Technology Tips

Windows 8 Now Available For Pre-Orders

Microsoft opened its Windows 8 operating system for pre-orders on Friday, setting the price for an upgrade to the full version of the software at $69.99 for a DVD pack.

Users can also wait for the official launch on October 26 to download the system onto their computers for $39.99, an offer price that will expire at the end of January. PCs running Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 will be allowed to upgrade to Windows 8.

Shoppers can reserve the software pack at Microsoft’s own stores,, Best Buy, Staples, New Egg and other retailers. Microsoft has not yet announced the price of the full software to install from scratch, as opposed to the upgrade. The current price for a comparable version of Windows 7 is $199.99.

Any customer who buys, or already bought, a Windows 7 PC between June 2 and the end of January 2013 will be able to get an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $14.99, a move designed to prevent a drop-off in PC sales before the launch of Windows 8.

Microsoft also said PC makers such as Acer, Asustek, Dell, HP, Samsung and Sony were also now taking pre-orders for machines with Windows 8 pre-installed.

With all the interest in iPads and tablets, PC sales are taking a beating. Last Thursday, Dell, HP and Intel stock fell to 52 week lows and many manufacturers are cautious about the upcoming Christmas selling season as well. On Monday, AMD lowered its outlook and expects revenue to drop by 10% due to the weak demand in the PC market.

Microsoft did not mention its own Surface tablet PC, which is expected on the market at the same time as Windows 8 and Microsoft has not yet revealed the selling price of the product it hopes will challenge the Apple iPad.

Free Computer Security

Keep your PC secure by updating insecure 3rd party programs installed on your computer.

We’re always harping on folks to do their Critical Windows Updates on a regular basis but what about all the other programs you’ve installed on your computer. Trying to keep all those applications updated and secure manually could take an awful lot of time and become a real hassle.

Secunia Personal Software Inspector might just be your salvation.

Secunia PSI 3.0 is a free computer security solution that identifies vulnerabilities in non-Microsoft (third-party) programs which can expose PCs to attacks. Simply put, it is scanning software which identifies programs in need of security updates to safeguard the data on your PC against cybercriminals. It then supplies your computer with the necessary software security updates to keep it safe.

The Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) even automates the updates for your insecure programs, making it a lot easier for you to maintain a secure PC. Using a scanner like Secunia PSI 3.0 is complementary to antivirus software, and as a free computer security program, it’s essential for every home computer.

If you don’t want to install Secunia PSI on your home computer, there’s Secunia’s OSI (Online Software Inspector) that runs from their website.

The Secunia Online Software Inspector, or short OSI, is a fast way to scan your PC for the most common programs and vulnerabilities, thus checking if your PC has a minimum security baseline against known patched vulnerabilities.

Use the Secunia OSI to get a feel for the Secunia Software Inspector technology, then upgrade to the Secunia PSI or CSI, which covers practically all programs on your PC, whereas the OSI checks less than 100 programs.

Feature Overview:

  • Detects insecure versions of common/popular programs installed on your PC
  • Verifies that all Microsoft patches are applied
  • Assists you in updating, patching, and protecting your PC
  • Activates additional security features in Sun Java
  • Runs through your browser. No installation or download is required
  • If you run the Secunia PSI or CSI – then you’re already covered


Keep in mind that Secunia OSI is a manual solution that only checks the top 100 applications while PSI, once installed, will automatically keep all your software up to date.

Either way – Secunia Personal Software and their Online Software Inspector are both FREE for home users. The Corporate products are pay per user solutions and you can get a quote right from their website,

Microsoft Simplifies Windows 8 Licensing

Microsoft simplifies Windows 8 EULA

Microsoft’s Windows EULA (end-user license agreement) has traditionally been comprised of much Mumbo-Jumbo legalese. According to an article from ZDNet though, with Windows 8, Microsoft has completely rewritten the agreement in “plain English”.

Although the full text has yet to be released, and is still subject to change, here’s a look at specific paragraphs that make the license appear clearer and easy to understand. Microsoft has split the EULA into two parts: an introductory FAQ and a second half which covers terms in greater detail, such as the right to create backups of your Windows discs.

In the section titled, “How can I use the software?”

The software is licensed, not sold. Under this agreement, we grant you the right to install and run one copy only on the computer with which you acquired the software (the licensed computer)…

We do not sell our software or your copy of it – we only license it. Under our license, we grant you the right to install and run that one copy on one computer (the licensed computer), for use by one person at a time, but only if you comply with all the terms of this agreement. Typically, this means you can install one copy of the software on a personal computer and then you can use the software on that computer.

