Archive for the ‘HTC’ Category

HTC Windows Phone 8X — Purple madness [Review]

HTC Windows Phone 8X — Purple madness [Review]

The HTC Windows Phone 8X is a smartphone that you will either love or not want to touch even with a 10 foot pole. Part of the arguments for and against it stem from the operating system of choice, Microsoft’s latest (and greatest) Windows Phone iteration. Sure, the device has good build quality and the software is fluid and responsive, but the app selection is currently lacking compared to rivals like Android and iOS. So where does one draw the line between success and failure?

I’ve been using the Windows Phone 8X for almost two weeks and the early impressions are still on the positive side. In my initial review I touched on a number of points that I found revealing for my brief time with it, but the real test is how the Windows Phone 8X fares over a longer period of time. My main and initial gripes concern the limited app selection and general usability issues of Windows Phone 8 when coming from the stock flavor of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The real question is this: Is it good enough?

The Specs
The HTC Windows Phone 8X features a 4.3-inch Super LCD 2 display with a resolution of 1280 by 720. The handset is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB of RAM and an 1,800mAh battery. There is 16GB of non-expandable internal storage onboard, or 8GB of internal storage depending on the carrier variant. My Windows Phone 8X is the California Blue international variant, and comes with the former option.

The Windows Phone 8X sports HSPA+ cellular connectivity (LTE is available depending on the market); Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 3.1; NFC (Near Field Communication); GPS with Glonass support as well as the common plethora of sensors. The device ships with an 8MP back-facing camera and a 2.1MP shooter on the front, both capable of 1080p video recording. Other specs include Beats Audio support and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Windows Phone 8X measures 132.35 x 66.2 x 10.12 mm. Weight comes in at 130 grams.

Great Social Integration, but not Perfect

I’ll kick off with the social element. Windows Phone 8 places social (or human if you will) interaction at the forefront, be it through the Me tile and People app pinned on the homescreen or through the social network integration. Users can post straight to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter right after pressing their own live tile, view social notifications and check on what other connected folks are doing. Social, social, social. But not that social.

As you may expect the main gripe with Windows Phone 8 in terms of social integration is Google+, or the lack thereof. For me that’s a deal breaker when it comes to any mobile device, more so with a smartphone as it’s the only one that I carry around with me. That would be relatively fine had Google bothered to release an official app but, sadly, the only ones available are third party offerings that display a mobile view. Not modern, not modern at all.

It’s one of the worst parts in dealing with Windows Phone 8 on a day-to-day basis, and really puts a dent in enjoying the operating system. That’s a shame as Microsoft managed to deliver an impressive package in this regard — the unified social notifications in the Me tile is great, the People app is really useful in finding out what your buddies are doing, and the Rooms and Groups features for private chats and sharing are nice as well.

Users can also expect an official Foursquare app and third party Pinterest and Reddit clients, among others. For those roaming around interwebs forums, Board Express is a nice and free Tapatalk alternative, although like most third party apps it’s supported by ads. So far, I have found a working replacement for almost every social app that I use on Android and iOS.

Let’s Talk Mail
What’s a smartphone operating system without a competent email client? Thankfully Windows Phone 8 includes support for Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo! Mail, generic POP and IMAP accounts, as well as Exchange ActiveSync support, among other types of supported accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Sina Weibo.

I will not bore you with generic details, but suffice to say that it works as expected — you get emails, they show up. There are some issues though which I struggle with on a day to day basis, ones which a Gmail user on Android will undoubtedly find annoying to deal with (and likely others as well). As a point of reference I have set up Outlook using the Microsoft-preferred method and Gmail as an Exchange ActiveSync account in order to take advantage of push email as well as calendar and contacts synchronization.

With both types of accounts I have noticed that marking an email as read does not necessarily mean that it will be listed as read when checking the web app. This is a nuisance that reminds me of just how trouble-free the Gmail and Email apps on Android really are. Furthermore, after applying a batch action the previously selected emails will be unticked and you have to start over ticking them again as to perform another batch action.

The third issue comes from using Gmail. Unlike with the Android counterpart, on Windows Phone 8 there is no Archive button as to immediately move emails straight to All Mail. I have to do that by hand, which is time-consuming and bothersome when dealing with a ton of emails each day. The fourth issue, and the most frustrating, is yet again with Gmail — emails cannot be sent using aliases from a single account. I have to add each and every single one in order to get that functionality.

Great Phone
The Windows Phone 8X (and Windows Phone 8 by implication) is great at making calls and sending texts. The sound through the headpiece is loud and clear, sometimes too loud with the volume raised all the way up. I have noticed a few dropped calls, although I cannot really fault the device for any of those since although I had a decent signal the person at the other end of the line did not.

This is not a Windows Phone 8 fault per se, but I’d like to have a dedicated contact list just for making calls. By default, and this applies to Android as well, the operating system uses a unified contacts list for all corresponding apps, which is overkill when looking up someone to call. I doubt this will be implemented, but it would be nice to have for someone like me that makes plenty of calls each day.

In the texting department, I do really have to commend Microsoft for the extensive dictionary selection. Unlike Google, which doesn’t bother with stock Jelly Bean, the Redmond, Wash.-based software corporation admits to the existence of more than a couple of languages. I count more than 60 dictionaries for a variety of languages, which really comes in handy when writing texts (but applies to other areas as well).

