Apple World Wide Developer Conference

Every year Apple hosts their developer conference where they introduce new software, the latest versions of iOS 10 and OS X, and highlight new features of both iOS and OS X. This always leads to speculation about the hardware Apple has in store on which to run these operating systems. If Apple stays true to their release schedule, when iOS 8 is released in the fall a new iPhone and iPad as well as new Macs will be released as well. Until then, all we have to tide us over is a pack of cool new features we can expect to have available this fall.

I have written about The Internet of Things quite a bit. Well Apple has jumped on the bandwagon with a new developer tool that will make creating apps for home automation easier. This new tool kit is called HomeKit. With its release you should start seeing a lot more native and integrated apps for your iPhone and iPad hit the market by this fall. Apple also released iCloud Drive. iCloud Drive is intended to be a direct competitor to Google Drive and OneDrive. iCloud Drive is cloud storage that can sync your documents across multiple devices including iOS devices, Mac OS X computers, and Windows Computers. For me, one of the most exciting new features for iOS 8 is Family Sharing for iTunes accounts. Family sharing links up to 6 accounts to the same credit card. It allows parents to approve or block purchases via notification on their own devices. This lets me set my sons up with their own iTunes accounts for their devices and lets me use one credit card for my entire family’s purchases, and when my boys want to download an app I can get notified and choose to approve the purchase or not. Family Sharing also allows me to share Find My Friends locations across devices, share calendars, share photos, and share reminders. This is going to be a great feature for parents of teens and grade school age kids. Finally, there are some cool continuity features that are great if you are both a Mac user and an iOS device user. Now you can start and receive calls on your Mac. You can start an email on your iPhone and finish it on your Mac. Airdrop now also works between Mac and devices running iOS 8.

These are just a few of the really cool new developments that came out of the conference. Since the test or Beta release of iOS 8 a host of new features has been shared with the public and we have not yet scratched the surface. For most of us, we will have to wait till the fall to get our hands on the new devices expected to be out with the new operating systems on them or to download them to our current generation devices.

No, Antivirus Is Not Dead

Over the past few months I have seen articles both in IT publications and business publications that I read with titles like ‘Is Antivirus Dead?’ Of course I read a few of them and the short answer is no. Antivirus is still a valuable part of what should be a multi-part security plan. Once I read several of these articles they all agreed — Antivirus was not dead, just different.

Hackers are getting very good at finding ways to penetrate computer systems, bypassing your antivirus software completely. These hackers use legitimate applications to do their initial dirty work and open the door. Some of these applications are installed covertly using flaws in unpatched web browsers and browser add-ins. Patching is very important and so is removing any unused software or browser add-ins from your computer. Regular inventories of software that are installed on home or business computers go a long way to helping minimize the risk of infection. Also, using your computer in a safer way is very important. By this I mean locking down the computer so that the username you use to log in with every day has the power to do what you need to do every day and nothing else. By nothing else I mean not being able to install software and not having administrative rights to everything on the computer or network. As part of this system lockdown, following a list of security best practices is highly recommended. You can find these types of best practices on line in websites like Microsoft and the NIST website, My recommendation would be to take a look at these suggested security settings with your CIO, CSO, or IT consultant and determine what works best for your organization and your users. This list of settings along with antivirus, software patching, and software inventory will go a long way toward securing your computers and servers from potential attack. This new security plan should be looked at and reevaluated at least annually.

It is important for business owners, management, and ‘ executives to be involved in the planning of security policy and implementation to ensure success. B.I.T.S. provides Virtual CIO and IT consulting services to help your business build and implement strong security policies and procedures in order to keep your system safe and ensure these IT policies align with business requirements and goals.

Wearable Technology Sill Gaining Popularity

My oldest son, who has never met a stranger, struck up a conversation with a man in a restaurant the other day when the man’s watch caught his eye. This wasn’t just any watch — it was wearable technology. It was a device that integrated with the man’s cellphone, allowing him to use and manage several features of his cellphone from his wrist without ever removing his cellphone from his pocket.

Smart watches like the one that caught my son’s eye have increased in popularity this past year. One of the more popular makers is Pebble who has models that work with both Android and Apple iOS devices. They allow for more discreet use of your mobile technology and some even allow you to take pictures using the watch. Other popular wearables are the health sensors like Fitbit and Nike+ FuelBand. These wearable health sensors track pulse, sleep patterns, and activity levels. These sensors sync with apps on mobile devices that track your health goals and progress.

These health tracking wearable sensors are getting so popular that Apple at their recent World Wide Developer Conference demoed their new Health app which stores all your health data and a tool for developers called HealthKit that allows developers to access the health data stored on your mobile device creating an opportunity for new, more in-depth health information to be presented to you when you ask Siri how you are doing.

