Should I Remove It ?

Get rid of unwanted add-on-ware with this awesome Windows tool.

imagesWhen I use my computer, I have specific goals in mind. I usually don’t have too much time to must play around. I require peak performance from my rig, and when I don’t get it, there are really just a few things that are the likely cause, malware being one of them. With malware so prevalent in today’s computing world, it’s a good thing that there are apps like Should I Remove It available. It’s a malware scanner and removal tool for Windows that just might be able to keep your PC at peak performance.

With computer programs today relying on advertisements to pay many of their bills, every app install can bring unwanted application extensions and components on to your hard drive. This is where Should I Remove It comes in.

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With Should I Remove It, you don’t have to worry about what you should remove or keep. The app identifies and removes bloatware and trialware along with crippled versions of commercial software on a new computer in the hope that some will upgrade to paid editions.

Should I Remove It is a decent uninstaller, but aside from its ratings and removal percentage information, it doesn’t offer much value. The app does a decent job of removing software, but you’re completely dependent upon the information the app and its vendor provides for accuracy.

download Should I Remove It

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Run Windows apps in a new OS with ReactOS

reactosIconI’ve always been big on trying new computer operating systems and such. Heck,  I have beta tested every Windows beta since Windows 95 as part of Microsoft’s Technical Beta Team.  I’ve got the golf shirt to prove it.  However, the recent months have produced a lot of uncertainty, and finding a suitable replacement for Windows has crossed a number of people’s minds. That’s where ReactOS comes it. It’s a Windows compatible, alternative operating system that you might want to keep your eyes on.

ReactOS is a free open source operating system based on the architecture found in Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2012. Written completely from scratch, ReactOS is not a Linux variant and does not share any of UNIX’s architecture. ReactOS is its own animal entirely.

The main goal of the project is to provide an operating system that is binary compatible with Windows, allowing you to run Windows applications and drivers. It also has a similar look and feel so that familiar with Windows will find familiar and easy to use. With ReactOS, you get to use all of your Windows apps and device drivers without having to actually run the Microsoft operating system they were intended for.

ReactOS is a free open source operating system based on the best design principles found in the Windows NT architecture (Windows versions such as Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows Server 2012 are built on Windows NT architecture). Written completely from scratch, ReactOS is not a Linux based system, and shares none of the UNIX architecture.

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ReactOS comes just at the right time. With all of the uncertainty that is oozing out of Redmond right now, having a Windows compatible alternative operating system is a GREAT idea.  There’s a lot that is going to be good here, however, by the dev team’s own admission, the OS is not ready for everyday use yet.  There is a live CD image, but I couldn’t even get that to run, and I tried booting it on 3 different machines.

There’s a bit of information out there about the OS, and it looks like it will REALLY be cool…someday; but not yet. I couldn’t even get the OS to start so I could take screen shots.

ReactOS is still in an Alpha stage, meaning it’s new, very buggy, much of the hardware that you might install on it won’t work right, and don’t even think about installing things like Microsoft Office on it.  It likely WON’T work…or even install.

HOWEVER, this is something that most everyone here should keep an eye on. Depending on how things go for Microsoft, having an updated, current alternative to Windows that will allow you to install and run all of the software you want and need to get your job done, is going to be important.  This is a good first effort, but it needs time to cook…

download ReactOS

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Share photos with your friends and loved ones with Ashampoo Photo Mailer

photomailerOf all the things that I do on my computer, sharing pictures is perhaps the one thing that I do most often. I also think it’s the thing that most people do most often on their computers.  While sites like a Flickr, and Picasa and Facebook are great, but if the person you want to share with doesn’t do social networking, or if all you really want to do is shoot someone a couple of quick easy shots, then Ashampoo Photo Mailer is probably the app for you. It’s a cool photo utility for Windows.

Today, there are numerous ways to share your images online. However, what should be the simplest way still remains a pain in the rump – sharing images via email. Images have to be manually resized, trimmed and often split up into several mails to meet email provider constraints. Many times, you have to send, tweak, and resend in order to get everything sent.

Ashampoo Photo Mailer handles all of these tasks – the trimming and resizing, and turns photo sharing through email into a joyful experience. You can use any number of images.  Image splitting between emails occurs automatically, and then only when required.  You can send pictures to any number of recipients.  Ashampoo Photo Mailer has simple and efficient contact management built in.  You can send images at any quality level.  Trimming and resizing occurs automatically, and again, and only when required.

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The nice thing about Ashampoo Photo Mailer, is that it’s built around a rapid, step-by-step process.  You pick your images and adding recipients to dispatching your emails. The approach is highly intuitive and self-explanatory and requires no lengthy learning process.

Setting up existing email accounts is easy.  All you need is your name, email address and account password. Ashampoo Photo Mailer automatically recognizes different email providers and adds the required server settings.

