July 6, 2012
Last week the staff of IRIS Solutions participated in our summer company outing at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC.
A great time was had by all as we paddled down the Catawba River on flat water kayaks...
... and ended the evening with a fireside dinner on Hawk Island; a wooded island located in the middle of the Whitewater Center.
(Photo Credit to the U.S. National Whitewater Center)
If you have never been to the Whitewater Center you should definitely take the time to check it out! We had a wonderful time team-building and mingling with each other in a non-office setting.
There are sure to be other IRIS adventures so stay tuned!
(Photo credit to the U.S. National Whitewater Center)
February 22, 2012
I spent about four hours today with AT&T working on a phone line for a client. This was a traditional POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) line, which is what most of us had in our house before Vonage or digital phone. This type of phone line is an old, but very dependable, technology... or so I thought. After today I am convinced that anything analog needs to be phased out. We had one line out of four that was down and it took the AT&T tech five hours to get this line back. As it turns out the copper pair shorted out inside of a cable in a corner of the building. He was able to move this to a different pair but not before a lot of work to figure out the problem. There was not any programming involved but simply moving an analog line over to a different wire.
When he was finished I spent some time chatting with him and he mentioned that as a repair tech they spend most of their time on POTS lines. He went on to say that they very rarely have a single problem like this with digital circuits such as T-1, ISDN, or PRI. You could also bundle SIP trunks (Session Initiation Protocol: a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service) into this but AT&T does not typically sell SIP trunks. The repair tech also stated that the new digital technologies are faster and more reliable for the end customer. It would be nice if we could move away from POTS lines and start to move our telephony delivery into the digital age.
We have so many options for phone with VoIP or digital trunks. If you would like to learn more about these we are always available to help you understand anything you may be unsure of.
February 14, 2012
If you frequently run multiple programs simultaneously your desktop can get extremely cluttered. This can get annoying if you're working on one program and want to minimize all the other windows-- in previous versions of Windows you had to minimize them individually.
But thanks to Windows 7's "Shake" feature you can minimize every window except the one in which you are currently working in a single step. Click and hold the title bar of the window you want to keep on your desktop. While still holding the title bar, shake it quickly back and forth until all of the other windows minimize to the taskbar and then let it go. To make the windows return, shake the title bar again.
You can accomplish the same thing by pressing the Windows logo key () + Home key combination; although doing so is not nearly as much fun.
February 3, 2012
How is it that when you get home, turn on your wireless laptop, and scan for networks you see every network in your neighborhood, yet you go to an airport and see just one of them? What is it that you actually see anyways? You see a network named "smith family" and one named "Jones." They are called SSID; short for Set Service Identifier. Basically it is the name of your network.
We know wireless has its limitations in range so how does it work that an entire airport has one SSID? The term is called "clustering." Wireless access points are spread out every so often and all chained together with clustering. We are taking a group of wireless access points and grouping them together. This allows for someone to stay connected no matter what side of the airport they are on or how far away they are going inside the facility.
Think about this the next time you are in a large environment and impress one of your friends by telling them you know about wireless clustering. You might get called a tech nerd but if you are reading this blog you sort of are anyway, right?
January 30, 2012
When you need a really large window for viewing photos and videos don't just maximize it; go full screen! This tip works great for viewing photos and videos at maximum size in Windows Explorer or Windows Media Player, utilizing screen space usually occupied by the header at the top of the screen and the taskbar at the bottom. Here's how:
- Open any photo in Windows Explorer or open a photo or video clip in Windows Media Player.
- In Windows 7 and Windows XP click the F11 key at the top of your keyboard. The photo or video image enlarges to its maximum size and the title bar and taskbar are hidden.
- To undo full-screen mode and restore the window to its normal view, press the Esc (Escape) key at the top left corner of your keyboard.
January 23, 2012
Last year Thailand experienced the worst monsoon season in 50 years with hundreds of lives lost and over two thirds of the country swamped by the end of October. The tragic images of flooded towns showed the extent of the immediate damage to the region but the long-term impact of that flooding will be felt for some time.
