Windows 8

Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system has been available to the public now for a few months and everyone asks me, “What do you think of Windows 8?” My answer is; I like it! Somewhat like Dr. Seuss and his green eggs and ham, I like it on tablets, I like it on desktops. I like it on laptops and on ultrabooks. I like it at home and I like it at work, I like it everywhere! Now that I have professed my undying love for Windows 8, let’s talk about it some, because I didn’t love it at first.

The first device I turned on running Windows 8 was Microsoft’s Surface with Windows 8 Pro. I admit that when I was presented with the beautiful new start screen filled with live tiles I was lost. Sure I could open an application from the live tiles, and swiping through the touch interface to show more tiles was easy for anyone who has used a touch device, but where were my menus, my tools, all the things I knew and loved about Windows that made me feel comfortable working with the operating system? It was frustrating to say the least; however, it would not have stopped an average user from starting up their favorite program and getting right to work. As complaints go, to this point that is my only one.

Windows 8 is smooth, and transitions between screens are clean and quick. I have used both touch input and mouse/keyboard input, and except for a slight learning curve related to the 2 different ways of interacting with the system both worked equally well. The Metro interface, which is what Microsoft calls its new look, is beautiful and very user friendly, if sometimes a little busy when looking at a lot of live tiles. What’s a live tile? Live tiles are clickable tiles that have replaced the shortcuts on the desktop. These live tiles display a continuous stream of fresh information from the application to which they are connected — for example, the mail tile information about new email messages as they arrive like the name of the sender or the subject line. The weather tile streams the current weather, temperature, and chance of rain. Live tiles are constantly changing and updating with the latest information for you at a glance.

In our highly internet- connected world, Windows 8 has been very closely integrated with the suite of cloud services Microsoft offers. Out of the box, Windows 8 wants to connect to a SkyDrive account in order to synchronize and save your documents and pictures to Microsoft’s online storage. Your SkyDrive account is associated with a Microsoft ID that you can use to log into your Windows 8 Desktop. When you connect your login with your Microsoft ID, all of your preferences, desktop settings, and backgrounds are saved to the cloud so that no matter what Windows 8 computer you log into you will always have your settings and display preferences.

With all the new features and changes to the look and feel of the operating system, Windows 8 still has what it takes to make you feel right at home. There is a desktop tile that will bring up a familiar Windows 7 looking desktop where you can put icons and shortcuts and run all your programs that you had on your Windows 7 computer. While the newest Windows store apps designed for the Metro interface are clearly the future of many of your favorite windows applications, they are not the only programs Windows 8 can run. Microsoft claims that if it ran on Windows 7 it will run on 8, and so far I have found nothing to dispute that claim.

If you are looking at buying a new computer, I would recommend Windows 8 for home or office. Windows 8 is as stable as Windows 7 and so far seems as secure as Windows 7 with Microsoft’s regular roll out of fixes and patches coming as expected. As with any new release of an operating system, I don’t recommend just upgrading your machines or replacing them with new ones running Windows 8, unless there is a support/compatibility reason or it is part of a planned hardware refresh or replacement. Feel free to call our office at 304.342.3535 with any questions you have, and we would be happy to help you decide if now is the right time to switch to Windows 8 in your home or office.

iTunes Home Sharing – How To

As I discussed in my Apple Powered Family article, Home Sharing is a feature of iTunes that allows you to easily share your music and movies in iTunes with up to five computers in your house, as well as iOS devices like iPads and iPhones and Apple TV. Home sharing is easy to set up, and I am going to walk you through the entire process.

First, there are a few things you need: a computer running the latest version of iTunes, an Apple ID, an additional computer or iOS device with iOS 4.3 or later to share your media . You will also need some sort of network in your home. Setting up your home network is not part of this tutorial; however, at a minimum you should have a wireless router to create your home network. Once you have all these requirements covered we can get started.

  1. In iTunes click in the top left hand corner and click iTunes Store. Click Sign In if you are not already signed in.
  2. Click again and this time select preferences.
  3. Select the sharing icon at the top of the preferences window and check the box at the bottom of the window that says ‘Home Sharing computers and devices update play counts‘.
  4. Click OK.
  5. For Home Sharing to work, iTunes must be open on the computer that is sharing the media.

Next we will turn on Home Sharing on an iOS device so you can listen to your music on your iPad anywhere in your house.

  1. Touch the Settings app .
  2. Touch either the Music or Video app
  3. At the bottom of the screen enter the same Apple ID and password you use for iTunes.

  4. Exit the Settings app

In order to access the shared media from your iOS device, open the Music and touch . You will see in the list. Touch Shared and then select the library that shows up. Once the connection is made, you will see the name of the shared library at the top of your screen. The Videos app is very similar, except that the button to select the shared library is located at the top of the main screen.

