Microsoft lures nonprofits with Office 365 freebie

Posted by admin on Sep 14, 2013

Nonprofit organizations will be able to sign up for Office 365 for free or at a reduced price as part of a new program Microsoft launched Tuesday. Properly certified nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 41 countries can apply to the Office 365 for Nonprofits program. Microsoft expects to offer the program in 90 countries by July. “Nonprofits are seeing more and more the advantages of cloud computing, but they often can’t access it because of costs and other reasons,” said Lori Harnick, general manager of Microsoft’s Citizenship & Public Affairs group. While Microsoft has had a software donation program for years, this is the first time it will offer Office 365 in this manner, she said.

Customers can subscribe to the Office 365 Enterprise E1 plan for free for an unlimited number of seats. This plan, which normally costs $8 per user, per month, includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and the browser-based Office Web Apps. For an additional per user, per month charge of $2, customers can get the full Office ProPlus productivity application suite streamed down and installed on users’ desktops. Exchange Online Archiving costs $1 per user, per month extra. Customers also have the option of signing up for Office 365 Enterprise E3 at $4.50 per user, per month, a reduction from the regular price of $20 per user, per month.

Following Google’s lead

While it’s a good move to cater to nonprofits with Office 365, Microsoft is following rival Google, which has had a free nonprofit edition of its Apps email and collaboration suite since 2007. ”My take is that Google Apps for Nonprofits was doing very well in the market, and Microsoft needed to combat Google’s inroads with a more attractive Office 365 no fee offer,” Gartner analyst Matt Cain said via email. However, a difference is that Apps for Nonprofits is only available in the U.S., England and Wales. In addition to giving Office 365 a competing offer among nonprofits against Google Apps, the product earns Microsoft points for corporate citizenship, according to TJ Keitt, a Forrester Research analyst. ”It provides organizations performing public services an affordable tool for communication and collaboration,” he said via email. Moreover, this nonprofit offering expands the pool of people exposed to Office 365, potentially creating future customers for the paid editions, Keitt said.

How Windows 8 Trumps Non-Windows Competition

Posted by admin on Jul 23, 2013

You may not like Windows 8, but Microsoft Windows did not become the all-encompassing king of the desktop out of sheer luck. Here are a dozen reasons why Microsoft’s latest operating system beats OS X, Linux and Chrome OS.

1) Vast Software Library – including apps and full fledged software and games

2) Backward Compatibility – You can run programs all the way back to good old DOS

3) Games – No PC can handle games as well as Windows

4) Syncing – Windows 8’s syncing options exceed Apple’s in almost every respect

5) Native Web Browser – Internet Explorer may not be your browser of choice, but it is included with every version of Windows… right from a fresh install

6) Security – For the past two years, Internet Explorer has been the target of far fewer exploits than Safari, Chrome or Firefox.

7) Widespread Compatibility – Almost every hardware device supports Windows PCs

8) Multiple Monitor Support – It is simple to setup and configure, Mac and Linux are not quite as easy.

9) System Search – Search for files, programs, and even internet results in once place

10) Multitasking – If you have a plethora of programs open, Windows 8 will handle it the best

11) New Car Smell – Windows 8’s new Refresh option makes clearing out the cobwebs effortless

12) Getting Things Done – When it is time to roll up your sleeves and get some work done, nothing tops a Windows machine

The Windows Family Tree

Posted by admin on Mar 15, 2013

Well, Windows 8 has been out for a few months, and people seem to be torn between loving it or hating it.  Many of our customers ask us “why did Microsoft have to change Windows?”  In actuality, Windows has gone through some really drastic changes in the almost 30 years since its first launch.  Here is a brief history…

1985 – Windows 1.0 ships (no one predicted big things for this somewhat clunky visual file-management utility)

1987 – Windows 2.0 (not only graphical, but you could now overlap open windows)

1990 – Windows 3.0 ships (this version transformed the way that users interacted with their PCs)

1992 – Windows 3.1 (revamped to include networking and better memory management)

1994 – Windows 95 launches (the first complete operating system, essentially killed off DOS)

