What is Open Source Software & What is the Point of it?

Open source software is software that has its source code available for modification by the public. The source code is what computer programmers can modify in order to change the way a program or application does what it’s meant to. Some examples of this are Firefox and Openoffice.

This type of software is different from closed source software (a.k.a. proprietary software) because those prohibit the public from having access to modify their source code. The only ones legally able to make modifications are the people, team, or organization that created it. Examples of this are Adobe Software and Microsoft Office.

In order for closed software creators to keep other programmers from manipulating their codes, licenses with agreements to not make changes are required in order to download the program. OSS is similar to this in the sense that they also require a licensing agreement. The difference is that their licenses encourage collaboration and sharing so that others can also make changes and use them in their projects.

Now, you may be wondering what the point of having a program that is OSS is. Well, there are many ways in which OSS can benefit both users and programmers.

Control over software

Programmers can change part of the code they don’t like in order to use it how they want. Because of this, regular users can also use the program for anything they would like without being limited to what the software creators intended it to be for.

Improve Programming Skills

With OSS, programmers can learn and practice their skills by physically seeing how and what changes were made to make the software do a certain thing.  They can also receive feedback from others on what they have created.

Always Updated

Software that is constantly being altered by various programmer means that regular users will have a program that is, for the most part, fixed, updated, and upgraded quickly.

Security

Because there are many working on the software, users would not need to worry about their data, that has been saved in the program, disappearing after the original programmers decide to stop working on it.

How long should my Desktop Computer Last?

Whether it’s your personal at-home computer or your business computer, you tend to worry about how much longer will you be able to use it before it completely crashes. Maybe, you’re ready to purchase a new desktop and are wondering which would be of better quality so that it could last an excessive amount of time without crashing and save you some money.

Here are the facts: a computer’s average lifespan is anywhere between 3 to 5 years. Perhaps this may seem absurd to some who may have had their computer for a decade or so. Well, there are many factors that can contribute to how long a computer may last.

The lifetime span of a desktop, as well as other, computers are affected by how much it is used, how hard it is pushed, the type of environment it is in (whether it is hot and/or humid), and how much dust and lint it has accumulated.

We are well aware that there are some computers that can still be used long after the 5 years but, take into consideration what type of use you’re making out of it. Perhaps, these computers are only being used as a word processor. If that is the case, then you could be using those for many more years. Having desktops that are well over 5 years old can be more difficult when needing to download or using technological advancements. Many times, older computers require additional hardware upgrades, which can add up in costs later on.

If you are ready to move on to a new desktop with great quality to last you a long time, here are some factors you should consider:

Hard Drive Space

You want to consider how much hard drive space is available on a computer in case you need to install extra storage later on. With that said, you will also want to think about which computer has enough storage space for what you would need it to do.

Operating System

In order to prevent having to install a new system soon after purchasing a new computer, make sure to purchase one that already has the newest operating system available. This way, it will also be compatible with any other future software.

Upgraded Slots

Also, make sure the computer you desire to purchase has a vast amount of additional slots on the motherboard (a.k.a. printed circuit board). The more additional slots available, the better it will be.  

On another note, if you are trying to make your computer last you as long as it possibly can, check out our post on the ways you could improve the lifespan of your PC. [ http://www.mhconsults.com/blog/improve-the-lifespan-of-your-pc/ ]

Common Myths About Technology: Part 2

If you haven’t yet read the first part to this blog, where we list the most common myths in relation to Apple products, deleting data and much more, then you should stop and take a look at it first, so that you don’t miss anything.

Otherwise, enjoy part 2 of the common tech myths, here:

Jailbreaking is Illegal

This myth is a little more complex, as the line between jailbreaking and unlocking seems to be a bit blurred for most people. To clarify this, let’s begin with the clear difference between jailbreaking and unlocking.

When referring to unlocking a device, usually a cell phone, what is meant is that you free your  device in order to be used with any other carriers. An example is if you bought a cell phone with the T-Mobile carrier and then decide to unlock that phone so that you can use it with another carrier in order to prevent the added cost of buying a whole new phone when switching. This act was set as an illegal action for any phone purchased after January 2013.

When talking about jail breaking a device, what is meant is that you are bypassing any security in order to install programs that were not originally allowed before. An example of this would be jailbreaking your iPhone in order to have some features that are originally only made for Androids. With that said, jail breaking is not an illegal act in itself. However, what device you try to jailbreak is what matters.

In 2012, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) approved jail breaking iPhones but not tablets. As of recently, you are now able to jailbreak smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

More Megapixels Means Better Quality

Another common misconception is that a camera with a large amount of megapixels means a better quality camera. Although this is somewhat true, a camera with just 3 megapixels could give you a better quality picture with even enough room to do some cropping.