The keyboard itself is quite nice to use, without any of the swiping gimmickry, and provides decent word predictions. The keys are rather tall and narrow, but even with my big thumbs I can write without making too many mistakes while typing. It’s worth noting that the space bar, at least on the Windows Phone 8X, is quite narrow and too close to the “,” sign, making accidental presses a common occurrence.

Maps
Straight off the bat I do have to point out that I do not find much use for a maps app. Most of the time I know where I am and how to get to where I want, although I can understand why others may feel the need for navigation and similar features. Where I live functionality is rather limited when it comes to discovering nearby shops, restaurants and movie theatres to name a few. They’re there but don’t show up on maps, hence my rare, online and offline, use of Maps.

The Maps app on Windows Phone 8 implements Bing Maps as one might expect, but with some features supported by Nokia, and as far as I can tell only works in portrait mode. That’s a real bummer, and something to consider when using the Windows Phone 8X with car mounts. I have no doubt that the recently introduced Nokia Drive+ is a more suited alternative for navigation, but since it only works with US, UK and Canadian SIM cards it’s pointless for billions of people on the globe. Whoever took charge and decided to offer Drive+ in just three locations is clearly short-sighted, to put it kindly.

Within the Maps app users can also find a navigation feature, dubbed “directions” which works as expected at a first glance, but again only in portrait mode. There is also an option to display traffic, view favorite locations and display an aerial view. By comparison, and I have only tested this in my location, Google Maps, through the gMaps app, displays more detailed maps and allows to zoom in more compared to Windows Phone 8′s Maps app.

That said, users can download maps of entire countries and update them if needed. As a point of reference the entire map of the United States of America take up in excess of 2,556MB, with states like California and Delaware needing 208MB and 40MB, respectively.

Through the Maps app Windows Phone 8 users can also use the Scout feature, which displays nearby “eat+drink”, “see+do”, “shop” and “for you” places on the map. It’s a similar feature to Google Now for instance, and I can only assume that it works as expected for other regions other than mine. Again, I appear to live in the desert or a remotely isolated area with Internet connectivity.

Office, Baby!
Call me an Office fan, I really don’t mind. Although it does not live up to the features of its desktop counterpart, the Office app on Windows Phone is a welcome addition. It comes with Office 365 integration, can add SharePoint locations, integrates with SkyDrive (which as a SkyDrive user I can certainly appreciate), handles opened email attachments, and can also open and edit locally stored documents.

I have covered the important details in the “Microsoft details Office on Windows Phone 8″ article but suffice to say that it works well, even on the 4.3-inch display of the Windows Phone 8X. I mostly like the Excel and Word editing features, which come in handy while on the go and ensure compatibility with every modern office suite.

Undoubtedly, Office on Windows Phone 8 is one of the most important features of the smartphone operating system. It works well for editing and viewing large documents and spreadsheets (from a physical dimensions point of view) as well as presentations and neatly integrates with other Microsoft services. I do have to mention that the Samsung ATIV S or even the Nokia Lumia 920 might be better suited for Office use, due to larger displays, compared to the Windows Phone 8X.

The App Store Conundrum
One of the first issues that I have to overcome in order to use the Windows Phone 8X is the lack of official apps. Mostly everything that is Google-related comes from third party developers, except a frankly pointless Google Search app from the Mountain View, Calif.-based corporation, and a YouTube app made by Microsoft which displays a mobile view of the popular video sharing website.

That said, there are working third party alternatives to Google+, Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Maps, Google Play Music, Google Reader, Google Talk, Google Voice, Picasa and YouTube. I’ve used a bunch of them, and while they may not come from the search giant, each of the ones I’ve tried so far works as intended. Keep that in mind if you’re a Google user planning to buy a Windows Phone 8 device soon and are afraid of leaving the comfort of Android or iOS.

There are plenty of official apps available ranging from Kindle and Amazon Mobile, Bank of America, Box, eBay, Endomondo Sports Tracker, Evernote, Fandango, Flixster, Glympse, Groupon, IMDb, Last.fm, Newegg, Nike+ Kinect Training, OpenTable, PayPal, Shazam, SoundHound, Speedtest.net, TopGear News (for much needed car news), TuneIn Radio, Vevo, Vimeo to The Weather Channel, for instance.

There are third party Instagram clients, however neither is a replacement for the official Instagram app which must come to Windows Phone as soon as possible. Same goes for Google+. There are millions of people who rely on such apps on their smartphones, so why not cater to that significant audience? Microsoft made the official Facebook app, so why not do the same with Instagram? I’m sure Facebook wouldn’t mind.

Generally speaking I have found that if there is no official corresponding Windows Phone 8 app, a suitable third party alternative can be installed instead. That’s not good enough though.

The Bummers
Moving on from the software onto the hardware and I do have to point a couple of weaker traits, which affect either Windows Phone 8 or the Windows Phone 8X, or both.

Seeing as my new smartphone has NFC I decided to give it a go and pair it with my Google Galaxy Nexus. So I touch their back covers one to another (in an appropriate manner that is) and wait for something to happen. Guess what? It doesn’t work, as the Windows Phone 8X and the Galaxy Nexus cannot pair, with the latter requesting Android Beam to send files to the former (although I did get a link to Google Play on the Windows Phone 8X). Oh, the joy of having NFC and be unable to use it between different phones. This is an issue that plagues many devices on major platforms.