What about Google Glass? As far as popularity, Google’s experimental heads up display you wear like glasses has drawn the ire of nearly everyone in the vicinity of someone wearing one. The people who have had the opportunity to use Google glass have in general reported positive experiences using the device. This is in contrast to the experiences they have reported when wearing Google Glass around others. People tend to poke fun and have even been known to verbally and physically attack Glass wearers while they talk to themselves.

Wearable technology is still very new, and people’s acceptance of such devices being integrated into their everyday lives has come with some ups and downs. The wearable electronics trend is coming and looks to me like it isn’t showing any sign of stopping. As developers and manufactures figure out what people want and will accept socially more devices will begin to show up in our everyday lives.

Surface Pro 3

It’s here — the latest version of the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet, the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft is very proud of the Surface in all its incarnations up to this point, as well they should be. Microsoft however still maintains that the Surface is less of a product and more of a reference design for their many hardware partners. And in looking at the latest Surface Pro, it is one heck of a reference. Microsoft is looking to replace the traditional laptop with a touch device, and with this device they may have done it. The processor, storage, and memory options are just about the same as what I will get when I configure a laptop from Dell or HP. Starting with the processor, you get to choose between Intel Haswell i3, i5, or i7 processors. You can choose either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and storage choices range between 64GB SSD and 512GB SSD.

A major difference between the latest Surface Pro and its predecessors is size. The new Surface Pro has a 12in. display, which is larger than the 10 in. Surface Pro2. The Surface Pro 3 is also thinner by almost half and is lighter by nearly ¼ of a pound. According to Panos Panay the decision to change the size of the tablet is an effort to make it more familiar, like a pad of paper which is incidentally nearly the same size.

The cameras got an upgrade to 5MP with 1080P resolution. The screen also got an upgrade in resolution which is now 2160 X 1440. The battery can run the device for up to 9 hours of continuous web browsing. The new pen — don’t call it a stylus — can turn on the tablet and open OneNote with a single click of the “eraser”. Surface Pro 3 is really a nice laptop without a keyboard.

Do you need a keyboard and a mouse? The old Surface Type Covers will snap right in and work; however, they are not quite large enough to protect the screen when closed. A new Surface Pro 3 Type Cover is available for $129.99. If you got the Docking station for the Surface Pro 2, don’t expect it to work with the Surface Pro 3. A new Docking Station is available for the new larger Surface Pro 3 for $199.99.

With all the great new upgrades and features for the Surface Pro 3 there is still one major disappointment for me when it comes to this tablet. It still lacks 4G wireless. Don’t get me wrong, the Surface Pro 3 certainly has its wireless bases covered with Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac/802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi technologies. I still sometimes need to connect to the internet where there is no Wi-Fi available.

Priced between $799 and $1,949 there seems to be a configuration to meet everyone’s needs and budgets. The Surface Pro 3 comes with Windows 8.1 installed but unlike the Surface RT does not have a free year of Office 365 included. To find out even more about the new Surface Pro 3 head over to or Facebook/Surface for tons of pictures and videos.

My Cloud Storage Dilemma

Being the tech-first kind of guy that I am, I am in the cloud. The problem is I am not just in the cloud I am all over it. My digital data is sprawled out from here to the metaphorical Timbuktu. In an effort to simplify my digital life, I have tried dozens of cloud storage services from services dedicated to specific types of files like Flickr for images to more general storage solutions like iCloud and OneDrive. In all this searching, I have littered the web with my digital content with no way of knowing what I have where.

Since I talked about spring cleaning my applications in my Into The Breach article; perhaps, I should take a look at cleaning up the content I have strewn across the internet. Thinking long and hard about the best way to do this I have concluded that the fewer services I have to deal with the better. Since I don’t showcase any pictures or video, pushing my content to a specialty services like Flickr doesn’t make much sense to me. In the long run, I just want to keep my data safe and archive older content some place other than on my hard drive. I am going to use Microsoft OneDrive for this, but Google Drive or any other similar cloud storage should work just fine.

The OneDrive App on my PC lets me choose what folders on OneDrive I sync with my PC while leaving everything else up in the cloud. Here is what I have done so far. I have gone out and downloaded all the content I could remember putting on various services across the web. On OneDrive I have a Sync folder with subfolders for Pictures, Videos, Music, and Documents. In the settings for the Microsoft OneDrive app I selected the Sync folder as the only folder to sync with my computer from the cloud. This copied the sync folder and the subfolders. When I save something to my computer I save it to the folder inside the Sync folders I created to my computer. Now I (try to) save everything to the correct folders in the new Sync folder on my computer. Every weekend I go through the folder and delete anything I no longer need. Then, if I have a file that I need to keep but no longer work on I move it to its proper place on OneDrive inside the OneDrive website to archive. All the stuff I still need to access frequently stays in the sync folder for easy access from all of my devices. When I run out of space I can just subscribe to more for a very reasonable annual fee.