 

In cases where you would want to take a photo to later develop as a poster size, a camera with 7 megapixels would allow you to do the job with good quality.

Cheap Cables are No Good

Some people believe that buying a more expensive cable is better than purchasing one that is less expensive. In reality there is no actual difference between cheap and expensive cables.

Purchasing a cheap HDMI cord, for example, is more beneficial for your wallet. There is no real reason for buying the expensive ones, unless the cable was being used as a permanent device where you would have it wired through walls. If this were the case, a more expensive one would be best for a better lifespan.

 

Removing USB Incorrectly is Bad

This isn’t necessarily true. If you were to remove the USB drive without ejecting it first after transferring your data, there is no harm done. The transferred data, and any other existing information, will be available in the USB. However, removing the drive while it is in the middle of transferring information can SOMETIMES cause data loss or the software to crash.

In this case, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Common Myths About Technology: Part 1

With a world surrounded by technology, we are constantly hearing about the many ways to care for your devices and what the dos and don’ts are when handling them. A lot of the times we can’t help but come across some information that completely contradicts the one we may have just heard about.

We have searched some of the most common myths about technology and decided to share them with you in two parts to help clear some contradicting information for you. Here is part 1 of the common myths:

Macs Are Not Prone to Viruses

One of the most common myths is the one about macs not getting viruses. Perhaps this myth stems from Apple’s claim that their OS X software system is not susceptible to the common viruses targeted towards Windows. Although this is true, it does not mean that apple computers are not susceptible to those viruses created to target Macs.

In fact, the more common these computers become in homes and offices, the more vulnerable they become towards malware.

A Cell Phone’s Battery Should be Drained Before Charging

This is another very common misconception and the reason for this goes back to when NiCd batteries were common in many tech devices. The NiCd batteries suffer from “memory effect” which leads to the battery not being able to recharge up to 100 percent, causing the battery life to drain more quickly.

Since the early 2000s, NiCd batteries have been replaced with Lithium-Ion batteries, especially in all Apple products, which eliminate the “memory effect” issue. Although this is true, though, Apple does advice for the devices to be drained at least once a month in order to help maintain battery life.

More Bars Means Better Service

When we see our signal bars go down, we immediately start moving around to get more signal in order to have better service. Truth is, the bars only show the signal strength to the cell phone tower near you. The service is determined by the amount of tech devices connected to that same tower.

Files are Permanently Deleted Once Trash Bin is emptied

Maybe this is something you never thought of before, but the fact is that after the trash/recycling bin has been emptied in your computer, fragments of those deleted files can be left behind. This means that those fragments can be restored. The act of deleting a file is simply to make space for new ones.

In order to fully delete files on a Mac, you may want to follow up by clicking on “Secure Empty Trash.” If you are a PC owner, it is best to download a secure deleting program.

 

Private Browsing Means Anonymity

Private browsing does not keep anyone anonymous. Using this browsing mechanism simply keeps your computer from saving information about the websites visited and what typed or clicked on while being there. However, files downloaded from private browsing will remain in your device.

Disaster No More with Cloud Computing

Remember the devastating Hurricane Sandy that struck the East Coast destroying all homes and businesses? If you were not personally affected by this disaster, imagine being the owner of one of those businesses aggressively affected by this natural disaster. Can you imagine having all of your valuable information destroyed and having to forfeit running your business in order to try and recover all lost data and rebuilding the office?

According to an article on LightReading.com, after the hurricane disaster, the cloud-based recovery market was examined in order to analyze what features would be put in place in case of another similar disaster. They also looked at geographic landscapes in order to determine what types of phenomenon they should prepare for in the next 18-24 months.

By now you have probably looked at our past posts talking about cloud computing and all of its benefits and downfalls. Here are some ways in which the cloud could help during disasters:

Off-site Backup Storage:

What would be the use of having a physical backup storage located in the premises of the disaster? If a physical backup is placed on site during a fire, robbery or flooding, chances are that it will also be destroyed along with everything else in the location. If the backup is stored in an offsite location, then imagine how much productivity would be lost in search for it. Having cloud-computing backup could help keep all your backed up data safe and easily accessible.

Consistent Backup:

Having a cloud service as disaster recovery can provide you with an easy way to schedule your backups in order to stay consistent. You could schedule it for every month, week or day. It could be done in real time if so needed.

Keeps Business Running:

Using the cloud can help prevent you from having to forfeit running your business if an onsite business location is off-limits. Because the cloud can be easily accessible to anywhere to anyone with access, your business could still run offsite.