The Windows Phone 8X features an LED indicator, but it only lights up to display charging status. It’s green when the battery is completely charged and red while it’s charging and that’s it. Coming from the Galaxy Nexus I expected HTC’s device to feature a more usable LED indicator which lights up for missed calls, new emails, Facebook notifications and such, but sadly it does not. I hope that this feature will come with a future software upgrade, as it’s disappointing to let it go to waste.

One thing which I am not used to is the inconsistent implementation of the disappearing status bar throughout apps. By default Windows Phone 8 only shows the time within the status bar and in order to display the carrier network or Wi-Fi signal strength one has to swipe down from the top of the screen. It’s not a bad implementation as it cleans up the look, but the gesture has no effect within certain apps. FeedWorm is a good example where the app is not maximized and there is a black bar on top which fails to display the status indicators after swiping down.

The Camera
The Windows Phone 8X features an 8MP back-facing camera with an F2.0 aperture, 28mm lens, LED flash and a BSI sensor for low-light use. That suggests that it’s capable of capturing some great pics in poorly lit conditions, but sadly it is unable to deliver spectacular results. I often notice that flash is not always needed even though it’s used and that color reproduction is not entirely accurate.

Colors tend to have a blueish tint when the flash is used and noise is present from up close (without zoom) in low-lighting conditions, whereas in well-lit scenarios the camera on the Windows Phone 8X shoots fairly decent pictures, which are better than the ones produced by the Galaxy Nexus. The latter is not exactly a professional shooter in disguise, but it’s adequate for brief use.

That said, I have not noticed a single scenario where the Windows Phone 8X can shoot pictures with accurate color reproduction. I am much more impressed by the video camera, with manages to shoot decent videos with flash as well as without it, although it could use better autofocus when pointing it around in different directions. By contrast the front-facing camera is rather poor, which is to be expected considering that it’s just a 2.1MP unit.

Battery Life
Battery life is difficult to quantify as usage scenarios differ from one person to another. I use my phone most when I’m heading out and then I mostly check email and browse the web, among other things like playing games for instance. With the software up to date, including the much-needed “Keep WiFi on when screen times out” option, the Windows Phone 8X gets me even through a heavy day of use.

Generally speaking battery performance is similar to the Galaxy Nexus throughout a day of use, although the Windows Phone 8X sips less when displaying web pages, something that I’ve come to appreciate when switching from the former.

I do rely on a bunch of apps to sync in the background, including the dedicated email app, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Twitter, People, Associated Press, CNN, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among others. Depending on what’s actively syncing the battery might suffer a lighter or heavier hit, so your performance will definitely vary.

The Verdict
It’s my personal opinion that every operating system comes with its own caveats, more so in the app store. Android provides a more raw experience where the user interacts with the device in a more analogue kind of way — the software is not designed to mask itself through fancy transition effects or animations and generally feels unadulterated. iOS on the other hand is more fluid and provides a more artificial experience where the operating system is merely a bridge between the user and the apps.

However, both Android and iOS cannot really be faulted for the available app selection. Windows Phone 8 on the other hand is the perfect example of how an operating system can strike a balance between raw and artificial, but fail to carry over the common denominator — the vast app store offering. No matter how many third-party apps are available, people like me that have a craving for the official variety will often be disappointed.

At the same time the Windows Phone 8X is not really an Apple iPhone 5 nor a Samsung Galaxy S III when it comes to the camera performance. It’s average and really does not work as well in low-light conditions as HTC may lead everyone to believe — the quality is just not there. So the back and front-facing shooters rule out the Windows Phone 8X for camera aficionados.

I have said that the battery gets me through a heavy day of use, but is that really impressive? No, I don’t think so, at least not when comparing it with smartphones like the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD and Samsung Galaxy Note II, both of which come with batteries larger than 3,000mAh and, therefore, with better performance in this regard.

After using the Windows Phone 8X for a couple of weeks I’ve grown fond of it. It’s not designed to take on Android flagships in terms of raw performance, but it’s enjoyable. The form-factor makes it easy to hold, the operating system is refreshing compared to the bigger players and, something that I really came to appreciate, the design is, frankly, amazing in this California Blue (which is really purple) color. At the end of the day the Windows Phone 8X can only be summed up as this — the all-rounder.


 

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The 5 worst mobile threats of 2012

New types of mobile malware make headlines every day, but what are the most prevalent threats out there? The team at Nominum decided to find out by analyzing Domain Name System (DNS) data of approximately half a million users from various countries.

Most malware uses the DNS to communicate and our technology processes about 30% of the worlds’ DNS traffic, so we were able to identify the top five mobile-only malware threats.

We defined greatest threat as the most widespread malware that meets a baseline level of risk to the end user — for example, malware that attempts to steal a person’s identity and/or money. What follows is a summary of the current mobile malware landscape and a short description of each malware threat, along with some thoughts on what can be done to protect end users.
But how bad is it, really?

The mobile malware threat is real with a significant number of infections in existence today that are capable of stealing mobile phone users’ identity, and this number is growing everyday. Our research shows that Android remains the top target of malware writers.

