were released, Destiny’s Child was still topping the Billboard charts.)

How?

While it’s technically possible to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 8, it’s difficult and not something I’d recommend. In simple terms, you’ve waited too long to upgrade and technology has passed you by. The good news is that you’ve had a decade to save up pennies for something better! The easiest solution might be to simply invest in a new PC and migrate your data. After all, it’s the holiday season and you deserve a new shiny piece of tech goodness to brighten your mood.

Who?

Okay, so you’re ready to break up with your 100 year old machine (in computer years). You’ve said your final goodbyes, and went for a drive to cool down while XP finished shutting down for the last time. Now what?

  • A new Windows box: If you’re ready to settle down with Redmond’s offerings for another decade, you could pick up a Windows 8.1 laptop. Regardless of how you feel about the new look and feel, Windows is still the standard for enterprise and the best bet for running Microsoft Office proper (for all your exciting pivot charts). A good Windows laptop will run from $500 to $2000.

  • Get a Mac: You could go the hipster route as well and pick up a new MacBook Air, starting at about $1000. Apple produces great hardware, and although their latest operating system is rather buggy, if you’re already used to the iPad and iPhone, this route would be less of a learning curve than it would be otherwise.

  • Go Googley: As a third option, you could pick up a new Chromebook, available in models ranging from sub $200 to $1200. If you’re used to using a web browser and this makes up most of what you do, a Chromebook is a very affordable and accessible computer — and will also keep itself up-to-date until Google stops supporting it.

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iOS Password Settings

Learn how to ditch the standard iOS 4 digit password for something a bit more secure.

Embracing Inbox Zero for better productivity, security

Now more than ever I believe Inbox Zero is one of the most important technology processes a professional can adopt. The number of security breaches surrounding email has exploded, the amount of information communicated electronically is overwhelming, and the number of devices accessing and storing email is continually growing. All of these are great reasons to take some time to develop a process of protection: to protect your time, your data, and most of all protect your sanity.

Not sure what I’m talking about? You can find the full details of Inbox Zero at http://inboxzero.com/. For those who want the cliffsnotes version stick with me.

The idea of Inbox Zero is to get your mind out of email and onto productive tasks. I like to think of it as a framework that you can use to build an email processing system that works the way you want to work. The basic concept is simple. Choose times and process out your email by taking some simple actions.

  • Do – If the mail is something you can complete in a couple minutes just do it, don’t save it for later. Complete the task and delete the email.
  • Delegate – If the email is something that someone else could or should do then delegate it. Don’t hang on to tasks you won’t have the time to complete.
  • Defer – This is the one that gets people in trouble but the idea here is to take these items and move them out of the inbox into a schedule that ensures they actually get done. For me, this is my calendar. I force myself to make time within my schedule to complete these tasks.
  • Delete – This is the most important. Get rid of those things you don’t need.

You will notice that I specified “choose times to process your email.” What this means is removing the random bings, pings, and dings we all get when we receive an email. This keeps your mind out of email and focused on the task at hand. Meanwhile, if you have time set aside to process emails, you can rest assured you’ll still respond in a timely fashion. These replies will be dedicated to the task at hand, and normally result in better overall communications.

Keeping a clean inbox keeps you on task and ensures better communications, but those aren’t the only reasons email processing is important. Email is a huge security target and we increasingly make it less secure. Think about how many emails you currently have that contain confidential or proprietary information. What is the real impact of your email being breached? Now think about how easy and convenient it is to access your email. Can you access email nearly everywhere? Most will say yes, and this becomes the problem.

With convenience comes risk. Cloud based email systems have remote help desks with social engineering vulnerabilities. Mobile devices are easily lost and have real time access to all that email you’ve stored. We connect to email on any network available – coffee shops, airports, fast food restaurants – it doesn’t matter, we’re always checking email. All of these are risk points, and the more information you have in your email the more information you lose when your email is compromised. Processing out your email mitigates this risk.

So if you want a quick boost in productivity, and a bit more security checkout Inbox Zero and see what processes you can utilize to clean up your email.

The Wallaby Card: One card to rule them all

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 9.04.10 AMSay goodbye to carrying around multiple credit cards with different rewards programs in your wallet. Many credit cards have rewards that change monthly, and who has time remember them all?

Stop paying fees for your various cards, and not getting any rewards. Wallaby Financial offers a smart card to make sure you don’t miss out on any bonuses again. Simply tell Wallaby what credit card you have; what you want to earn and they will mail you a Wallaby card to use at stores and online.

Every time you use it, Wallaby will crunch the numbers and determine which card will give you the best deal and send the purchase to that card.