At $20 bucks, the app seems a bit over priced for an app that optimizes photos for easy sharing via email, though its photo optimization slider is pretty cool.  What would be nice, is if this integrated with Gmail, Yahoo mail Outlook.com on the web and Outlook on the desktop, allowing you to call the app directly from your mail app or from within your open browser. It would also be nice if this allowed you to share photos via Flickr, Facebook and other social network sites.

download Ashampoo Photo Mailer

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HTC Needs…Something

Back in the day, the company could do no wrong. Today, it’s a different story…

htcI’ve been an HTC device user for years. Back in the day, HTC made devices for a company called imate. imate was a device OEM out of Dubai, UAE, and back in 2004…they were the BOMB. Their devices were unlocked, well designed, high performing, high margin products. I remember saving money for an entire YEAR so I could buy an imate PDA2k, a Windows Mobile 5 powered, EDGE based, smartphone. It cost me $930. Unfortunately, the review of the PDA2k I wrote and posted on 2005-06-09 seems to evaporated. There’s nothing left but a small shot of the actual device. It’s too bad. It was a great device and a good review, too.

It turns out that the company behind all of imate’s devices at the time was HTC. Since then, the company came out on its own, established its own brand, made a huge splash in the market and was a total success. Lately, however, they’ve hit some really hard times.

Samsung seems to be able to introduce new Android devices every time it sneezes. Their Galaxy S line of smartphones is a worldwide success, despite any disputes with Apple or accusations of patent infringement. The competition they have been providing in the Android camp is pretty stiff.

As such, it’s been difficult for HTC to gain much traction in this space. I saw an interesting article on WSJ.com, indicating that HTC may need to consider a merger if it wants to survive.

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Many analysts that share this point of view have suggested either Huawei or Lenovo as potential merger partners. It’s unclear whether HTC will consider partnerships with either organization. Both companies are Chinese, and a Chinese partner could really open up sales opportunities for a struggling HTC, who posted their first operating loss on record. Unfortunately for HTC, this loss, coupled with a “gloomy third quarter forecast” is powering an eight year low in HTC’s stock price. Many brokerages are targeting a NT $100 share price in recent weeks. HTC was priced at NT $160 as of early this morning, 2013-07-31.

HTC’s problems aren’t engineering based. Their devices are well designed, and well manufactured. The HTC One is simply stunning by all accounts. HTC’s issues are sales and marketing related, and its seems that a merger may be the best and easiest way to resolve those issues and hitch a ride on someone else’s well-oiled machine.

Any way you slice it, it’s clear. HTC needs…something. If they want to stay relevant and stay in business, they better figure out what that is and get it done, or the HTC One may be the One and Only.

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Keep your PC running in peak condition with SiSoftware Sandra 2013

sisoftwareLet’s face it.  The economy really stinks.  With economic conditions so lousy, it’s not surprising that PC sales are down. The best way to save money from a computing standpoint is to keep your computer running well. One of the best ways is to have a good diagnostic program like SiSoftware Sandra 2013. It’s a diagnostic utility for Windows.

SiSoftware Sandra is a 32- and 64-bit Windows system analyzer.   It includes benchmarking, testing and listing modules. It tries to go beyond other utilities to show you more of what is really going on under the hood so you draw comparisons at both a high and low-level in a single product. You can get information about the CPU, GPGPU, chipset, video adapter (GPU), ports, printers, sound card, memory, network.  You can even get information on Windows, .NET and Java internal components installed on your machine.

SIS-01

SiSoftware Sandra has a great deal to offer.  The free version is good, but the paid versions offer more. The biggest problem it has is that it’s very technical, and most computer users, aren’t.  However, if you have a little bit of computer aptitude, you can learn a lot about your PC; and you can learn what to check when things start misbehaving.

If you can, create reports when things are running well.  When you begin having problems with your PC, you can use the “known good” information and compare it to the current, not so good information. It may help you figure out what’s broken.  However, you’re going to likely need to get smart about your PC’s components before you can take full advantage of the app.

download SiSoftware Sandra 2013

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Apple Developer Website Hacked Update #1

1202275-apple-hack-hacking-pirateUPDATE:  A couple days ago, the Apple Developer Website went down for extended maintenance.  Many suspected that the site might have been hacked, but with so much going on with both Mavericks and iOS 7 development, it really could have been anything.

As I pointed out on Monday 2013-07-22, the site was actually hacked, and personal information was compromised.  While Apple has stated that “sensitive personal information was encrypted and [could not] be accessed,” their network was still breached and information was compromised and/or stolen.

Interestingly enough, the person responsible for all of this has come out and identified himself. Ibrahim Balic admitted on TechCrunch that he is the “security researcher” who conducted the ad-hoc penetration testing on Apple’s Developer website.  He said he reported13 bugs, took 73 user details – all of them Apple employees – and gave them to the organization as an example of the exploit(s) he discovered.