Much Cheaper:

By having a cloud-based recovery service, you could eliminate any off site duplicate IT plan, which can be extremely costly depending on the magnitude of the disaster.

Tips for Using Personal Devices as a Business Device

For many small businesses financing is tight, especially during those first five or so years. Owners and managers are always looking for a way to increase productivity and raise revenue all while differentiating the business from others in your field. Finding ways to use personal devices to promote your business is key to making it through the lean years. Having a smart mobile strategy can help you manage security, data management and upkeep. Here are some clever things to think about when using your personal devices for business.

  • Keeping an Eye on Costs – Obviously if your company is trying to reduce costs, managing the multitude of devices can get overwhelming. Maintaining an inventory of your mobile assets is critical because, if you don’t know what devices you have in your organization, you won’t be able to keep track of your bills and spending, both for wireless service and for hardware. Have a set employee be the point person who keeps tabs on wireless bills, maintenance and any issues that come up.
  • Establish a Company Mobile Policy – Consider coming up with some set standards about usage for personal vs business use. This should include a policy for things such as: installment of Apps, security for business data, social media use, and a policy to report abuses and problems. A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy should also be set before employees can use a personal device for work related purposes. The Human Resources department – or a specialist if you are a small company- can review with your employees problems such as sexting, mobile harassment and driving while texting.
  • Data Management – One critical piece that can not be ignored when it comes to using data on personal devices is the management and protection of the business data you are accessing. Make sure your business data, such as contacts, pictures, files and financial information are backed up at a separate site and have security methods in place. This applies to information that could be lost or stolen if the device is taken or lost.

The Benefits of Multifunctional Printers

We are a society that demands immediate gratification and major multitasking abilities. Our smartphones allow us to have a phone conversation all while surfing the web. Our laptops work at lightening speed and can run multiple programs at once. We expect our technology to work fast and to do multiple jobs at once. This is why many companies find multifunctional printers to be such an asset to their business. Multifunctional printers, or MFPs, combine the capabilities of up to four devices: printer, copier, scanner and fax, into one piece of equipment. Let’s examine the many benefits of this device and some caveats as well.

  • Money Savers – What business doesn’t like to save money? MFPs offer the capability of gaining multiple equipment functionality at a far smaller cost than the combined price of many devices an MFP replaces. Although the purchase price for an all-in-one printer may exceed that of a traditional printer, the overall cost typically remains less than purchasing multiple machines. In addition to the savings associated with the original purchase price, maintaining one device costs less than maintaining multiple devices.
  • Space Saver – Obviously fewer devices means less space being absorbed in your office or home. For many small businesses that rely on setting up shop in a small space this can be a lifesaver. Most models now are compact thus freeing up valuable real estate on counters and in workrooms.
  • Reduction of Waste – MFPs use one set of consumable supplies for all their output options which translates into less waste. Since the machine uses the same ink/toner cartridges, it saves on buying multiple brands and, thus streamlines usage and recycling. If your company is hoping to reduce waste of electricity the MFP may be a good choice. One MFP uses less electricity than the host of devices it replaces.

Although MFPs can offer considerable advantages, they are not without their downsides as well. When you meet multiple office needs with one device, you run the risk of losing access to multiple office functions if your MFP develops problems.  For example, a problem with an ink or toner cartridge may prevent you from printing, copying and receiving faxes. Another disadvantage of a multifunctional printer includes the potential lack of quality when compared to single function devices. For example, the fax machine on a multifunctional device may not offer the same magnitude of features as those offered by a standalone fax machine. If you have questions about what kind of printer might be the best for your business talk to the experts at M&H Consulting.

 

The State of Solid State Drives

Josh Hewitt

Most of the time, your computer data is stored on a hard drive that is on a spinning
platter (think vinyl record player). When you go and open several programs, you may hear the grinding sound of it furiously reading. As of this article, the cost of a solid state drive has gone down &om what they used to cost and are quite affordable for a desktop I laptop drive replacement. What is a solid state drive? It is an all memory based data drive with no moving parts. A solid state drive, or SSD,
has many benefits which could be vital to your day to day operations.

Imagine your laptop, with the spinning platters at 5000+ rotations per minute. Remember what happens if you bumped a vinyl player (or cd player)? It would skip, and even possibly cause damage to the disc or record. This same idea applies to
that same hard drive in your desktop or laptop. The main advantage of the SSD is
there are no moving parts, so less worry about any “skipping” or damage upon bumping or moving. The other main advantage is that without the moving parts, there is less power being used and could actually help gain some battery life on a laptop! The biggest and most obvious of advantages has to be the speed. Files could open much faster, and boot times could be seconds compared to minutes.

solid state drive

The biggest things to remember are that with these drives, there are still limits in
conjunction with older hardware. If you have a machine that is 5+ years old, you may not gain much. Recently, most companies are starting to provide the option to having a SSD with newer desktops and laptops. Most desktops and laptops have the ability to handle a SSD, and M&H will be more than happy to assist in transferring your data from your old and slow hard drive. We provide the professional knowledge to carry over your data, and breath fresh air into your computer. If this is something you would like look into, please feel free to contact any of our techs and will can evaluate whether this would be a good choice for your business by calling 866-9MH-1ECH (866-964-8324) or e-mail support@mhconsults.net.

