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Category: Business, Mobile Computing.

Tablets are all over the news at the moment, whether it be an iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Asus Eee Pad or anything in between – you have to admit, they are popular. Basically most of them are just mobile phones on steroids – they provide a larger, higher resolution screen which makes things like composing emails and surfing the web much easier. Plus they are portable… very portable. But there is another contender for the portability crown that the Tablet currently holds…the netbook!

For those of you that don’t know, a netbook is basically a small laptop. They usually have a 10.1″ screen instead of the standard 15.4″ screen on a laptop. They run a normal computer operating system like Windows 7 (which means they can do everything your laptop or PC can do) but are they better than a Tablet, let’s discuss…

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Category: Mobile Computing.

We have recently been alerted by a number of our customers that their iPhones have been ‘dying’ following upgrading them to Apple’s new handset operating system.

iPhone 3GS owners have been prompted to upgrade to the new phone software – iOS4 – by iTunes. However, in many cases the upgrade fails to install properly, leaving users completely unable to operate their touch screen phones.

The way this occurs is that iTunes pops up a message to offer you an upgrade, so of course you say yes. When you next connect your iPhone to iTunes, you are prompted to upgrade the new all singing and all dancing iOS4 operating system.

After the iPhone upgrade downloads from the internet you might be lucky and everything works like a dream, but we’ve seen lots of cases of the upgrade installation failing.

This isn’t a small problem; the iPhone will go completely dead, showing either a ‘loading bar’, Apple logo or restore graphic on the screen, and iTunes will display an error code – likely to be ‘error 21’.

We’ve developed a workaround which we are confident will work in the majority of cases – provided of course nothing else is wrong with users’ phones.

The ‘fix’ for iPhone 3GS users is posted on The PC Support Group website (http://www.pcsupportgroup.com/iphone-ios4-fix/).

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Category: IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Whilst the mobile phone companies have erected a large number of telephone masts it appears that there are never enough. At PC Support Group, Edinburgh one of our sites has a less than perfect signal resulting in the occasional lost call or worse still a conversation where it sounds like you are in a wind tunnel.

A thoughtful Idea
I recently came across an ingenious device from Vodafone called Sure Signal that makes use of your broadband connection to provide another route for calls. Being at the cutting edge of technology (and getting fed up with the poor quality being experienced with our mobile signal) I recently purchased a Sure Signal device for £50.

The Setup Process
Dispatch was within 2 days and once I had my shiny new box it was powered up and connected to the Network Switch. The next stage was to register the device and add any mobile numbers. Vodafone let themselves down here by providing instructions that do not work!

After a few phone calls (with long waiting times) it was established that the wrong instructions had been sent. 24 hours later the device was activated, a few lights flashed for an hour and it then went live. I now have a perfect 3G signal throughout the office.

Having said all that we have heard some reports of people having problems with this device and not getting great support from Vodaphone so there may be some teething problems.

Conclusion
The technology works (or at least it did for us), the price is reasonable and, aside from the minor glitch with the documentation, the actual sign-up process was fairly painless. As far as I know Vodafone are the only company to produce such a device but I would expect the other major networks to follow suit in due course. Worth the money if your mobile signal is below par. Perhaps buy on a sale or return basis just in case you have the problems some others have?

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Category: Business, Home Computing, IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Printing by Wires
Typically most Home Users / Small Businesses are reliant on having a single printer that connects to the computer via a USB cable (or parallel cable for those with older models). Now this is fine for your workstation that generally doesn’t move from the desk.

The Wireless World
With the advent of wireless routers (given by the suppliers as standard nowadays) and laptops, many users have suddenly become mobile – why shouldn’t you use the computer in the lounge, kitchen or bedroom?

The Challenge
This is all very well for internet access as you can wander about the house and still gain full uninterrupted access to your email, customers sites and movies. Where the problem arise is when printing as most people don’t own a wireless printer.

Solution
Whilst it is always possible to purchase a wireless printer, for most people this is not a viable option (why get rid of perfectly good device). Now there is a little box that allows you to create a virtual wireless printer (well two printers if you need them) meaning that you can print from anywhere in the office / home. For those that want to install this yourself then have a look at the Belkin 802.11g Wireless USB Print Server at around £50 – £60. For those that would like some assistance why not give us a call on 0845 2233116.

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Category: IT Support, Mobile Computing.

My story…

Back in 2008 I was attracted to the Blackberry and over the last year have found it to be a brilliant business tool. Saying that, Apple have now got their act together and extended coverage to Orange, Vodafone and even Tesco.

Last month I accidently left me phone in the bathroom where it had the misfortune of getting rather wet – so much so that the keyboard started behaving strangely. No matter what I did (sticking on top of boiler, drying with cloth and even covering in rice it would not return to its former glory).

Never mind I thought, I’ll get a new one through my contract – no such luck as it was water damaged and this is not covered (they know because a little pad inside the phone turns red)…

Plan B was to use my mobile phone insurance that was provided as part of my Royalties account at RBS… “Sorry Sir but we don’t cover BlackBerry’s.”…

The Morale…

  • Don’t get your phone wet!
  • Check your insurance policy (most don’t cover a Blackberry or iPhone)

So What Now?

My contract is due in 2 months and I then have the opportunity to get a new phone. Saying that I really rely on my Blackberry and have to thank Tony at Veecom (www.veecom.co.uk) for saving the day by lending me a phone until renewal. What a star!

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Category: IT Purchasing, IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Up until recently I was a total Blackberry fan. Not because it is a great phone; it just did what I needed it to do; that is, make and receive calls, text and send and receive emails. That’s what I did with it for the last 18 months with my old Curve.

