IT Support and Hardware for Clinics
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IT Support and Hardware for Clinics
News, Information and Updates on Hardware and IT Tools to help improve your Medical practice
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Apple adds Windows 10 support to Boot Camp for all Macs released after 2012

Apple adds Windows 10 support to Boot Camp for all Macs released after 2012 | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

If you're one of those people who runs Windows on your Mac, good news: Apple has just released Boot Camp 6, which brings updated drivers and official support for Windows 10 to the company's hardware. New installs of Windows using the Boot Camp Assistant tool should download the new drivers automatically, and those of you performing upgrade installs can use the Windows version of Apple's Software Update tool to download the new drivers before performing the Windows 10 upgrade install.

The new Boot Camp update supports all iMacs, Mac Minis, Mac Pros, MacBook Pros, MacBooks Airs, and MacBooks released after 2012; that's not to say that you can't get it working on older Macs, but you're on your own. If that seems a bit stingy, remember that most PC OEMs aren't officially supporting systems older than 2012 either. The Boot Camp software still supports Windows 8.1, too, but official Windows 7 support was dropped back in March.

Boot Camp 6 brings new drivers but not many other features—the Boot Camp Control Panel is still barebones, and still uses OS X 10.4-era folder icons. If you want to do anything more complicated than tap-to-click with your multitouch trackpad, you'll need to use a third-party driver like TrackPad++, which actually does do a decent job of supporting Windows 10's new trackpad gestures once you've played with the settings a bit.

Otherwise, upgrading from a fully activated version of Windows 7 or 8.x to Windows 10 on a Mac with a Boot Camp partition will work pretty much the same way as it does on a PC, including the oddities involved in getting a new product key and performing clean, properly activated installs.

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Windows PCs remained vulnerable to Stuxnet-like attacks despite 2010 patch

Windows PCs remained vulnerable to Stuxnet-like attacks despite 2010 patch | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

If you patched your Windows computers in 2010 against the LNK exploit used by Stuxnet and thought you were safe, researchers from Hewlett-Packard have some bad news for you: Microsoft’s fix was flawed.

In January, researcher Michael Heerklotz reported privately to HP’s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) that the LNK patch released by Microsoft over four years ago can be bypassed.

This means that over the past four years attackers could have reverse-engineered Microsoft’s fix to create new LNK exploits that could infect Windows computers when USB storage devices got plugged into them. However, there’s no information yet to suggest this has happened.

The original attack, which exploited a vulnerability in how Windows displayed icons for shortcut (LNK) files, was used to spread Stuxnet, a computer worm that sabotaged uranium enrichment centrifuges at Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz.

Stuxnet, which is believed to have been created by the U.S. and Israel, was discovered in June 2010 after it spread beyond its intended target and ended up infecting tens of thousands of computers around the world. The LNK vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2010-2568, was one of several zero-day, or previously unknown, flaws that Stuxnet exploited. Microsoft patched the flaw in August that same year as part of a security bulletin called MS10-046.

“To prevent this attack, Microsoft put in an explicit whitelist check with MS10-046, released in early August 2010,” the HP researchers said in a blog post Tuesday. “Once that patch was applied, in theory only approved .CPL files should have been able to be used to load non-standard icons for links.”

“The patch failed,” they said. “And for more than four years, all Windows systems have been vulnerable to exactly the same attack that Stuxnet used for initial deployment.”

ZDI reported the LNK patch bypass found by Heerklotz to Microsoft, which treated it as a new vulnerability (CVE-2015-0096) and fixed it Tuesday as part of MS15-020. The ZDI researchers plan to examine the new update to see if there are any other possible bypasses.

However, applying the workaround published by Microsoft in 2010, which involves using the registry editor to manually disable the display of icons for shortcut files, will protect against the latest flaw too, they said.

While the LNK attack was first discovered as part of Stuxnet, security researchers from Kaspersky Lab recently found that another computer worm, called Fanny, had used it since 2008. Fanny is part of a malware arsenal used by a highly sophisticated cyberespionage group that Kaspersky has dubbed Equation.

As revealed by a Kaspersky Lab report in August 2014, exploitation of the original CVE-2010-2568 vulnerability remained widespread even after the Microsoft patch in 2010, primarily because the exploit was integrated in more common threats like the Sality worm. From July 2010 to May 2014, Kaspersky Lab detected over 50 million instances of the CVE-2010-2568 exploit on more than 19 million computers worldwide.

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Secure Domains: The DNS Security Debate

Secure Domains: The DNS Security Debate | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

The importance of improving the Internet infrastructure was a dominant theme throughout President Obama's White House Summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection last week.

Making that happen, however, isn't a straightforward proposition, information security experts warn, owing to the Web never having been designed to be secure in the first place - which may seem ironic, given its importance now as the backbone of e-commerce and the world's payments infrastructure.

Furthermore, any attempt to strengthen Internet hygiene requires the participation and buy-in of many different key players, including standards bodies, government agencies, DNS providers, Internet service providers and more. Given all of the different parties involved, disagreement often rages about the best way forward.

Take DNSSEC, which is also known as Domain Name System Security Extensions. This evolving, open standard - or specification - is designed to authenticate the origin of DNS data used on Internet protocol networks by digitally signing it. At the White House cybersecurity summit, CloudFlare, which offers services that defend against DNS and distributed-denial-of-service attacks, announced that for all of the 2 million websites it supports, it will now enable DNSSEC.