We do not sell our software or your copy of it – we only license it. Under our license, we grant you the right to install and run that one copy on one computer (the licensed computer) as the operating system on a computer that you build for your personal use, or as an additional operating system running on a local virtual machine or a separate partition, subject to the restrictions outlined under “Are there things I’m not allowed to do with the software?”

For your convenience, we’ve organized this agreement into two parts. The first part includes introductory terms phrased in a question and answer format; the Additional Terms and Limited Warranty follow and contain greater detail. You should review the entire agreement, including any linked terms, because all of the terms are important and together create this contract that applies to you.

The “System Builder” license, which is now known as a “Personal Use” license, affords end-users the ability to buy and install the software themselves. This is quite a change from the current System Builder license, an agreement which expressly prohibits this behavior.

If you noticed, referenced in the EULA is a section labeled, “Are there things I’m not allowed to do with the software?” The following paragraph is text from that portion of the agreement.

You may not install the software as an operating system on any computer except one that you are building for your own use or as an operating system running on a local virtual machine or a separate partition. You may not install the software on a computer that is running a non-genuine Windows operating system.

It will be interesting to read the full text of the new EULA when it’s officially released to see if there are any other noteworthy changes.

 Microsoft is also tightening up its Windows activation technology. The company is working with major OEMs to embed unique Windows 8 product keys into the BIOS of their products. That would mean that when you register your copy of Windows 8 during the initial installation, the product will be permanently keyed to the BIOS of that particular systems motherboard.

Traditionally, all the major OEMs have relied on VLKs (volume license keys) and KMS (key management services) to provide activation across millions of PCs. However, such “universal keys” have frequently been the subject of abuse and piracy by software thieves and grey market resellers. By individualizing keys and having them embedded into the BIOS, Microsoft hopes to better curb piracy of its products.

If this works out – you can bet they’ll be adopting the process for other Microsoft software products like Microsoft Office and such.

Is your battery running down

While we were away on a family vacation recently, our son Matthew, a member of the IT department at Brandeis, admonished me for allowing my laptop battery to run down. “Today’s lithium batteries don’t need and shouldn’t be allowed to run down and lose their charge, Dad…..” 

He said these words with just the right amount of distain a computer genius (one that I created, mind you) could project.  He quoted Steve Gibson, one of his favorite podcast resources and then sent me a YouTube link which you’ll find at the end of this article.

The reason so many people attempt to run their batteries down is to prevent a common problem prevalent in NiCad and Nickel Metal Hydride batteries called the “memory effect”. Originally, the terms memory effect or memory problem was coined to describe a cyclic memory problem where the NiCad battery would “remember” the amount of discharge for previous discharges and limit the recharge life of the battery. This memory effect would actually shorten the usable time you would get from the battery when the device was left plugged in all the time or recharged without first discharging the remaining charge. That’s the reason so many of us continue to follow the old logic of discharging and recharging these batteries regularly to help improve their usable life.

How to prolong the life of lithium-ion batteries.
There’s actually fail-safe circuitry in each cell of the battery that’s designed to prevent the battery from over-charging as well as over discharging. So it’s easy to prolong battery life by avoiding discharge and instead charge more often between uses. The smaller the depth of discharge, the longer the battery will last.

It’s still NOT recommended to leave a laptop plugged into a charger all the time. Battery life and usage is greatly enhanced when you allow the battery to go from 100% charged down to about 80% and then recharge. If you have a laptop, check the documentation that came with it or the company website to see what type of battery you have then follow the manufacturer’s care instructions.

For devices like the Kindle, iPhone, iPod, iPad and other Smart Phones with batteries that are not removable or end user serviceable, you should recharge regularly and not let the device run completely out of juice to maximize battery life.

See Steve Gibson’s podcast here:

Finally a contender for Gmail

Has Microsoft finally developed a powerful contender for Gmail?

Meet Microsoft has taken the wraps off its new service, which will eventually replace Hotmail as its free consumer email product and hopefully (for Microsoft) compete with Gmail. is a preview of a free, modern email service from Microsoft. It has a familiar name and a fresh, modern design. makes your email richer by connecting to Facebook and Twitter and helps you be productive with Office and SkyDrive. Because email is personal, Outlook also helps keep you in control of your private data. Some of the features of this preview are:

Clean, clutter-free inbox’s streamlined inbox is, of course, great at handling spam. Even better, Outlook lets you get through your inbox quickly. It has simple, automated tools for sweeping out the newsletters and daily deals messages you don’t want.

Connect to your people
With, your conversations are richer with photos, updates, and Tweets from Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. Your address book also automatically stays updated with your contacts from Facebook and Twitter.