If you are like me, a little organization and discipline when working with your own digital content will go a long way toward keeping your digital content from being spread across the web like the Legos I find strewn throughout my house by my 3 not so organized little boys.

Spring Cleaning

Keeping your applications up to date is one of the best ways you can protect your computer and other devices from viruses and attackers. Spring is in full swing. As a matter of fact, it is almost summer so now is a perfect time to clean out your device, get rid of unused applications, and make sure the ones you keep are up to date.

Applications purchased or downloaded through a store like iTunes for iOS devices or Google Play for Android devices make updating easy. Just press a button and all of your apps will be updated with the latest content and security patches. In some cases, you can even set the device to do this for you on a regular basis. Windows Store apps even benefit from this easy update approach, but what about everything else? Some applications like current versions of Adobe Reader which is a common target for hackers now include their own auto update feature to help keep the applications secure and up to date.

It is important however to be proactive in making sure all your applications are updated regularly. Microsoft Update defaults to trying to update the operating system and other Microsoft applications every day, should you do the same for other applications? In my opinion, probably not. I would recommend sitting down once a month with your favorite beverage or snack and checking the applications on your computer for updates. If an application doesn’t have a built in update tool check creator’s website for updated versions.

Scheduling time to check and make sure your applications are up to date doesn’t just help keep your computer more secure and running right, but by making this sort of a checkup part of your regular routine lets you take stock in what applications you have installed and what applications you use so you can keep your computer nice and tidy and running great for years to come.

Father’s Day Gadgets

Father’s Day is just around the corner, and folks always start to ask: What should I pick up for dad to say thanks for being awesome? Let’s face it; we dads can only be described as awesome. Most guys I know like gadgets and gizmos, so let’s see what cool things we can find for dads this year.

I hate yard work, more specifically mowing the lawn. Recently, I started seeing commercials for robotic lawn mowers. Roombas that cut grass! Cool!!! A little Googling and I found numerous autonomous lawn mowers from well-known brands like John Deere and Husqvarna to newcomers like Lawnbott. With prices ranging from $2000 and up this may be a little out of most folks’ Father’s Day budget, but hey a dad can dream.

Maybe your dad is getting in shape and some wearable tech would be a great way to help dad out. Wearables took the consumer world by storm this year and their primary function seems to be to help keep us honest about our fitness activities. Wearables like Fitbit and the Jawbone Up24 do a great job of helping to keep track of active healthy lifestyles. These little gadgets tend to cost somewhere between $100 and $200.

Near and dear to my heart is the Roku which brings streaming media to any TV. Now the tiny unassuming Roku Stick is available for $49.99 and is about the size of a thumb drive. The Roku Stick plugs into an HDMI port on the TV and requires power from an external adapter. With some simple Setup you have wireless streaming access to over 1,000 channels of internet content.

No matter if your dad is into sports, outdoors, or movies and music there is an amazing array of gadgets available. These are just a few of the items I have been dropping hints to my wife about for this Father’s Day. I am really good at dropping hints, but the odds are still pretty good I will be getting a new tie this Father’s Day. Why? Well because my wife’s idea of a wearable gadget is a musical neck tie. Oh well, like I said, we dads are awesome and all we really need is for those who love us to let us know they think we are awesome too.

B.I.T.S. Partners to Provide Hosted Phone Solution

I have talked many times about cloud based services and their benefits. I have also discussed in previous newsletter articles the merits of VoIP and Hosted VoIP solutions. I am thrilled to announce B.I.T.S . has recently partnered with David Fisher of Unified Card Communications and Comm-Core to begin providing our clients with a powerful, flexible, affordable Hosted IP/PBX solution.

The hosted VoIP solution works by providing phones as endpoints just like a regular phone system. The difference is that unlike a regular phone system there isn’t a big box on the wall with a bunch of wires coming out of it that you have to buy. The phones connect over the internet to a software based phone system hosted in the cloud. Phones can be placed anywhere you have an internet connection and can be connected using the same existing connections to which your computers connect. Because the phones connect to the phone system over the Internet they are inherently mobile, making it easy to work from home. This mobility also means that disaster recovery is built in. If you can connect the phone to the internet you can work. This portability coupled with features like auto attendant allows you to never miss a call. Whether you are traveling or your office is down, your customers will never know the difference.