CloudFlare's Rationale

By making DNSSEC widely available, CloudFlare says it hopes to enhance the overall security of the Internet. "Our ultimate goal is that DNSSEC will be easy to deploy, and thus widely adopted, to make the Internet a better, more secure place," says Ryan Lackey, a principal in the firm's security practice. The move comes after CloudFlare in September began offering Universal SSL (secure socket layer) certification, free of charge, to all of its clients. SSL provides a secure connection for Internet browsers and websites to transmit data, and helps defend against many types of attacks.

"Both SSL and DNSSEC have a role to play in keeping users safe on the Internet, from phishing, from cybercriminals and from malicious nation states," Lackey says. "Having proven that Universal SSL is possible at our scale, we hope many other organizations will follow in turning SSL on for all their customers - and at no additional cost."

But while Lackey describes DNSSEC as being "an important, foundational security technology," in the past it has been "incredibly difficult to deploy," he acknowledges, although his firm has been trying to simplify that process. "We're working with DNS registrars and registries to simplify the process of turning DNSSEC on for a domain, and we will soon be providing simple, robust DNS for our customers, which fully supports DNSSEC."

Debate: DNSSEC Valuable?

But there's a debate over DNSSEC, and just what it might - or might not - do for Internet users. Some security experts see it as crucial technology for blocking DNS amplification DDoS attacks. But others starkly disagree, saying instead that DNSSEC can actually be abused by attackers to fuel amplification attacks.

One critic is Dan Holden, director of the security engineering and response team for online security firm Arbor Networks - which competes with CloudFlare. Holden says that Universal SSL and DNSSEC won't stop phishing, and don't address authentication concerns facing payments providers and banking institutions.

"Many people do not believe DNSSEC is a good solution at all," Holden says.

But other information security experts and government agencies have backed the standard. "Registrars should consider supporting DNSSEC," advises the EU cybersecurity agency ENISA in a recent threat report.

"The use of DNSSEC is definitely a step in the right direction," says Europol cybersecurity advisor Alan Woodward, who's a visiting professor at the department of computing at England's University of Surrey. "It does help with attacks, such as DNS poisoning. However, I think some people misunderstand what DNSSEC does for us. It basically provides authentication of the source, not encryption of the data passed. It doesn't prevent DDoS attacks per se, but it can help counter it, as it allows you to shut off untrusted DNS sources."

But DNSSEC alone won't solve the world's DNS problems, Woodward says. "It would require much more widespread adoption to make a significant dent in the problem we see in DNS use across the Web. However, it might well help CloudFlare clients to see off DDOS attacks slightly more easily if they are mounted using DNS amplification."

Financial Sector Upsides

More widespread DNSSEC adoption could also benefit financial services firms, says Al Pascual, director of fraud and security at Javelin Strategy & Research - but only if the standard is implemented properly. "DNSSEC can help prevent malicious redirection, but it is a two-part equation, as infrastructure providers and site owners need to implement it in order for the solution to function correctly," Pascual says. "While DNSSEC isn't new, financial institutions that are not taking advantage could stand to benefit from DNSSEC's ability to reduce the risk of successful phishing attacks against accountholders."

DNSSEC can also protect domain records from spoofing and "poisoning," but will not protect sites from DNS records tampering - such as registration hijacking and malware-infected sites that compromise visitors through drive-by downloads - says Greg Rosenberg, security engineer at digital forensics investigation firm Trustwave.

"Many attackers utilize hijacked DNS information to redirect unsuspecting users to malicious websites to capture sensitive data, like payment card information, log-in data and/or Social Security numbers," he says. "As hackers continue to target Web and e-commerce assets at a quickening pace, it will be critical to help protect against man-in-the-middle attacks and phishing for credentials."

But DNSSEC was never designed to stop man-in-the-middle attacks, Arbor's Holden says, adding that it also cannot solve the ongoing challenge of poor user behavior. "Phishing is preying on the person, not the machine, and that's why it's so difficult to solve from a technology standpoint," he says.

Parallel Moves

CloudFlare's willingness to offer its clients a hosted DNSSEC offering is a move into relatively uncharted territory, says Dave Jevans, co-founder of the Anti-Phishing Working Group and chief technology officer of mobile security firm Marble Security. "However, it won't stop most DNS attacks, as those are typically phishing the DNS credentials of a website's admin, and taking over the site," he says. "But Cloudflare should be applauded for taking a leadership position with DNSSEC."

But CloudFlare's move - and DNSSEC itself - is just part of what's required, Jevans says. For the financial services industry in particular, he says that strengthening the security of the e-mail network itself, through initiatives such as DMARC - Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance - and the use of top-level domain names, such as ".bank," have the potential to deliver great security payoffs.

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The West Coast Port Strike Could Really Hurt The PC Industry

The West Coast Port Strike Could Really Hurt The PC Industry | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

For those who do not know most of your PC components come into the United States by way of West Cost ports. This is the way the supply chain works and has worked for years. This supply chain runs the risk of coming to a grinding halt if labor relations between port managers and the port workers union does not improve soon.

Workers at these ports officially went on strike when labor negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union did not go so well. While the workers went on strike the ports remained open, but of course at a slower rate. The union had announced that it would completely stop work at the ports in protest.

This would bring PC component shipments into the US to a complete halt as components coming from Taiwan and China have to pass through these ports and are now backed up. We have already spoke to one representative from a well-known case company and they have said that the strike has slowed them down getting their products into the US and has caused delays.

There is not much that these companies can do but wait. This will cause them to push launched back. We have heard that some companies are facing a four-month delay in getting their products on shelves. This makes it very hard for these companies to give their customers an accurate delivery date on products.