Office and SkyDrive comes with free Word, Excel, and PowerPoint web apps built-in, plus 7 GB of free cloud storage with SkyDrive for sharing photos, videos, or other large files without huge attachments. Skype will also be built right into in the near future as well.

Is right for you?
At this moment there aren’t any standalone mobile applications, so if you want to access “on the go” you’ll need to use either a browser or an app that already supports Exchange ActiveSync. That means all you Apple iPad and iPhone users are ready to go.

If you’re a heavy Google Docs or a Google+ user, then Gmail is probably for you. Otherwise, if you use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Office, then looks like the winner here.

To jump on this preview and get started today:

 If you simply want additional info, do a Google search for – there are tons of online magazine articles, active blogs and screen shots out there…


Independence Day For The Internet

Will you sign the Declaration of Internet Freedom?

In advance of Independence Day, a host of groups and individuals have launched the Declaration of Internet Freedom, fighting for a free and open Internet.

Do you believe the Internet needs protection against censorship and other threats? If so, then you may want to join in on the new Declaration of Internet Freedom.

Launched by a large coalition of privacy groups, Web sites, and individuals, the Declaration of Internet Freedom is the start of a process striving to keep the Internet free and open. The organizations and people who kicked off this process are looking for other Internet users to discuss the ideas, share their own thoughts, and sign the declaration.

“We’ve seen how the Internet has been under attack from various directions, and we recognize that it’s time to make that stop,” said TechDirt, one of the Web sites involved in the new movement. “The Internet is an incredible platform that we want to grow and to thrive, and thus, a very large coalition got together to produce the following document as a starting point, hoping to kick off a much larger discussion which we hope you’ll join in.”

At this point, the Declaration of Internet Freedom advocates five basic principles:

 1. Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.

 2. Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.

 3. Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create, and innovate.

 4. Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.

 5. Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.

 People who want to sign the petition or share their opinions can do so at any number of Web sites, including TechDirt, Freepress, Accessnow, and the declaration’s own site.

For now, the declaration and its principles are still in the discussion stage, inviting people to debate the issues and offer their own opinions.

But the groups behind this cause are clearly hoping the power of Internet users and Web sites can have an effect on Washington, especially in light of the defeat of the SOPA bill earlier this year.

PC Magazine posted one of the better descriptions of this project – take a look here:,2817,2406613,00.asp

Facebooks Facial Recognition

Facebook acquired, a facial recognition start-up, in a likely attempt to make photo-tagging easier on the social network.

The acquisition was rumored last month, but is now official. According to TechCrunch, Facebook will spend around $100 million on the purchase–roughly one tenth of what the company plans to spend on Instagram.’s technology can identify Facebook users’ faces in photos or live video. The company already offers a Facebook app called Photo Tagger, which can identify faces and suggest photo tags, and also offers a standalone iPhone app called Klik that can identify friends in real time and adapt image filters to people’s faces. also offers an API so other app developers can use and build on the company’s technology. With the acquisition, Facebook will bring the team in house.

Future Plans

Klik, an iPhone app by, identifies your Facebook friends in real time and lets users apply photo filters. Although Facebook and haven’t said exactly what they’ll do together, a blog post by hints at future plans: “We love building products, and like our friends at Facebook, we think that mobile is a critical part of people’s lives as they both create and consume content, and share content with their social graph,”

Considering Facebook’s recently announced acquisition of Instagram and the launch of its own Facebook Camera app, it’s clear that Facebook is turning a lot more attention to mobile photo-sharing. With in-house, Facebook will be able to help users tag photos faster on their mobile devices–provided they can get over the creepiness of doing so.

Why Facebook’s Facial Recognition is Creepy.

We talked about this back in June of last year. Basically, Facebook is using facial recognition technology to “suggest” tags to users who upload photos. In other words, if I upload six photos of my friend Lexi, Facebook may “recognize” her face (thanks to other tagged photos of her on the website) and “suggest” that I tag her in those six photos. This makes the tagging process a little easier for me–after all, aren’t I more likely to tag Lexi if all I have to do is click a button that says “yes, tag away”? Another “benefit” is that I can tag all of these photos of at once, instead of having to tag each one individually?

Sure, it’s easier. Easier for Facebook to invade your privacy, that is. Ok, I know that sound a little melodramatic. But let’s take a look at some facts:

– Facebook has 845 million members with 483 million “daily active users”. They’re on track to hit 1 Billion users by August 2012.

– Each day, Facebook’s members upload over 200 million photos, and Facebook currently hosts over 90 billion photos.

