A month in the IT world is very a long time and so much happens so quickly that it can be difficult to keep up to speed. With that in mind, here is a selection of the technology news stories that have caught my attention in recent weeks.
1. It’s (not) hip to be Square There was a time when Jack Dorsey, the much-loved co-founder of Twitter, could do no wrong. Sadly things seem to be heading a little ‘south’ for his latest venture. Square, if you missed it, is a small device you plug into your iPhone that enables you to swipe credit card magnetic strips and process payment. It’s a neat idea, especially in its target market of US consumers who are without such luxuries as chip and PIN. However, it emerged in mid October that Square isn’t compatible with the iPhone 4. With more than 14 million new iPhones shipped last quarter, this is a major flaw with Square. The current solution seems to be to stuff a piece of paper into the aerial socket. Good luck with that one, Jack.
2. Revenge of the slow, cheap laptop? Having owned a netbook for a few years there was a certain amount of agreement in the Dyer household when Steve Jobs announced to the world that netbooks are just slow, low-quality, cheap laptops. This particular revelation was during the iPad keynote – yes, as far back as April 2010. However it’s clear Steve has a short memory, he unveiled the beautiful looking 11.6” Macbook Air this month (October). I’ll have to wait to comment on its performance because I haven’t used one, but the one thing it isn’t is cheap, with prices starting at £849. I suspect the ‘Hackingtosh’ community is smirking.
3. Slate(d) The much maligned HP Slate – a proper iPad competitor – has finally surfaced. After months of news, followed by complete radio silence, Palm takeovers and more, this much anticipated piece of tech became official. Running Windows 7 Professional, this beautiful piece of hardware is firmly aimed at the enterprise and business market, with a fairly hefty $800 (£500) price point. HP’s recent acquisition of Palm clearly means they are looking at something a little different for the consumer market, but judging by the delays to the Slate, don’t expect anything soon.
4. Mini-me PayPal this month confirmed what we in the industry have suspected for a long time – micro payments are coming to its platform. The idea is simple; the micro payments portal will enable small value payments to be made quickly and easily. Expect to be seeing this embedded into your favourite Facebook game or mobile app very soon.
5. Wagner rocks Last one from me, and it’s a fun one. If you haven’t seen it already you must check out the brilliant ‘mash-up’ between leading Twitterati member Stephen Fry and the moustachioed musical genius that is the X Factor’s Wagner. Enjoy… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAKJBzE8a3A&feature=player_embedded
Ben Dyer is the CEO at SellerDeck
We've teamed up with Cassie TillettWe've teamed up with Cassie Tillett from computer training firm Working Order to answer your questions about using office suite software. So whether (like me), you always struggle with bullets in Microsoft Word, or can just never get Excel to do what you want it to, why not give us a try? Leave a comment with your question, email your query to email@example.com or - best of all - post it over in our forum. Cassie will be picking the best problems and explaining exactly how to solve them. And needless to say, all the information will be provided for free on the IT Donut.
Ok, so you’ve brought a shiny new Apple Mac and now you’re definitely one of the cool crowd in your local coffee retailer. But here's the thing: it runs Mac software, yet you’ve just realised you really need to use a program that only runs on Microsoft Windows. It's ok, there are solutions out there that don't require you to ditch your sleek new piece of equipment. Here are the main options.
1. Stay with Mac software
First of all, investigate whether there's a Mac-based alternative piece of software you can use. In most cases there is an alternative application that will do what you need. It might even cost less, so search online for "Mac alternative to <insert software name here>".
2. Virtually the same thing
Virtualisation software allows you to run a 'virtual instance' of Microsoft Windows on your Mac. It runs just like any other Mac program and allows you to install and run any Windows application, switching between them as you wish. You'll still be able to access all your files and documents. Virtualisation software can even recognise hardware you plug into your Mac. For virtualisation software to work on your Mac, you need one with an Intel processor. All new Macs have this, as have most bought since 2008. Your Mac also needs to be running Mac OS X version 10.4.6 or higher. To check this, click the apple in the top left hand corner of your screen and select 'About This Mac'. Make sure the version number is higher than 10.4.6. You will also need your own copy of Windows (you'll have to buy this, if you don't already own one you can use), and some virtualisation software. VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop are both good examples of this. You can try both for free - just download, then follow the instructions to start using Windows on your Mac.
3. Boot up with Windows
Mac OS X Snow Leopard (that’s version 10.6 or higher) comes with a piece of software called Boot Camp. This allows you to start (or 'boot') your Mac up with Windows instead of Mac OS. This does mean you'll need to restart your Mac each time you want to use Windows, but the big benefit is that Windows gets to use all your Mac's processing power for itself. If you’re going to use heavyweight programs like photo editors or games then this is the route to go down. Of course, although you may already have Boot Camp, you'll still need a copy of Microsoft Windows. Visit the Apple site for help to get started.
4. For geeks only?
There's one last alternative, but it's not for the faint-hearted and does require you to know what the Terminal is and to be comfortable using it. Doesn't sound like you? You're better off with one of the other options above. However, if you don't mind getting your hands dirty and want to avoid the expense of buying Windows plus virtualisation software, check out the free, open source Wine project. It lets you run some (but not all) Windows applications, and although it's free, you'll still need to buy or already own each program you want to run. And, as I've already hinted, it's quite complicated. You can use another program called Winebottler to make it a bit easier, but this is still in beta, which means it's still being tested and hasn't been fully released yet. So, there you go. If you’ve decided to start using a Mac, but miss your favourite Windows application, there are solutions to your problems. Stephen Morrow is the Founder of Redhill Technologies Image of Windows XP running on a Mac from Flickr user Robert Gaal under a Creative Commons licence.