The port delays could be extremely detrimental to the cashflow of these companies and delays could last as long as essentially a fiscal quarter. Many companies have started to reroute to ports on the east coast, or to Canada / Mexico. It has also been announced that the White House will intervene in the port strike. I guess only time will tell what is going to happen.

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How Intel and PC makers prevent you from modifying your PC's firmware

How Intel and PC makers prevent you from modifying your PC's firmware | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Even if you’re rocking the most open of open-source operating systems, chances are your laptop isn't really that "free," betrayed by closed firmware binaries lurking deep within the hardware itself.

Modern UEFI firmware is a closed-source, proprietary blob of software baked into your PC’s hardware. This binary blob even includes remote management and monitoring features, which make it a potential security and privacy threat.

You might want to replace the UEFI firmware and get complete control over your PC’s hardware with Coreboot, a free software BIOS alternative—but you can’t in PCs with modern Intel processors, thanks to Intel’s Boot Guard and the “Verified Boot” mode PC manufacturers choose.

Why Coreboot won’t support your new laptop

Coreboot was originally known as LinuxBIOS. It’s a Free Software Foundation-endorsed project working on replacing the proprietary UEFI firmware and BIOS found in typical computers. Coreboot is designed to be lightweight and only provide the necessary functions so the computer can initialize its hardware and boot an operating system. This isn’t just some fringe free software project—all modern Chromebooks ship with Coreboot, and Google helps support it.

When someone recently asked whether Coreboot would support new Intel Broadwell ThinkPads on the mailing list, the response was informative:

“New thinkpad's can't be used anymore for coreboot. Especially the U and Y Intel CPU Series. They come with Intel Boot Guard and you are won't be able to boot anything which is unsigned and not approved by OEM. This means the OEM are fusing SHA256 public key hashes into the southbridge.

For more details take a look at Intel Boot Guard architecture. It could be also confirmed by Secunet AG and Google.”

Intel Boot Guard explained

Intel themselves have a quick little explanation of Boot Guard in this document about Haswell’s new platform features. In summary, Boot Guard is a hardware-based technology designed to prevent malware and other unauthorized software from replacing or tampering with the low-level UEFI firmware.

Boot Guard has two separate modes, according to Intel. Every single PC OEM we know of configures it to work in “Verified Boot” mode. The PC manufacturer fuses their public key into the hardware itself. If the UEFI firmware isn’t signed by the OEM—that is, created by the OEM—the computer will halt and refuse to boot. That’s why you can’t modify the UEFI firmware or change it to something else.

There’s also a second option: “Measured Boot” mode, where the hardware securely stores information about the boot process in a trusted platform module (TPM) or Intel Platform Trust Technology (PTT). The operating system could then examine this information, and—if there was a problem—present an error to the user.

As Purism recently discovered, laptop makers can choose to have their hardware boot without looking for a digital firmware signature at all. The fusing of the processors can be set by the motherboard manufacturer to simply bypass the check. Purism's crowdfunded Librem 15 laptop will ship with a modern Intel CPU fused to run unsigned BIOS code.

In other words, Intel and Boot Guard don’t absolutely require hardware manufacturers to lock the computer to only using manufacturer-signed firmware, but every major PC maker does anyway.

Want to stay up-to-date on Linux, BSD, Chrome OS, and the rest of the World Beyond Windows? Bookmark the World Beyond Windows column page or follow our RSS feed.

It’s all a big conspiracy, right? Not exactly

It can be tempting to see this as a big conspiracy. These big corporations—Intel and hardware manufacturers—are preventing us from running the software we want to run on our own computers, as if we were using some underpowered, locked-down Surface RT instead of a powerful PC we’re supposed to have control of.

And sure, that’s true, but Boot Guard does help secure the UEFI firmware and protect against malware that infects the boot process. Intel and PC OEMs aren’t out to crush free software and prevent open hardware. The truth is more mundane—Intel and hardware manufacturers prioritize tighter security for the masses over the proprietary firmware concerns of a few. 

But, to their credit, Intel does allow PC manufacturers to configure the hardware in a different way. The real way to get that open hardware seems to be to build it from scratch and make the right decisions along the way, as Purism is trying to do. If you want this sort of open hardware, be prepared to vote with your wallet. Taking existing PC laptops and trying to bend them into open hardware—as Gluglug does with the Free Software Foundation-endorsed Libreboot—doesn’t seem to be an option anymore.

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Microsoft prepares to preview Windows 10 for phones

Microsoft is preparing to preview its latest version of Windows Phone later this month. The software giant released a "Phone Insider" app over the weekend, ahead of a January 21st press event where the company will reveal its plans for Windows 10 across phones and tablets. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the company will demo a number of features aimed at Windows 10 on phones, including some user interface changes designed to more closely align its mobile operating system with its desktop counterpart and the Xbox One games console.

Microsoft is also making changes to Windows 10 on the desktop to include light and dark themes that match the phone and tablet editions. Currently referred to as Windows Mobile and Windows 10 Mobile internally at Microsoft, the next mobile OS will be a combination of the Windows Phone and Windows RT operating systems. Microsoft is aiming to take advantage of its universal applications model to align its tablet and phone software to run the same apps across tablets and phones. While the company will detail its developer and app plans further at Build, the January 21st event will focus more on the consumer features of both the desktop and phone / tablet operating system. Microsoft may even choose to name its new combined Windows RT and Windows Phone OS at the event.

