We are used to hearing that something new and exciting is being developed by Intel when it comes to developing processors. However, this time IBM is taking the spotlight. IBM recently announced that they have produced and are currently testing the world’s first 7 nanometer chip. That in itself is exciting as the current microprocessors that are being used in today’s high tech devices are between 14 and 22 nanometers. But don’t let the small size fool you as the IBM’s 7nm chip can hold more than 20 billion tiny switches or transistors. That is an impressing performance improvement, especially for its size. To put things in perspective, the diameter of a strand of human DNA is 2.5 nanometers!
Over the next five years IBM will be investing three billion dollars to perfect this technology. A lot of different technologies will benefit from this if the processor delivers. Cloud computing is one of them. As computing is increasing, there is a huge need to shrink and multiply devices to allow for more computing power at a smaller size. Many technology companies are working on decreasing the size footprint of current machines. Imagine a quarter of current data center server equipment fitting on one single server rack?! A lot can be done with that computing power.
This month GlobalFoundries completed the acquisition of IBM’s chip making business. Even though the research continues, GlobalFoundries will be IBM’s exclusive processor chip provider for the next 10 years as they are a member of the research group that is working on the new 7nm chip. Because there are physical limitations of existing materials, the “potential alternatives include new materials such as carbon nanotubes and non-traditional computational approaches” (IBM 2014). Click here to see a wonderful summary graphic that was created by IBM to explain this technological breakthrough.
Initially founded in 2013, the app developed by Facebook called Internet.org is making headlines everywhere for a good reason. Facebook wants to provide internet access to all especially those who live in areas where internet is not available and those who cannot afford it. It is partnering with many companies to make this initiative possible all over the world. But before you decide to cancel you internet with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or decide to cancel your data plan on your phone, let’s explore this a little bit more and figure out the pros and cons of this project.
Starting with the pros, it would be wonderful if everyone could access the internet. Internet.org will allow free select access to local information, health and employment websites. This app is already in use in some parts of the globe such as Africa, Latin America, and Asia and adding the service to more places is in the works. Facebook is looking into developing different technology to make this happen such as using high altitude and potentially solar powered airplanes to deliver connectivity to rural areas as well as satellites and lasers. There are many benefits. People can have lifesaving health information at their fingertips as well as being able to expand their education and knowledge. Everyone can stay in touch with friends and relatives all over the globe and have additional employment opportunities.
However, where there are benefits there are also a few things to consider such as net neutrality. Internet.org will only have select websites on it and is not all inclusive. Consider it a “private internet”. Companies pay to be a part of this as funding for the project has to come from somewhere. This means that smaller companies, no matter if their information is good or not, will be excluded. In addition, advertising and personal data gathering are also a possibility. Where access to the World Wide Web is not totally limited, the user will be warned that by venturing out he or she will incur data usage charges. Mark Zuckerburg stated in a reply to his own post that “It’s too expensive to make the whole internet free”.
There are many arguments from both sides with very valid points. The potential for this is huge and it will be very interesting to observe Internet.org’s impact. There is no stopping progress. What we can do is approach Internet.org it with cautious optimism, knowledge, and the willingness to improve or modify it when the time comes.
Even though the name is not too original, the Intel Compute Stick is a very interesting portable device that is due to come out on April 24th. As small as a pack of gum, this tiny computer plugs into a monitor’s HDMI port to deliver a portable computing experience. This will by no means replace a computer but it does have its benefits such as being small, ultra-portable, and business ready plug-and-play. It can act as a thin client and deliver the ability to do work from anywhere where there is a monitor with an HDMI port. Computers are shrinking in size but not in performance!
This tiny-but-mighty stick has an Atom quad-core processor and will come in two flavors of operating systems, Windows 8.1 (as well as Windows 10 when released) or Linux. The Windows version is supposed to cost around $149 and will include 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. The Linux version is supposed to cost around $89 and will have half of the RAM and about 8GB of onboard storage. However, both will come with a slot for a microSD card to expand the storage and a built in full size and micro USB ports. Additionally, the device will have built in Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi connections. There is only one drawback, it currently cannot power itself through the HDMI port and will require using the micro USB port to charge.
The potential competitor to the Intel Compute Stick is the Asus Chromebit. This similar device will run the Google’s Chrome operating system. Planned for release later this year, the official price is not yet set but Google hinted that the price will be under $100. As time goes forward, we are able to pack more and more storage as well as processing power into smaller devices. This is very exciting news especially as the transition is happening to ultra-portable and wearable technology. TechFarmer predicts that the next few years will be very exciting as more and more science fiction devices become a reality.