That’s it. You can now watch the movies and listen to the music saved in your computer on your iOS device anywhere in your home. You can also stream music and video to an Apple TV or another computer. Now you may run in to some problems when setting this up on devices running iOS 6. Lately, some users have reported that when running the latest iOS they are unable to connect to the home shares. In my testing, this only seems to be happening when there are a large number of media files being shared. I expect Apple to have a fix for this issue on iOS devices soon.

Windows 8 Security

Windows 8 has a plethora of security features built in, including family safety settings, antivirus protection, a phishing filter, as well as data and device security. Windows 8 also takes advantage of new hardware to improve security as soon as the computer boots up, UEFI or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface. UEIF is a boot up system that has a feature called Secure Boot that helps prevent malware and unauthorized operating systems from starting when the computer boots up.

Windows 8 has a set of Family Safety tools that helps keep your family safe from internet threats. Features of these tools include web content filtering, activity reporting, time limits, and game and app restrictions. These features allow parents to see and restrict what their children are getting into on the internet. Grant access to specific sites a child has requested access to if appropriate, and limit the amount of time a child can use the computer. Game restrictions can be set based on game ratings and apps can be restricted on a per app basis.

Free antivirus and phishing filters are included with Windows 8. Windows Defender, which replaces Security Essentials, runs in the background providing real-time protection for your PC. Windows Smart Screen is a new feature that is designed to protect users from phishing scams and malware like spyware and viruses that anti-malware software might not be able to detect yet. Just because Windows 8 comes with these security applications out of the box, it doesn’t mean that your investment in 3rd party antivirus is wasted. Installing third party Antivirus software just disabled Windows Defender and takes its place without any conflict or disruption to the system.

The last security feature I will touch on in this article is Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption. In the past, this feature was only available on Enterprise or Ultimate editions of Windows. Now it is available on Pro as well as Enterprise. Turning on BitLocker encrypts your entire hard drive, and any file you save on your computer is automatically encrypted. You can also use BitLocker To Go to secure removable drives like USB flash drives. The encrypted drive can be opened on other computers using methods such as a PIN number to unlock the files. BitLocker is a must on portable devices like laptops and tablets running Windows 8 Pro, because it encrypts all of your data protecting it if the device is lost or stolen.

Windows 8 has stuffed a lot of really great features into a small space while still playing nice with the cloud and other 3rd party security applications. Microsoft has made great strides in trying to provide an operating system that is secure and has the tools to stay secure right out of the box, though you may still want to consider 3rd party antivirus just in case.

Free to be Digital in the Big City

I am a West Virginian — born and raised. I have never been away from my mountain home for more than a few weeks at a time my entire life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but… I am also hungry for technology — internet everywhere and the faster the better. I yearn to be mobile, unchained from my desk! Oh, the drama, the horror, but I digress because I am seeing a change in the city of Charleston and its people, which has me excited about technology’s role in this state, in particular. The idea of working from anywhere is starting to take root and slowly grow into something greater than the seed of promise planted in my mind years ago when I chose IT as a career.

Over the past few months, I began to notice an increase in the number of people downtown carrying mobile devices and a shift in these devices from laptops to tablets. As I sat in the Town Center Mall making use of their free Wi-Fi, I began to look around and notice a growing number of other individuals around me with tablets and laptops, even paper files, and I suddenly realized that I was not alone sitting in the center court. I was sitting in an open public area, working alongside a dozen or so other people who were, at the same time, enjoying a cup of Starbucks coffee, taking in the warm rays of the sun, and listening to the relaxing sounds of the fountain. The change has found its way to Charleston, and is being embraced. The Town Center is not the first place in Charleston to offer free Wi-Fi. Many restaurants have offered it for years, but this was the first time that I had noticed people actually working someplace open to the public where we didn’t feel obligated to buy something while we worked. It made me smile. Then it made me think.

Some parts of Charleston have begun projects to provide free Wi-Fi to the public, like the one I read about several years ago on Charleston’s East End. Charleston isn’t the only city in the state where this kind of change is happening, and it is likely not the first. But, it has been something that I have noticed more people taking advantage of lately. And, as I travel throughout the state, it is catching on like wild fire. What kind of impact would free Wi-Fi have not only all over Charleston, but throughout the state on the way we work? Would it improve productivity, or lower it. Would it cause offices to get smaller or close all together? I really don’t know. I think it would certainly change the culture of our offices and how we communicate with each other, which might be a good thing. Certain aspects of inter-office communication would become more electronic, like an increase in email communications. And, working socially in a public environment might spawn new face- to- face connections that create new business opportunities. Who knows? The possibilities are endless. What I do know is that I like the idea, and I am excited that people are embracing the idea of working untethered to an office, desk, and phone (cellphones excluded).

I would like to challenge you, my readers, to think about and comment on how you think cutting the cords that tether workers to their desk in our state might impact your business. You can comment below on our blog site;, or on our Facebook page at;