Windows 10 for phones preview expected by end of January

The recently released "Phone Insider" app provides similar access to the Windows 10 insider program, allowing enthusiasts and partners to test an early version of Windows 10 for phones. While the app only works for Microsoft employees at present, we understand Microsoft will be expanding its use to allow anyone to sign up and install Windows 10 on modern Windows Phones. Like the Windows 10 insider program, the initial preview for phones will be limited in features as the company seeks feedback on changes ahead of a release later this year. Microsoft is expected to release the Windows 10 for phones preview by the end of January, following the press event on January 21st. The Verge will be live from Microsoft's press event next week, stay tuned for more details on our live blog plans.

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This Is Windows 10’s New Web Browser and Dark Theme

This Is Windows 10’s New Web Browser and Dark Theme | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Microsoft is preparing to unveil a new browser in Windows 10, code-named Spartan, and leaked images are providing an early glimpse at the Internet Explorer successor. Chinese site Cnbeta has published screenshots showing the simple interface of Spartan and the Cortana digital assistant integration. The Verge revealed yesterday that Spartan will include digital inking support to share and annotate webpages, and deep Cortana integration in the address bar and throughout the browser.

Cnbeta’s screenshots also reveal Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10 user interface. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s Windows plans tell The Verge that the company is planning to build light and dark themes with color accents for Windows 10. The look and feel will be similar to that of the existing user interface for Windows Phone, and these leaked screenshots provide an early look at an internal Microsoft concept and the aim for the final UI. They do not represent the final interface, as Microsoft will be tweaking it a number of times over the coming months. Some of these user interface changes have started appearing in recent builds of Windows 10, with the new dark taskbar surfacing in a leaked version last month. Microsoft is also tweaking its built-in apps to match the new color schemes, with a new Xbox app that hints at what the company is planning for the final version of Windows 10.

Microsoft is expected to unveil these user interface changes and a mobile version of Windows 10 for tablets and phones at a press event on Jan. 21. The software maker will also likely detail its plans for the Spartan browser across PCs, phones, and tablets.

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Microsoft may be creating entirely new browser with Windows 10 - CNET

Microsoft may be creating entirely new browser with Windows 10 - CNET | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

There's been talk for a while that Microsoft will make some big changes to Internet Explorer in the Windows 10 time frame, making IE "Spartan" look and feel more like Chrome and Firefox.

It turns out that what's actually happening is Microsoft is building a new browser, codenamed Spartan, which is not IE 12 -- at least according to a couple of sources of mine.

Thomas Nigro, a Microsoft Student Partner lead and developer of the modern version of VLC, mentioned on Twitter earlier this month that he heard Microsoft was building a brand-new browser. Nigro said he heard talk of this during a December episode of the LiveTile podcast.

Spartan is still going to use Microsoft's Chakra JavaScript engine and Microsoft's Trident rendering engine (not WebKit), sources say. As Neowin's Brad Sams reported back in September, the coming browser will look and feel more like Chrome and Firefox and will support extensions. Sams also reported Monday that Microsoft has two different versions of Trident in the works, which also seemingly supports the claim that the company has two different Trident-based browsers.

However, if my sources are right, Spartan is not IE 12. Instead, Spartan is a new, lightweight browser Microsoft is building.

Windows 10 (at least the desktop version) will ship with both Spartan and IE 11, my sources say. IE 11 will be there for backward-compatibility's sake. Spartan will be available for both desktop and mobile (phone/tablet) versions of Windows 10, sources say.

Spartan is just a codename at this point. My sources don't know what Microsoft plans to call this new browser when it debuts. The IE team hinted during a Reddit Ask Me Anything earlier this year that the team had contemplated changing the name of IE to try to get users to realize the much more standards-compliant IE of today is very different from older, proprietary versions of IE.

Microsoft may show off Spartan on January 21 when the company reveals its next set of Windows 10 features. But my sources also aren't sure if Spartan will be functional enough for inclusion in the Windows 10 January Technical Preview and mobile preview builds that are expected to be available to testers in early 2015. It may not show up in the test builds until some point later, they say.

Will Microsoft end up porting the Spartan browser to Android, iOS and/or any other non-Windows operating systems? I'm not sure. The IE team said a few months back that Microsoft had no plans to port IE to any non-Windows operating systems. But Spartan isn't IE. And these days, Microsoft is porting much of its software and services to non-Windows variants. So I'd say there's a chance that this could happen somewhere down the line.

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Disk storage market grows with inclusion of ODM vendors

Disk storage market grows with inclusion of ODM vendors | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Disk storage sales grew more strongly in the third quarter, helped by sales of non-branded storage gear sold directly to datacenters.

Third-quarter disk storage sales jumped 5.1 percent year over year, reaching US$8.8 billion, according to research firm IDC. This was a change from the anemic growth the market saw earlier this year, brought on by falling demand in mature markets.

Sales of server-based storage with high capacity were up 10 percent in the third quarter. But the big bright spot was the influx of storage systems from original design manufacturers (ODMs) which design and produce hardware to other companies’ specifications. In the storage market, these manufacturers are bypassing traditional brands, selling directly to cloud service providers that put the equipment to use in hyperscale datacenters.

Similar trends appeared in an analysis of server market share published by Gartner earlier this week. It found that server purchases from ODMs by Google and Facebook were driving the market in the third quarter.

For the first time in its analysis of the storage market, IDC included ODMs’ sales. In the third quarter, ODMs collectively posted the highest level of growth, with their storage sales up 22 percent year over year.

Although the ODMs’ market share was only at 11.6 percent, the sales accounted for 43 percent of all storage capacity in the quarter.