As with everything, all things must come to an end and Microsoft will officially end the support for Windows Server 2003 initial and R2 editions on July 14, 2015. That is around the corner. Are you ready? Just like with the end of support for Windows XP (read our previous blog post here) once the deadline comes, Microsoft will stop releasing patches for the operating system. That means that if new security vulnerabilities are detected, your server will be potentially exposed to the threats. Additionally, all technical support will end for Server 2003 as well.
Here are a few things to consider and some reasons why you should migrate off of Server 2003. Does your company need to be in compliance with regulatory rules set by industry or government standards, such as HIPAA? If you answered yes, it is best to know what the regulatory rules are regarding security as staying with Server 2003 may put you out of compliance. Are you already experiencing compatibility issues with any of your new software and hardware that you are trying to implement? As more and more vendors are moving on to newer technologies, they are starting to abandon old operating system systems such as Server 2003 and Windows XP. This means that compatibility issues will only increase by staying on an antiquated platform.
Because this is serious, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued an alert last year regarding the Windows Server 2003 end of life. You can read the full alert here.
Based out of Denver/Centennial Colorado, TechFarmer can assist clients in many locations with security and IT Advisory services. Contact us if you have any questions about Server 2003 migrations as we are more than happy to assist your business with this transition.
Ryden, also known as a “God of Lightning” Japanese character, is a perfect way to name a battery. The Ryden Battery sounds futuristic and almost impossible but it may soon be available on the market. TechFarmer is always on the lookout for new technologies and if this battery does what Power Japan Plus, the start-up manufacturer, claims it can do, we will be very impressed! First of all, the battery is Eco-friendly because the main ingredient is organic cotton. The structure of the cotton’s carbon fiber is modified by Power Japan Plus to create a Carbon Complex which also includes a conductive fluid made out of an organic electrolyte. For specific scientific details, check out Power Japans Plus’ website.
Why is this so exciting? If this technology really works, electronics will become a little more Eco-friendly. Power Japan Plus claims that the batteries will become 100% recyclable and can hold a better charge for longer amount of time. In comparison, a lithium ion battery can not only be dangerous if it is faulty, but it also contains metals that are pricey to recycle. (Image from http://powerjapanplus.com)
In addition, Power Japan Plus claims that their battery can hold a bigger charge than a comparable lithium ion battery. This is great news for electric cars that will be able to drive longer distances. An added bonus to the longer charge capacity is that the Ryden battery is supposed to charge quicker than the lithium ion battery. This means that you will spend less time at the “charge station” while charging your battery during a trip. This also applies to many electronic devices that use rechargeable batteries. You will be able to use them longer while charging them for a smaller amount of time. Good news for those who forget to grab their power cables!
The potential benefits are endless but this is not the first time a company has made a claim about a better battery. A company from Texas called EEStor is yet to deliver on a claim they made almost ten years ago in regards to their battery like capacitor. Technology evolves at a very high speed and it will be great to see if the Ryden organic battery claim will deliver. Being optimistic, TechFarmer looks forward to seeing this technology in action not only in Denver but powering our portable devises all over the world for a longer period of time while causing a smaller environmental footprint!
Does the Windows XP end of support popup on the left look familiar? If you are still using XP it should! Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 8th, 2014. The operating system was initially released in 2001 and has been around for twelve years. This is very impressive as it is predicted that to this day there are an estimated 25% of PCs still using Windows XP even after it has been retired.
Even though XP was a great operating system, time goes on and technology moves forward at a very fast speed. Always chasing the latest and greatest is pricy but after 12 years, it is time to move forward and upgrade. Things have been relatively quiet for XP users until the latest Internet Explorer bug surfaced (read about it in our previous blog here). Even though Microsoft patched that issue for Windows XP, they did so only because the End of Support date was very recent. It was nice of Microsoft to do this but don’t expect that to continue.
Support is very important because bugs and security holes are found on a daily basis. Once they are found, a patch gets created and pushed out via Windows Update. There are some big companies as well as government agencies that will continue to pay very large amounts of money to continue their XP support. Everyone else will need to consider upgrading. Microsoft has been encouraging XP users to upgrade to a newer operating system for a good reason. XP will become a hacker’s paradise even if a good antivirus application is installed.