– Each time you “tag” a photo on Facebook, its facial recognition technology learns more about what that “tagged” person looks like.

– Even if you happen to “opt out” of the facial recognition tagging, Facebook’s technology can surely use the tagged photos of you (hey, perhaps even the tagged photos of you that you end up un-tagging) to figure out what you look like.

– Right now Facebook is using this technology to help people tag photos. But once they have an accurate facial recognition database of several hundred million people? Hmmmmm

At the end of the day, Facebook’s facial recognition technology is downright creepy. Opting out of the service doesn’t mean Facebook will stop trying to recognize your face–it just means that Facebook will stop suggesting that other people tag you. Even Google has noted the utter creepiness of facial recognition technology.

Facial recognition technology will ultimately culminate in the ability to search for people using just a picture. Will be the end of privacy as we know it–imagine, a world in which someone can simply take a photo of you on the street, in a crowd, or with a telephoto lens, and discover everything about you on the internet.

Obviously, we can’t stop the world of technology from moving toward the development of accurate facial recognition software. But so far, no facial recognition software has really been a threat to our privacy, because nobody has that huge database of people and the photos required. Oh wait, except for Facebook.

So, if you’re one of those “paranoid” type of people who sees a conspiracy around every corner perhaps not only should you opt out of Facebook’s facial recognition technology by going to: Home > Account Settings > Privacy Settings > Profile and Tagging > Edit Settings and then edit “Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded” and make the change – you should also upload random pictures of trees, animals, stuffed toys, fast cars and other inanimate objects then tag them as yourself.

Disclaimer: the steps to opt out as outlined above were accurate when this article was posted – Facebook has a knack of changing things on a regular basis to keep folks confused.

Microsoft Unveils Surface


At an invitation only gathering in California last night – Microsoft announced their revolutionary new hardware product “Surface”.

Recognizing that users want to “do it all” without compromising on what PC’s are known for, Microsoft approached the product design in a forward looking manner. Knowing that today’s PC’s need to be mobile and people want access to information and the ability to create content anytime, anywhere. Using applications that were written for Windows, but work perfectly on Windows 8. Microsoft adds another chapter to their story,

Surface is a tablet that works and plays the way you want to -a tablet that’s a PC housed in a super thin case – 9.3mm with beveled edges. The first of its kind, a PC in a magnesium case with a 10.6 inch display, full size USB 2.0 ports, a display port and it weighs in at only 1.5 pounds.

Surface was specifically designed for Windows 8 with semantic zoom (like an iOS device) and according to Microsoft, it has the best WiFi of any tablet available today. Surface comes with a built in folding kick stand, an optional tactile or touch keyboard cover as well as a rear facing camera, pen/stylus device. There will be 2 snap on keyboard options as well, a Touch Cover and a Type Cover.

Being a mobile device, it also has all the internet capabilities and applications necessary to allow you to do whatever you want without compromise. As this is a full-fledged PC, it will also run MS Office. Surface for Windows RT and Metro will be available running an Nvidia processor with 32GB and 64GB of storage and the Intel version will have larger storage capacities. All priced to compete with other tablets in the marketplace.

Steve Ballmer’s closing comment was: “We took the time to get Surface and Windows 8 right. To do something that was really different and really special. We’re proud of the Surface like we’re proud of Windows 8. Because of Windows 8, the Surface is a PC, it’s a tablet… it’s something new.”

Here’s an introductory video of the new Surface

See some additional information and specifications here:

Watch for more Microsoft information as this website becomes available

Facebook – The Perfect Gift


Looking for the perfect gift for your teen, tween or favorite techy guy? Maybe you’re stumped for that one-of-a-kind graduation present. How about one share of Facebook stock?


The typical way to buy stock in a publicly traded firm is to open a brokerage account and place an order. But for those who want to own just one ceremonial share of a company, there’s an easier, if sometimes pricier, way: You can buy through websites that specialize in “one share” transactions.


The operators of those sites say they expect Facebook to become one of their most popular stocks once it begins trading publicly. That’s currently on track to happen this Friday.


“It interests people who are not ordinarily interested in the stock market,” says Rick Roman, the founder of “We’ve been getting people asking about it for a year.”


Sites like and are careful not to market themselves as places for serious investors. Stocks are risky, and any gains on a single share are likely to be tiny. Instead, the sites cater to more casual fans of the companies’ brands. They also offer something traditional brokerages rarely do: paper stock certificates, suitable for framing and showing off.


Companies aren’t required to offer paper stock certificates, and a shrinking number of them do. Apple, for example, stopped issuing paper certificates in late 2010.


