Friday, 30 November 2012

Moving the Blog.....

... for a while!

In a bid to offer a richer experience to our readers, we are changing the way we deliver news.

Click on the image above or CLICK HERE and find our new news pages.

James Hickman
30th November 2012

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Fighting Crime with Technology

Fighting Crime with Technology

There are a few things that bikers fear most. The unannounced car deciding to pull out, children chasing the dog out in to the road and the unexpected obstruction as you round a corner. Another is your partner calling up to you in that tone at 7am, “Where did you park the bike” when you know full well it is in plain sight right in front of the house. Or at least it was.

Yes, my bike has been stolen. Again.
As most of you will know, this is the 2nd time this year.

 However this time I had invested in a tracker system, Biketrac by Road Angel. Five stressful minutes passed as the computer booted and I could log in to the tracking portal to see if the product actually did what it said on the proverbial tin. Of course I had tested it many times for fun; opened a browser and pinpointed my bikes exact location, outside the window, 6’ from where I was sat, but there is always that fear that in the event of really needing it, I would be greeted with a ‘Service Not Available’ error. But no, the portal dutifully reported its exact location, overlayed on a satellite image map giving me not only the name of the road with a postcode but also showing that it was parked behind a garage, away from public view – very considerate of them, they wouldn't want it to be stolen now would they!

So 30 minutes after an anxious call to 999 and being informed that blue lights were on their way, I was given the good news that the bike had been found, safe and sound. You would think that the excitement ended there however this was only the start of a long day. I need to be vague in detail as there is potentially a prosecution(s) pending in relation to this case.

I was asked if my bike could be used in a ‘proactive policing operation’ – I prefer the term ‘sting operation’ just because it sounds so much more Hollywood! The police were provided with access to the Biketrac portal and so with plain clothes detectives on the ground, officers at HQ monitoring its movement and with Andrew at Road Angel providing outstanding telephone support directly to the police, giving real-time Radio Frequency reporting when the GPS signal was weak due to the location, my bike was tracked while it was once again removed and transported elsewhere over the course of a 7 hour surveillance operation. All I can say at this time is that the day ended with huge success, leading to the recovery of far more than ‘just’ my bike.

None of this would have been possible without the wonders of modern tech. Sure, the media is all about the big news of Windows 8, iPhone 5 and the Google Nexus but it is the everyday technology such as security software to keep our children safe on-line, video communications that allow us to talk to loved ones far away and vehicle tracking systems that make a fundamental difference to our daily lives.

So much praise goes to Uxbridge Police. The team did an amazing job; reacting quickly and investing their resources in a tense waiting game. They also took the time to communicate with me at every possible turn, reassuring and giving peace of mind that all was in hand. Special thank (again!!) goes to DS Barry and Insp. Spennewyn and especially DC Sykes who was kind enough to put up with me asking questions such as “But you won’t take your eyes of it, will you?” and “Are they being careful with it”. Thank You.

Road Angel, your product is amazing. I received so many comments that the Biketrac portal was the best system on the market. I cannot recommend Biketrac enough because not only does it completely deliver on its promises; it is also supported by people like Andrew who tirelessly provided support. At one point I called him and he answered the phone asking if he could call me back because he was on the phone to 3 different officers in relation to my bike. 10/10.

James Hickman
18th September 2012

Delivered by iTech. IT Support for Small and Medium Business in London and the South.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Microsoft's New Logo

In advance of one of the most significant waves of product launches in Microsoft’s history, today we are unveiling a new logo for the company.