1998 – Windows 98 (this was the staple operating system for many computers, for many years)

2000 – Windows 2000 (a business-class operating system, equipped with networking and file sharing)

2000 – Windows ME (basically a “repackaged” Windows 98, that did not get high praises)

2001 – Windows XP arrives (merged 2000 and ME into Microsoft’s most successful operating system to date)

2007 – Windows Vista (as with ME, this version did not go over well with technicians and users alike)

2009 – Windows 7 released (proved to be the comeback OS that Microsoft needed)

2012 – Windows 8 debuts (completely changing the way we interact with our computers)

Looking at this extensive list, you may notice a few things.  Firstly, Microsoft released a new operating system about every 2-3 years… except for Windows XP which did not get replaced for almost 6 years.  That is one reason why many expected greater things from Vista.  They had an extra 3 years to get it right.  Many believe that they were actually working on Windows 7, but since it wasn’t ready yet, they decided to launch Vista to keep the revenue flowing in.

Another thing you may notice is that only every third operating system was a hit.  Is it just that Microsoft’s software developers are really crappy at developing new software? Or is it that they push the boundaries so much that it takes us users a bit to get used to it.  For example, when Windows 1.0 launched, we were all using DOS.  Comfortable DOS.  Why change?  By the time we got used to the graphical interface, Windows 3.0 was out.  Windows was finally a big hit! Then we got comfortable again… until Windows 98 launched, and we were again pushed out of our comfort zone.  This time, however, the users embraced the changes.  Same thing happened with Windows XP, and Windows 7.  Windows 8 is really that “in-between” operating system that is pushing us to rethink how we use the computer.  Are we ready for it yet?  Probably not, but give us time – we will learn to love it.

Avoid Windows 8 with Classic Shell

Posted by admin on Feb 26, 2013

Taken from PCWorld Magazine, February 2013

Classic Shell may be the ultimate free tool for bypassing Windows 8’s controversial tile-based interface.  Once installed, you will see a new icon in the lower-left corner of Desktop Mode’s taskbar.  Click it, and a Windows Start menu very like the one in Windows Vista or Windows 7 will appear.  In the Settings window, toward the bottom of the Basic Settings tab, is an option for “Skip Metro Screen”. Uncheck this entry if you ever want to abandon Classic Shell and restorer the normal Windows 8 desktop.  Click the “All Settings” button and you will get 13 tabs for further customizing your Start menu.

So, if you are stuck with buying a system with Windows 8 installed, but want the look and feel of Windows 7, then Classic Shell is perfect for you!

Five Things You Must Know About Office 2013

Posted by admin on Feb 22, 2013

Taken from PCWorld Magazine, February 2013

Microsoft’s new Office blends cloud services with Office 2013, the core desktop application.  As sleek, revamped appearance and features designed for cloud integration are just the beginning of all the changes.

Syncing Across Devices – When you save Office documents online, they will be available to you from any device through Web Apps.  In addition, it will retain the last location where you were working before you saved – down to the letter, cell or image.

SkyDrive Integration – Your work now integrates with the cloud, by way of SkyDrive.  When you save a document, worksheet, or presentation by default will save the item to your SkyDrive account, but you can save locally as well.

Touchscreen Use – Some new Office 2013 features are designed to make working with a touchscreen easier, however, touch integration is somewhat erratic.

PDF Editing – With the new Word 2013, you can now open PDF files, edit them, and the save them as either .docx files or PDFs.  So now you can just open a PDF file and get straight to work.

More Graphics Options – New icons on the Insert tab of the ribbon toolbar will now let you insert pictures from your local PC or from different online sources.

The New Windows Ecosystem

Posted by admin on Feb 12, 2013

So what is Microsoft trying to accomplish with Windows 8 anyway?  Well, although I have not switched over to the Windows 8 platform on my systems yet, I can see where MS is heading.  They are trying to get all of their systems on the same platform – PCs, tablets, phones, game systems, the cloud, etc.  If their plan is successful, you would be able to switch from device to device, and have the same apps available on each of them, and be able to use the same interface on all of them.