One way in which the flooding has affected the rest of the world is in the supply of computer hard disk drives (HDDs). Apart from being the second largest supplier of complete HDDs after China, Thailand also manufactures individual components which are used by HDD manufacturers in other parts of the world. For example, there is Nidec, a Thai company that supplies more than 70 percent of all HDD motors worldwide. All of the leading hard drive brands, including Western Digital, Seagate, Hitachi, Toshiba, and Samsung, use motors produced by Nidec. Many of these companies were impacted by the floods and as a result, the global supply of HDDs slowed to a trickle. Most of the affected manufacturers are only expecting to have their production rates back to normal by the end of the second quarter of this year, which is still a long time away. Until then we face a severe shortage of HDDs around the world, which our office has actually experienced over the last few months.
At present, some HDD models and capacities are simply not available. Those wanting to purchase HDDs will have to choose from a very limited range of drive capacities and at much higher prices than before; over double the usual price in many cases. Prices are still climbing and that is expected to continue for a few more months. Of course there is little consumers can do about this but if you're planning to purchase any HDDs within the next few months, don't delay.
Your options may become more limited in a few weeks and prices may climb higher. There is one possible upside to all of this and that is the impact it will have on the adoption of Solid State Drive (SSD) technology. Because SSDs don't have any moving components, the manufacturers have been able to continue production of SSDs while HDD production was hampered. As the crisis continues, many consumers will be forced to purchase the more expensive SSD drives instead of traditional HDDs. In fact, the effects of this are already being seen, with SSD manufacturers like Sandisk expecting higher profits on the back of rising SSD sales. This accelerated adoption of SSD technology will help to make these units more affordable, and that is a good thing for all of us!
January 19, 2012
On Wednesday, January 18, 2012, many of our beloved websites took to the net in protest. Several websites shutdown, or "blacked" themselves out to show their opposition for the proposed PIPA (Protect IP Act) and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) bills. These bills are intended to take aim at copyright infringement and internet piracy, though many against these bills say they will dissolve personal expression on the internet and leave too much control in the hands of our government. While the bills have not yet been voted on they are facing support and opposition from all sides, making it a hot topic in the coming weeks. We won't get into any of our political beliefs, but here are a few major websites that participated in the protest:
- Wikipedia, the internet's largest open-source collection of information, shut down completely for over 24 hours
- Craiglist's landing page showed a petition that portrayed strong opposition for the proposed PIPA and SOPA bills
- Google blacked out its own logo to show support for the opposition
- Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter also aired its concerns regarding SOPA yesterday, although they declined to take part in the blackouts
- According to Twitter, there were over 30 million Tweets regarding the PIPA and SOPA bills
Were you affected or inconvenienced by any of these websites? Let us know!
January 10, 2012
All of my tech life I have been a Microsoft guy. I mean let's face it; they support about 91% of the world's desktop computer workspace. All of my computers, and even phones, that I have purchased have been Microsoft products. When I first bought a Smartphone it was a Palm 700W, meaning a Windows phone. I have since had a Blackberry and a Droid and now I have moved to the iPhone... and if you know me or my history this should come as a surprise.
I was not unhappy with my Droid but it had a bug. When the latest release, Gingerbread, came out it would not illuminate the built-in keyboard on a consistent basis. I researched this extensively to find out it was a bug in the latest release. Well this bug drove me crazy. You can't exactly type a text or email at night if you can't see the keyboard. Verizon gave me the option of replacing it and I moved over to the dark side, THE iPHONE.
I hated to do this because I love my Windows platform but I felt like a change needed to be made. After all, Windows phones were not selling and Blackberry has basically died. Most of my friends have iPhones, as does my family, but I still resisted until two weeks ago. Right out of the box it was easier. The argument from Droid geeks is that the Droid is so customizable. Yes, this is true however you don't need to customize the iPhone. Why install a new browser when the first one is so much better? I don't need another email client, this one just works.
The iPhone 4S is a 3G phone and so was my Droid but the iPhone is much faster. It is more responsive in every area. I turned off airplane mode and right away it found new emails. This was a painful process with the Droid. What about the battery? The iPhone kills the Droid and any Droid user will tell you that. Over the Christmas holiday I hardly received any emails, texts, or phone calls. I left the phone alone and it went for almost 4 days on standby. Let's see a Droid do that.
For all of you Droid users, don't think about it just swap. For the Blackberry guys, the browser alone is worth the move. The only thing not so great is the maps. The Droid phone is much better for maps, however that is a small price to pay.
I don't know what is next. I don't expect an iMac on my desk anytime soon but the iPhone is great.