New technologies have given small businesses valuable tools to help them survive and thrive. The ability to access email remotely, download files and log on to company networks through secure connections - not to mention laptops and mobile devices - have all increased efficiency and productivity. In short, technology is now a crucial element of every business. But with these advances come pitfalls. Having more devices accessing networks can lead to an increase in security threats and data loss. Costly and complex? Small companies need to consider extra security measures to safeguard their networks and data. However, some business owners - particularly those with few resources at their disposal - regard added layers of security as a time-consuming, complex and costly prospect. In reality, this need not be the case. Consider extra security measures For any business concerned about data storage and network security, there are some important issues to consider:
These are simple and often low cost ways to protect your business data. Some may seem obvious, but many small businesses still fail because of data disaster. To avoid this, stick to your security plan and procedures.
I have never really considered myself much of a hacker, but over dinner last week it turns out I have the skills to break at least half of my friends’ passwords for email, Facebook and quite scarily, their online banking. Asking around my friends, there are some obvious passwords:
If your passwords fall into any of these categories, do something about it immediately. We are becoming a little blasé about our digital footprints on the web, and I bet it wouldn’t be that hard to discover some, or all of this information. Hacking is no longer the preserve of a few social incompetents in their bedrooms. It's organised crime - so having your passwords discovered could have serious consequences. Here are a some tips for thinking up safe passwords: Use safe words If you find it hard to remember passwords, try adopting the safe word technique. First, choose a password that's a mixture of numbers and letters. Make sure it's something you can remember, and completely unique to you. Then, prefix or append some information to it for each website you use. Here's an example. Your safe word could be 'lawnmower'. Better still, make it 'L4wnM0w3r'. When you register for a particular service, add something that identifies that service. For instance, when registering for Apple iTunes, you might use something that identifies the password as being related to music. Your password could become 'Mu51cL4wnM0w3r'. It may sound complex, but once you get used to typing your safe word everything becomes easier and more secure. Use a password generator There are thousands of password generators out there, just like this one. While they're great at what they do, it can be a pain to remember individual strings of numbers and letters. However a tool like LastPass can make life a lot easer. It generates, remembers and stores your passwords for individual websites, and works even if you use different web browsers (like Firefox and Internet Explorer) on more than one computer. If you are happy to have your passwords stored somewhere, it's a great option. How do you create and remember your strong passwords? Leave a comment and let us know. Ben Dyer is the CEO at SellerDeck
You might have spotted that the IT Donut homepage has been big on cloud computing recently. This is a new(ish) concept many people think will change how businesses use IT. The problem is that it isn't an easy idea to grasp.
If you've been wondering about the cloud but still struggle to get your head round it, you should definitely watch a five minute report that aired on Channel 4 news earlier this week
It'll give you a good overview of what cloud computing is and how we might use it in the future. It also features at least one cloud-related pun, and some cheesy cloudy graphic effects. What more could you ask?
I haven't been able to embed the video here, so to watch the video, you'll need to head over to the Channel 4 website. Be quck though - it'll only be available till early next week.
If your computer, especially a laptop, is lost or stolen, any files on it could be accessed by someone else. That could mean sensitive business information, pictures and other things you wouldn't want made public could be seen by someone else. To protect your files, you can scramble them with encryption. This ensures that nobody other than the person who encrypted the file can view them. Using Windows encryption Windows has some encryption features built in. But before you experiment with them, make sure you know your Windows username and password. You can only view your encrypted files with these details. If you ever lose them, you won't be able to recover your files. (If you don't have a username and password, set one up - encryption is useless without them.) Windows XP Professional and some versions of Windows Vista allow folders and files to be encrypted, but your hard disk must use a particular format. You can either encrypt individual files or entire folders. The easiest way to find out if it’s going to work for your computer is to create a test folder and try encrypting it:
Once you've set up this encrypted folder, any files you save in it will be automatically encrypted. As long as you're logged in to Windows with your username and password, you can access and use the files as usual. But once you're logged off, nobody else can access those files - even if they remove the hard disk from your computer. Alternatives to Windows encryption I have tried a few alternatives to the encryption tools built into Windows. One advantage is that they permit encryption no matter which version of Windows you use. One application that has worked well for me is TrueCrypt. It does have some very technical options, but the simplest setting lets you create a virtual disk drive which is encrypted and can be used as if it were a real disk. It's quite easy to set this up. Just download and install the free software, then follow the steps to create a virtual disk and choose a password. You'll then see a new disk - just like your C: drive - in Windows. Just save everything there to have it encrypted automatically. Summary There are advantages and disadvantages to both these methods of encryption. Using the encryption features built in to Windows is generally more straightforward - assuming you have a version of Windows that includes them, and your hard drive is in the right format. An application like TrueCrypt is a little more complex (but still fairly easy to get to grips with), and can be used with versions of Windows that don't have encryption built in. Finally, with all this talk of encryption, don't forget to take other security measures too. At the very least, back up your files! This article was adapted from a post at zuuMedia Southampton.
Recent years have seen a huge growth in the number of online businesses. More widespread, faster internet access has been key to this growth. However, the increase in internet usage has also created more IT security problems for businesses. If your business doesn't have key security measures in place, you could fall victim to an online threat. For instance, a customer database could be stolen and used by spammers, important information could be deleted from your systems, or your software could be damaged. How to protect your business So, what can you do to get protected?
It is also important to consider the potential threats that employees can bring into the business. Many companies allow members of staff to access instant messaging services and social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, while at work. These websites can often find themselves the target of malicious code and viruses. If you want to keep your employees happy by allowing them to access such services, it is also important you stay vigilant for potential threats. Failing that, it might be worth reviewing which sites your staff can access.