For example, if you get rewards on one of your credit cards for using it at the gas station, Wallaby will recognize that and send your gas purchase to that card so you’ll get the rewards. The advantage is not having to remember which rewards are associated with one of your many credit cards and still reaping the rewards.

Wallaby Financial claims that their Wallaby Card is not a new line of credit or a new checking or debit account and there is no credit check and no new bills to pay. Just pay on your regular statements every month like you normally would. You can add and delete cards and change your preferences at any time via the web or through their Android or iPhone apps.

Get started at www.walla.by.

CardMunch: Business cards solved

CardMunchShuffling through piles of business cards that haven’t managed to get lost is not efficient. iPhone users can now utilize CardMunch to capture the business card’s image, which is then transcribed, edited and reviewed by humans, not computers to guarantee accuracy.

Powered by LinkedIn, CardMunch allows you to connect on LinkedIn with the contact whose business card you just scanned, and boasts a full-text search including name, address, and even notes.

Working with your iPhone’s address book, CardMunch syncs your existing contacts providing flexibility to store contact information in your iPhone address book or CardMunch.

The best part about CardMunch: it’s absolutely free!

Currently CardMunch is only available through the Apple App Store, but look for it to be available to BlackBerry users soon.

Learn more at cardmunch.com/howitworks.

Turn on Google multifactor authentication — now!

We’re all familiar with multifactor authentication, even if not everyone knows immediately that they are. Break the phrase down: “multi,” more than one; “factor,” necessary component; “authentication,” way of validating identity. Usually, multifactor systems combine “something you have” with “something you know,” or multiples of one or the other. For example:

  • Opening your house with a key is single-factor authentication: Something you have (the key).
  • Swiping your debit card is two-factor authentication: Something you have (the card) and something you know (the PIN).
  • Authorizing suspicious credit card transactions is often three or more factors of authentication: Your name, your credit card number, personal information questions (SSN, zip code, DOB, etc.), and a series of security questions (a large number of somethings you know).

Unfortunately, the biggest skeleton key in your life right now is most likely a single-factor authentication system: Not your bank website password, not your car key, not your Social Security Number, but your email password. Think about it for a moment: What do you use to sign up for accounts? Where would those accounts send password reset emails if you forgot your password? Exactly. If you’re like most people, your email account is the key to your entire life, and we’re talking more than just hijacking your account to send spam or send inappropriate tweets. These days, email access can get you into bank accounts, investment accounts, property deeds, passports, and everything else that could permanently ruin your life.

Now that I’ve scared you, let me help you. For starters, we’re going to assume you use Gmail for your email and thus Google accounts. If not, you’re SOL (especially if you use that company that rhymes with “mayo sell”), and you should think about switching. Sorry, them’s the chops. Now that I can assume you’re in the 21st century, let’s continue. (Not to say that no other email providers are in the 21st century. I acknowledge that they do, in fact, still exist now.)

Taken from Google’s blog post on the matter, the first step is visiting your Account Settings page. From this location, you’ll see a link to “Edit” your “2-step verification” — go ahead and click that.

At this point, Google will walk you through setting up multifactor authentication. You’ll be given the opportunity to generate and print backup codes, a good idea. These backup codes can be used in case you should lose access to your phone in the future (more on that later). You’ll also get to choose what phone (or phones) to use for verification, and be given download links for mobile apps. Take the time to read carefully and set up your account properly, because this is your personal security we’re talking about.

The next time you go to sign in to your Google accounts (Gmail, etc.), you’ll be prompted to enter a six digit code in addition to your password (the thing you know) — and here’s where the “something you have” aspect comes in. Depending on the settings you picked in Google’s wizard, you’ll either receive a text message, a phone call, or open the authentication app. The device receiving or generating that information is the “something you have,” and the code it enters (which Google also knows, on the other end) is proof of that fact. If you’re confident that the computer from which you’re logging in is secure, you can tell Google to remember you for 30 days, as well, which makes the additional layer of security almost invisible to you.

Setting up multi-factor authentication is a small additional step is a small step you can take yourself to ensure much greater security down the road. It may seem like a hassle every now and again when you need to enter an additional code to log in to your email, but then again, it would be painful to lose control over huge swaths of your life online, as well.

Technology Update: Windows 8, iPhone 5, iPad Mini & Android

So I’ve been missing in action for quite some time. Sorry about that, but hey we all have off months right? Anyway, during my time away several new developments have come about. The iPhone got bigger, the iPad got smaller, and Windows was completely reinvented. It’s quite the world we live in when almost 100% of consumer technology changes in a matter of months.