Despite that finding, our data was not extensive enough to prove just how prevalent threats were in the U.S. specifically, but recent research has shown that malicious links within text continue to be the biggest concern for mobile device users in the U.S. with 4 in 10 American users likely to click on an unsafe link.

Although Androids topped the list of mobile malware targets, there are still major regional differences in mobile malware prevalence. For instance, “Notcompatible” has a much higher infection rate in Latin America, while “SMSPACEM” and “Netisend” are much more prevalent in the Asia Pacific regions.

These regional differences may be explained by end users’ personal networks. Like a cold or virus in the real world, once someone in a community gets infected with a mobile malware, they are more likely to spread it to others in that community — instead of a sneeze, it is through SMS. As the mobile malware area is less mature than its fixed counterpart, it may take more time for mobile threats to “jump” networks; this will change soon, though, as malware threats get more sophisticated.

Mobile malware writers are leveraging many of the same social engineering techniques (e.g., spreading through end users’ contact lists) and technical capabilities (e.g., rootkits) to spread and make money they’ve used on the Fixed side for years. As the proliferation of smartphones continues and the mobile ad market matures, the incentive of higher profit possibilities will encourage malware writers to write more sophisticated malware.

With multiple mobile operating systems and a vast array of devices, device-based anti-malware software alone isn’t a scalable solution to the problem. The DNS enables a network-based approach for preventing malware that works regardless of what type of device is infected.

The DNS is primarily thought of as a functional technology to navigate the Web, as its original role was to facilitate ease of use of the Internet. DNS eliminates the need to type in long strings of numbers (IP addresses) to access content and translates the numbers into words. Due to its history, DNS has become an often-overlooked layer but it is essential to the network running. As network activity has advanced (think the proliferation of applications, mobile banking, etc.), the DNS layer has evolved into an efficient network infrastructure tool that guides high-performance transactions.

In the case of mobile malware threats, the DNS layer can be analyzed to detect and mitigate suspicious activity. Accordingly, solutions have been invented that enable mobile carriers to layer security applications upon their pre-existing DNS network. These applications can conduct a number of roles from detecting and thwarting hackers’ efforts to alerting users of potentially dangerous mobile websites.

Compared to other solutions, utilizing the DNS layer allows for a faster response time and cost-effective options — both important benefits to a mobile carrier and its subscribers. The DNS’s ability to secure networks should be a part of the modern mobile operator’s security playbook because the mobile malware problem is only going to get worse before it gets better.

Here are the top threats that we’re up against:

* NOTCOMPATIBLE — The worst of all malware created in 2012 is a drive-by Trojan which can infect Android phones via their mobile Web browsers. When a browser’s download is completed, it will ask for user permission to install as depicted below. After infection, the Android phone can work as a proxy. It is widespread and growing every day. [Also see: "For the first time, hacked websites deliver Android malware"]

* SMSPACEM — This is the second-most widespread malware for Android phones in 2012. It will change a phone’s wallpaper and send anti-Christian jokes by SMS to all the user’s contacts. Here is an example: “Looks like Jesus is a no-show, maybe Judaism was on to something Cannot talk right now, the world is about to end Just saw the four horsemen of the apocalypse and man did they have the worst case of road rage Prepare to meet thy maker, make sure to hedge your bet just in case the Muslims were right.”

* LENA — This Android-based malware is capable of taking over a user’s phone without asking permission by using an exploit such as gingerbreak or appearing as a VPN app. Once gaining root access, LENA can start to communicate with its command an control site, download additional components and update installed binaries.

* NETISEND — An information stealer on Android phones, it can retrieve information like IMEI, IMSI, model information and installed applications. After downloading, the malware will ask permission to connect to the Internet and open a backdoor with its C&C domain site.

* BASEBRIDGE — It can get an Android phone root access by exploiting netlink message validation local privilege escalation vulnerability. Once infected, Basebridge can disable installed AV software, download additional malware components and open a backdoor with its C&C site. It will steal IMSI, manufacture and model info. It can also send SMS messages, delete SMS messages from inbox and dial phone numbers.

These five mobile malware threats are just the tip of the iceberg. New types of mobile malware are designed everyday by ill-intentioned individuals, and hardware-based security is just a temporary Band-Aid to defend against sophisticated mobile threats. Staying aware of what is out there and abreast of the latest threats is the first step in protecting yourself, but a joint effort is necessary and carriers will soon need to start arming their networks with security layers for their customers’ sake too.

Nominum is the worldwide leading provider of integrated subscriber, network and security solutions for network operators. Nominum is the provider of the N2 Platform that leverages more than 1 trillion DNS queries daily and enables the rapid development and seamless integration of applications that leverage DNS data. These applications are generated by the Nominum IDEAL ecosystem, an open ecosystem of application providers. The combined value of the N2 Platform and the IDEAL ecosystem provides network operators with the ability to deliver a differentiated subscriber experience with cost efficiency and agility. Nominum is a global organization headquartered in Redwood City, Calif.


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Top 5 cities for big data jobs

San Francisco tops Modis list, followed by McLean, Va., Boston, St. Louis and Toronto

Corporate data stores are growing exponentially, nearly every tech vendor is positioning their products to help handle the influx of data, and IT departments are scrambling to find the right people to collect, analyze and interpret data in a way that’s meaningful to the business. On the employment front, the big data deluge is creating a hiring boom across North America. Modis, an IT staffing firm, identified five cities in particular where big data is driving job growth.