IDC didn’t identify the ODMs, but the prominent ones are based in Taiwan and include Quanta Computer, Wistron Group and Inventec among others. The ODMs typically offer unbranded products, and they’ve been steadily growing in the server and storage market by selling directly to Google, Facebook and Amazon Web Services.

Increasingly Web services and cloud providers are tapping ODMs to design and build new storage architectures, “with limited or no involvement from traditional IT original equipment manufacturers,” IDC said on Friday.

With ODMs included in the mix, the market share of branded storage vendors all decreased. But EMC still held on to the top spot, with a 20.8 percent share, while HP held on to second place, with a 14.6 percent share.

All the top branded vendors experienced some growth in the quarter, except for IBM, which saw its revenue fall by 7.2 percent year over year.

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HP ElitePad 1000 G2 Windows 8.1 Tablet Review: Faster, better, still rugged

HP ElitePad 1000 G2 Windows 8.1 Tablet Review: Faster, better, still rugged | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Make it better and they will come. That’s a common vendor mantra, but rarely are the improvements as compelling as those on HP’s $800, 10.1-inch ElitePad 1000 business tablet. The successor to the ElitePad 900 replaces the single-core Intel Atom Z2760 with a significantly faster quad-core Intel Atom Z3795 CPU, features a higher-resolution display (1920x1200 versus 1280x800), and has twice the memory at 4GB. Those adds alleviate just about every complaint we had about the ElitePad 900—without killing what we liked about it. Even the battery life has improved.

Part of what we already appreciated are the rugged Gorilla Glass 3 covering the display and the milled aluminum edge and backplate. The ElitePad 1000 is designed to meet the MIL-STD810G (military) standard, though I doubt it would last long in my god-daughter’s backpack. Kidding—even she would have a hard time dinging this thing.

While the ElitePad 1000’s display looks great during everyday use and rendering movies, I noted uneven backlighting around the edges when the ElitePad 1000 was powering up. It’s noticeable only with a solid-dark background, and I quickly forgot about it. But 2.3 million pixels in only 10.1 inches of diagonal display space makes for some rather tiny icons, text, and window elements. I goosed them up all the way using the “change the size of all items” slider, but I finally had to resort to increasing the text size for individual elements.

If you want semi-rugged, accept that your tablet is going to be a bit heavier than the norm—a small price to pay for survival on the road. At 1.5 pounds, the ElitePad 1000 is an ounce or two heavier than the 900, but still relatively easy to carry around. It’s a little too heavy to hold single-handed for any length of time. With both hands, arm fatigue is minimal, but it’s best propped up on your stomach or docked.

Subjectively, Windows 8.1 feels lively enough on the ElitePad 1000—at no time did I feel impatient waiting for windows to open or files to save. The PCMark results bore out that impression: 1595 on the creative test, 2399 on the work test. Battery life clocked in at a cool 8 hours and 16 minutes. It also handles 1080p video with aplomb, playing my 30GB rip of Master and Commander with nary a hitch. 

When you start to accessorize any tablet to this degree, you have to ask yourself why you’re buying a tablet rather than a laptop.

Wireless connectivity on the ElitePad 1000 includes 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, and broadband modules. While 802.11ac would be nice, 802.11n is acceptable.

Alas, when it comes to physical ports, the unit is hurting. A headset jack, MicroSD and SIM card slots hide behind a panel that pops open when you press the recessed release button with a paper clip. That’s it. There are, however, a variety of accessories to compensate. Slide the unit into the optional $149 ElitePad Docking Station and you have four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and VGA out, as well as an audio line out. It’s a bit bulky, but it’s nice to have around.

You may also opt for the smaller $49 HDMI/VGA dongle, $39 ethernet adapter, and $29 USB adapter, which are easier to pack, if not as convenient. There’s also a $249 productivity jacket with a full-size keyboard, USB ports etc. and a $149 battery jacket that will ratchet up runtime to about 20 hours. However, both add considerably to the ElitePad 1000’s 0.36-inch thickness and weight. When you start to accessorize any tablet to this degree, you have to ask yourself why exactly you’re buying a tablet rather than a laptop.

Storage also continues to be a problem. Our unit came with a 64GB in eMMC which is probably the bare minimum for even a business-class tablet in terms of space. Fortunately, HP sells a model with 128GB too.

Oddly, after touting the ElitePad 1000’s ruggedness, HP’s warranty for it lasts only a single year. A variety of paid support plans to add up to five years of protection. The ElitePad 1000 is also fully decked out with HP’s business-targeted software bundle, which includes Trust Circles, Client Security Manager, and Device Access Manager.

It doesn’t get much better than the ElitePad 1000 in a Windows 8.1 business tablet, and kudos to HP for improving what needed to be improved without drastically increasing the weight. It’s fast enough, lasts long enough, and has a capable set of accessories.

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The Innovative OS That'll Bring PCs to the Developing World

The Innovative OS That'll Bring PCs to the Developing World | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Much has been made about the mobile “revolution” in the developing world, the way that smartphones have enabled the citizens of so many poorer countries to leapfrog into the 21st century without having to bother with all the awkward technological steps in between.

It’s that mentality that’s driving the development of Facebook’s internet-connected drones and Google’s internet-connected balloons. The thinking goes that because so many people in the developing world are buying smartphones (and they are), all they need is access to the internet, and they’ll be well on their way to becoming full, equal participants in the global economy.