It’s been 25 years since we’ve updated the Microsoft logo and now is the perfect time for a change. This is an incredibly exciting year for Microsoft as we prepare to release new versions of nearly all of our products. From Windows 8 to Windows Phone 8 to Xbox services to the next version of Office, you will see a common look and feel across these products providing a familiar and seamless experience on PCs, phones, tablets and TVs. This wave of new releases is not only a reimagining of our most popular products, but also represents a new era for Microsoft, so our logo should evolve to visually accentuate this new beginning.
The Microsoft brand is about much more than logos or product names. We are lucky to play a role in the lives of more than a billion people every day. The ways people experience our products are our most important “brand impressions”. That’s why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.

tarting today, you’ll see the new Microsoft logo being used prominently. It will be used on – the 10th most visited website in the world. It is in three of our Microsoft retail stores today (Boston, Seattle’s University Village and Bellevue, Wash.) and will shine brightly in all our stores over the next few months. It will sign off all of our television ads globally. And it will support our products across various forms of marketing. Fully implementing a change like this takes time, so there may be other instances where you will see the old logo being used for some time.
We’re excited about the new logo, but more importantly about this new era in which we’re reimagining how our products can help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.

James Hickman
23rd August 2012

Delivered by iTech. IT Support for Small and Medium Business in London and the South.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Sharp: we'll be shipping new iPhone screens this month

No word from Apple on the existence - or otherwise - of a new iPhone in the near future, but Sharp has effectively said the next-gen handset is coming.
At least, it has said that it will begin shipping screens for the new device this month, according to company president Takashi Okuda, speaking after posting the firm's latest results, Reuters reports.
World+Dog now believed the new iPhone will sport a 4in display of unknown resolution in a casing that's similar to that of the iPhone 4S but stretched to accommodate the bigger display. The headphone port may move to the bottom of the device where there will certainly be a new, smaller dock connector - almost certainly USB 3.0 capable, we'd say.
It has been claimed the phone's panel uses 'in-cell' touchscreen technology, which integrates touch sensors into the display to reduce the screen's thickness.
Sharp's comments don't add anything to that picture - Okuda seems to have simply said his company will soon be shipping screens to Apple this month, and nothing more.
It's not known if the screens use Sharp's IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) technology, which yields LCDs that are up to 40 per cent more efficient than standard panels. They can contain smaller pixels that are able change their state more quickly. 

James Hickman
2nd August 2012

Delivered by iTech. IT Support for Small and Medium Business in London and the South.

New iPhone 5: Rumours Launch Date Is Set

The wait may nearly be over for Apple fans wanting the new iPhone, after rumours that the launch date has been set for September 12.
The new device, tentatively referred to as the iPhone 5, will then go on sale on September 21, according to information from "sources" at Apple.
The September 12 launch event is also expected to be used to announce the iPad mini, the new iPod nano and the final build of iOS 6, Apple's mobile operating system.
A series of photos on various tech sites, including, purport to show a fully assembled iPhone 5 body, made from components that have found their way into repair shops.
The photos match up with a lot of the rumours that have already been circulating about the new phone.
It appears to have a smaller dock connector - meaning the headphone jack can be relocated to the bottom of the device, a bigger screen, a centred FaceTime camera and a metallic rather than ceramic backing plate.
Apple fansite iLounge said the new iPhone would be longer and thinner than the iPhone 4 and 4S, measuring around 125mm by 58.5mm by 7.4mm.
This represents a 10mm increase in height, a nearly 2mm reduction in thickness and almost identical width.
According to iLounge, all this translates to an increase in screen size from 90mm (3.5") to 102mm (4") on the diagonal.

Because the new iPhone looks set to retain the same width as the current models, this appears to confirm that Apple will change the new iPhone's aspect ratio.
If so, it would be the first time the firm has done this since the original iPhone was introduced in 2007, achieved by adding additional pixels to the top and bottom of the screen.
Apple is also tipped to fabricate the screen from Gorilla Glass 2, which can either be made thinner while maintaining an identical strength to the existing screen, or the same thickness while making the glass tougher.
And 9to5Mac said Apple is testing a version of the new iPad's A5X processor intended for the iPhone 5, which is tipped to work alongside 1GB of RAM.
The International Business Times agreed that September 12 was the most likely day Apple would choose to launch its new products, although it said the event could take place in any of the seven days from September 9. said the event could also see the launch of the iPad mini, which would have a screen size somewhere between 178mm (7") and 203mm (8").
In May, financial services company IDC said the iPad accounted for 68% of all tablet sales in the first quarter of the year, with Apple's rivals finding it hard to usurp the market leader.
But they have seen some success in the niche 178mm (7") market, with Android offerings such as the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 attracting considerable interest from consumers.
Apple has so far refused to confirm or deny the rumours.