San Francisco tops the Modis list, followed by McLean, Va., Boston, St. Louis and Toronto. The roles that companies in these cities are fighting to fill include data scientist, data analyst, business intelligence professional and data modeling/data modeler.

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Business intelligence and data analysis have been core enterprise disciplines for a long time, but they’re becoming more important to businesses as data volumes rise, says Laura Kelley, a Modis vice president in Houston. “We’re in a new era in terms of how large the databases are, the amount of data we’re collecting, and how we’re using it. It’s much more strategic than it’s ever been.”

Big data professionals can be particularly difficult to find since many roles require a complicated blend of business, analytic, statistical and computer skills — which is not something a candidate acquires overnight. In addition, “clients are looking for people with a certain level of experience, who have worked in a big data environment. There aren’t a lot of them in the market,” Kelley says.

 

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Looking at recruiting trends across its offices, Modis finds there’s not one industry that’s doing the most big-data hiring. Rather, the cities have in common a concentration of large enterprises across myriad industries.

San Francisco, for instance, is home to large companies in the retail, insurance, healthcare, and e-commerce sectors.

McLean, Va., has both a strong commercial sector and government presence. “There are many data center operations in this area, both commercial and government related, that require talent to support the high volume of that data,” Modis explains in its report. “In addition, there is no larger consumer of IT products and services in the world than the US federal government.”

Banking and bio/pharmaceutical industries helped put Boston on the big data hiring map. “Both industries deal with large amounts of data that are detailed and complex in nature. That data then needs to be analyzed and placed in reports, dashboards and spreadsheets by data scientist and analysts,” Modis writes.

In St. Louis, universities and healthcare companies lead the big data hiring boom, followed by pharmaceutical and bioresearch firms that need to fill data analyst and scientist roles.

Lastly, in Toronto, financial institutions are fueling a need for business intelligence pros who can help organizations get a more precise and complete picture of the business and customers, Modis finds.

In the big picture, companies often have to compromise and prioritize their wish list — technical expertise, industry experience or quantitative statistical analysis skills, for experience — to find available big-data candidates.

“What is this person going to be doing? Do you need the technical skills? Or is the quantitative/statistical expertise more important? Is this person going to be doing data modeling or making business decisions?” Kelley says. “In an ideal world, companies want all of it. But it’s not an ideal world.”

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Extended IT Support For Windows Servers And Windows PCs

In these difficult economic times many companies understandably want to extend Business IT Support and hardware maintenance on their Microsoft Servers and PCs for as long as they can.

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But at some point the hardware will run out of warranty and it will become so old that your IT Support Company will be unable to provide adequate IT Support.

How Long Can You Extend IT Support On Old Computers?

Generally Servers and PCs will last for between 3 and 5 years.

There are 3 main reasons for this:

1. After 5 years it’s almost impossible to get a warranty. That means if it breaks it’s difficult to fix. Even if you could get a warranty it would be expensive compared to the cost of a new computer.
2. The version of software on the computer will be quite old. This may make it difficult to exchange information with people who have a more current version of the software despite the best efforts of your Business IT Support Company
3. Old computers are slow. Your users are likely to be frustrated. As far as they are concerned their PC or the network server will be getting in the way of them doing their work.

So by this stage it will be slow, won’t interact well with more modern systems in the outside world and can’t be repaired.

Limits On Managed IT Support Services

It will probably be too expensive for your IT Support Company to maintain your old computers. If you have a fixed price Managed IT Support Service there is likely to be a clause in the IT Support Contract that limits IT Support on old computers. After 5 years it’s probably more expensive to keep an old computer than replace it.

Replacing your Server

Your servers are pretty fundamental, so it’s important that you have an IT Support Contract for them. However Business IT Support isn’t the whole picture – hardware maintenance is important too.

The performance and reliability of your servers will affect all of your staff, not just 1 or 2. After 5 years it’s almost impossible to get a warranty, so if it breaks your IT Support Company probably won’t be able to get it fixed for you.

Most businesses are so dependent on their servers that they cannot afford for that to happen. So, at the very latest it will need to be replaced when you can no longer get a warranty, or an IT Support Contract.

However you may need to replace it before then if it will not run the most recent version of an application that you must upgrade to. Or if the growth of your business means that it is no longer powerful enough for your requirements. Your IT Support Company should advise you of this.

Hardware Maintenance From Your IT Support Company

Believe it or not the hardware manufacturers are the best and the cheapest people for hardware maintenance. IT Support Companies are not particularly well geared up for hardware maintenance.

We would advise you to buy Dell servers and PC’s. It’s good quality kit and Dell will come to your site within 4 hours and repair the hardware. And because they manufactured the hardware, unlike the IT Support Company, they have the parts to fix it quickly.

All the others – Toshiba, Sony, Apple etc. – make you send the broken hardware to them. They will return it to you 2 weeks later usually with the hard drive wiped, so it will require a complete rebuild by your IT Support Company. Your IT Support Company should liaise with the hardware manufacturer when you do have a problem – after all that’s why you’re paying for an IT Support Contract!