Typically, computers that are currently in the business place that still use Windows XP are running on older hardware. For most, the warranty is expired. This is a great time to budget and transition to new hardware and a new operating system. It will be an exciting time for all people in the business because this transition yields increased performance and productivity due to hardware and software speed increase. You will no longer need to start your computer and then go get a cup coffee while it takes time to boot up! Transitioning to a new operating system can seem like a daunting task but with TechFarmer’s help, you will realize how painless it really is. Contact us today and let us show you how we can help.
It is true. The web will never be a hundred percent harmless and everyone personally needs to take measures to be safe and keep their businesses safe as well. Security and web safety issues have popped up here and there consistently but the issues that we have seen in the last few months have been nonstop. In addition, the severity of the attacks has been amped up. There are constantly new holes being discovered in established technologies and many are struggling to keep up with patching these security holes. As we become more and more dependent on technology, it is important to be proactive and take the responsibility to keep yourself, your family and your business safe.
On April 7th 2014 the Heartbleed security bug was announced. It is estimated that 17 percent of the secure web servers that were certified by trusted authorities on the internet were vulnerable to the open-source OpenSSL attack which allows theft of servers’ private keys and users’ session cookies as well as passwords (Wikipedia, 2014). This was not intentional as the code developers did not realize that the code was flawed before introducing it to the source code repository. One little mistake can cause a lot of damage. The vulnerability has been around for the last three years without being noticed. It is very important to change your passwords for those websites that were affected and for good measures, for those sites that were not affected as well. TechFarmer recommends creating complex passwords and changing them often.
Then on April 26th 2014 an Internet Explorer flaw was announced by FireEye that affects browser versions 6 through 11. With this bug, a hacker can gain access to a computer by a user viewing a uniquely created website that might look legitimate. On May 1st, 2014, Microsoft released a patch that modifies the way Internet Explorer handles objects in memory and fixes the bug (Microsoft). This is a perfect time to update all of your computers and servers with the latest updates. Updates may be pesky at times but know that there are very good reasons why technology companies release them.
It is easy to get complacent about your IT environment until something disastrous happens. TechFarmer takes security very seriously and goes above and beyond to protect businesses from these “Zero Day” attacks. Contact us if you have any questions about your business security and how we can help. Stay informed and take action!
Have you heard of this term yet? Comparatively to the internet, the Internet of Things (or IoT) is a new concept and it does not have a concrete definition yet. Proposed in 2009, the Internet of Things is composed of devices or objects that are uniquely identifiable and can interact with users/environment by connecting to internet like structures (Wikipedia, 2014). The internet currently consists of many devices and the majority connections are made using computers or servers. The Internet of Things examples include doors, refrigerators, televisions, air conditioners, alarm systems, cars, speakers and anything else you can imagine that can also be connected to the internet.
In business, we have seen and support IoT devices such as tracking systems, oil and gas monitoring and reacting equipment, water control and monitoring systems, new forms of manufacturing and monitoring processes, just to name a few.
Internet of Things
Currently, these devices are being added to the Internet of Things but the speed at which this will happen in the not-so-distant future will increase very rapidly. There are many devices that we can connect to currently such as watching our TVs from anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection by using Slingbox or controlling the Sonos speakers in the office or home from your phone and transmitting music to them wirelessly and completely on demand. You can also install outlets, say in the business space, that turn lights on and off from your phone.
This is just the beginning! Imagine programming your refrigerator to notify you when you are getting low on milk or sending you a grocery list of items that you need to get? The possibilities are endless and this is why Samsung recently announced that they would like to lead in the production of IoT appliances and devices that are connected to the user. Control your whole house or business from your phone. Forgot to turn down the AC at the office before leaving? No problem, just take care of it from your phone.
While this is mostly beneficial to people there are a few things to think about. One very important factor is security. It is still a constant struggle to stay ahead of the game for antivirus providers and prevent breaches from evil hackers. Securing the Internet of Things has already proven to be a slight challenge. Even though there is not a whole lot of data available, the security firm Proofpoint are confident that a botnet that sends out spam has already attacked a magnitude of devices including IoT such as TVs and at least one refrigerator (Kassner, 2014 TechRepublic)! As comical as it may sound that somewhere out there, there is a fridge sending out spam, it is a very serious issue. No one wants a hacker controlling or breaking anything in their house or business place. Especially if you have the front door connected to the IoT and a thief can hack into your office or house. Currently, the best protection that Internet of Things has is being behind a solid firewall and not connecting devices that can cause a potential breach in security.