James Hickman
2nd August 2012

Delivered by iTech. IT Support for Small and Medium Business in London and the South.

Windows 8 Mission far from Accomplished

Microsoft yesterday announced that its new client operating system,
Windows 8, has reached a very important milestone called “RTM” or “release to manufacturing”.  The Microsoft team deserves congratulations in this accomplishment as this took almost three years in the making with the shedding of blood, sweat and tears.  While this is a very big milestone, Windows 8 is very far from the end game and has a lot of things to prove before the mission is accomplished.  Microsoft knows this, but I don’t think many realize just how far Windows 8 has to go.

Hardware Compatibility
Microsoft has done a lot to ensure hardware compatibility with Windows 7 peripherals, but until the most popular installed base has been tested, it’s a crapshoot.  One of the biggest things Microsoft needs to quickly disclose is what peripherals work well with Windows 8 and RT, work with limited functionality, and which don’t work at all.  This will be very evident as OEMs like HP, Dell, and Lenovo, ODMs like Compal, channel providers like Best Buy and peripheral makers like Logitech run their product through “wide area tests”, testing their own PCs and tablets and associated peripherals.  Peripherals with Windows applications like printer/scanners and video cameras will need the most work as these are full blown Windows apps.  Windows RT devices will have the biggest challenge as they aren’t compatible with legacy applications.
Metro Apps
As I have pointed out before, I believe Microsoft needs at least 5,000 high quality and well known apps to give credibility to Windows 8 and RT tablets. If not, Metro could face the ire of a lack of apps just as the Blackberry PlayBook and the HP Touchpad experienced.  The lack of QNX and webOS apps at launch, in addition to other issues, set the immediate positioning of the tablets as a bad thing to buy.  Microsoft cannot afford that as Windows 8 tablets move into the holiday selling season. A flurry of negative reviews could stall sales of products on-shelf and would very quickly turn into a money losing, price cutting episode.  As it stands now, there are 100s of apps in the apps store, but as was announced today the doors to the real app store open up August 15.
Tablet Price
The tech press loves speculation as tech readers eat it up.  One of the more propagated rumors has been the price of Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets.  Microsoft’s OEMs and Microsoft’s own Surface has the challenge that it many cases they do more than the iPad, but don’t have the established position, yet need to price much more than the iPad.  I believe that the over time, the PC functionality adds an extra $100 in value to a tablet but that must be understood, believed and preferred by the consumer.  Given launch doesn’t occur until October 26, neither Microsoft or its OEMs have a lot of time to establish that premium position.
Metro on the Notebook and Desktop PC
Metro makes a lot of sense on a tablet, phone and even the XBOX as it solves many HCI (human computer interface) issues by being cleaner, simpler and optimized for non-mouse and keyboard.   It looks great on a notebook, too, but the jury is still out how consumers will actually respond to using it without a touch screen.  Intel is leading the industry to get touch enabled quickly on Ultrabooks, but that won’t kick in on multiple SKUs until after the holiday selling season.
Windows 8 and the Desktop Experience
Windows 8 is all about tablets and a connected experience. Almost everyone can appreciate the connected features Microsoft has added, but what about people who love their desktop experience and are looking to do more with it?  Unlike Apple with OSX, Microsoft hasn’t added a lot of new functionality to the desktop experience.  For those users who are looking for an enhanced desktop, they may as well stay with Windows 7 or take another look at Apple.  When it comes to video manipulation, photo processing, and heavy-duty games, not much has changed with Windows 8.
Big Upside in Success
I am not negative about Windows 8, just cautious.  Like many, I like Metro on phones, tablets and the XBOX.  Windows 8, as Steve Ballmer said, is the riskiest thing Microsoft has ever done as they are essentially downplaying where they dominate, the desktop.  Microsoft is going for everything here.  Windows 8 will ship on 10′s of millions of consumer PCs during the holidays for no other reason that it’s the only thing that will be made available to consumers, and consumers will keep buying PCs.  But Microsoft wants more than that.  Imagine if Metro sticks and users love it.  This could mean that Microsoft keeps the PC market, takes a high volume role in the tablet market, has a much better shot at doing well in phones and keeps the winning Metro metaphor for the XBOX 360.  This then means they have a real shot at competing toe to toe with Apple as well as continued success in the commercial market.  If not?  I’m not going there….
James Hickman
2nd August 2012

Delivered by iTech. IT Support for Small and Medium Business in London and the South.

