Intel WiDi

This week we got to have a play around with Intel’s (relatively) new and not well known wireless technology; WiDi.

WiDi stands for Wireless Display and it’s a technology solely developed by microchip giants Intel.
So this means if you stick to teamred with your CPU’s, AMD will not have this technology available to you… At least for the time being.

Since the introduction of Intel’s tick tock development strategy, many online forums and blogs have praised Intel’s ingenuity and progress which they have made, I being one of those, who appreciate what Intel have been able to achieve using this ruthless strategy.
However, the past 2 or 3 iterations (Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell) from a megahertz, cycle, on-board graphics and cores perspective look like they are stagnating and rehashing their technology.
This point of view however is wrong when you look at all the features which they are packing into their CPU’s while using increasingly smaller lithography processes.

Intel’s WiDi technology can transmit audio, video, apps, music, movies and basically whole screens of devices – all wirelessly.
This week we got to tinker with a WiDi enabled laptop and receiver.
The receiver was from netgear and it worked really well.
The WiDi signal worked well up to 20 meters and we didn’t notice a drop in quality or speed, I then ran out of hallway to test.
Intel WiDi technology supports 1080p video, 5.1 surround sound and has low latency so things happen quickly on your display.

How do I get WiDi?
To get WiDi transmitting, you need to meet the following requirements:
1. An Intel CPU which comes with the technology
– 2nd generation Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 Mobile Processor
– 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 Mobile and Desktop Processor
– 4th Generation Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 Mobile and Desktop Processor

2. Windows 7,8 or 8.1

3, Intel on-board HD Graphics GPU (Any from 2000 series to 5200 series)

4. A compatible wireless adapter (Even though the netgear adapter we used is not officially listed on Intel’s website, it worked flawlessly with WiDi)

5. The WiDi software installed on your Device.

If you would like to transmit both video and audio via WiDi, you must use a HDMI cable.
We tested a HDMI to DVI cable but only got our smartphone to work with this configuration; the laptop would not display (assuming bandwidth limitations for the HDMI to DVI cable).

Microsoft Office 365 unlicensed

A few weeks back one of our technician’s blogged about re-licensing Microsoft Office 365 by basically logging out as the user, logging in as the admin of the domain and then logging back in as the user.
This week we found out that this solution isn’t always the solution.

After trying this above fix along with many other fixes we were forced to contact our reseller.
After they offered a few started by the book fixes, (which usually may work), we we’re finally required to contact Microsoft’s office 365 support department for help.

All I can say is that the wait times for a technician are lengthy, but in the end it is worth chasing their help.

We got along well with the technician and he did eventually resolve our issue but just as we were perplexed by the issue so was he.
He hadn’t seen where office would unlicensed itself and the admin of the domain could not relicense their copy of Office 365.

So to anyone who has tried our fix from a few weeks ago, how did it go?
If like us you found out that the licensing server unlicensed your copy of office 365 note that it did so as the machine did not communicate e with Microsoft Office 365 server in less than 30 days.
It must do so, periodically at a maximum time frame of 30 days.

Bitdefender – Best of 2014

At the start of the year we blogged about our cloud based and managed AV Bitdefender and it has just recently been awarded best AV for 2014.

Over at the popular IT news website tomsguide.com they recently had a shootout to test some of the most popular anti-virus solutions and to come out with a clear winner for 2014.

We at A&STech are proud to announce that the very product we recommend to customers has come out on top and is the recommended Anti-Virus by a very popular and trusted I.T website.

The tests were quite thorough in that they used virus data from an independent company in Germany called AV-TEST to test the zero day malware detection ability of the Anti-Virus products
(This means how well it can detect the newest threats to a system)

The test’s also included performance testing to see which anti-virus programs had the lightest memory footprint and which one was the least intrusive when going about its very important work of protecting a system from security threats.

Overall we are proud in offering a total AV solution to our customers that not only we recommend, is well known, has a reputable and documented history of providing excellent protection, but now it’s also won a very important accolade.
Congratulations to Bitdefender. Best anti-virus for 2014

We at A&STech can provide you and your business total anti-virus, malware and security services.

Safe Mode

Having an accustomed environment encircle you can exude reassuring emotions of safety and keep you in a state of tranquillity and composure… unlike this sentence.
That is why safe mode can be such a great tool to use and see from an IT perspective.
In the past week I’ve had to resort to using safe mode on several occasions, all of them because of different causes and all of them required different solutions – and all of them used the Safe Mode OS (Operating System) to get the job done.

If you have never seen or heard of safe mode, it can simply be described as a diagnostic mode built into an electronic device to help a technician diagnose and resolve technical issues usually involving software issues such as driver problems, incompatible software, viruses, display problems or corrupt files.

