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If you’re running Windows XP, it’s time to make a plan.

The XP story’s almost reached its end as on April 8th 2014 Microsoft will end support for Windows XP and Office 2003. It’s time to move on, but many of us haven’t yet; as of February this year 39% of desktops were still using XP. In a year’s time XP users will no longer receive security updates or be able to get technical support from Microsoft. 

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Windows XP was codenamed Whister during its development. Apt given that Windows XP was a monumental success for Microsoft having at one point, 74% of the world’s computers using it, with 400 million or more copies sold since its introduction in 2001. The name XP, is a derivative of eXPerience, and for Windows users it changed their computing experience forever with XP being the first Microsoft OS for consumers built on the Windows NT kernel, the serious, stable foundation of business computing. XP was more stable, efficient and had an enhanced user interface. Faster and prettier always work in consumer computing.

However, the XP story’s almost reached its end as on April 8th 2014 Microsoft will end support for Windows XP and Office 2003. It’s time to move on, but many of us haven’t yet; as of February this year 39% of desktops were still using XP. In a year’s time XP users will no longer receive security updates or be able to get technical support from Microsoft. And don’t rely on your usual PC reseller or your IT department, as they will have no access to support either.  If you’re a business that still has PCs running Windows XP and Office 2003 you need to start migrating now. If you don’t you can’t ensure security of your PCs, applications may not work, you will not be able to exploit the opportunities of mobility and your employees productivity will be seriously effected.

“Modern users demand technologies that fit their personal work style and allow them to stay productive anytime, anywhere, while businesses have an ever increasing need to protect data and ensure security, compliance and manageability. Windows 8 and Office 2013 are designed with these needs in mind; needs that an 11-year-old operating system can no longer address.”

— Patrick Ward, Business Manager, Client Microsoft Ireland

Last year, IDC said the longer you put off migrating to a new OS, the more expensive it is to support Windows XP.  IT labour costs go up 25 percent in the fourth year of continuing to run Windows XP past deadline and in the fifth year, IT labour increases by an additional 29 percent, and user productivity costs jump up a staggering 40 percent.

Migrating is not a fast process, but it needs to be done and  it really isn’t difficult, and it may be the ideal time to review your current IT set-up and get you into the land of supported software with all the associated benefits. To be assured of continued support and compatibility you need to get started now, and you essentially have have three options: a) Do nothing b) Purchase an expensive support contract c) Upgrade to modern, supported software . The obvious winner here is number 3. So what is modern, supported software? Well ideally WIndows 8, Microsoft’s most efficient and elegant operating system to date. You’ll find using it not only more efficient than older systems, but it is genuinely a joy to use with its new tile interface; we’ve grown accustomed to updates, statuses and a feeling that we’re in touch with our digital lives and data, work and home, and WIndows 8’s new interface keeps you in touch, unobtrusively but effectively.

I’ve seen an amount of discussion online regarding whether to go to WIndows 7 or WIndows 8; some larger businesses are opting for now, to move only to WIndows 7.Jack Scholfield discussed this in the Guardian in November, and makes a worthwhile point that the stepping down option, from WIndows 8 to 7, is only available if you buy WIndows 8 Pro – so if you’re a standard user and you opt for Windows 8, that’s where you stay. What’s wrong with that? Well nothing, but some tech commentators are pointing out that Windows 8 is built to with ‘touch first’ in mind. That’s not a bad thing in my book, and also, WIndows 8 is at the forefront of ridding the planet of what I call the ‘scourge of skeuomorphic ‘. It’s time we grew up, cutesy has had its day and it’s time we put some modernism back in our buildings and our software – I don’t need a Notepad app to have little spine holes or feint margin rules displayed, using up valuable screen space – yes, valuable as my primary work device is now smaller than a laptop; if Mark Twain were alive he’d be nodding.

