Thursday, July 31, 2014

Zorin OS 9 Educational

Zorin Group has announced the release of Zorin OS 9 Educational.

Zorin OS 9 Educational brings the latest and greatest software into the hands of students and teachers. Updated software and bug fixes ensure that your computer runs better than ever while improved hardware support and entirely new software ensures that you’re getting the best experience you can, no matter which computer you use it on.

All Zorin OS 9 editions are Long Term Support (LTS) releases which means that you’ll continue to get software updates and security fixes until 2019, making it the ideal choice for large-scale deployments. More information about Zorin OS 9 changes can be found here.

You can get Zorin OS 9 Educational from here.

We hope that you will enjoy using it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Smartphone Market Still Surging

The global smartphone market shows no signs of slowing down, based on the latest pulse check conducted by IDC.

The market research firm estimated 295.3 million units shipped worldwide during the second quarter of 2014, representing annual growth of 23.1 percent.

On a quarterly basis, growth was only 2.6 percent, but IDC program director Ryan Reigh reflected in the report that the "record second quarter" points toward "plenty of opportunity and momentum."

China continues to be a focal point for all mobile OEMs — to the point where even homegrown Lenovo is facing increasing pressure but still hanging on with record shipments of its own.
In fact, Chinese mobile OEMs are putting more pressure on other hardware brands outside of China, especially in emerging markets as the featurephone continues to find itself on the way out amid the rise of cheaper smartphones.

"The offer of smartphones at a much better value than the top global players but with a stronger build quality and larger scale than local competitors gives these vendors a precarious competitive advantage," explained Melissa Chau, a senior research manager for on IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker team.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Our World Tour book review

By Chuck Hajd├║

One World Tour is an interesting book to review. It is all about a really selfish photographer taking advantage of an opportunity. The author/photographer, Mario Dirks, makes it very clear that he applied for, and won, this job based on his desire to travel on somebody else’s dime. I have no problem with that at all!

The added benefit was someone else paid for him, and a companion, to travel the world (as defined by “someone” apparently at SIGMA) with free camera equipment.  Duh…. I’d take it too.

O’Reilly books describes the journey like this: Sigma sent Mario on a yearlong adventure to photograph the most beautiful places on earth. As Sigma's World Scout, he spent 50 weeks visiting a total of 77 cities, 48 countries, and 6 continents. He took 101 flights and traveled 2,500 miles on foot.

I can’t make a knowledgeable comment on the choice of equipment because I’ve used very few of their products. I have used a few of their lenses over the years but none of their dSLRs. The only Sigma lens I currently use regularly is a 50-200mm f/4-5.6 DC OS HSM zoom lens in Pentax mount. It is extremely well built and takes excellent pictures.

The photographic equipment provided to the author for this adventure included two Sigma SD 1 Merrill dSLRs and a selection of Sigma lenses. The 70–200mm 2.8, 24–70mm 2.8, 17–50mm 2.8, 85mm 1.4, 105mm macro 2.8, 10–20mm 3.5, 8–16mm 2, fisheye, 2x converter and 18–250mm travel lens. That’s quite an arsenal! He also carried all of the extra equipment any fully equipped photographer would have. I don’t know how much his equipment was worth but the MSRP of each camera body alone was over $3,000.00 at the time. Now down to a more reasonable $2,000. To me that’s a heck of a lot of money to pay for an APS-C camera, albeit one with a 46MP sensor.

Before I talk about the quality of the photographs I’d like to comment on the choice of locations in the “world”. I’m sure that everyone has a different opinion on what the “must see” sites on Earth and mine are definitely different than the ones chosen. Many of the locations were clearly picked because they are in travel brochures or are famous sites. My choices would have included quite a few places that are wonderfully scenic and deserve to be included in any book: the Maine coastline of the USA, the Greek islands, Budapest, Hungary, the south of France and rural Japan all come to mind instantly. None are included in this book.

The author includes pleasantly written commentaries about each of his stops and that helps the reader to understand the photographs better. His anecdotes are nicely done and make the book an enjoyable “trip”.

Many of the photographs are taken of commonly photographed places and don’t really seem to capture the spirit of a place. I was particularly disappointed in the photos of Washington, DC, Las Vegas and New York City. They were all common and uninspired. Perhaps that was because it was the start of the trip.