On a Windows based system, if you would like to access Safemode the most common method of starting up safe mode is to reboot your PC, press the F8 key (although this does vary depending on the PC type, model and BIOS version) and then select “Safe Mode” from the boot options.
If you run Windows 8, it will be either a combination of SHIFT+F8 or a different button depending on your motherboard developer. (Had to press F12 to access safe mode on an ASUS Motherboard this week).

There are other ways of starting in safe mode on a Windows based PC.
Run the Microsoft Start up configuration utility, Under General, Select “Diagnostic Setup” and then reboot your PC. This method sometimes gets blocked by rogue malware and therefore the first method needs to be implemented.

What safe mode does is try and boot into the Operating System with as little drivers as possible.
This means that whatever prompted you to use safe mode should not start along with the bare minimum of drivers to run the operating system.
This minimalistic boot up allows the user to isolate a driver problem without having to think about dozens of variations or issues because all but the very essential “core” drivers are running.
It practically takes away all the non-needed software and presents you with an OS that should be working… helping you work backwards and resolve the problem

I personally try and use the option “Safe Mode with Networking” if the issue does not involve viruses or malware as this loads up the network drivers and adaptors along with the bare minimum OS files.

 

Browser Hijack

Click on a link that you want to open and you find yourself on the bad side of the internet staring at pop ups, free prescription medicine and critical security warnings?… Looks like you have a browser hijack.
Usually I get to work on a Friday ready to have a good finish to the working week and then enjoy a relaxing weekend away from many things related to IT.
This end of the week we had to deal with multiple PC’s that had their browsers hijacked.

What is a browser hijack? Simply put it’s a program or setting that unknowingly to the end user changes the browsers configuration.
The best browser hijack is one where the unsuspecting user is not even aware of its presence both visually or functionally.
Browser hijack’s usually modify things such as the home page, the error page (or creates fake error pages), adds tool bars and search engines and probably most annoyingly redirects the users’ clicks to other web pages. This is usually the only visual queue the end user recognises as strange.
Browser Hijack programs and software is part of the malware virus group and highly urgent that it gets removed from the infected browser.
Some infamous browser hijack software is Conduit Search, CoolWebSearch, Babylon Toolbar, Onewebsearch, MyStart.IncrediBar Search, Qone8.com, Searchgol.com and many more.

If your home button takes you to a page other than your original home page, if you get all kinds of pop ups, if your search page looks totally different or gives you undesirable results, it more than likely points to a browser hijack.

In my experience I have found that Internet Explorer gets the most browser hijack’s. Even with its home page change prevention software and reset software.
Firefox has also been hit and miss in this regard. I have found that it is much easier to remove bowser hijack software from Firefox because of the way it manages addons.
As for Chrome, Safari and other browsers, they seem to do a great job of protecting the end user (or the end users of such programs are more aware of the dangers and protect themselves).

In such instances Malware removal software by itself is not always sufficient to get rid of the browser hijack. Sometimes it requires reconfiguration of the browsers settings and on some occasions even a full reinstall.
Personally I am a sound believer and proponent of prevention is better than cure, so take care and don’t get hijacked in the first place!

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is one of the most important thing happening in MSP’s. Traditionally, users rely on applications that run directly or locally on the hardware, Compute/Storage/Networking, of their organization running in some On-Premises Data Center. This type of infrastructure is one in use all over the world today. Cloud computing changes it by running applications at Data Centers owned by the organization or somebody else accessed via the internet. Cloud computing can be categorized in three ways: Cloud applications, Cloud platforms, Private clouds.

One of the most important aspect of cloud computing is the idea of running applications in the cloud. This means running applications in data centers owned by third parties accessed via the internet called the “public cloud.” Running applications in the public cloud is commonly referred to as “Software as a Service” pronounced SaaS. One example of SaaS is Microsoft Office 365 which we are currently offering to our clients in Brisbane.

Cloud platform provides self-service access to resources such as a virtual machine or gigabytes of storage commonly through a web browser interface. It allows fine-grained allocation of resources. For example, you do not have to request a server by the month rather you can request for an hour. It also allows charging only for the resources an application uses. Examples of these are Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Windows Azure. These two cloud platforms

In essence, what private clouds do is import the technology of cloud platforms into organizations own data centers. As an example for this, an ESXi Server with vCenter as the platform or portal for user to request resources such as virtual machines.

Cloud computing is here. It is real and important. All three aspects are important: Cloud applications, Cloud platforms and Private clouds. A and S Tech Pty Ltd is prepared to be a part of this shift to cloud computing.

DisplayPort

The big news this week is that DisplayPort has officially ousted the aging but very handy VGA display interface.