Android IceCream Sandwich 4.0 Features

Android IceCream Sandwich 4.0 aka ICS is finally announced and its packed with features. Galaxy Nexus is the flagship device that would run ICS.
ICS basically brings Android 3.x Honeycomb features to phones. Lets go through the features quickly:

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30minutes Video demo of IceCream Sandwich

Android 4.0 ICS Features:

Updated Settings:  Revamped Settings screen organization. Items are arranged much better now.
Disabling Apps:  ICS adds the ability to disable an app outright. Don’t like an app that came preinstalled? Disable it! Its resources never run and its launcher icon is gone until you re-enable it.
Improved Download Manager.
Support for Encryption for Phones:  Honeycomb added full-device encryption, but ICS brings it to phones.
Audio Effects:  There’s a new audio effects API. Better media players coming!
New Font, Roboto: Droid Sans font is now gone for good.

OnScreen buttons, no hardware buttons: You dont need any hardware buttons for running ICS device, all the buttons: back, home are on-screen. Like Honeycomb, the buttons go invisible, smartly, to let you enjoy full screen video.
Resizable Widgets, Folders, Favorites: Dragging apps and contacts on top of each other create re-arrangeable folders. Users can stow their favorite apps, links, and folders into a new Favorites tray for quick and easy access
Screenshots: Hold down the power button and the volume down button to take a screenshot.
Notifications Revamped: Music controls have been integrated, and notifications can be dismissed by swiping
Improved Copy & Paste
Face Unlock
Enhanced Talk-to-Text: It’s more accurate.
Browser Tabs, offline: Upto 16 browser tabs. You can also save web pages offline
Gmail: Gmail now supports two-line previews, and sports a new context-sensitive action bar at the bottom of the screen. Gesture support allows you to swipe left and right between emails.
Contacts – People App: Contacts get re-vamped by showing contacts from Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Data Usage: You can now look at the details of what app is doing what with your data usage. Best part: The ability to limit data usage to a certain threshold.
Camera: Image stabilization, improved autofocus, and integration with other apps for sending photos or instant upload to Google+, built-in face detection, panorama and time lapse modes, and on-the-fly photo retouching and enhancements.
Android Beam: An secure NFC-powered sharing platform that lets users share nearly any kind of content, save for applications (in that case, a link to the Market is sent instead)

Android’s Biggest Fan Is Microsoft, of Course

 

“Even if Microsoft were able to extract Danegeld for every Android device …, every license sold is one less WinPhone sale, one more mobile device using Google instead of Bing, one more customer lost to Android apps, one less customer for Microsoft’s mobile gaming and other services,” said Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson. “Microsoft is basically selling a ‘license to kill’ — to kill WinPhone7 dead.”

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It’s been obvious for some time now that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is a big Android fan, thanks to the tidy sums of cash the software giant has managed to extract from the companies that use it.

What wasn’t necessarily apparent until recently, however, is just how far Redmond’s devotion goes.

With last week’s addition of Compal Electronics to Microsoft’s Android licensing lineup, it’s becoming truly clear. It doesn’t seem premature, in fact, to declare Ballmer et al. Android’s biggest fans *ever*, so passionately dedicated have they become.

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Compal was the 10th victim of Redmond’s lucrative new licensing line of business, of course, and its acquiescence means that Microsoft now gets a piece of more than half of all Android devices out there.

If that won’t inspire a little adoration, Linux Girl doesn’t know what will!

Redmond’s lawyers have surely been doing the Happy Dance all week. As for those in the Linux blogosphere? Not so much.
‘A License to Kill WinPhone 7 Dead’

“I think this is yet another data point (as if anyone needs any more proof) that Microsoft’s mobile strategy is on the ropes, if not down for the count, and can’t compete in the marketplace,” opined Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.

“And just to rub salt into the wound, even if Microsoft were able to extract Danegeld for every Android device manufactured by anyone for sale anywhere instead of just the US market, every license sold is one less WinPhone sale, one more mobile device using Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) instead of Bing, one more customer lost to Android apps, one less customer for Microsoft’s mobile gaming and other services,” Hudson added.

“Microsoft is basically selling a ‘license to kill’ — to kill WinPhone7 dead,” she asserted. “This is not the way to get the critical mass of users needed to start a ‘virtuous feedback cycle’ for your product.”
‘Like Squeezing a Chocolate Bar’

Eventually, Microsoft is “going to have to bite the bullet and start giving away WinPhone licenses, and even that is probably too little, too late,” Hudson told Linux Girl. “Apple and Android have a solid lock on the market.”

Making matters worse is that “licensing fees are real balancing act,” she pointed out. “The strategy of trying to collect royalties is like squeezing a chocolate bar — squeeze too hard and you’re going to have a sticky mess on your hands as manufacturers look for alternatives.”

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) has shown that “it’s possible to switch the underlying OS — they’ve done it several times,” Hudson noted. “In a worst-case scenario, BSD can replace Android’s Linux underpinnings.”

Meanwhile, “to milk the current situation as long as possible, Microsoft will have to be very careful not to exceed the manufacturers’ collective pain threshold,” Hudson warned. “But even that’s a loser’s game over the long term.”
The Problem With Patents

Roberto Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor, saw it differently.