The pictures taken at the Grand Canyon were, however, spectacular! There are also quite a few excellent pictures included. Most of them, in my opinion, are of outdoor scenery. The author seems to have an excellent eye for capturing the beauty of nature.
MSRP for the eBook (PDF, MOBI and ePub) is $19.95, print is $44.95 and price for both is $49.95

August ePub issue

The August issue of our monthly ePub was emailed out this morning. As usual, it has some great articles and reviews and is well worth your time to read it.

If you aren't already a subscriber please let us know and we'll add you to the list.

Monday, July 28, 2014

New Mozilla CEO

Mozilla's executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker announced in a blog posting on Monday that the troubled company had finally picked an old face Chris Beard for its new chief executive.

Beard, who has served as Mozilla's interim CEO since April, had worked as Executive-in-Residence at the venture capital firm Greylock Partners, before returning to Mozilla. In his earlier career Beard had worked at Mozilla since 2004 and the launch of Firefox 1.0.

As Baker noted, "During his many years here, he at various times has had responsibility for almost every part of the business, including product, marketing, innovation, communications, community and user engagement."

Beard's being asked to lead an open-source company from a terrible mis-step with its last CEO, Brendan Eich. Eich's appointment and anti-gay marriage politics lead to serious morale problems. When all was said and done Eich served as CEO for a mere nine days.

In addition, the business faces a hard deadline to find new revenue streams before its Google advertising contract concludes later this year. With approximately 90 percent of its income depending on Google, and little reason to think that Google will renew the contract, Mozilla faces a make-it or break it crisis.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

More on Chromebooks

By Bayle Emlein

A Chromebook is a computer that runs on the Chrome operating system, which is Linux-based. More specifically the term refers to a variety of small, light devices that function as thin clients to access resources on the internet.

If you're working on a device built as a Chromebook (in contrast to a computer upgraded to run the Chrome operating system), you'll notice a more compact keyboard: no Function Keys, no Backspace (that function is Covered by Delete), no Page Up or Page Down buttons. But you will have a Search key, with the familiar magnifying glass icon.

What features do Chromebooks offer?
  • Inexpensive
  • Light weight
  • Boots fast
  • Relatively long battery life
  • Portable
  • Expendable
  • Secure, no local data
  • Different from what we have been doing (it's not Windows 8)
  • Many apps to add specific features.

What can a Chromebook do?
  • Read email
  • Surf
  • Watch movies on Netflix
  • Create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365
  • Edit photos
  • Listen to and organize music.

What can a Chromebook not do?
  • Play a DVD or Blu Ray movie
  • Rip a music CD to MP3
  • Edit a high definition video
  • Play Call of Duty at 60 FPS
  • Yield a huge return at a Las Vegas pawn shop.

Is a Chromebook in your future? Like most technology purchase decisions, the answer is: “It depends.” It depends on your needs, preferences, and work habits. For example, does the lack of a DVD drive (and the need to use additional resources such as an external drive or USB drive to transfer files) take more of your time and energy than the hassle of carrying that extra weight and keeping track of an expensive machine?  How much do they cost? Now (the end of June 2014), the cost had dropped to an average of $150. This week, Tiger is advertising a $129 special. Judicious e-shopping should get you something similar whenever you get out there Searching.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

SysAdmin Appreciation Day Winners

We will be sending out registration codes to the three winners of our SysAdmin Appreciation Day drawing tomorrow.

We'd like to thank everyone who entered and congratulate the winners.

Friday, July 25, 2014

iFruit Money

Apple may introduce a new mobile-payment system as soon as the fall, which would add yet another tech giant to a particularly hot trend in mobile.

The Information reported Wednesday that conversations between Apple and companies in the payment industry, such as Visa, have "heated up" in recent months. Citing people briefed on the talks, the online publication said Apple executives discussed launching a mobile "wallet" soon and it could be included in the introduction of the highly anticipated iPhone 6.

The area of mobile payments has drawn considerable attention from the tech industry, with companies seeking to either gain payment data from customers or take a small cut of credit and debit transactions. Still, in-store payments using smartphones haven't been particularly popular with customers, and a few major initiatives have struggled to make progress.

Google has been blocked from wireless carriers' networks for its Google Wallet app. Several wireless carriers -- looking to take on mobile payments themselves under the name Isis Mobile Wallet -- spent years building partnerships, but said this month the service would change its name after the word "Isis" became synonymous with a Middle East-based terror group. The Isis Mobile initiative is jointly run by Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

Startup Square and eBay's PayPal are just two more of the many companies offering services in the mobile-payment market.