Up until this week all the PC’s, workstations and servers we had sold or configured for our customers came with a VGA display port among other display options… but not anymore. We had shipped our first DisplayPort only workstation and we were (sad to admit) caught a little off balance in the sense that we didn’t have a compatible monitor to ship to the customer. Yes we did sort out the issue quite quickly and with little hassle, but it got me thinking and ultimately blogging about this new step in the field of IT… and it looks like a major step.

DisplayPort isn’t new in the sense that it was first approved in May 2006 by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) and started shipping in very late months of 2009. I must say that it is new enough and unknown enough that even Microsoft’s Word puts a little red line under the term “DisplayPort” (Time to add to dictionary I think). To the untrained eye it looks very similar to another interface that much of the public knows about, of course I’m referring to the HDMI interface. But more about these two standards a little later.

DisplayPort contains 20 pins and sends its data over these pins via small data packets called micro packets. It was designed this way because it allows VESA to add additional features later on in the future without the need to change the interface physically. (Think USB)
DisplayPort sends both video and audio out of the same port, so we may see the familiar I/O on the back of PC’s change even more with no audio inputs or VGA outputs.

At the end of 2009 VESA released version 1.2 of DisplayPort which is a mini interface already running on some of Apple’s products and some high end GPU’s from AMD.

The differences between DisplayPort and the widely known HDMI standard are minimal in the physical sense or the end product, but it’s the difference’s between these two standards which may determine what the back of our PC’s will look like in the future.

  •  Firstly DisplayPort is a royalty free standard. Which means as a manufacturer you can add it to your electronic device without paying the developers of the standard. HDMI on the other hand asks an annual fee of around $10,000 US dollars and between US$0.04 and US$0.15 per device which the input is attached to.
  •  DisplayPort currently is in version 1.3 and has more bandwidth than the current version of HDMI 2.0. DisplayPort can transmit 21.6 Gbit/s[46] (17.28 Gbit/s with overhead removed) as opposed to HDMI 2.0’s 18 Gbit/s[47] (14.4 Gbit/s with overhead removed).
  • DisplayPort 1.4 can also send a much higher resolution image, but this will soon change as HDMI is getting a big change in the coming months.

Besides these differences, these two standards can be found on the same machine as complimentary devices. They even have adapters that go from one to another.
It’s just slightly a new dawn for us who have looked to the often blue coloured VGA standard and felt almost comfortable by it. Not physically, but subconsciously when we thought it would be with us our whole careers. Goodbye VGA, please wipe your feet and come on in DisplayPort, we have a lot of catching up to do.

Yealink W52P DECT cordless phone

Yealink W52P DECT cordless phone

 

Thanks to our partners at 3CX and Alloy, we were given the opportunity to test a Yealink W52P DECT cordless phone for the past few weeks and document our findings.

As this is our first on hands product review I will try and be impartial and truthful about our experience with the product.

Normally when you get to review a product you start off with its intended use, but I want to start off with Yealink W52P’s aesthetics, it is after all the first thing you are greeted with when receiving the device.

The Yealink W52P we received was a glossy black with silver accents to add a dual tone contemporary look, the kind of look which seems to be in with phones as of 2013/2014.
It’s not a very pretty or overly sleek phone, but it surely goes out of its way to not be ugly.
Some phones light up too many colours and have features that do not blend. This phone is discreet and looks just like a modern handset should look like.
The back of the phone comes in a nonglossy black plastic which adds some much needed grip compared to the front and sides.

The screen is bright and comes with a colour display. It does have a custom GUI that is sometimes not too straight forward, but being into technology navigating the menus wasn’t too difficult for me or others in the office.
However I have to say some of the menus seemed to be named incorrectly as I had to go back out of a few menus and reselect what I originally intended… But that could be just me.

The buttons are all way too small and I have small fingers for an adult.
I found myself having to use the tip of my finger nails to navigate and press the buttons on too many occasions. They are also too small in their height from the face of the phone.
Maybe bevelling the edges a little and if they were created in a little softer rubber it would improve the feel of the keys tremendously.

The phones sound quality is quite good compared to my current smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S3).
I tried turning the phone away from me and I could still clearly hear the other person and they could hear me.
We did have one day when the phone played up and customers were complaining of sound quality but it was done to our VoIP playing up.

One feature that the phone comes with is a handle. It does make the phone slightly more difficult and uncomfortable o handle but I can see the benefit if you want to hang the phone on a stand or a belt. Personally I didn’t use this feature but I commend Yealink for including it with the phones.
The clip does come off, but I left it on during our testing time.

