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Archive of 'June, 2009'

In 1995, only one hate website existed on the Net. Now, according to a report by the Wiesenthal Center’s Digital Hate and Terrorism Project, there are over 10,000 websites, social networking groups, portals, blogs, chat rooms, videos and hate games, that promote racial violence, anti-Semitism, homophobia, hate music and terrorism. Read more »

Like most things, the Internet has its good and its dark side. And, considering the pervasiveness of the Internet in society, it is certainly having an effect on our brains. After all, everything we do affects our brain. Though up until the 1980’s, it was universally believed that the steam engine was the foremost invention of the Industrial Revolution, technology and science historian, Lewis Mumford, had long before proposed that that clock was in fact the key machine of the modern Industrial age. And, just as people began operating and planning according to seconds and minutes, in the age of the internet, we are rewiring our “plastic” brain to function more and more like computers. Processing, decoding and storing floods of information at a rate faster than we ever have before, our brains are becoming highly adapted to taking on scores of tasks at once. Read more »

Though it certainly must be a tough job dominating the computer industry, Microsoft gets a lot of slack when it messes up. Over the years, Microsoft has encountered some tricky obstacles that they haven’t always been able to overcome. Bugs in the operating system, bugs in application software; viruses, worms, Spyware, trouble with hardware and software upgrades, nevertheless, the majority of consumers and companies continue to buy computers equipped with Windows, Sharepoint Hosting services, and hosted CRM solutions . Microsoft has certainly made some big mistakes, but are people just forgiving, or is the Microsoft giant so big, it’s out of their hands? Here are seven less-than-successful technologies Microsoft only wishes it could sweep under the rug.

7) DOS 4.0: MS-DOS

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Released in 1988, DOS 4.0 had several improvements from version 3.3, but it also had a lot of bugs. The RAM disk was badly flawed, people would often lose their data and poor buffer settings when dealing with files larger than 32 megabytes, caused severe disk corruption. Also, 4.0 was based on IBM’s code base, not Microsoft’s. Many people purchasing new computers demanded DOS 3.3 be installed instead.

6) Microsoft Bob and Windows ME

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Microsoft Bob was voted #7 in PC World Magazine’s 25 Worst Products of All Time. The cartoon interface designed to create a chummy virtual experience, with programs and documents represented by everyday objects was high up on Microsoft’s low point list. Microsoft promptly destroyed as many copies of the software as it could get its hands on. “Clippy” was the only feature to survive.

Windows ME, dubbed the “Mistake Edition” by PC World was listed #4 for the Worst Tech Product of All Time. ME was subject to frequent freezes and crashes. ME users reported difficulties installing it, running it and getting it to work with other hardware and software.

5) Microsoft 2000

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Security issues were a common complaint with some notable consequences while Windows 2000 was the main operating system. In August 2003 two major worms (Sobig and Blaster) attacked millions of Microsoft Windows computers costing Microsoft millions in clean-up costs. Then in 2005, there were security compromises on machines operating on Windows 2000 at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the New York Times, ABC and CNN. The Zotob worm was said to have been the cause.

4) Internet Explorer

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Internet Explorer has been prone to malicious attacks and harmful viruses. Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post said that due to Windows leaving five Internet ports open for various running services malefactors have an easier time compromising the system. IE has been more prone to security risks because of security flaws in the design. Rival web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, an open-source, cross-platform web browser, offer faster browsing and better functionality. For programmers, IE makes it difficult to have code in place within HTML documents that conform to World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards.

3) Underestimating the iPhone

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The Microsoft Zune was created specifically to compete with the Apple iPod but while Microsoft was developing the Zune, Apple was already getting ready to release the iPhone. This didn’t seem to faze Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who in a 2007 interview with USA Today was quoted saying:

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.”

In 2008, 8 million iPhones were manufactured. In two years, Zune sold about 2 million units whereas Apple sells about 10 million per quarter.

2) Underestimating Linux

linux-vs-windows

Microsoft’s agreement with vendors to sell only the Windows OS has been significantly challenged with free software operating systems such as Linux. Linux is the most prominent free operating system and is both cost-effective and versatile. Though Windows continues to dominate the desktop and pc market, in February of 2008, Linux powered 85% of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. One of the key strengths of Linux according to free software proponents is that it respects a user’s essential freedoms; the freedom to run it, to study and change it, and to redistribute copies with or without changes. Microsoft could do well with its own version of Linux.

1) Vista

Usually upgrades mean better, faster and easier, but Windows Vista soon gained a reputation of being just the opposite.

Problems with Vista

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Price
Many consumers found the price of Windows Vista too expensive. Free open-source alternatives such as Linux come at one tenth of the price.