There is nothing wrong with focusing on touch – and for touch, read mobility. We’ve discussed Tablets and Think Mobile on Newstalk’s Down To Business over the last couple of months – it’s where the needs of computer users is bringing us, so your XP migration, to WIndows 8 is the ideal time to get yourself there.

Starting the migration
Start by making a list of more than the obvious – you need to upgrade your WIndows XP Operating System and Office 2003, but you may have applications that you bought or last updated some time ago. List them, and check the vendor websites for updates that need to be installedafteryou’ve upgraded to WIndows 8.

As part of an upgrade for your business you may decide to update or buy new PCs and in turn may find that you don’t need all the old third-party software you once used to buy separately.  For example, Windows 8 Pro and the new Microsoft Office have enhanced security features like a built-in firewall, anti-virus, and malware protection, as well as BitLocker which provide data encryption to secure data on hard drives and USB keys. Or you may decide as part of your IT re-think, to go straight to the cloud with Office365; all your usual applications and more, with you everywhere. And if you’re doing that, you may want to look closely at mobility and if now’s the time to make your business more mobile with a WIndows 8 tablet?

Whichever route you decide, it really is time to make a plan – let’s not be having this conversation again in six months time.

External links & references

  1. Microsoft: www.Get2Modern.com
  2. Citrix for example have a useful XP Migration checklist
  3. Windows 8 Pro and retiring XP
  4. Office365 : Move your apps to the cloud
  5. Business Insider: It makes sense to upgrade from XP

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Robotics

We Prefer Robots, That Wag Their Tails

Humans like looking at each other’s faces. If we want to figure out if someone’s happy or sad we get our clues from the face. Robot researchers tell us that robots, are different.

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Humans like looking at each other’s faces. If we want to figure out if someone’s happy or sad we get our clues from the face. Robot researchers tell us that robots, are different.

Canadian student Ashish Singh and professor James E. Young have looked at whether humans can accurately figure out the “feelings” of a robot vacuum cleaner. They took a standard iRobot Roomba, the best known brand of home vacuum robot and gave it a fluffy tail that wags – just like a dog.

We’re pretty sure that iRobot vacuums don’t have feelings but Singh’s research shows that once we see the robots wagging their tails, in a happy family-pet way we understand that they’re working as planned.

The Manitoba University student says that a dog-like tail “seemed to be a nice, clear choice—even people without dogs or cats may be able to read some tail motions, so we decided to formally investigate that.”

Professor Young compared the idea of looking at a screen to find out how the robot’s operating versus seeing a familiar visual signal, like the tail wagging, “With a dog tail that projects a robot’s state, you could be preparing dinner and just see the robot going by from the corner of your eye,” he said. “That would let you quickly know how the robot is doing, whereas a screen would probably require training to understand and sound would be intrusive.”

2013-DogTail-LidRemoved

It turns out, according to the team’s research, that whether we own pets or not, we can all identify whether a robot is happy or not, just by how it wags its tail. Professor Young’s team went on to look at how we would feel about the next generation of robots, humanoids if they had tails. It turns out that we may not want our robots to be that human, after all.

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Technology

Revolution Vinyl USB Turntable

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Retro, or vintage is everywhere. From clothes to food, we can’t get enough of the past. And even technology has seen a retro revival. Original Apple I computers sell for a fortune at auction and retro style games are finding audiences with the children of parents who played the original versions. The turntable is one piece of tech that seen a huge resurgence in interest, and audiophiles whooped with delight earlier this year, as Technics re-released the iconic SL-1200 turntable.

If you don’t have the budget for a fancy high-end turntable though, Elyxr Audio are trying to make the vinyl record resurgence fun, but accessible. Their Revolution Turntable attempts to fuse two worlds by combining an entry level vinyl turntable with USB recording, at an affordable price.

I unpacked the box to discover a small, 1950s style suitcase. Opening the suitcase reveals the Revolution Turntable in all its retro-glory. Packaged in the box was as power lead and an RCA to 3.5mm jack cable which lets you connect the turntable to a hi-fi system or media Player.