While many other companies started pushing into mobile payments around 2011, Apple has been slower to jump into the waters, though industry watchers have long expected the company to eventually come out with a mobile wallet service. In January, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was intrigued by mobile payments and added that part of the thinking in rolling out the iPhone 5S's Touch ID feature was, potentially, to complement payments.

A small step Apple has taken into that arena was Passbook, a service launched in 2012 that brought together a person's loyalty cards, coupons, and event tickets on the iPhone. Passbook doesn't include debit or credit card payment features.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chromebook Sales are Surging

Chromebook sales have risen sharply over the past several months, according to a recent report from research firm NPD. Chromebook sales in the commercial channel increased 250 percent compared with the prior year and accounted for 35 percent of all U.S. channel notebook sales during the January-May period. Chromebooks, in other words, were extremely popular during the period and continue to be so.

Exactly why and how Chromebooks have been achieving such sales success, however, are not so readily known. When the devices, which run Google's Chrome OS Web-based operating system, were first announced, many market observers believed that they had little chance of winning a significant share of the PC market.  And that seemed to hold true in the first couple of years after Chromebooks hit the market in mid-2011. But the latest data shows that Chromebook sales are adding to the competitive headwinds that Windows notebooks are experiencing these days.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Nvidia Tablet

Nvidia, trying to prove the value of its chips in mobile devices by appealing to gamers, will begin selling a tablet computer under its Shield brand.

The Shield Tablet, which has an 8-inch screen, comes in two models, one with Wi-Fi only for $299 and one with a cellular connection that will retail for $399, the Santa Clara, California-based company said yesterday. It’s also offering a companion wireless controller for $59. The device will debut in the U.S. this month and Europe in August.

Nvidia Chief Executive Officer Jen-Hsun Huang is trying to reduce his company’s reliance on its core product of chips for add-in graphics cards in personal computers. Instead, he wants to spread the use of that kind of processing to other devices. Shield Tablet, based on the company’s K1 chip and Google Inc.’s Android operating system, is also designed to show Android can be the basis of high-end gaming machinery.

The new product will be sold alongside the Shield hand-held device that Nvidia introduced last year. The lineup shows that Nvidia intends to stay in the gaming gadget market, said Matt Wuebbling, a company vice president for product marketing.

“We think it’s perfect for those millions of gamers out there that want a tablet,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re targeting an end user that we know very well.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chrome Dumps Windows Font Technology

Google last week said that it was finally ditching a 30-year-old technology to display fonts on Web pages in its Chrome browser for Windows.

In an announcement Thursday about some of the notable changes in Chrome for version 37, which reached Google's Beta build channel earlier that day, a software engineer said the preview relied on Microsoft's DirectWrite technology.

"Chrome 37 adds support for DirectWrite, an API on Windows for clear, high-quality text rendering even on high-DPI displays," said Emil Eklund in a July 17 blog post.

Microsoft introduced the DirectWrite API with Windows 7, which shipped in the fall of 2009, and back-ported the technology to Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2) at the same time with what it called a Platform Update. Windows XP, the now-retired operating system -- but one that still powers one-in-four personal computers worldwide -- does not support DirectWrite.

Prior to the switch to DisplayWrite, Chrome used Microsoft's Graphics Device Interface (GDI), which was a core component of Windows since the graphical user interface's (GUI) debut in late 1985. Microsoft had been working on GDI for at least two years before that.

Chrome 36, the current version out of Google's Stable build channel, continues to use GDI to render text on Windows.

Monday, July 21, 2014

SysAdmin Appreciation Day and Software Giveaway

This may be the first time you have ever heard about it, but Friday, July 25 is SysAdmin Appreciation Day. Started in 1999 (right around when iolo was created), the holiday celebrates the often-forgotten hero – the system administrator.

If you aren’t 100 percent sure what a system administrator is, it is a person who is responsible for the upkeep, configuration, and reliable operation of computer systems; especially multi-user computers such as servers. Almost every office has them and as this song explains, they are frequently treated poorly and frustrated.

To help out with the holiday and recognize the holiday, iolo is offering giveaway licenses of System Mechanic. They have generously provided us with give away licenses so let us know by email or commenting if you’re interested in a FREE license!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dell Chromebook Sales

Dell’s only Chromebook is at least temporarily unavailable for online purchase through the company’s website, only seven months after the model started shipping.

