The Internet Comes Alive

Well really it is your computer that is getting livelier but it sounds better (scarier?) to say the Internet. I have asserted for years that my kids will be able to reminisce “remember when computers used to be 2D?” That time is quickly drawing near.

In the 70’s and 80’s we heard a lot about how technology built for NASA worked its way into our everyday lives. Now that model has changed – technology built for cutting edge games is working its way into our lives.  I thought it was kind of cool when ESPN set up cameras across the football field so they could give us views almost as though we were in the action – just like many of the video games my kids play.

But late last year Microsoft rolled out a new technology called Kinect that lets you be the game controller. That is pretty cool. Whether you’re driving, dancing or a variety of other activities, your movement is what controls what happens on screen. Seems pretty cool for game technology.

Now pause and think how that could affect your computing experience. If you’re creating a new design, instead of drawing with a mouse, wouldn’t it be cool to draw with your finger – not on the screen but on your desktop? If you’re an architect, wouldn’t it be cool to build a house or building with your hands and have it show up on screen? Med students could perform surgery, rocket scientists could build spacecraft, and the list of possible uses just goes on and on.

Some of the cool things that Tony Stark does in the Iron Man movie as he builds himself a new iron man suit might not be that far off. Add some Kinect-type technology to hologram technology, and you’ll be able to build your own Iron Man suit – well maybe we’re not quite there yet but these technologies are developing.

How does that affect you? You might be done with school but the technology will affect us all. Wouldn’t it be cool to flick your finger through your emails without holding on to a mouse or touching a keyboard? Kiss double-clicking goodbye and greet the finger tap? Be able to dictate (did I mention it also incorporates voice recognition?) a lengthy letter (or chapter of your book) and then edit with your hands instead of having to scroll and click with your mouse and type with your keyboard? The potential impact, on our everyday computing experience, is immense.

And surfing the internet? No more clicking links – just point at them. Marrying Kinect to the Internet could open up some amazing possibilities. Have you heard the stories about people in remote outposts getting sick? Now instead of needing a full time doctor, you could take the right tools and the doctor could operate in Antarctica while sitting in her office in Houston. And being able to operate a robot from afar? Well maybe the movie “Real Steel” is not that far off either but there are all kinds of potential uses.

Learn more about Kinect at the Microsoft Kinect website.


Office 2010 Released

It’s out. It’s nice. If you’re using Office 2003 or earlier, it’s time to upgrade.

Office 2010 uses the same kind of ribbons that Office 2007 users have grown accustomed to. The new “ribbon” that you’ll find in Word 2010 is the one that 2007 should have had. It’s called file. The file ribbon gives you all the options and information about the particular file that you’re working on that you could possibly want to know.

For example, as I type this blog entry in Word 2010, when I click the file tab, I have lots of nifty choices like Open, Save, Save as, and Print but the option that is highlighted is Info. Under Info I can Set Permissions (protect the document so that only those who should see it can), Prepare for Sharing (basically let’s me easily strip hidden information that other’s shouldn’t see but that is useful to have for an in house document) and work with different Versions of the document.

I can also see useful information such as how long I’ve been editing this document, add or view the Title and any Tags, see who the creator is, and lots of other information. It is also from the file tab that I can open recent or other documents and do many of the tasks from the old File menu.

As is usually the case, the biggest change comes with Outlook. As the way people communicate continues to change, Microsoft tries to make Outlook the tool to help you do this. Outlook now has its own ribbons (for some reason Outlook 2007 didn’t get the ribbon makeover).

The newest feature here is the Quick Steps box. Basically what this box does is let you create macros or rules on what do with certain messages. Once that rule is created, you can run it by clicking the appropriate button in the Quick Steps box. I’m still experimenting with this but this feature holds potential in helping to tame the email beast.

Access has some nice new features, one that we’re taking a very close look at right now is the Project template. What is nice is that Access is now really designed from the get go to be interactive. I opened the Project template and the first thing I had to do was create a user (myself) and then log in. Then I was off to the races creating and entering information on the project.

The downside is I wanted to watch the video which required SilverLight which I had already installed which Access didn’t recognize as being installed. Still a few issues, it would appear but all in all I like this latest version and could see moving some of our folks to it even before the first service pack.

Other tools that come with the complete version of Office 2010 include OneNote (great for taking quick notes or for having a notebook on a particular task or subject) and InfoPath – the tool for forms – now comes with a Designer part and a Filler part. For business users (those with lots of computers and users), there’s also a new program called SharePoint Workspace. I’m still investigating these but they look to be pretty nifty tools for improved work flow.

The full version “Professional” retails for around $500 but as a productivity tool is well worth it.



Email Scams Proliferate

Lately we’ve been getting bombarded with email scams. Beware and DO NOT click on these unless you communicate with network administrator (call us if you don’t have a network administrator: 303 268-2245).

One message has a title like this: A new settings file for the <youremailaddress> mailbox has just been released and it was a bogus link that you are supposed to click on. DO NOT click the link!

The second message we’ve seen has this subject line: Important – System upgrade and it also has a link that you should not click under any circumstances.

Beware, be aware, and be safe on the Internet.


Computer Virus Check Up

Is your computer protected? It seems like we go for long stretches of months with very few virus problems. Then we get a bunch of folks coming to us asking for help getting rid of viruses. And the question we are frequently asked is: But how did I get infected?

In our experience there are three main methods a computer gets infected:

  1. Anti-Virus Program expires. If your virus subscription has expired, your computer is not protected. Yes, it is that simple. If you tell your doctor you don’t need a flu shot because you got one last year, he’ll tell you that was for last year’s flu, not this years’. The same applies to antivirus programs. If it has expired, you are protected for last week’s or last month’s viruses but not today’s.
  2. Willfully downloading a virus. This may happen unwittingly but it still happens all the time. Kids are the main victims of this method. They want to download a “cool” program from a web site but the cool program includes a virus that lets hackers take over your computer. This can circumvent the best antivirus program in much the same way all the vitamins in the world can’t protect you from colds if you’ve got kids.
  3. Too much protection. We are seeing more of this kind of problem. You start off with, for example, Norton Antivirus. Then when you go to renew online they’ve got a super-duper new program that  has a firewall and  anti-phishing, and all the bells and whistles you can imagine for just a few more dollars than the anti-virus program. Then as soon as you have it installed it starts asking you questions you don’t know the answer to. You restart your computer and suddenly it is going so slow you can hardly do anything. In frustration you turn off the antivirus program and suddenly everything speeds up so you leave it off and get infected.

We recommend just running an antivirus program without any extra bells or whistles. Most folks with high speed internet (commercial or residential) have some kind of firewall with their modem or router nowadays so you can separate the functions and let your computer just have the antivirus component.

Keep your antivirus UP TO DATE. If it is more than one month out of date, you could be in trouble.

And finally, run complete scans on your computer on a regular basis.