Windows 8

Whiners rejoice and the blogosphere is full of Windows 8 haters. I don’t think I’ve seen this many people claiming Microsoft falling since 1995. Nearly 20 years ago Microsoft changed the Windows interface and the technology world was claiming the sky was falling. Yet again people are misrepresenting change, and calling for MS to shut the doors and board up the… dare I say it… Windows.

Everything I own these days has an Apple logo on it and I’m proud to report Windows 8 is running great on my machine. I’ll admit that it’s distinctly different, and the learning curve can be a bit challenging. Honestly I don’t see how it couldn’t be. The PC is evolving and what it needed was an operating system capable of being used on the next generation PC. Windows 8 is exactly that, it allows the PC to change form and compete with smartphones and tablets.

First let me explain that Windows 8 is two distinctly different interfaces built into a single operating system. The “new” interface formerly known as Metro, was built to run what Microsoft calls Microsoft Store Apps. This interface is built for touch input and relies heavily on gesture based navigation. It was designed to run on ARM based devices and competes directly with the smartphone and tablet markets. Think about it this way: this interface was built to compete with the iPad and App store. Now it’s possible to buy devices that only run this interface. This version of Windows is called Windows 8 RT.

The full-blown version of Windows 8, the version most of us will use, is a second interface mode. This is called the desktop mode, essentially this mode works exactly the same way Windows 7 did. The biggest change in this mode is the loss of the start button, but a few third-party utilities already exist to put it back.

So, Microsoft has allowed PC manufactures to create new types of PCs. Some are tablet only, slate type devices, others are convertible PCs and some creative folks are building completely new form factors. Windows 8 has bred new life into PC hardware choices, something that the PC world desperately needs. It’s clearly the right choice and as new form factors arise savvy customers will embrace the idea that they can purchase a single device that serves the role of both laptop and tablet.

My assessment is that Windows 8 doesn’t suck! It does require a bit of trial and error, and they could have done a better job of merging the interfaces but it’s a great step in the right direction and you simply can’t beat it with a price point under $40.00.

iPhone 5

The thing that I liked most about my iPhone changed. I know it sounds trivial but I use my phone one-handed and I loved the form factor of the smaller screen. Having said that, the iPhone 5 launched with iOS6 and both lacked the quality I’ve come to expect from Apple. The first batch of iPhones were built quickly, and it showed. Wireless connectivity issues, screen problems, camera halos, and case imperfections were all reported with the initial release. Since then it appears that Apple slowed production and the quality increased, but the delivery times are horrid. Along with the hardware issues, iOS6 removed Google Maps and replaced it with a less than complete in-house map program.

My assessment this release is a black eye for Apple. The issues with the hardware have been resolved, iOS6 has had updates to correct several issues but it will be a long time before Apple maps can compare to Google Maps. The iPhone 5 is safe to buy, but it lacks the killer feature to make it stand out.

iPad Mini

The iPad Mini has a 7.9 inch screen making it larger than it’s competitors. The screen size and the power of the App Store make up the primary selling points for the iPad Mini. With a starting price point of $329 the device isn’t cheap but it’s not out of reach. This device offers teens and parents of teens an affordable option for a device that seems geared for education. While the device does not currently sport a retina display, I predict we will see it in the next version.

My assessment of this is that it makes a better gift than an iPod that will cost about as much. It’s an excellent device for students, and offers a nicer screen for media consumption. If you can wait to buy, I’d hold for the next model as I think they will improve the screen.

Android

Honestly I can’t do a proper assessment of Android, I simply don’t like the OS. What I can say is that my latest experience with the devices show me great improvements. The interface is clean, and what was once laggy is now fluid. Hands down Google Maps beats Apple maps so they have a winner with users needing directions. The killer app on Android for me would be Google Now.

Google Now is a predictive personal assistant. It utilizes Google data about you to offer up content that you’re likely to need at any given time. For example it “learns” your sports team preferences and will serve up the final score as games end. The killer part of the Google Now experience for me is that it comes with Google Maps. Google now understands how you travel and where you’re going. So for example if you have a meeting at 4 p.m., Google Now is smart enough to know you’ll be driving to the appointment. It scans traffic conditions and routes to your meeting destination and changes the reminder on your appointment to account for traffic conditions and travel time.

My assessment of Android is positive, it’s an excellent competitor to iOS and in some ways offers a superior experience. The issue of fragmentation within the Android device market is nearly the only flaw. If you’re a smart consumer and understand the product versions you can get an excellent device at a reasonable price.

As the holidays approach be sure to tune in and see my suggestions for this years hot tech tools and toys. This year we have some real winners!

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