I never enjoyed the experience; I just got it to do what it needed to do. However about a week ago, I opened a package from the postman with excitement: it was my new HTC –Hero. I did think the phone might be a bit gimmicky and not really do what a phone is supposed to. I was partially right: it is a bit gimmicky, but useful in a fun way with Google maps, calendar, email screens, nice touch screen and a high quality display.

It also has a host of downloadable applications that are readily available in the market place and mostly for free. I managed to download Sun Tzu Art of war and it is displayed nicely and in readable format, as well as games such as Labyrinth.

The email was quick and easy to setup and use. It synchronised quickly and easily with my machine so the Outlook calendar as well as my contacts were there in a flash. There was even a quick synchronisation with Google email. Where I thought it wouldn’t meet my expectorations is its use as a mobile phone/texting machine. What I found was that it can do these things well and actually surpasses the call quality that I had from the Blackberry on both the speaker phone and handset mode.

The phone also offers conference calling and has great social functionality; tying your Facebook account with your contacts list and having Twitter availability.

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Category: Business, Cloud Computing, Mobile Computing.

Cloud computing is being talked about more and more and some are getting rather excited about it. This term is cropping up from technical seminars to the glossy magazines that come with your Sunday newspapers.

So what is cloud computing and how might it affect your business?

Cloud computing is a way of using computers where the computer resources (software and hardware) are provided as a service over the internet and are dynamically scalable and often virtual (i.e. not necessarily in one known place). What this means to users is that the information they use is stored on computers somewhere else (other than there local PC) and can be accessed where, when and how they want it.

Cloud computing customers don’t generally own the physical infrastructure on which the applications run and store the data. Instead, they rent usage from a third-party provider and then use the system as they need it, much as people use gas or electricity. The more resources they use (such as more users having access to an application or using more disk space for storing data) the more they pay.

This is a new term and is being hailed as a revolution with companies claiming to offer amazing cloud computing services.

The reality is that many businesses and home users are already using cloud computing without even realising it. Any business that uses an application operated by another company and accessed via a web browser is using cloud computing; any home user that uses a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace is using cloud computing.

The advantage of the cloud concept is that the information is held centrally (somewhere) and can be accessed from multiple locations using multiple devices.

So, should you jumping on the cloud computing band-wagon?

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Category: IT Support, Mobile Computing.

I regularly come across systems with passwords that I guess within about 30 seconds or that I know could easily be cracked within a few minutes using readily available tools.

With this in mind I thought it might be worth giving people a few ideas as to how to avoid these issues.

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t use personal data like a name or any other information that some one could easily discover about you from other sources
  • Do not choose a word (English or otherwise), proper name, name of a TV show
  • Use simple transformation of a word such as putting a number at the start or end, writing a word backwards or simply substituting a letter for a number

How Long should a password be ?

Ideally a password should be a minimum of 8 characters although longer passwords are recommended (Windows XP supports a maximum of 127!)

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Category: IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Why is it that manufacturers and the technical media are obsessed with whether laptops will be replaced by notebooks or netbooks? I think this is yet another example of the disconnection between those that immerse themselves in technology and those that operate in the “real world”.

As someone that runs an IT support business I guess I should be equally obsessed with such trivia, but I have a constant battle to ensure that everything we do in The PC Support Group is focused on our clients needs and wants, not just on the technology… The technology is there to do a job!

And this is where my concerns lie with this obsession with these gadgets. In the real world users of this technology don’t care whether it’s a laptop, notebook or netbook. They all perform pretty much the same functions; it’s just a matter of size, weight cost and a few bells and whistles.

Whether in business or pleasure, all that users want to know is will it do the job? Obviously if they want to carry it around a lot then ideally it should be light but robust. If they want to use it a lot and retain their eyesight then a screen bigger than a postage stamp is desirable. Do they want it to cost £200 or £2000? OK. Stupid question!

So, let’s make it clear to manufacturers and technical media alike, we don’t care what you call it or how you market it, to 99.9% of people it’s a portable computer and we will choose the cheapest one that fulfils our needs and wants.

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Category: IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Nowadays Mobile Broadband has come down to a price where it is potentially appealing to more than just businesses. In fact it is possible to get a dongle (the little plastic stick that plugs into the side of your computer) for as low as £10 per month. But…

Please read the small print in your contract before you sign as for the unwary there can be a big shock. In fact I just heard the horror story of someone who has only this month just had a bill for over £230!

So what happened? He was unaware of the cap or limit placed on his surfing (in fact he was totally unaware that he had exceeded anything until the bill arrived). Now most deals do include either a 1GB or 3GB cap and for most users this will be adequate for a month but if you exceed this limit there is usually no warning and it can then get VERY expensive.

At the time of writing this it appears that O2 and 3 charge the most for exceeding download limits at 19.6p per MB and 10p per MB respectively whilst Orange & Vodafone come in at a more reasonable 1.46p per MB. The exception to these rules is T-Mobile who actually provide unlimited downloads (lets hope the others follow). Saying that if you stay within the limits set then Mobile Broadband is a great way to surf the web and manage your email whilst almost anywhere in the UK (don’t even think of using it abroad with the standard packages!).

So how can you make sure that you are not the next unfortunate casualty of this opportunistic situation from the mobile operators ?

Well, one option is to use an account from T-Mobile that doesn’t operate any charges for some tariffs. Most of the other providers do provide some software with their service to allow tracking of usage. Do your homework as deals may appear to be very closely matched and it is important to take excess charges into account, as there can be huge differences between one provider and another. Information on excess charges is not always easy to find and is not obviously visible on most advertising.

So if you don’t want to be the next person featuring in the tale of horrors do your homework before running wild with your mobile broadband connection.