Wednesday, March 27, 2013

UPS is NOT sending you e-mail

We've all missed the UPS guy, but when we do, UPS isn't going to send you an e-mail to tell you about it. Despite being in the 21st century, "old brown" still uses paper stickies to alert you when you missed a delivery.

Unfortunately, implusiveness and gullibility get the better of us. As we discovered today after deploying brand new Windows 7 PCs for a client, one of the staff received a phony e-mail claiming to be a UPS notice with a "billing attachment". The user clicked it once. Nothing. Then again, and again, and again. Within 30 minutes, their network ground to a halt. Now its costing hours of time and effort to repair a file server and client PCs that were infected by numerous pieces of malware.

Think carefully when reading e-mail.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Making IT integral with your Business

IT support and technology in small business has traditionally been regarded as "the guy in the back office" that no one sees until something breaks. For small business that outsources IT to firms like us at Richmond Computer, we're never seen nor heard except during deployment projects or emergency repairs.

In today's digital business world, that's all changing the face of technology and those that support it. Since technology is front and center when it comes to operating a business, IT staff are also now on the front lines when it comes to interacting with staff and customers.

Our mantra has always been delivering products and service that enhances a business either through improving productivity or cutting costs, or both. In addition, Richmond Computer has recognized the value to  our customers by not just being the fix-it guys in the back office, but being able to interact with the customers of our clients and integrating technology with customer service and overall value to the customer experience.

Where does your current IT solution stand?

Monday, March 25, 2013

More changes to Windows 8 - Windows BLUE

In an effort to push acceptance of an otherwise weakly adopted new product, Microsoft is releasing another patch to Windows 8: a component named "Windows Blue". Allegedly, Blue allows more customization to the start screen (which replaced the desktop/start button environment). Notably, is the ability to split apps on a screen, a popular feature in the business world, especially in multi-screen environments. However, rumors from the beta testing mill claim that Blue eliminates the ability to run the "desktop" on Windows 8 systems.

Microsoft has tried all sorts of gimmicks to get consumers and business users to adopt Windows 8. Tech savvy or not, most can appreciate Microsoft's interest in becoming more like Apple, with tiled screens to resemble iPhones and iPads, yet they've forgotten that most users grew up with the desktop and start button, and stuck it out with Windows all these years because of its (don't laugh) stability.

If you remember this screen, you're old enough to remember Ronald Reagan as president

Read More.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Technology and Mass Transit: SEPTA, NPT and your smartphone

Philadelphia's public transportation service provider, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), is in the process of developing and deploying a tech-heavy fare and payment collection system that will transport riders from the current 1940's system of tokens and paper tickets punched by train conductors to "Smart Cards" and other near-field technology media.

While we won't get into the details about the system itself here, SEPTA's management has been bragging that the new system dubbed "NPT" for New Payment Technologies, will allow riders to pay fares using their smartphones. This isn't revolutionary as one can purchase rides on airplanes and trains/buses in other cities, and has been the case for a few years now. SEPTA's approach is different than Amtrak for example, because of specific technologies deployed. One can purchase an Amtrak ticket now onboard the train through the Amtrak website. After the purchase is complete, the phone will display a barcode which is then scanned by the attendant on the train. The same method of validation is also used by airlines when checking in.

However, SEPTA in their infinite wisdom, decided that barcodes were too "old school" and instead is only utilizing near-field communication (NFC) devices, such as credit cards or smartphones with such capabilities, which today is most Android based devices. But SEPTA staff didn't do their homework, or simply listened to the wrong "geeks". If you don't know what the most common and popular smartphone is today, you've been living under a rock. iPhones never had, and have no plans to add NFC to future models. This means users of the most popular phone on the market are forever locked out from buying fares to ride buses, trolleys and trains in Philadelphia because SEPTA felt barcodes weren't on par with today's "modern" technology.

Instead, this new NFC-NPT system will force train riders to have a smartcard in their pocket in order to pass through newly installed turnstiles in center city and then "tap-out" to a NFC reader at their train station of their final destination. Its an extra step and an investment in alot of station gating devices all because the agency refused to include barcodes as a method of reading a paid fare.

Deployment begins July 2013 with completion in mid 2014. Stay tuned.