Hardware Requirements
GPU requires way too much memory, moreover, hardware that worked on XP either doesn’t work or works poorly on Vista. Vista applications also execute slower than they did on XP. Basic file operations are also noticeably slower such as unzipping a file or deleting. The templates used to show content are also quite buggy. Whenever Vista opens a folder, it doesn’t remember settings and always shows its preferred template.

Restrictive Licensing Terms and Digital Rights Management
Vista has been criticized for its restrictive technologies that don’t allow you to copy protected digital media. High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) and Image Constraint Token (ICT) have been added due to Microsoft’s agreement with major Hollywood studios. All devices that come into contact with premium content (such as graphics cards) have to be certified by Microsoft.

Digital Rights Management gives digital content and software providers the ability to put restrictions on how their products are used on their customers’ machines; these restrictions are seen by the technology’s detractors as an infringement on fair use and other rights.

User Account Control
UAC blocks other software from silently gaining administrative privileges, but the frequent and unnerving UAC prompts cause many people to either turn the function off or set it to auto-approval mode, which defeats the purpose of having it in the first place.

Trying Again with Windows 7
Microsoft has certainly been through some rough patches, but the new Windows 7 system has tried to rectify some of these issues. For one, Windows 7, currently available in a “beta” or test version can tolerate relatively low-powered hardware. Usually, a Windows OS upgrade means upgrading to a more powerful computer, however Windows 7 seems to run very well on a high spec dual-core computer and also an Asus Eee PC.

Windows 7 boots up in just under 40 seconds and the user interface has also undergone some vast improvements. For instance, the taskbar shows active and inactive programs and you can “pin” your favorites to the bar. Also, that annoying UAC feature has been overhauled and now users can set it so they can keep working on tasks when a warning message appears. Another cool feature is a program that records your computer activity: mouse clicks, buttons pushed. If your computer malfunctions, you can send recorded data to tech support in order to facilitate problem-solving.

One of Microsoft’s biggest problems has been the releasing of unfinished software, but it promises that Windows 7 will not go on sale until the final version is perfected and meets the company’s standards. But one thing Microsoft may want to consider in order to keep its authority- is to stop fighting open-source software and jump on the bandwagon.

Most longtime FireFox users will agree that FireFox add-ons completely change your experience on the web. Like the importance of having a reliable hosted exchange provider for your website, these add-ons generally make life easier for you and increase your productivity. Here is a list of must-have add-ons for the average internet user.

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Download Status Bar

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The Download Status bar makes it easy to manage and view your downloads by displaying a bar at the bottom of your browser window. Unlike the download manager that comes with FireFox you don’t need to shuffle between windows.

Scrapbook

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The Scrapbook extension is a great way to keep track of information for researching purposes. You can save a single web page, an entire website or just a snippet of information to your hard drive for offline viewing. You can edit and organize the information to suit you and it also comes with a very handy search feature which allows you to search through what you saved.

IE Tab

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Despite the obvious advantages of having a WC3 compliant website, there are still amateur web designers & programmers out there making websites that only work on Internet Explorer. IE Tab emulates IE7 in a Firefox tab and lets you view sites as if you were using Internet Explorer. This extension is very useful for web developers to test websites on multiple browsers without having to switch between windows.

URL Fixer

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Sometimes our fingers move faster than our brains… and URL Fixer lets us get away with it! Common typos in URLs are automatically fixed so you’re not longer brought to an error page when you type in ‘www.google.ocm’. I think we can all agree that’s basically a good thing.

Grease Monkey

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Grease Monkey is the extension that keeps on giving. There are literally thousands of Grease Monkey scripts out there that modify and enhance many of the most popular websites to suit your needs.

Session Saver

How often have you had 30 tabs open while simultaneously typing a massive blog post when the browser crashes? Well,  now there’s some recourse. Session saver restores Firefox exactly how you left it. Every tab and every letter you wrote prior to the crash is completely restored for you and keeps your information stored and secured, like using hosted CRM software for business management.

Screen Grab

Screen Grab is a fantastic alternative to paid screen capturing software with the added bonus of being less resource intensive! You can take a screenshot of an entire website or select only a portion of the website to save.

StumbleUpon

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One of the most innovative social networking tools available. The StumbleUpon bar brings the web to you via friends & common interests. StumbleUpon offers a personalized social media experience. You tell StumbleUpon what you like and it helps bringing you to new relevant content based on your personal interests.

Firefox Showcase

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Simple but helpful addon that allows you to manage your browser tabs more effectively. Showcase lets you view all your tabs in thumbnails on a single page making it easier to switch back and forth between open pages.

Colorful Tabs

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Colorful Tabs makes helps you navigate between open tabs in FireFox. This is especially useful for sites that don’t have their own favicons.