We’re now used to always being connected, and that's dangerous. Rich Fletcher, MIT

In some ways, the mobile-plus-internet combo has the potential to deliver on its promise. There’s a lot—and increasingly more—that you can do on a smartphone. But then again, think of all the things you can’t, or, at the very least, that you just wouldn’t want to—like draft a presentation, populate an Excel spreadsheet, or write this story. When you think of it that way, all this talk of what people in the developing world can accomplish if only they had a mobile phone and an internet connection can seem a bit, well, patronizing.

As it turns out, people with less might actually want more.

“They want the same things you and I have, and not just because we have it,” says tech entrepreneur Matt Dalio. “They want the same things you and I have for the same reason you and I have it.”

Which is precisely why Dalio founded Endless, a startup that has developed a PC and operating system for the developing world. Endless launched a Kickstarter project for the device this week, but the campaign is mostly for marketing, since the team has spent the last three years developing the technology and testing it with users throughout the developing world. Now, Endless wants to expand that reach even further.

Not Waiting for A Connection

The hardware itself is a small, egg-like device that can plug into any television and turn it into a computer screen, giving people instant access to a desktop computer for just $169. This price point means, initially, Endless is not targeting the bottom of the pyramid, but the emerging middle class within these countries that may be able to afford a device like this.

But the real innovation is not the device itself. It’s the operating system, which Endless built from scratch, specifically for people who have limited experience with computers and who don’t always have a reliable connection to the internet. Designing it required spending a huge amount of time on the ground, in countries like India, Guatemala, and Bangladesh, testing out the technology with users. It was that process that not only convinced Dalio that mobile technology was an incomplete solution for the developing world, but also helped him understand that the Endless team would have to completely rethink the way a computer should operate in order to succeed.

For starters, Endless had to address the lack of connectivity in these countries, an issue which companies like Facebook and Google are actively seeking to address, but which will take years, if not decades, to complete. So, the Endless team took a cue from the early days of PCs by loading the devices up with more than 100 apps, including things like Khan Academy, encyclopedias, health apps, and more, which work both online and off. “We thought, we can’t give them better connectivity, but what we can do is solve it in the way we used to solve it before we had internet, and that was to have something like Encarta,” he says, referring to Microsoft’s digital encyclopedia, which was popular in the 90s.

Off the Grid

According to Rich Fletcher, a research scientist at MIT’s D-Lab, it’s this offline capability that distinguishes the Endless PC from other similar technologies that have failed to make this type of technology work in the past. “We’re now used to always being connected, and that’s dangerous,” Fletcher says. “Having a local cache or server that lets you use apps that don’t require full-time connectivity is really important.”

Still, Fletcher says Dalio and his team may be underestimating the extent to which people in the developing world want “the same things we have,” and not an adaptation of them. “If the people in New York and Boston aren’t using this Endless computer, people in the developing world are going to be very cautious,” Fletcher says. “They’re going to say, ‘What is this? Why doesn’t my cousin in New York have one, and if he doesn’t want it, why should I?'”

Then, there is the question of electricity. Though Endless is targeting a market segment that generally has electricity and modern appliances, Fletcher warns that in many parts of the world, the grid is less than reliable. “Just like always-on connectivity, you cannot assume always-on electricity.”

For that matter, you can’t assume that Endless will succeed at all, or Facebook’s drones or Google’s balloons. But one assumption that is safe to make is that users, no matter where they live, won’t be content with a second-class experience. Mobile might be good enough for lots of things. But it isn’t everything.

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Microsoft: DirectX 12 will increase your graphics performance by 20 percent

Microsoft: DirectX 12 will increase your graphics performance by 20 percent | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Microsoft has said previously that its upcoming DirectX 12 API will make your PC more efficient. Now we know by how much: just by using DirectX, executives said, you'll see a 20 percent improvement in your graphics frame rate, and a drop in CPU utilisation to boot.

What does this mean? During an Intel press conference at GDC Wednesday night, Bryan Langley, a principal program manager for graphics with Microsoft, put it into context.

"This is like getting free hardware," Langley said. "So if you're a gamer, and you upgrade to Windows 10, and you have that Iris Pro, it's like getting that extra kick. It may make your game go from not quite playable, to playable, from mediocre to awesome, from awesome to just out of this world."

That's a powerful argument for any PC gamer to upgrade to Windows 10. So far, Microsoft has given no indication whether or not DirectX 12 will also be made available for Windows 7, but it's unlikely. And with Microsoft providing Windows 10 as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8 for a year after its release, it's hard to argue against upgrading.

On Thursday, Max McMullen, a principal development lead for Microsoft, outlined the technical resources that DirectX 12 would be making available to software developers. But he also noted that Microsoft has carefully recorded, anonymously, the hardware that PC gamers are using to connect to Microsoft's resources and download and run the technical previews of Window 10. McMullen said that Microsoft believes that Windows 10 will run on about 50 percent of all PCs today, and that it will "have two-thirds hardware coverage" by this Christmas.

"So it's going to be a great, huge platform for lots of endpoints to reach," McMullen said.

To be fair, the contrast between DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 has been shown off before: specifically at SIGGRAPH 2014, when Intel emphasized the potential power savings that DirectX 12 could bring. Then, Intel said that frame rates could increase by 50 percent from one API to the other.

McMullen used the same Intel "Asteroids" benchmark in his presentation Wednesday, but demonstrated that the frame rate increased a more modest 20 percent. But the CPU consumption also fell from 25 percent to 9 percent as DirectX 12 asked the GPU to shoulder more of the workload.

McMullen didn't disclose what hardware the benchmark was running on, and didn't indicate whether Nvidia cards, for example, would see a greater improvement than hardware for AMD. The overall message was a simple one, however: if you're a gamer, you'll want to upgrade to Windows 10 and DirectX 12.

