“Time is the fire in which we burn.” – Delmore Schwartz, Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day
This is one of my favorite quotes. To me it aptly describes that all things with the passage of time are used up and changed by the process into something new. This is especially true of technology. On April 8th Microsoft Windows XP will be no longer supported and should be migrated from all systems that use it. Windows XP isn’t the only Microsoft software that will be losing support. Microsoft Office 2003 will also be reaching end of life along with Exchange Server 2003. It is the end of an age — an entire line of Microsoft products that businesses have come to trust and rely on that will soon pose a risk to day to day business operations.
Windows XP found its way onto new computers as recently as 3 years ago using downgrade rights. Depending on the system, there might not be a need to completely replace the hardware. If you get a few more years out of the hardware with some fairly inexpensive upgraders, I believe it is worth taking the time to evaluate the hardware’s ability to support a Windows 8.1 installation. At this point, if you can find a copy of Windows 7 Pro to install on your machine you are in luck, but Microsoft is not creating any new licenses for Windows 7 so whatever is out in the world is all that is available. Windows 8.1 is going to be your go-to operating system for upgrading these machines. If the existing machines cannot support running Windows 8.1 and you have decided to replace your computers, you have until about October when Microsoft plans to stop providing new Windows 7 licenses to computer manufacturers like Dell and HP. I still stand behind Windows 8.1 as the best option for migrating. Windows 8.1 has run every application I have tried to install, and I can access all of my data on my file servers. The only pain point is getting used to the new start screen. Rumor is though that the next release may make this a little easier with which to deal.
When it comes to Microsoft Office, you may wonder why it would be important to upgrade when it goes out of support. Well, Office just like Windows can become a target for hackers. Frequently, viruses are spread through Office documents infected with viruses that target specific security flaws in a particular version of Word or Excel for example. Once Office 2003 goes into End of Life it will be just as big a target as Windows XP. Exchange Server 2003 is the same story as with Windows and Office just different software. If you are hosting your own email server and still running Office 2003, then Office 365 is an option I would strongly recommend. You get the latest version of Office for all of your users and get to offload the cost and headache of maintaining your own email environment to Microsoft. You no longer have to worry about your Exchange server crashing or making sure your backup is working on all your mailboxes or how much backup space those mailboxes take up. It is all included in the Office 365 service. If you have compliance requirements for email retention and legal hold, Office 365 has a solution for that as well.
It is important to have a plan or be developing a plan for migrating from these old software applications, servers, and operating systems. Let us help you develop that plan and implement it across your business. I will be holding a free seminar in the second half of April where I will introduce Windows 8.1 and talk about migrating from Windows XP and some of the issues that might arise. These seminars are small round table events open to questions and discussion so everyone attending can get the most out of the session. There will be a card sent out in the mail in the next few days with all of the information, once the date has been settled upon.
In business, if productivity is king then mobility is certainly queen. If mobility has become so important then why can’t we do all of our work on all of our devices from anywhere at any time? Well we can, but there is a catch, there’s always a catch, something we have to sacrifice. For a long time, those of us who have been entrenched in the Microsoft world of Office applications have had to leave behind the familiar applications we were comfortable using and dive into an uncertain world of apps with varying degrees of support for Office features on devices like smart phones and tablets. Today, those murky waters have cleared a bit. Microsoft has released Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for the iPad. To date, these Microsoft developed apps are now available on Windows tablets like the Surface 2 in the form of Office RT, Windows phones, iPhones, Android based phones, and now the iPad…finally. This latest iPad release brings Microsoft one step closer to providing a way for its customers to do more, on more devices, in more places.
According to Microsoft, all the content in your Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents will show up correctly in the new iPad apps. Before the release of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for iPad, other apps that claimed to be compatible with Office documents were prone to displaying some document content in a jumbled mess, especially when using advanced formatting like columns and text boxes in a Word document. Even Microsoft’s own native viewer built into the OneDrive app had trouble properly displaying some content. It is important to note that with this first release not every feature of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint is available when creating or editing a document in the new iPad apps; however, Microsoft says the most common tools are available. The new apps are compatible with both the Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage service and OneDrive Pro. This integration allows for multiple people to edit a document at the same time, providing a way for people to collaborate in real time on a document.