The Comm-Core solution gives you all the features of a large enterprise phone system at a fraction of the cost monthly. You can lease the phones and other hardware needed to get started or buy it all outright. The choice is yours. One of the more unique features of the Comm-Core system is that they install a separate router on your network dedicated to providing the best quality of service over the Internet they can at each site. This router is part of the equipment lease and is well worth the investment to guarantee clear consistent calling.

If your phone system is getting older, it is more of a liability than an asset to your business. The older the phone system gets the more likely it is to fail and the harder it becomes to find parts and support for the system. With a hosted VoIP solution, every time the provider upgrades their system you automatically get an upgrade. Then the only hardware to replace is the phone, and because the system is so flexible nearly any IP based phone can be configured to work. Give us a call to get a free estimate on a hosted IP phone system for your business.

The Risk of Running XP after April 8, 2014

Windows XP is, in the opinion of many, the best operating system Microsoft has ever produced. On April 8, 2014 Microsoft finally ended support for the aging operating system. This venerable operating system continues to function just like it always has, steadfast and resolute; however, now danger lurks in every shadow, ready to make Windows XP an intolerable security risk. Surfing the Internet, reading email, and even putting a flash drive in the USB port could lead a security breach against which there will never be a defense. Antivirus and firewalls can help stave off many threats; however, when the core of the operating system is vulnerable because it can no longer be patched against threats tools like firewalls and antivirus that rely on information from the operating system cannot be entirely trusted to keep your data safe.

Twenty days after the last patches for Windows XP went out, a flaw was found in Internet Explorer versions supported by XP. These Internet Explorer versions running on XP will not receive any patches due to the fact the operating system is unsupported. What makes this flaw even more dangerous is the media coverage it has received. Major news outlets have been reporting on the flaw since FireEye made it public, news outlets like ABC News, Time, the Washington Post, Fox News, and even BBC. This is the first of many security holes that will continue to be punched in the operating system never to be plugged.

Another threat to the security of Windows XP is the continued patching of modern operating systems like Windows 7 and 8. Attackers routinely reverse engineer Windows security updates every patch Tuesday to develop ways to exploit these flaws in unpatched systems. How can patches for other newer operating systems affect Windows XP, you may ask? All versions of Windows share some common code. Microsoft doesn’t start from scratch with each new operating system it releases. In fact, according to a broadcast I watched, Microsoft stated that between July, 2012 and July, 2013 45 security patches were released for Windows XP. Of those 45 security patches 30 also affected Windows 7. Just over 66% of all the security threats discovered for Windows XP in that time frame of 1 year affected modern and legacy operating systems. If that trend continues over the next year, every month Windows XP will become more and more of a target.

The best course of action when deciding how to combat this threat is, of course, to migrate to a newer supported operating system. If that is not an option, taking your Windows XP clients off of the network and physically separating them from the rest of the world is the next best thing. Virtual machines not allowed to access the Internet are also a valid solution. If your XP systems have to be connected, the only way to protect your data is to perform multiple, regular offline backups of the system and the data to ensure you can revert to a previous version any time the XP system is compromised. Call me for a free basic assessment of your Windows XP systems and for a recommendation on how best to migrate to a more secure environment today.

Securing Your Internet of Things

Some of you may have seen or heard about the Ohio family that had their Internet connected baby monitor hacked. If you have not read the story, you can read it here ( With 3 small children at home, this story struck a nerve with me. I frustrate my wife to no end with the security I set on the tech in our home, but that doesn’t always mean I maintain that security the way I should. This story however drives home the point that not being diligent in securing your home technology could leave you exposed.

Here are some tips to help you keep your internet connected devices and accounts at home more secure. First make sure you change the password on any new device you connect to your home network or WiFi. This includes your router, internet cameras, computers, and anything else you connect. Make sure when you set up your WiFi you secure it using a long, strong password. When you get a new device, check with the manufacturer to see if there are any updates available to download and then continue to check regularly to make sure your hardware is patched and secure. If your hardware manufacturer does not update their products, it might be a good idea to find another product. You could also write to the manufacturer or find them on social media and insist they provide at least security updates for the products they sell. Finally, change your passwords on your devices and accounts regularly and don’t use the same password on all of your devices and accounts.

It is important to be proactive in securing your home network. The hacker in the story I shared was more of an annoyance than anything else, but just like they mention in the story any device on your home network that an attacker can access is a place from which an attacker can stage more attacks from. Remember, similar plans should be in place at your office to make sure your equipment is patched regularly and that the passwords are changed to help prevent an attack.