Facing rising commercial demand for the devices, Dell has not been able to keep up with orders.
The Chromebook 11, which shipped in December, is listed as unavailable on Dell’s Chromebook website, and the company is asking potential buyers to call in orders.

“Due to strong demand, the Dell Chromebook 11 is currently not available for order on It continues to be available for our education customers and can be ordered through their sales representative,” said Ellen Murphy, a Dell spokeswoman, in an email.

The laptop will eventually come online again, though the company did not provide a specific date.
With Dell keeping Chromebook purchases open mainly to commercial customers, individual buyers may have to turn to competitive products from Samsung, Toshiba, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard, which are available online starting at under $200.

The Chromebook is a lightweight, low-cost computer for those who do most of their computing online. It has Google’s Chrome OS, and most applications needs wireless connectivity. However, more offline applications are becoming available.

Dell’s decision comes as Chromebook shipments rise and competitors launch new models. Chromebooks accounted for 35 percent of all U.S. commercial laptop shipments to date in 2014, jumping more than 250 percent compared to the same period last year. Chromebooks accounted for 5 percent to 6 percent of overall consumer laptop sales in the period, and that number will continue to rise, said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD.

More than 20 Chromebook models are expected to be available by the end of the year. Acer last week shipped two C720 Chromebook models with Intel’s Core i3 chips. Dell spokeswoman Murphy said the company is committed to Chromebooks and will launch a new model with the Core i3 processor later this year.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another Bad Decision By MSFT

Last Thursday, Microsoft ended its brief fling with Android, dumping the Nokia X smartphone and fleeing back into the arms of its beloved Windows.

That Microsoft had made cuts following its acquisition of Nokia wasn’t unexpected; after all, the deal brought with it 32,000 Nokia employees. What wasn’t known was how many of those employees Microsoft was willing to give up, and, likewise, what this would mean for Microsoft’s strategic direction.

Satya Nadella’s memo provides the overall strategic direction for the move—necessary, he said, to “realign the workforce” to provide a “clear focus” for the merged company. But Stephen Elop, the executive vice president of Microsoft’s Devices and Services Business, provides the clearest look at what this means for the products you know and buy.

The short answer? Aside from the fewer number of employees designing, selling, and supporting Nokia products, not much. “..[W]e will continue our efforts to bring iconic tablets to market in ways that complement our OEM partners, power the next generation of meetings & collaboration devices and thoughtfully expand Windows with new interaction models,” Elop writes. “With a set of changes already implemented earlier this year in these teams, this means there will be limited change for the Surface, Xbox hardware, PPI/meetings or next generation teams.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Plustek USA Instant Rebate Program

Plustek USA has announced the launch of a new instant rebate program for selected scanners.
The program runs from today through September 30, 2014 on most of Plustek’s popular document, mobile, book, film and slide scanners.

The new instant rebate program deals are as follows:
  • $20 instant rebate on Plustek’s MobileOffice D430, a high-speed document and card scanner (MSRP: $349).
  • $40 instant rebate on Plustek’s MobileOffice S410, a portable USB-powered document scanner (MSRP: $159).
  • $60 instant rebate on Plustek’s SmartOffice PS286 Plus, a 25 page-per-minute document scanner with automatic feeder (MSRP: $359).
  • $60 instant rebate on Plustek’s OpticBook 4800, a high-speed A4 size book scanning solution (MSRP: $749).
  • $40 instant rebate on Plustek’s OpticBook 3800, an A4-size book scanning solution (MSRP: $299).
  • $70 instant rebate on Plustek’s OpticFilm 8200i Ai, a 35mm slide and film scanner (MSRP: $499).

“We are excited to share these amazing deals with our customers, which are usually only offered in December for holiday-time shopping,” said Mark Druziak, Plustek’s director of marketing and business development.

These deals are available from authorized Plustek Value Added Resellers and online resellers, which include Adorama, Amazon, B&H Photo Video, CDW, Newegg, PC Nation, Samy’s Camera, Vistek and others.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

More On MSFT Job Cuts

Microsoft is eliminating 18,000 jobs over the next year, including about 12,500 associated with the Nokia Devices and Services team it acquired earlier this year, company officials announced on July 17.

Microsoft also announced today that the company will incur pre-tax charges of $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion for severance and related benefits costs and asset related charges over the next four quarters.

The cuts will begin with a first wave of 13,000, with the vast majority of employees whose jobs will be eliminated being notified over the next six months, according to a memo from CEO Satya Nadella.