“If the Android manufacturers feel it is to their benefit to pay the license fees, we should assume that they do have a good reason for doing so, and not assume that Microsoft is milking Android,” Lim opined.

After all, “HTC paying license fees to Microsoft did not prevent it from having a banner year,” he pointed out.

Still, software patents — which are the foundation for Microsoft’s current licensing strategy — “do seem too broad,” Lim added. “If we applied this to technology that has developed in the past 30 years, it would have restricted innovation.”
‘Something Is Wrong With the System’

Imagine, for example, “if someone had patented clicking an image displayed on a screen to launch an application, or manipulating a television set with a remote device, or adjusting volume by sliding an indicator displayed on a screen,” he mused.

“There is a need to really look at the entire system of software patents and see to what extent they are necessary to protect investments in research and development for new ideas and to what extent patents are sought to try to create a monopoly,” Lim told Linux Girl. “Apple, for one, appears to be trying to utilize broad patents to create a monopoly.”

Today’s patent wars, in fact, are similar to domain name squatting, he concluded: “There are companies that do not manufacture anything, have no product other than patents, and obtained patents for the sole purpose of seeking royalties. When you start to see things like this, you really know something is wrong with the system.”
‘A House of Cards’

Indeed, “M$’s taxation of Android/Linux is an anticompetitive act propped up by bogus software patents,” agreed blogger Robert Pogson. “It’s all a house of cards which will fall when SCOTUS finally rules them illegal.”

For proof that software patents don’t promote innovation, one need only look at the “gridlock” that results, Pogson explained.

“Look at Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) v Google,” he said. “The judge is very busy and has to find a whole month to deal with it on top of the weeks already spent on the matter. The end result is that the legal fees will amount to more than the value of the so-called patents.

“In the high-tech world, patents are inhibitors of innovation,” he concluded. “These guys are not working out new ideas in their garages.”
‘They Spend Billions on R&D’

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet took a different view.

“Android DOES infringe!” hairyfeet told Linux Girl. “Have you SEEN how many patents MSFT has? They have tons, folks — they spend billions on R&D cranking out more every year.”

That, in turn, is why “FOSS needs badly to kill ‘free as in beer’ and make it, as RMS has said, ‘free as in freedom,’ because you simply have no way to build a sizable patent war chest,” hairyfeet asserted.
‘Have a Scary War Chest or Pay Up’

“Look at some of the companies that have died, like Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL) — how much better would it have been for FOSS if ALL their patents were now property of the community?” he added. “This is why, even when they were suing each other, AMD (NYSE: AMD) and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) had cross licensing agreements, and even though they are rivals, AMD and Nvidia (Nasdaq: NVDA) have them as well.”

There are simply too many patents, in other words, to deal with them any other way, hairyfeet concluded: “You either have a scary enough war chest of your own that rivals want to do cross licensing, or you pay up — your choice.”

Google’s absence from Microsoft’s licensing campaign is “a strong sign that Microsoft is afraid of litigation in this area but trying to find some way of monetizing the competition,” suggested Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.
‘Every Incentive to Fight to the End’

“In other words, only the devices are licensed, not the allegedly infringing operating system,” he added. “The goal of litigation against Motorola and others is solely to flesh out licensing deals and not with the intent to bring anything to trial.”

Travers wonders, in fact, “if Google acquired Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI) solely to take over the patent litigation,” he told Linux Girl. “This increases the stakes considerably, and decreases the chance of an 11th hour, out-of-court settlement based solely on device manufacturing.”

Google has “every incentive to fight to the end,” he pointed out, “and Microsoft has important incentives not to.”

In the long run, “I think the only lawsuit that matters is the Motorola one,” Travers concluded.

HTC announces Explorer smartphone

HTC has launched its lowest priced smartphone yet, the HTC Explorer. The handset has a 3.2in HVGA touchscreen and a 3MP camera as well as GPS and runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread. we were told it will sit below the Wildfire in price, making it HTC’s least expensive phone yet.

“HTC Explorer is an easy-to-use smartphone that puts the customer in control, providing quick access to their most important content and information,” said Jason Mackenzie, president of global sales and marketing, HTC Corporation.


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“HTC Explorer is simply a smarter phone for anyone and it represents another clear demonstration of HTC’s global commitment to expanding the market for advanced smartphones.” The HTC Explorer has Adobe Flash support, and smart URL prediction provides quick access to the top 100 web sites. Meanwhile, URL correction intends to streamline web navigation. Users can also make restaurant reservations or connect to customer service hotlines by tapping the phone numbers listed on any web site. The device allows users to access multiple work and personal email accounts and combine different calendars into a single view. It also has a usage monitor that tracks call minutes and message counts.

The HTC Explorer will be available in the fourth quarter. Exact pricing and availability has not yet been confirmed.

HTC EVO View 4G (Sprint)

Here’s the deal: We’ve already reviewed the HTC EVO View 4G, under a different name. This tablet is just a re-packaged, re-branded HTC Flyer, with a few key changes, the addition of Sprint 4G coverage chief among them. If you buy the EVO View, you’ll be getting the same Android-plus-Sense-UI experience, the same fast 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor, the same excellent pen input features, and, unfortunately, the same limitations of the non-tablet-specific Android 2.3 (“Gingerbread”) that hurt the Flyer. For the in-depth nuts and bolts of you need to know about the EVO View, read our HTC Flyer review. Again, there are some differences, however, so read on if you’re interested in the EVO View.