Microsoft To Replace Hotmail With Metro-Style Outlook.Com

Microsoft on Tuesday announced that it will replace its aging webmail service Hotmail with a new service called that provides a more modern take on connected email, contacts, and calendar management. Available today in preview form, provides a new Metro-style UI similar to that of Windows 8 apps, as well as numerous new features.
“We think the time is right to re-imagine personal email, from the data center to the user experience,” Microsoft Corporate Vice President Chris Jones said. “So today we’re introducing a preview of”
As with its Surface tablet devices, takes a legacy Microsoft brand name—Outlook—and reapplies it to a new product. In this case, Microsoft considered other options but realized that most people think of “Outlook” when they think Microsoft email. More important, the connotations are almost always positive. So in retrospect—like with Surface—the new/old name makes plenty of sense.
The service itself is excellent. As I note in my three-part preview of—please refer Mail: Microsoft Reimagines People: Microsoft Reimagines Contacts, and + SkyDrive: Microsoft Reimagines Cloud Storagefor much more information—the new services combines everything that was right about Hotmail with some new features, and then it loses the name no one seemed to like. The result is email and contacts services (calendar will be updated later) that look beautiful and work efficiently, and integrate nicely with other Microsoft products and services, including SkyDrive and the Office Web Apps. borrows the Metro-style look and feel from Windows 8 and takes it to the next level, adding features you can’t even find in the Metro-style Mail and People apps in that upcoming new OS. For example, Mail looks a lot like the Metro Mail app, but it supports drag-and-drop message management, social networks integration, and other features lacking in Windows 8.
More features are coming in later updates to the preview service, too. Microsoft will integrate Skype into (so users can make Skype audio, video, or text chats from the web without installing a native client application), as well as presence (online/offline) integration. This will work for users’ contacts using Skype on Windows or other platforms, Skype on the web, Skype on Facebook, or Skype integrated into Outlook 2013, Microsoft told me.
If you're currently using Hotmail, you can switch to the new service or you can visit outlook.comto start a new Microsoft account. Microsoft tells me that it will phase in over time and then, later, phase out the old Hotmail interface.

James Hickman
2nd August 2012

Delivered by iTech. IT Support for Small and Medium Business in London and the South.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Samsung Thumps Apple Again With Double The Smart Phone Sales

Juniper Research claims that Samsung sold over 52 million smart phones in the second quarter of 2012. That’s double the number of iPhones that Apple sold in the same time period.
Samsung is the world’s largest maker of smart phones. In fact, it’s not even close, Juniper says.
“Samsung has taken a sizeable lead in the smartphone market in terms of unit shipments,” aJuniper Research press release notes. “In the second quarter of 2012, Samsung shipped 52.1 million smartphones, just over double the number shipped by its leading rival, Apple – 26 million.
And Samsung isn’t just doubling Apple’s smart phone sales, it’s actually growing its lead over Apple by a sizeable amount. In fact, Juniper claims that Samsung’s lead over Apple actually doubled quarter-on-quarter. The firm cites the release of the new Samsung flagship handset, the Galaxy S3, as playing a key role in this domination. Samsung sold over 10 million Galaxy S3 handsets in June alone.
As for the remainder of the market, Juniper says that HTC sold 11.6 million smart phones in Q2 2012, followed by Nokia with 10.2 million units and RIM, which sold 7.4 million Blackberry handsets. Overall, Juniper estimates that buyers snapped up 132.9 million smart phones in Q2 2012, up from 105.2 million in the same quarter a year ago.
Apple will of course experience a temporary surge in the fourth quarter, as it did last year, thanks to its annual release strategy for the iPhone. But Samsung sold more smart phones than Apple in all of 2011 and continues to do so, in dominant form, in 2012.
Samsung and Apple, of course, are involved in various legal battles around the world related to patents for smart phones and tablets, and while the two firms are also partners, these battles are starting to get ugly. A UK court recently ruled that Samsung did not copy the design of the iPad when it created its own tablet, and it has ordered Apple to publish a notice of this fact on its web site and in British newspaper ads for six months. On the flipside, a US court ruled that Samsung was “flooding the market” with products that potentially infringe on Apple products and slammed Samsung with an injunction.