Battery life on the Yealink W52P is very good compared to what we’ve been accustomed to accept for wireless handsets and smartphones, of course this is down to the comparatively small screen and that its main use is voice calls only.
I did use the phone extensively and it never went below 2 out of 3 lines on the battery.
The charger is very good in terms of quickly and efficiently charging the phone.
The charger forces the phone to stand up vertically but does not provide enough support as I found the phone being knocked over even by movements and bumps in a table.
I also had to be accurate and extra gentle in placing the phone upright on its charger otherwise it would fall straight to the ground.
Maybe adding a deeper groove for the charger would improve this.

Overall the experience with the Yealink W52P was positive.
It is light, the receiver distance is fantastic, it charges quickly and stays charged for days on end even with moderate usage.
A good product but does fall short in its overall aesthetics and general day to day usability.
3.5/5

Laptops … a personal reflection and perspective

One of the first laptops that I ever used was small, blocky in design, had a rubber pointer, had small TFT screen and would get hot enough to quite literally warm up my room in winter.
We have come far in mobile computing.

I have noticed a trend over the past 2-3 years. Many of our customer and some of my friends who ask for a new personal computer, they all enquire about laptops exclusively.
Me being around PC components all the time, I always lean towards the custom built mid tower PC.
So I ask many of them why the choose the laptop over a PC and most of them answer;
“Because it’s mobile”. Or something to that effect.
People seem to enjoy the freedom to be able to take their virtual world with them, not just in their hand as a smartphone or tablet, but also as a powerful computer.

Just yesterday we purchased a laptop for a customer who wanted a laptop for watching movies.
So knowing this I tried to find something cheap, powerful enough to run movies smoothly but also cheap.
They were not entirely sure of the first few I showed them so I asked them why?
“The specs aren’t good enough”, upon hearing this I had dreadful flashbacks of my first hand me down laptop from my uncle who probably paid $2000 for an Intel Pentium 2 powered laptop.
Upon checking the specs of laptops, I eventually found what the customer was looking for.
It was an ultrabook.

Even though I work with computers every day and try to keep up to date with all things related to PC’s, I must admit I haven’t looked at the strides that laptops have made in the past few years.
This thin, sculpted aluminium device was a sight to behold and at first glance the specs were hard to believe… I kept wondering how hot and loud it would actually get.
That was ofcourse until I dug more deeply into what all the little “m” insignias mean behind the clever marketing terms on the specs of the hardware components.
Turns out it won’t get very hot or very hot at all.

Sure it was sleek, sure it looked nice and the technology packed into the butcher knife thin aluminium shell was noteworthy, I still wondered why someone would need such a device if they are not working on it? So my real question is this, with PC’s, consoles, smartphones, tablets and media centres, where does the laptop fit in nowadays?

Having said all that, I understand the mobility factor and I am astonished how far laptops have come since my uncles IBM laptop (which had such a cool looking CD-ROM drive in 1997).
I am also really interested what AMD’s new Kavari APU will also do to shake up the mobile computing market.

We at A&STech can research, find, fix and restore all your mobile computing needs.

Dell Wyse thin clients

In the world of IT the continuing trend is to go smaller, lighter, virtualised and to the cloud.
The Dell Wyse Thin Clients are a piece of kit that will continue to give this directional trend a lot of incentive and life in the years to come.

Wyse is a developer and manufacturer of “Cloud Client Computing” products.
These products include thin client software, thin client hardware and the desktop virtualisation software which is done in collaboration with big named brands such as Citrix, IBM, Microsoft and VMware.

Wyse Technology as it was formerly known was founded in early 1981 as a manufacturer of character terminals (A computer that communicates with one block of information at a time).
The company quickly moved into the Personal Computing marketplace and had moderate success by selling their units much cheaper than the competitors at the time.

This all lead to where we are today, the Acquisition of Wyse by Dell and they now are a leading manufacturer of thin clients.

Thin clients are a computer system that depends heavily on other computers (a server) to function in the traditional PC way.
They are usually bare bones and therefore can come in very small packages compared to the traditional PC’s

The benefits of thin clients include their overall size, which means they can be stored away or hidden from the user.
They provide a single point of failure and greater security.
This means that the network cannot be compromised easily or infected by viruses as the thin client themselves are getting their information form the server. This means that if the server is protected well, it doesn’t really matter what happens to the thin client (software or hardware) it wot really affect or compromise the network.

Another huge benefit is the overall unit price. Because they have so few internal hardware components and little or no moving parts, they can be produced at a much cheaper price than traditional PC’s.
This means a lower operating cost, lower cost of ownership as they run with less power, cheaper to replace and can therefore be easier to upgrade if need be.

At A&STech we offer thin clients as a cheaper, safer more secure way of computing to our customers, especially if all they need is a PC that does spreadsheets, word processing and data entry as its main functions.