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How do you get rid of old electronics?

If your business is like many businesses, you probably have a back storeroom that has a pile of old devices, misfit gadgets and ancient computers. These discarded fossils are collecting dust and taking up valuable space in your office or possibly your home. While we all know the drill when it comes to disposing of paper, plastic and aluminum via recycling programs, we often hold onto old electronics because we don’t really know what to do with them.  Are there any parts that could be of use?  Can it just be pitched or does it need to be recycled? Here is some valuable information on getting rid of your technology safely and some resources that will guide you along the way.

Recycling in a digital world can be a little intimidating. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average home contains about 28 electronic devices including: laptops, smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. That number jumps remarkably for even small businesses. Many states have started passing e-waste regulations to save landfills from being inundated with electronics that could be dangerous. So far, 25 states have passed legislation mandating statewide e-waste recycling. Several more states are working on passing new laws or improving existing laws. If you are unsure where your state stands check out the E-Waste Map.

Looking to unload your fossil pile somewhere?  There are options available that you may want to consider and some steps you should take before you eliminate your old electronics.

  • Wipe The Memory – It doesn’t matter whether you are going to recycle the device, sell it or dismantle it for parts, always clear the memory so that the information (personal or business related) can not be uncovered. Be sure to backup the data before you do a final wipe.
  • Sell– This option is attractive to many businesses because it would be great to recoup some of the cost of the appliance. Look into options like: eBay, Craigslist, or kiosks like EcoATM. Mail-in services like Gazelle.com are also an option if you don’t mind waiting a week or more for the money.
  • Recycle – This option may mean waiting for your local electronics day or e-waste day. Your first step should be checking the manufacturer’s website to find recycling options. Large retail chains like Staples, BestBuy and Radioshack also have product drop off locations and even gift card options available.
  • Donate – A great tax break might be in your future if the technology is not completely outdated and the devices could be of use to a non-profit or community program.  Talk to local business leaders to see if there is a program in your area.

 

Spring Cleaning your Technology

Got the winter blues?  Chin up my friend because every day we get closer and closer to spring and the weather we love.  Many people find this is a good time of year to clean out things from their home and get organized again. Ahhh the annual ritual of spring cleaning!  An area that many people neglect is cleaning and organizing the technology in your home and business. Here at M&H Consulting we recommend a spring cleaning of sorts for your technology. Whether it is at home or in the office, this time of year is a great time to clean out your computer as well as cleaning up the hardware.  Here are some ideas for you “self starters” or you can call us to help you neaten things up.

Hardware – If you notice dust and debris caught in your hardware, then this is a good time to think about a professional cleaning. Dust bunnies can trap heat and shorten the life of your system. Your keyboard is probably the area that you use the most and that faces the harshest punishment. There are probably days, if not weeks, worth of chips, splashed coffee, and other debris that has been lodged inside the keyboard and between the keys.  Your tablet and mobile devices probably could use a quick swipe to clear up the touchpad and be sure debris is not blocking any ports. If you are a novice in cleaning hardware you may want to hire a professional.  If you are a “do-it-yourselfer,” you may want to try a few things.

  • First and foremost turn off any technology and unplug keyboard from the computer if you are attempting to clean up.
  • Compressed air containers can quickly remove dust and debris from visible areas.
  • Use a bleach-free disinfecting wipes to remove grime. Studies have shown that keyboards have more bacteria than toilet seats.
  • Use a soft, slightly damp lint-free cloth to clean monitors and touch screens.
  • If you know how to open the hard drive and remove dust buildup on the case fans, air vents, motherboard and CPU heatsink and fan.

Software and Apps – Evaluate all of your devices and desktop computers in your spring cleaning.

  • Remove Apps that you no longer use and check that Apps are updated.
  • Turn on automatic updates if you have not already done so.
  • Evaluate your software for potential malware and signs that it has been compromised.
  • Over time software tends to degrade so consider tweaking it to recover some of your performance level.
  • While you are at it you might as well check the security of your computer.
  • Review your system backup plan.

You may need professional help to thoroughly examine your software and hardware. Call M&H Consulting to manage your “spring cleaning” needs.