James Hickman
26th July 2012

Delivered by iTech. IT Support for Small and Medium Business in London and the South.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Apple seeks whopping $2.525bn Samsung patent payout

It looks as though scheduled talks between Apple and Samsung CEOs to discuss damages for patent infringement were doomed to failure from the start, as court filings show Apple is demanding $2.525bn in costs and penalties for the use of its fondleslab and smartphone designs.

Apple claims that Samsung has knowingly infringed on its patented ideas, such as producing a tablet with a rectangular front screen with rounded corners and the technology behind using multiple fingers to control a tablet, Reuters reports.
As a result, the world's most valuable company claims that Samsung has robbed it of $500m in profits, and the Koreans have used purloined technology to overtake Cupertino in the global smartphone market. It wants retrospective damages and a court-mandated royalty on all Samsung products that use the common design features in the future.
Samsung has responded by claiming that Apple is trying to trying "to stifle legitimate competition and limit consumer choice to maintain its historically exorbitant profits." It also points out that Apple, which is a substantial Samsung customer, should be paying more for the intellectual property it uses.
The legal case between the two is set to begin on July 30 in San José, California, federal court, just down the road from Apple's headquarters. The case, administered by before US District Judge Lucy Koh, is going to be critical to Apple's global ambitions and the late Steve Jobs' personal quest to protect what he saw as his company's unique contributions to design history.
2001 tablet
Stanley Kubrik infringes on Apple's inventions
As a result, anyone who tries to build hardware using the same shapes and functions as an iPad or iPhone will have to pay what is effectively a tablet tax. Patent-watching corporate consultant and commentator Florian Meuller says that the court filings show that Apple is seeking a future royalty scheme that would add over $30 per tablet for the privilege of using Cupertino's intellectual property.
This breaks down to $24 per unit for the basic tablet design, $3.10 for its scrolling API function, and $2.02 apiece for using tap to zoom and navigate, and "overscroll bounce" feature – that is, if Judge Koh can be persuaded that Apple has reasonable claim.
Koh has already instituted a US lockdown on Samsung's Nexus phones and Galaxy Tab 10.1, and Apple has also won a similar injunction across the EU for Samsung's seven-inch Nexus.
In Britain, it seems that common sense does prevail, after Judge Colin Birss cleared Samsung and ordered Apple to run adverts proclaiming the Korean manufacturer's innocence. ®

James Hickman
25th July 2012

Delivered by iTech. IT Support for Small and Medium Business in London and the South.

New Windows Server 2012 Essentials Is A Gem For Home Businesses And Small Businesses

Last year, I sang the praises of Microsoft’s “Colorado” small server offerings, which included Windows Home Server (WHS) 2011, Windows Small Business Server (SBS) Essentials 2011, and Windows Storage Server Essentials 2008 R2. This year, Microsoft killed off all three of these products (as well as the unrelated Windows SBS 2011 Standard offering) and is replacing them with a single new low-end server called Windows Server 2012 Essentials. And I couldn’t be happier.

Microsoft’s partners aren’t happy with the retirement of SBS Standard, since it was such a clear and consistent source of revenue for so long. But I feel that the product line was unnecessarily complex, and its on-premises approach to tech infrastructure -- with multiple, locally installed servers -- is out of touch with the realities of today’s highly mobile and highly connected world. Meanwhile, Windows Server 2012 Essentials -- let’s just call it Essentials from here on out -- is exactly what the doctor ordered for home business and small businesses.
Conceptually, Essentials appears to be a sequel to the well-designed but poor-selling SBS 2011 Essentials product: It offers the same super-simple domain set up with minimal on-site resources around user, machine, and storage management. It supports up to 24 users. And it assumes that most customers will utilize cloud-based email, calendar, contacts, and other services, hopefully but not necessarily Office 365. (You can always add servers, too, of course, including on-premises Exchange, SQL Server, and SharePoint servers if you’re a real glutton for punishment.)

