Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Uncertain future for BlackBerry's dwindling users.

CNN -- Since the dawn of the iPhone age in 2007, loyal BlackBerry users have watched their favorite device maker stumble into an ever-steepening decline.

Some of the collapse is due to the consumer changeover to Apple and Google Android products, but the company -- once known as Research In Motion -- hasn't helped itself with poor planning and delayed product introductions.

On Monday, the company that once blazed the trail in the smartphone market announced it's being taken private by its largest shareholder, Fairfax Financial, a Canadian insurance company.
The move comes on the heels of an announced $1 billion quarterly loss and layoffs of 4,500 employees. Its future as a maker of smartphones may be in doubt.
Now the dwindling numbers of loyal BlackBerry users must decide: Is this the last straw?

"You can tear my Blackberry's real keyboard out of my cold dead fingers," user Charles Wright of Toronto wrote on Twitter.It's no idle question. For all the attention paid to BlackBerry's fall and the rise of iPhone and Android, there's still a sizable BlackBerry market out there. Forbes magazine estimates that there are in excess of 50 million BlackBerry users, and they remain fiercely devoted to their phones, with their secure e-mail software and physical keyboards.

Ronen Halevy, an IT security professional who runs the site, still prefers his BlackBerry because it "focuses on communications first" -- even though he's familiar with both Android and iPhone platforms.

"They're very good devices to consume information, but the main point of the phone is that it's more like a computer," he says of the Apple and Google phones. BlackBerrys, he says, are better at "flow" from e-mail to calendar to other applications.

He hopes that the company returns to its roots.

"I think that Fairfax should double down on BlackBerry 10 and the combination of corporate and consumer market that appreciated the rock solid communication platform it offered," he wrote on "This means an end to the 'me too' additions of features to BlackBerry 10 and instead appealing to the market that made BlackBerry take off."

One commenter observed, however, that the company will be hard pressed to win new converts.

"Not good news for consumers, people hate the BB name and what it stands for. Self-inflicted suicide," kingbernie wrote. He suspected that becoming a corporate-focused software business might be the company's best way out of the wilderness -- even if it means leaving the consumer market behind.

Chris Umiastowski, a tech analyst and regular contributor to the BlackBerry boards on, says BlackBerry fans should remain wary.

"Going private doesn't necessarily change the outcome for the company. All it is guaranteed to change is the ownership structure," he said via e-mail. "It's not a nail in the coffin, nor is it some massive opportunity to fix themselves. No matter who owns the shares they still have to compete with solid competitors. Going private just lets them operate outside of so much public scrutiny."

For those who want to put their BlackBerrys in a drawer next to their PalmPilots but want to keep a physical keyboard on their devices, your options are limited. The Motorola Photon Q and the Motorola Droid 4 are Android-compatible and have relatively large slide-out keyboards, but reviewers have taken issue with their camera capabilities.

In addition,'s Halevy observes, those keyboards -- which are landscape-oriented instead of the portrait-style versions on BlackBerrys -- seem like "afterthoughts."

"Even if you're in an e-mail and you want to hit the 'delete' button to delete an e-mail -- you think that's logical -- it doesn't work," he says.

The NEC Terrain, another Android phone with a physical keyboard, is marketed for its "rugged innovation" but, says Halevy, he doesn't think it's really aimed at the general consumer.

That leads to the host of smartphones with virtual keyboards, including the new iPhone 5S and 5C, the Android-compatibleSamsung Galaxy S4 and the Android HTC One, among many others. All have their pros and cons, whether it's your comfort with their operating systems or your desire for certain accessories.

But for those, like Umiastowski, who want to stick with BlackBerry, it will hard to get them to change.
His household includes a number of Apple items -- including his wife's iPhone -- but he prefers the BlackBerry. He's frustrated by the lack of apps for the device but still prefers the overall experience.

"BlackBerry has always been (and still is) the best experience for communicating. At first it was push email and physical keyboards. Now I'm on a Z10 and I find the multitasking + software keyboard + email experience is second to none," he wrote. "An iPhone would feel like a step backwards on those things which matter to me."

Besides, says Halevy, he likes how the BlackBerry creates community.