Bailey Spowart's curator insight, March 26, 2015 8:52 PM

Advancements for the backend of games and applications to better utilise the processing capacities of graphics cards – shows that it’s not just the advancements of the physical technology of the graphics cards, but it is also the software that is backing it affecting the performance.!

Lenovo will stop preloading Superfish adware on PCs

Lenovo will stop preloading Superfish adware on PCs | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Lenovo found itself in a bit of hot water when some customers started noticing weird sponsored links in the search results on their brand new PCs. The culprit it turns out was a little piece of adware called Superfish the company was shipping on laptops. The company listened to customer complaints and turned off the server-side portion of the app in January. It also stopped pre-installing Superfish on new machines around the same time. While Lenovo said originally that it had "temporarily removed" the software from new machines while its developers worked on an update to address concerns, it now says that it will not preload the software ever again.

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Microsoft may be on the cusp of a major move to invade Android

Microsoft may be on the cusp of a major move to invade Android | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Microsoft may put its apps on what's likely to be the most popular Android phone of the year, the Galaxy S6, according to a new report from Sam Mobile.

The blog claims to have received information about Samsung's plans for the software that will be on the Galaxy S6.

The company will supposedly remove all of its own apps and offer them as downloadable options instead, but Microsoft's apps are said to come pre-loaded on the phone. This would include apps such as Microsoft Office Mobile, OneNote, OneDrive, and Skype. 

In general, it sounds like Samsung is making major improvements to its software. The Galaxy S6 is expected to come with software that's very similar to the stock version of Android, just like Google's Nexus 6.

If true, this would be a big move on Microsoft's part too. Ever since CEO Satya Nadella took over about one year ago, he's emphasized the fact that Microsoft will be expanding outside it's own platforms.  

The company has released several apps for iOS and Android over the past few months, including its Outlook Mail app for iPhone  and Office for iPad, both of which has received generally positive reviews so far. Microsoft is also reportedly getting ready to invest $70 million in Cyanogen, a startup that builds its own version of Android and eventually wants to take Android away from Google.

Putting its own apps and services on a phone that's bound to be popular like the Galaxy S6 would obviously benefit Microsoft, but it's a puzzling move on Samsung's part. We expect to know more on March 1 when Samsung officially introduced it's new phone.'s curator insight, February 13, 2015 4:09 PM

Microsoft making big moves. I don't think it's puzzling what Samsung is doing. They want a phone that targets business professionals and that integrates with Microsoft Office and cloud.!

Microsoft Has Ended Free Tech Support and Feature Updates for Windows 7

Unlucky for some: it’s 13 January 2015, and that means the end of free support for Windows 7.

Happily that doesn’t mean your computer is going to automatically break or stop working, but it does mean Microsoft will no longer offer free help and support if you have problems with your Windows 7 software from this point on. No new features will be added either.

Microsoft is keen to move users onto Windows 8 instead — to find out more, check out our how-tos, troubleshooting, news and reviews of Windows 8. Alternatively, you can wait for Windows 10 later this year.

Windows 7 was released in 2009. It sold over 100 million copies in six months and remains hugely popular. More stable than predecessor Windows Vista and more familiar than its radically redesigned successor Windows 8, version 7 is still estimated to be running half of the world’s PCs.

As of today Windows 7 has moved from mainstream support — free help for everyone — to extended support, which means Microsoft will charge for help with the software. That will end in 2020, when Microsoft turns out the light on Windows 7 for good.

If you’re worried about security, Microsoft will continue to patch security issues, so if you do stick with Windows 7 your computer shouldn’t suddenly become vulnerable to hackers targeting the software.

The next generation of Microsoft’s venerable operating system is Windows 10 — they’re skipping 9, for some reason — which is due in the second half of this year. Microsoft is set to make an announcement about Windows 10 a week from now on 21 January, so stick with us to find out what Gates’ mates have up their sleeves.

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Intel's $150 HDMI Stick Turns Any TV Into a Windows Desktop

Intel's $150 HDMI Stick Turns Any TV Into a Windows Desktop | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Got an HDMI port handy? Sure, you could plug in a Chromecast, Fire TV Stick or Roku Streaming Stick to get your Netflix fix. Or you could pay $150 to get a full Windows 8.1 PC in the same form factor.

Over the past few years, manufacturers have been packing more and more features into their… Read more

This is the Intel Compute Stick, a humble HDMI dongle that houses a full desktop computer experience. It's not a particularly powerful one—you get a quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of solid state storage—but it does have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and both a full-size USB port and a microSD card slot for expandability. As long as you're not gaming and find yourself a decent couch controller, you could probably do quite a bit from this tiny PC! Here's the spec sheet.

More likely, it'll find a home in small businesses, schools, and the like who want to roll out super cheap computers to their employees, since all you need is this stick, an HDMI monitor and a couple peripherals to get things cranking. Remember when the tiniest PC was a nettop that hooked onto the back of your monitor? Now they come in dongle-form.

If you're feeling brave, you can actually already buy one of these tiny dongle-PCs from Chinese resellers, but it probably won't come with Windows on board. I'd wait for the official Intel version to arrive. The Wall Street Journal says it'll hit by the end of Q1, with a Linux version also available for $90.!