But the truth is, Essentials is a lot more nuanced than that. And it draws in the best features from the other Colorado servers, providing a single server that (almost) does it all.
For fans of the WHS line, Essentials provides an optional media server, just like WHS. (What it lacks for home users, however, is HomeGroup support; since Essentials uses a domain, it isn’t compatible with HomeGroup sharing.) And the new Storage Spaces technologies, also available in Windows 8, means that Essentials has a modern replacement for the lamented Drive Extender feature, providing both single pool of storage functionality and storage redundancy.

Storage Spaces also makes Essentials a far more compelling entry-level storage server than, say, Storage Server 2008 R2, a product that never made any sense to me. (Like WHS 2011, it shipped without Drive Extender.)

Indeed, if you’re familiar with the mainstream Windows Server 2012 versions -- Standard and Datacenter -- you might know that the management interface for Storage Spaces in those products is decidedly complex. But Microsoft opted for the simple Windows 8 version of the Storage Spaces control panel. Virtually anyone could use this tool to configure multiple disks into a single, redundant pool of storage.
From a user and PC management perspective, Essentials is likewise simple. (Yes, this is a theme that permeates the product.) It uses a modern version of the Dashboard management front-end from the Colorado servers that looks like Server Manager in Server 2012 but is -- wait for it -- much, much simpler. (Server Manager is also available if you want to get down and dirty, but I suspect most home and small business offices will never need it.)

Nice touches abound. With a simple wizard, you can enable a nice set of Group Policies related to folder redirection and security settings that centralizes users’ desktop experiences on the server. When you connect Windows 8-based clients to the server, Essentials automatically stores their File History backups centrally on the server, too.
On the cloud side, Essentials offers built-in integration with Office 365 -- previously available in SBS 2011 Essentials as an add-in -- and with the Microsoft Online Backup Service, which backs up the server to Microsoft’s cloud. (This is also a feature of mainstream Windows Server 2012 versions.) There’s even Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) integration, to help ensure that the server is configured optimally. And like its predecessors, Essentials offers nice Anywhere Access functionality courtesy of Remote Web Access (RWA), providing a web-based front end to the files on the server and a Remote Desktop experience for connected machines.

There’s very little to complain about with this solution. I’d like to see a workgroup/domain choice during Setup so that those smallest of small businesses -- and those with home offices -- could simply forego the domain, however. I’ve never been a fan of the client-based Launchpad applet that’s required for backups. And unless you configure it properly, Essentials, like its predecessors, can be a bit too chatty about unimportant alerts: I get it, the BPA scan had warnings. Now go away.

But these are minor nits. Essentials includes everything that was right about WHS and SBS 2011 Essentials and indeed combines them together into a single product that is ideally suited for small, mobile operations in which email and related services are handled by cloud services, as they should be. I’m using the Beta version as the center of my own home office’s network, and it’s working like a charm.
It’s no replacement for the on-premises SBS 2011 Standard, of course. I happen to feel that abandoning this product was the right decision, and it’s pretty clear that the current version on the market was just a throwaway for existing customers. Some might disagree with that. But Essentials more closely confirms to the realities of today’s world, I think, and is forward-leaning and simple rather than old-fashioned and complex. It’s also inexpensive: Essentials will set you back just $425. And it will support in-place upgrading to a mainstream Server version if your business grows past 25 users.

You can download the Beta version of Windows Server 2012 Essentials from the Microsoft website. No word yet on when the final version is expected, but I’d imagine it will be ready before the end of the year. (The mainstream Windows Server 2012 versions will ship to customers broadly in September.)

James Hickman
25th July 2012

Delivered by iTech. IT Support for Small and Medium Business in London and the South.