"The one thing you notice immediately when people change from BlackBerry to other devices is you never hear from them anymore," he says.

 The article above was originally published on the CNN website by Todd Leopold.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Microsoft is Ending Support for Windows XP in 2014: What You Need to Know


YesCon Tech - Today marks the first day of the last year of Windows XP’s long and storied life.
On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will officially stop supporting Windows XP, meaning there will be no more security updates or other patches. When April 2014 rolls around Microsoft will have supported Windows XP for nearly 12 years.
Should you chose not to upgrade before next year, you will be, in Microsoft’s words “at your own risk” in dealing with security vulnerability and any potential malware designed to exploit them.
According to NetMarketShare, just over 38 percent of PCs connected to the web are still running Windows XP. Given that current XP users have already ignored three OS upgrades, it seems reasonable to assume a significant number of XP diehards still won’t upgrade even now that Microsoft is no longer issuing security updates — all of which adds up to a potentially huge number of vulnerable PCs connected to the web.

Starting around this time next year expect black hat hackers to have a botnet fire sale.
With so many suddenly vulnerable PCs on the web, it’s really only a matter of time before unpatched vulnerabilities are identified and exploited, which could mean a serious uptick in the amount of botnet spam or worse — imagine even a small percentage of those 38 percent of PCs being harnessed for distributed denial of service attacks.
For individual users upgrading Windows XP shouldn’t be too difficult, barring a dependency on software that’s never been updated. If Windows 7 or 8 aren’t to your liking there’s always Linux (I suggest starting with Mint Linux if you’re new to Linux).
Upgrading enterprise and government installations is somewhat more difficult. Microsoft puts the matter quite bluntly on the Windows blog: “If your organization has not started the migration to a modern desktop, you are late.”
The Windows blog post contains quite a few links designed to help anyone looking to upgrade, but at the enterprise/government level it may well be too late anyway. “Based on historical customer deployment data,” says Microsoft, “the average enterprise deployment can take 18 to 32 months from business case through full deployment.”
Windows XP isn’t the only Microsoft product that will be getting the heave-ho this time next year. Internet Explorer 6 on XP, Office 2003, Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 2 (newer service packs of Exchange Server 2010 are still supported) will all be cast adrift. It’s also worth noting that this affects virtual machines as well, so if you’ve got a Windows XP virtual machine for testing websites, well, be careful out there.

If You Still Need XP
You shouldn’t keep using XP. It will become more and more unsecure over time as more security vulnerabilities are found and not patched. Finding new hardware that supports XP will be difficult if your current hardware breaks down or needs to be upgraded. New software may stop supporting XP and you may be stuck with older, outdated, and also unsecure versions of software. Current versions of Mozilla Firefox no longer support Windows 98 – Firefox users on Windows 98 are using an unsecure version of Firefox.
If you have old software that only works on XP, you should consider upgrading to a modern version of Windows and running Windows XP in a virtual machine. Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions of Windows 7 include a “Windows XP Mode” feature for easily running a Windows XP virtual machine. This will help increase your security by allowing you to use a modern, supported, secure operating system on your computer while confining the unsecure, unsupported XP to a virtual machine.
You should already be using antivirus software on your Windows XP systems, but this will become even more important when Windows XP starts to become the security equivalent of swiss cheese. Some security companies may jump in with solutions to secure increasingly vulnerable legacy XP systems, but you’re much better off upgrading.
If your organization has a Windows XP deployment, you should already be working on migrating to a new version of Windows. If you’re a home user, you should be looking at upgrading, too. Most longtime Windows XP users generally agree that Windows 7 is a worthy upgrade (Windows 8 is more controversial), and Microsoft will be supporting Windows 7 until 2020.
Let’s be honest: You won’t find an operating system vendor that supports their desktop operating system for as long as Microsoft supported XP. But, if you’re really upset, you can always switch to Linux instead. Just leave XP behind!

The article above was originally published on, Microsoft is Ending Support for Windows XP in 2014: What You Need to Know  by How-To Geek and Scott Gilbertson of
Image Credits: How-To Geek, Microsoft and webmonkey