Both and plan to begin offering Facebook shares for sale as soon as the stock starts trading. Like other retail investors, they’ll be buying shares at whatever the market price is, which is likely to be much higher than the offering price.


Buying through a one-share site is generally more expensive for people than buying through a broker. Both and charge a $39 fee for their services, which include buying the share and procuring the paper stock certificate.


Take Disney as an example. It’s by far the most popular stock on both sites, thanks to its brand recognition and its colorful, cartoon-filled stock certificate. A single share of Disney cost $45.56 at market close on Friday. Buying one through currently costs $82, or $84.28 through


The stock customers receive is a fully legal share with all the attached rights. An investor can attend shareholder meetings, and if companies pay a dividend, they’ll get regular checks for the earnings (often just pennies) on their single share. They’ll also get a paper stock certificate, though that takes a few weeks to process and ship.


The cheapest option is to stick with a bare-bones cardboard frame for your certificate, but almost no one does. says that around three-quarters of its customers upgrade to a fancier package.


GiveAShare is introducing a new & improved, larger frame that shows off the certificate better, specifically for Facebook shares. Customers can customize it with messages like “MARK ZUCKERBERG WORKS FOR ME! OFFICIAL FACEBOOK SHAREHOLDER.”


Facebook’s stock certificates will actually be generated by its transfer agent, the company in charge of keeping track of shareholder records. Facebook’s transfer agent, Computershare, declined to say how long it will take to get Facebook’s stock certificates ready, but it typically takes three to seven weeks for a certificate to ship, plus an extra two or three weeks for newly public companies.


To appease eager new shareholders, is prepping a welcome kit for Facebook buyers. They will first send out a “realistic color copy” of Facebook’s stock certificate, based on the rendering the company included in its IPO documents. The color copy simply acts as a placeholder until they have a tangible item. The actual, legal stock certificate will arrive a few months later.


What happens if someone later wants to sell their single share?

Getting out is trickier than getting in. To sell your single certificate, customers would need to deposit their share with a stockbroker and work through them. They would also have to surrender their paper certificate.


“I have to admit that we have been getting more calls and e-mails about people wanting to sell the Apple stock that they bought from us a long time ago,” says Rick Roman. Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) shares that sold for $5 around 15 years ago are now worth $566.71 based on the stock’s closing price last Friday.


The interesting thing is that the certificate has collectible value, so it’s hard to give it up, People who are buying one share typically never sell it.


Make someone happy with a very unique gift – here are the web links:

Give A Share:

One Share:

Microsoft is developing a NEW operating system


Microsoft is working on a new operating system designed to manage household appliances on a single computer system – appropriately named – HomeOS


Microsoft has shed light on a new operating system it is developing that’s designed to let users control their homes systems, such as lighting, heating and door locks with the wave of the hand.


HomeOS is an attempt to create an operating system that can connect all manner of home-based appliances that can now be connected to a network in a user-friendly manner, so it can be operated by computing novices.


At its most basic, HomeOS would allow users to view feeds from home security systems on their smartphones when away from their house, but it could also be used to control heating systems and other similar systems.


Microsoft researchers said HomeOS would ensure, “all devices in the home appear as peripherals connected to a single logical PC”.


Microsoft has been running HomeOS in trials with users and programmers and has just released a research paper documenting their progress.


It recruited 12 users to live with the system and assess how easy it was to do a number of tasks, including configuring a music application, which uses motion-detectors and speakers to enable music to play continuously in different rooms as an occupant moves through the house.


Other tasks included configuring the system to allow residents to automatically unlock the front door when they arrived at the house, but to restrict the times that guests could come and go freely.


To test how easy the system was for developers, the researchers got 10 volunteers to design a pair of applications, having been given a few minutes instruction on HomeOS. One of the applications was to control the lights in the house, based on an occupant’s previously defined preferences.


The application had to be able to discover which rooms had cameras, and be able to integrate facial recognition components and dimmer controls.


HomeOS has also been given to more than 40 other developers, who’ve had free rein to play with it. One developer used it to link light controls with an Xbox console, using the Kinect system to enable users to control the lights with a wave of their hand.


However, the system still has a way to go before it is ready for mainstream use. For example, many of the devices that can be connected have limited API (application programming interfaces), restricting the extent to which they can be made to work with HomeOS.


The Microsoft researchers hope that this work spurs the research community to further explore the home as a future computing platform.


You can get additional information from the Microsoft Research site:


Here’s a link to a 10 minute video demo of HomeOS from TechFest 2011


Or if you’re really a geeky minded individual, you can read their research paper:

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