Is the Tablet Market In Outright Collapse? Data Suggests Yes - Slashdot

Is the Tablet Market In Outright Collapse? Data Suggests Yes - Slashdot | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Is the tablet market rapidly collapsing? Mobile-analytics firm Flurry doesn't come to quite that stark a conclusion, but things aren't looking too good for touch-screens that don't qualify as "phablets." According to Flurry's numbers, full-sized tablets accounted for only 11 percent of new devices in 2014, a decline from 2013, when that form-factor totaled 17 percent of the new-device market; small tablets experienced a smaller decline, falling from 12 percent to 11 percent of new devices between 2013 and 2014. (Meanwhile, phablets expanded from 4 percent of new devices in 2013 to 13 percent this year.) Boy Genius Report, for its part, looked at those numbers and decided that the tablet market is doomed: "Consumers happy with compact smartphones are not switching to larger iPhones for now, but former tablet buyers are." That's not to say people will stop using tablets, but the onetime theory that they would one day cannibalize all PCs looks increasingly nebulous.

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Three Tips For Password Security That Actually Work - HITECH AnswersHITECH Answers

Three Tips For Password Security That Actually Work - HITECH AnswersHITECH Answers | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Someone once told me that developing a usable and secure password management system isn’t rocket science…it’s much more difficult than that. Naturally, I disagree as I have witnessed numerous implementations of password management solutions that were a major success in a very short period of time. Plus, “success” of these implementations can be measured financially, through improved operations and through improved security.

An organizational password management implementation involves a number of key elements consisting of a blend of technology and internal business processes including:

  • the use and misuse of multiple passwords
  • composing hard-to-guess passwords
  • changing and reusing passwords
  • the art and science of keeping passwords secret
  • intruder detection and lockout
  • encrypting passwords in storage and transit
  • synchronizing passwords and the latest in single sign-on
  • user authentication for self-service capabilities
  • IT support for forgotten and locked out passwords.

However, introducing password management best practices is not a daunting task, and I am certain almost every organization has the main concepts already defined (although possibly not matured). Here are three tips to help in your management.

Tip #1: Multiple Passwords Can Be Inhumane

The problem with passwords in a large enterprise is that people generally require so many different accounts and corresponding passwords to access the expansive list of both cloud and on-premise systems and applications, that sometimes it feels humanly impossible to remember them all. And just about the time you feel you have them all memorized, they then need to be changed. So what is the natural reaction of a worker who needs to efficiently accomplish all their tasks across a number of different systems? They start to develop a host of insecure behaviors around password management including:

    • writing passwords down and supporting 3M PostIt Notes sales
    • using passwords that are simple and easily compromised
    • contacting the Help Desk constantly when they forget their password (contributing to 30 percent of All Help Desk calls)
    • reusing old passwords as often as possible

These behaviors creep into the workplace because workers want to avoid downtime and the hassles that go along with it.  The solution to the entire password management problem incorporates three critical components: an easy self-service password reset capability to ensure people can reset their own passwords, a synchronization solution that changes passwords across all of a user’s systems and a single sign-on solution to limit the number of sign-ons required.

Tip #2: Compose Passwords That Are Difficult To Crack

All it takes to understand the glaring issue of password strength is to see the 25 worst passwords and their current ranking based on use (thanks to Splashdata who measures them):

1. 123456 (up 1 and taking the top spot from “password” for the first time
2. password (down 1)
3. 12345678 (unchanged)
4. qwerty (up 1)
5. abc123 (down 1)
6. 123456789 (new)
7. 111111 (up 2)
8. 1234567 (up 5)
9. iloveyou (up 2)
10. adobe123 (new)
11. 123123 (up 5)
12. Admin (new…you know who you are…)
13. 1234567890 (new)
14. letmein (down 7)
15. photoshop (new)
16. 1234 (new)
17. monkey (down 11)
18. shadow (unchanged)
19. sunshine (unchanged)
20. 12345 (new)
21. password1 (up 4)
22. princess (new)
23. azerty (new)
24. trustno1(down 12)
25. 000000 (new)

But hey, at least “password” is no longer #1!  The solution to this overly simple problem:  prevent your users from being able to use simple, easy-to-guess passwords!  Controls around password strength have been around for a long time, and most software and operating systems provide a way to prevent weak passwords from being used if configured correctly.  Unfortunately, some organizational legacy system baggage prevents setting stringent controls holistically at the target system, so software solutions have been created to help enforce password policies and prevent poor password decisions at the time the password is set and then synchronized across systems.

Tip #3: Change every password but the kitchen sync.

Password synchronization can solve so many issues around password management, so I am amazed when organizations choose a password management solution that only changes the core Active Directory or LDAP password without being able to sync to all the other systems a worker uses on a regular basis. Syncing passwords ensures users only need to remember one core password when logging into corporate systems, and this ultimately helps prevent the problem of workers writing down their passwords. It also helps solve the password expiration problem since the passwords will all be changed at the same time.

The latest solutions can map usernames across systems and still sync passwords successfully. For instance, my AD account may be RYANW, but my AIX Unix password is WARDR. The password management solution keeps track of those mappings and automatically knows to change my password for both AD\RYANW and AIX\WARDR. Synchronization can now also work with cloud-based applications such as, Google or Office365, so security is strengthened by regularly changing cloud-based applications that in the past were typically left unchanged or had longer expiration windows.

Hopefully, you will find these tips easy to implement. In my experience both in-house and as a member of an IT Consulting firm, these simple additions, if you are not already employing them, will go a long way in keeping your passwords secure and your chances of a breach considerably lower.

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Cybercrime expert on Sony hack, protecting personal info

A major computer hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment is far from over, as hackers took new movies like "Fury" and "Annie" and leaked them on the internet. Sony executives also confim some of...

Via Paulo Félix
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