Just in time for the holidays the unidentified genius evil hackers have created the most damaging Trojan horse malware/ransomware to date. This is bad news for the computers and their owners who get infected with CryptoLocker. Where viruses typically are dangerous because they can damage the computer and/or steal your information, CryptoLocker takes this to a whole new level. Targeting online shoppers, the design is simple. You get an email that looks legitimate say from a FedEx, UPS, USPS or any other lookalike that has a zip file attachment in it. Inside the zipped file, like an unsuspecting nightmare, hides a double-extension file such as .pdf.exe. This is not a PDF document but an executable that if clicked on, will allow CryptoLocker to run on your computer.
Now you might be asking what damage does this thing do? Once installed on your computer, CryptoLocker encrypts files on your computer’s local and mounted network drives by using RSA public-key cryptography while the private key is actually stored on the servers controlled by the malware. In other words, once the file is encrypted, you cannot access it. It is like putting all of your important stuff into a safe that is impossible to open without a key and then hiding the key so you can’t access the contents. In order to get the files decrypted and accessible again, CryptoLocker displays a “ransom” payment message with a strict deadline. If you pay with Bitcoin or a prepaid voucher within the deadline, your files get decrypted. On the other hand, if the payment is not made within the deadline, the price for decryption increases or your files stay forever encrypted. The encryption is so complex that experts say that it is close to impossible to break, so if you do not have a proper backup, the files are non-recoverable. It is discouraged to pay the ransom because it encourages the attackers to continue to do harm.
Here is what you can do to avoid this from happening to you and your business. Prevent the infection in the first place by not opening any emails and attachments if you are not sure where they came from or if they look suspicious. FedEx or UPS is not going to ask you to download a zip file, so if something appears strange, it probably is. If you do accidentally click on something, make sure to pay attention to the file and do not open a double-extension file (such as recipt.pdf.exe). As always, having updated antivirus software is extremely important. And last but not least, backup, backup, backup! The more backups you have, the better off you will be. If you suspect an infection, immediately turn off your computer. Notify us at TechFarmer so we can start to eradicate the virus. This is definitely not the first virus and it will not be the last but as technology evolves, so will the threats. Please feel free to contact us with any questions that you may have in regards to IT support or internet safety and security.
As technology is ever-changing, it is important to stay connected with the constantly growing knowledge curve, particularly when it comes to your smartphone. That is why we here at TechFarmer have decided to put together a list of five Android tips and tricks to make your life easier and keep you in the know.
#1 – Screenshot Shortcut
Sometimes, whether it’s for work or just for fun, you need to take a snapshot of your screen. Thankfully, doing this on an Android is super easy. Simply, press and hold down the power button and volume-down button, release, then see your screenshot in the Gallery app, under the folder labeled, “Screenshots.” (Image by Simon Hill from http://www.digitaltrends.com.)
#2 – Instant Bookmarks
Did you know you can create bookmark icons on your home screen that link directly to sites that you frequent? It’s true, and it’s very easy to accomplish. When you’re viewing a site in the Android web browser on your phone that you want to pin to the home screen, simply tap the Menu button in the browser, and select “Save to bookmarks.” Edit the bookmark label if you wish, then select “Add to” and choose “Home Screen.” So, the next time you want to visit that particular site, just tap the web clip icon on your home screen, and you’ll be there instantly! (Image from http://play.google.com.)
#3 – Adding an Email Signature
Just like on an email client on your computer or simple, web-based email, you can add your own personalized email signature to emails you send from your Android phone. If you don’t care for the default, “Sent from my mobile device” signature, write your own by opening the email app and tapping the Menu button. Then, click Settings, and tap on the email account you set up on your phone. Choose “Signature,” enter some words you want to attach at the bottom of every email you send out, then simply press “OK” to confirm. (Image from http://www.androidauthority.com.)
#4 – Copying Files Between Android and PC
It’s true! You can actually share files between your Android smartphone and your PC to help you stay more organized and connected. First, run the Play Store app and search for any remote desktop app, like AirDroid, for instance. Tap the app from the list to start downloading it onto your phone. Open the app, and begin to copy files freely over a wireless internet connection, to alternate work stations (between the phone or PC) and enhance your workflow efficiency. (Image from http://firstteck.blogspot.com.)
#5 – Using Special Characters
Using special characters in an email or text can really be useful from time to time, and the Android makes typing special characters easy and very usable. All you need to do is hold down whichever basic character is related to the special character you need until a small menu with symbol options appears (as depicted in the image). For instance, if you want to type the symbol for the British pound (£), tap and hold down the “L” key until the option for the pound symbol appears. Then simply lift up your finger, and click on the pound symbol to automatically paste it into the text field. (Image from http://www.softwaredon.com.)