With SkyDrive, all of your devices could share the same files, located in the same place.  Take a picture with your Windows Phone, save it to SkyDrive, and then edit it on your laptop.  Put together a presentation on your desktop, and present it with your tablet directly from SkyDrive.  Of course, it all depends on a good internet connection.

The Xbox always did a good job with music and video, so imagine if you could have the same features and speed when using your phone or tablet.  You could find the movie you want to watch with your tablet, and then send it to your TV to watch it.

Finally, that really cool app you just installed on your phone could also be installed on your tablet, laptop or even Xbox.  The main benefit behind using the same operating platform on all your devices is that you can use the same programs.  This saves a lot of time and aggravation having to learn new software all the time.

Finally, you can tie all your devices and cloud services together using your Windows Live ID – now called your Microsoft Account.  You can also tie in your other accounts such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter.  All those services then become integrated with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, and they will be tied to any device that you log in to.

I don’t think that the average user is ready for this transition yet… but they may not have a choice soon.  In the very near future, every PC that you buy will have Windows 8 installed.

Returning a Start Button to Windows 8

Posted by admin on Feb 5, 2013

Do you own a system with Windows 8?  Do you wish you could get back that traditional Start Button from Windows XP/Vista/7?

Stardock’s Start8 tool restores a Start Button to the Windows 8 desktop, for just $5.

Longtime Windows users have criticized Microsoft for yanking the Start Button and forcing them to book to the new title-based Start screen rather than letting them opt for the traditional desktop interface.  Start8 drops users directly onto the traditional desktop.  It also adds configuration and personalization options, the ability to search in Control Panel apps, and support for pinning in Jump Lists.  Microsoft has blocked other Start button workarounds, but Stardock believes that it would be very difficult for Microsoft to do the same with Start8.  “The reason Microsoft can’t easily break us… is that those programs relied on a Registry switch to do it, which Microsoft removed,” says Stardock CEO Brad Wardell.  To get the app, click here.

Windows 8 Upgrade Offer

Posted by admin on Sep 4, 2012

When Windows 8 is launched next month, you will be able to upgrade to the pro version for just $40 for a limited time.  The deal will apply to PC owners now running Windows XP, Vista or 7, and you will be able to download the Windows Media Centre for free.

If you plan to upgrade to Windows 8 eventually, here are the facts that you need to know abou the limited-time upgrade deal.  First of all, you will have to wait until the official launch on October 26th to sign up for the upgrade.  Secondly, you will only be able to purchase the upgrade at the $40 price until January 31, 2013.  If you are upgrading from Windows 7, you will be able to migrate your programs, settings and data to Windows 8.  If you are upgrading from Vista, you will not be able to migrate your programs, and if you are upgrading from XP, you will only be able to take your data with you.  We recommend that you start with a fresh install, no matter what version of Windows you are upgrading from – it is always better to start with a clean slate.

Two Monitors, One Pic

Posted by admin on Jul 28, 2012

You want to spread a wallpaper across two monitors?  The first thing you will need is a large enough photo… as wide as the two monitors put together, and as high as the taller of the two.  Next, in Windows 7, right click the desktop and select Personalize.  Near the bottom of that windows, click the Desktop Background link.  In that window, you can select the folder containing your desired background and the photo (or photos) you want to use.  Then, at the bottom of the window, click the Picture Position drop-down menu and select Tile – the only option that will display the image in its original size.

For Security, Install Laptop Tracking Software

Posted by admin on Jul 25, 2012

Taken from PCWorld Magazine, July 2012 Edition

One way to keep your laptops from being stolen (or from remaining stolen) is to install tracking software.  Using selveral different elements, including IP address locations, Wi-Fi positioning, and even the ability to turn on the notebook’s webcam remotely, laptop-tracking software can help you get a lost or stolen system back.  ActiveTrak’s Gadget Trak, Flipcode’s Hidden, and Absolute Software’s LoJack for Laptops are just a few examples of such software.  Costs range from $15 to $30 per year, and are well worth every penny.

If you are unsure as to which software is right for you, then ask your IT guy for advice.  If you need and IT guy, give us a call!