The new Office iPad apps are available for download for free in the app store. The free apps by themselves will only allow you to view and present documents on the iPad. When linked with an Office 365 account the editing features are unlocked. Office for iPad works with most Office 365 subscriptions and will work with the new Office 365 Personal subscription when it becomes available later this spring. You may recall Office 365 allows you to install Office on up to 5 devices. Using these apps with your Office 365 account will count as one of those installation instances. When I began writing this article, Microsoft had only just announced the release of Office for iPad so I have not yet had a chance to work with the apps. I will be attempting to write next month’s entire newsletter with these new apps to try and put them through their paces. Keep an eye on our Facebook page fb/ JacobsCompanyBITS for updates on how I like working with the new apps.
This spring seems to be a season of changes, not the least of which is the end of life of Windows XP. LogMeIn Free, another tool that has undergone some recent changes, a tool that I have used for many years and recommended to my clients, is no more. The free version of LogMeIn allowed people to easily access their computer remotely from anywhere they had access to a web browser for free. The company LogMeIn ended the free product at the beginning of March and now has only paid subscriptions to their service. LogMeIn Pro is the name of their pay product that takes the place of the Free LogMeIn product. I love this product, and if you need to have simple remote access I would recommend it to anyone. The base Pro package runs $99/year and allows you to access up to 2 computers remotely. Not a bad deal if you are willing to pay the subscription and use it frequently.
There are other free options available for remote access to your PC. Doing some research over the last several weeks I have settled on using a product called TeamViewer. It is free for private use and can be used to not only connect remotely to your own computer but can also be used to remotely control someone else’s computer if you need to share their screen to help them with a project you are collaborating on or just provide some technical support. I started using TeamViewer about 2 weeks ago and have found the product to be easy to use and set up.
If you have been using LogMeIn and like the product, I encourage you to consider staying with them and paying the $99/year. You get some great features like remote printing, file sharing, and file transfer. If you are looking for a remote desktop solution you can check out their website here, http://www.logmein.com. If you are still looking for something free because you just don’t use a remote desktop solution enough to justify paying for it, I would certainly recommend you take a look at TeamViewer. TeamViewer has some great features like being able to host a meeting and share your screen with multiple viewers over the internet. If you really like TeamViewer and want to use it for business you can purchase a license which gives you even more features. To download TeamViewer visit their web site at http://www.teamviewer.com.
Recently, I have had a number of people ask me how they can recover their Windows password on their computer. They either have not logged into their computer for a long time, or recently changed the password and forgot it, or in some cases purchased a used computer that was password protected and didn’t get the password. No matter the reason, they are locked out.
I get this request quite frequently, so I have a favorite tool I like to use, the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor. I have been using this application to crack open locked Windows machines since Windows 98. It works in every version of Windows I have tried it on. It works like this. You boot to a CD that gets created using a file you download from their site(http://pogostick.net/~pnh/ntpasswd/). There are a few selections you have to make when the computer boots up and these may be different from machine to machine. The entire process is done in a text mode that looks like DOS from the 80s. Don’t be afraid, it isn’t nearly as hard as it looks. When you finish, the tool basically blanks out the password for your computer so when you log in there is no password to enter. Here is a link to a short tutorial video that shows you the steps, http://youtu.be/Dkks4iuPqNQ. It takes longer to download the tool than it does to actually use it to clear your password. I should warn you that this type of tool should be used at your own risk. It may not work or it may damage your operating system and force you to reinstall everything on the machine. To date, I have never had this happen to me when using this tool.
If you want to avoid having to use a tool like this and you plan ahead, Microsoft provides a method in Windows 7 and 8 for creating a password reset disk on a USB flash drive. To create your Windows password, reset disk BEFORE you lock yourself out of your computer and go to the Control Panel then click on User Accounts. Once there, in the left hand column you will see a link “Create a password reset disk.” If you follow the instructions given to you by the wizard you will soon have a Windows password reset disk you can use to reset your password. Put the disk some place safe, and the next time you forget your password all you have to do is put in the disk and click the password reset link located just below the password field. Follow the onscreen instructions and you will be logged into your machine in no time.