Once powered up, the turntable has a few modes to choose from. I unearthed a couple of old vinyl records from the attic and put one on the turntable. The standard speeds remember are 45 and 33rpm for albums and singles, but the turntable will also play 78s, should you have inherited some along the way. Switching speeds is easy as the player has a dedicated speed button, as well as controls for switching modes, a nice old fashioned circular volume control dial and an auto-stop switch. There are four easy to see LED bulbs on the top of the device that let you see easily what mode you’re operating in.

Once I’d set the mode to Turntable mode, there was a short re-assuring crackle from my old Police album and, then Sting and Co burst in to action. The turntable has a useful auto-stop function which stops the player from wearing out in case you get distracted as you’re listening, but you need to return the arm to the rest position once the record’s finished playing.

If you have music that you’re already recorded on a USB memory stick you can insert the key, switch to USB mode and use the player to play back your MP3 music through the turntable’s speakers, with the previous and next buttons on the player navigating through the music on the memory stick.

The record mode utilizes both the vinyl and USB elements of the player. Pressing record mode will start recording on a USB stick that’s been inserted. Once inserted and recording, set the record playing and the music from your vinyl will be recorded, directly as a single track on to the attached USB device. There is also an option to record an album as individual, or split-tracks, tracks, which is more useful when you’re playing back later, on a different device.

The Revolution turntable has two other useful modes. The first is a simple line-in mode, allowing you to connect a 3.5mm audio cable to an audio or MP3 player and that music will be played through the turntable’s speakers. The feature I used the most though, was the line-out functionality. Packaged with this gadget is an RCA cable, which connects to the back of the device and the other end goes to a small headphone jack, which I was able to plug in to my digital home-audio system. Using this set-up, I was able to play vinyl records and enjoy the enhanced audio from my digital set-up, for a deeper sounds, but with the traditional characteristics of vinyl.

This is a well made device with exceptional styling. The sound it produces is not audiophile quality but it’s decent given the entry level price. Overall, it’s a clever way of combining new and old tech, and with the living room lights dimmed it’s the perfect way to relive some old musical memories.
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Technology

3 Gadget Breakthroughs Coming To A Surgery Near You

Tara Purcell

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There’s a lot of doom and gloom associated with the future and of technology’s ability to marshall the human spirit and lead us to a better time to come. But, just when you think it’s all apocalyptic robot cults and people being run over by driverless cars as they walk around with VR headsets on, you get a few reminders of how much tech can be used to help mankind. To redress this balance, we’ve found a few mechanical medical marvels that have come to light in the last while.

Stem Cell Cartilage Is Being Grown In Awesome Goo Labs

Using a 3D scaffold, scientists have begun growing cartilage from stem cells for use in human patients, and have done so with a fairly enchanting beige blob of goo that could one day work as a prosthetic replacement for socket joints, such as the human hip. Moreover, they’ve programmed the artificial joint to “release molecules on demand to keep the arthritis at bay” which is so epic we can barely believe it.

CRISPR Gene Editing To Begin Human Trials

Crispr is a form of gene editing technique that is a so sophisticated, people are already saying it may spell the end of certain cancers and genetic disorders within the next generation of scientific application. Memorably covered in a particularly fascinating edition of Radiolab, CRISPR is now due to start human trials, which is good news for us, bad news for pesky diseases.

Scientists Can Cure Blindness (Partially, and in Mice)

Taking a leaf out of the Fairy Tale School of Science & Biology, scientists took an as yet undefined number of blind mice and managed to restore some part of their eyesight by fixing damaged ganglions and activating the affected regions with chemicals so as to restore their rodent peepers to their full glory. No word as of yet on whether they plan to put eggs back together or heal wounds suffered by cows during unprompted jumps over nearby celestial objects.

 

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