Those Nokia jobs that are being eliminated will include both professionals and factory workers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

MSFT Job Cuts

Microsoft is expected to cut thousands of jobs, most likely this week, just ahead of its Q4 fiscal 2014 earnings report next week.

Expectations are the Nokia handset division, which Microsoft officially acquired earlier this year, will bear the brunt of the cuts. (Microsoft acquired 25,000 Nokia employees as part of that transaction, adding to its workforce of close to 100,000.) Beyond those possible cuts, Microsoft also may cut more jobs in marketing across the company, Bloomberg reported on July 14, as it did in 2009 when it shed more than 5,000 employees.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is working to focus the company on fewer, key areas where it has a better chance of winning. The areas where Microsoft is trumpeting its wins at this week's Worldwide Partner Conference are largely in the cloud -- with Azure, Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online -- and Office, Windows Server and business intelligence/SQL Server on premises.

The areas where Microsoft is struggling right now -- in terms of market share, positioning or both -- are in Windows on non-PC form factors (in other words, Windows 8, not Windows 7), Windows Phone (both hardware and software), Surface tablets and Xbox consoles.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Zorin OS 9 Released

We are excited to announce the release of Zorin OS 9 Core and Ultimate.

The main focus for Zorin OS 9 has been on stability and the refinement of Zorin OS’s wide array of incredible features. Firstly, Zorin OS 9 includes a myriad of updated software and bug fixes to ensure that your computer runs better than ever. New applications such as the Firefox Web Browser and Rhythmbox Music Player have also been included in this release. EFI boot support has been added, making it easier to get Zorin OS on newer computers (64 bit only). In addition, we have introduced a new Blue desktop theme to the Zorin Theme Changer in complement to the Light and Dark themes. 

As Zorin OS 9 is based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS you can expect to receive continuous software updates until 2019, making it the ideal operating system for large-scale deployments.

As always, Zorin OS 9 uses the Zorin Desktop environment with Zorin Menu for unparalleled customization and the Zorin Look Changer for ultimate ease of use. We also include our Zorin Web Browser Manager to ease the installation of web browsers. The Ultimate edition features the extended Zorin Look Changer (with all 6 looks), Zorin Splash Screen Manager and Zorin Background Plus.

You can get Zorin OS 9 Core from here and Ultimate from here.
We hope that you will enjoy using it.

MSFT vs. Chromebooks

Microsoft operating chief Kevin Turner said that the company and its partners won't cede the low-end of the PC market and will sacrifice Windows licensing margins to do it.

Turner, speaking at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner conference, put some meat around the company's plan to focus on platforms and productivity. As Mary Jo Foley noted Microsoft is going for a suite of experiences across multiple devices.

Here's the problem: Microsoft has the share in the PC market, but smaller screens and cheap devices are a bigger challenge. After all, Microsoft lacks smartphone share and Google's Chromebook is nibbling at the lower end of the market. Microsoft will even allow its Nokia unit to launch an Android smartphone to keep visible in the low end of the device market.

Microsoft's plan is to tout Windows value and the ability to run native and Web apps, full Office, desktop apps and work with existing peripherals. Acer has a $249 laptop and Toshiba another version coming at the same price point.

The big question is why Microsoft wants to duel in the race to the bottom. The short answer is Microsoft has to play ball where profit margins don't exist to remain relevant. Google doesn't care about hardware revenue---all the money is made on advertising---because the goal is to get engagement. Chromebooks are merely a Trojan Horse to get you to use Google more.

Monday, July 14, 2014

New Raspberry Pi Computer

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has launched a new version of the credit card-sized computer -- the Raspberry Pi B+ -- which comes with more sensors and enhanced connectivity.

The Raspberry Pi B+, which will be sold for $35 (£20) through Element14, is the first significant update to the device. It has a 40-pin General-purpose input/output (GPIO) -- building on the previous version's 26 pins -- so that even more sensors, connectors and expansion boards can be added. Four USB accessories -- including a 2.5 inch hard drive -- can be powered through the device thanks to advanced power management.

The first 26 pins on the new device remain identical to the old one to allow for backwards compatibility with the Model B Board.

The Raspberry Pi B+ uses the same Broadcom BCM2835 Chipset and has 512MB of Ram like the previous model. It's powered by micro USB and has AV connections through either HDMI or a new four-pole connector. The SD card slot has been replaced with a micro-SD. The new device also uses less power than the old model -- 600mA compared to 750mA when running.