 

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The short version of the Flyer review: It’s a very capable tablet that’s aimed at a specific type of user. It doesn’t run a dual-core, but instead uses a 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor that helps it zip along as fast as any Tegra-powered tablet. The 7-inch touch screen works well, but it’s smaller than many of the Honeycomb tablets we’ve seen so far with 10-inch screens. The biggest upside of the Flyer, and thus the View, is the pen input system, making it a great choice for those who want to draw on their tablets. Powered by a company called N-Trig, the tablet is remarkably detailed and accurate with pen input, and will let you do things like annotate a screenshot, or free-draw, with just the tap of a button.

The main downside of the Flyer/View is that it runs Gingerbread, which means the operating system you’re getting is one meant for phones, and not for tablets. HTC’s Sense UI covers up some of the glaring issues, but you’re still not getting Google’s best tablet effort, and without Honeycomb, which is version 3.0, you can’t get things like the updated Gmail app or video chat in Google Talk. There are some good apps on the device, like HTC Watch for video and OnLive for gaming, but the browser’s performance can be slow and the cameras are nothing special.

Pricing for the Flyer is simple: $499 for a single 32GB, Wi-Fi-only iteration. And there’s only one option for the EVO View: $399.99 plus between $29.99 and $89.99 for monthly service. A 4G plan will either cost you $59.99 per month (unlimited 4G, plus 5GB of 3G bandwidth) or $89.99 per month for unlimited 4G and 10GB of 3G. At least for now, unlike with the Flyer, you don’t need to pay the extra $80 for the Smart pen accessory, which you don’t need to operate the tablet, but is nice to have. It’s part of the introductory promotion with the EVO View, which will be available at Sprint stores later this month.
Specifications

CPU    Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8655
Operating System     Google Android 2.3 or earlier
Screen Size     7 inches
Storage Capacity (as Tested)     32 GB
Dimensions     7.7 x 4.8 x 0.5 inches
Networking Options     Wi-Fi, 4G
Service Provider     Sprint

Design Changes
The HTC EVO View 4G is sleeker and more business-like than the Flyer, sticking to the tablet norm of black and dark gray, rather than the more noticeable but more toy-like light gray and white you get with the Flyer. The bezel around the screen is black, and the device’s shell is dark gray with lighter gray accents, and the occasional red flourish. It’s a very Droid-like color scheme, and the View actually looks like a bigger HTC Droid Incredible 2 ($199.99, 3.5 stars), with the bump-out camera lens and bumpy back. Otherwise, it’s the same device in weight and dimensions, and the same 7-inch 1,024-by-600 touch-screen LCD that is so responsive and sensitive to pen input.

New Apps
You get plenty of carrier bloatware with the EVO View. It ranges from shortcuts to websites that you’ll probably never use and games you’ll likely never play, to apps that let you access your Sprint account or other carrier services. Others, like TeleNav GPS Navigator, might be useful to some, but for many, they’ll just take up space in the app drawer. You can’t delete them, but you’ll learn to ignore them.

There are two important new cellular-coverage-related apps here. First is Sprint Hotspot, which lets you share your 3G or 4G connection as a Wi-Fi network (for a $30 per month fee). It works well as a way to get the whole family online through a single, unlimited 4G connection. The other is Messages, which is a full text-messaging client—pieced together with Google Voice or Skype apps, the EVO View could be a nice full-service phone all by itself. There’s an internal mic, but it’s not strong, so if you want to use the View as a phone you’ll want to pair it with a Bluetooth headset like the Aliph Jawbone Era ($129, 4.5 stars).

3G and 4G Coverage
The biggest difference between the Flyer and the View is all the G’s: the Flyer has none, and the View has 4. Sprint’s 4G coverage isn’t everywhere yet, but it’s growing, and where it’s available it’s fast. In my tests, in midtown Manhattan, I got 5Mbps down, and 954Kbps up, both about as can be expected from Sprint’s WiMAX network. 3G is more reliably available, but not quite as fast.

4G can be toggled on and off with just a tap in the Quick Settings menu, accessible via the pull-down Notifications windowshade; that’s key to battery life, because 4G can a serial battery killer. Toggling between 3G and 4G creates about five seconds of disconnect, but that’s not a huge problem unless you’re on a video call, and it’s nice to be able to choose between fast speeds or long life. Our own battery tests are underway, and will be posted here shortly.

Conclusions

The EVO View 4G is a solid tablet, that’s bolstered by its excellent pen input, but somewhat hampered by its lack of Google’s tablet-specific OS. HTC’s Sense UI helps, but it’s not a replacement for true tablet Android, which is Honeycomb. Overall, the View/Flyer is neither the best tablet nor even the best Android tablet your money can buy, but if handwriting, drawing and doodling are things that appeal to you, and the 7-inch screen size is right, it might be just the tablet for you. Similarly, if 4G coverage is something you must have, then you must have the EVO View 4G over the Flyer. If you want the best tablet you can buy, the Apple iPad 2 (4.5 stars, $499) still can’t be beat. But if it’s Android you’re after, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer ($399, 3.5 stars) has enough unique features, like a laptop-like docking system, to send it to the head of the Honeycomb class—for now.