Balic claims to have obtained more than 100,000 encrypted user details from the site.  In a posting on YouTube, Balic attempts to explain himself, promising to delete the data that he took, while informing Apple of the pen-tests prior to the actual data “theft.”

Please note that when I tried to view the video, it was marked “private” and it would not play.

Where this goes from here, I don’t know. Penetration testing is something that most every security firm does, and one that most large organizations want completed. However, they usually retain security firms to do this, and the testing is planned, sanctioned and paid for. Balic’s “testing” appears to have been none of these things; and he may find himself in a great deal of trouble.

This story is developing, and we’ll have further information as its made available. Please watch the Soft32 blog for additional updates.

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Microsoft $900M Write Down – Why is Everyone Surprised?

I mean… I’m not. This is what happens when you don’t sell the stuff you make.

wpI’ve been watching and reporting on the Microsoft space since 1997. I knew that there was a change coming to their business long before it was publically announced a few days ago. News of the nearly $1.0B write-off come on the heels of a huge Microsoft reorg. Given the wide press that Windows 8 adoption numbers have had, and the abysmal Surface RT sales and licensing figures that everyone suspects are accurate, All that’s happened to Microsoft in June and July of 2013 canNOT be a surprise to anyone.

However, one of the things that everyone IS asking is, how did this happen? My good friend, MaryJo Foley put it the best, and you can read about it in her article, linked above. It’s a good question, too; one that should have been asked in a different form long before the decision to take the write-off was made. Microsoft should have been asking itself and its pundits, “what should we do to keep this from happening?” (or some similarly formulated question…)

The write-off, or “inventory adjustment,” as Microsoft is calling it is a $900M charge for Surface RT, its parts and accessories, as announced on 18-Jul-2013. Unfortunately, the entire world is focusing on this specific development, with many people providing I told you so, arm-chair quarter back/Monday morning analysis of Microsoft’s reported financials.

While I’m not going to get into much of that, I can’t say I’m surprised. What specifics had been circulated – Microsoft hasn’t provided specific sales numbers to my knowledge – shouldn’t make this a big surprise to anyone. Microsoft has been trying to misdirect everyone to other issues, accomplishments and subjects for months.

MJF wants to know how it happened. I want to know why no one took the current actions – reducing prices of licenses, hardware and accessories – until now. I also want to know why there isn’t a (more) aggressive marketing push, and why Microsoft isn’t doing more to attract more 3rd party developers.

The problems here are 3 fold. All of these need to be addressed in order to turn the ship around.

  • Hardware pricing
  • Windows Store Issues
  • Windows 8/RT UI Duality

Microsoft-Surface-ad-multiple-devices-hands-001

Hardware Pricing

Simply put, Microsoft needs to sell these at a serious loss if it wants to get Windows RT and Surface RT tablets into the hands of the public. Pricing these at or near iPad/iPad mini pricing isn’t going to cut it. The right price is $199 to $249 regardless of features, manufacturer, or storage size.

Microsoft needs to price Surface RT at a level where it’s stupid NOT to buy one, if only just to have it, in case there’s a major breakthrough and we bump into a, “Hey, Mikey..! He likes it!” moment.

Windows Store Issues

A friend of mine is returning a Lumia 928 Windows Phone due to lack of app selection and maturity within the Windows [App] Store. Simply put, what little apps there are, suck; or don’t compare to the level of app quality in the iOS or Google Play App Stores.

The same can be said for Windows RT; but its problems are a bit more profound. There aren’t a lot of apps in the store, and what apps are there, aren’t great. Moreover, Windows RT devices can’t run Win32 apps. Despite the fact that it’s a “Windows machine,” Surface RT can’t run any of the ba-jillions of Windows apps out there.

The only way Microsoft is going to be able to address this, is to do its best to attract quality developers to its RT dev programs, and get them to start pumping out apps. However, tablet or mobile device apps tend to be less robust than, and priced well below, their desktop counterparts. Unfortunately for Microsoft, this is a long row to hoe, and is going to be a complex problem to solve. Unfortunately, the hardware is only as good as the software it runs.

Windows 8/RT UI Duality

Microsoft tried to build a hybrid OS to help the masses bridge themselves between the growing tablet trend and the public’s love for traditional computing.

Unfortunately, the results generally suck.

Windows 8.1 goes a ways to address this issue, but doesn’t resolve it. Bridging the gap between the computing trends in a single device isn’t working. Most people are used to the fact that their iPad or Android tablet doesn’t run the same kind of software as their Mac or Windows PC; and they’ve accepted it and they’re willing to live with it.

Microsoft needs to separate the UI’s and allow everyone to get back to work. Windows RT wouldn’t suck as an OS if MS would simply combine Windows Phone and Windows RT into a single effort, since they’re so close already. Leave MetroUI based apps to those devices and let the desktop folks get back to work with something that they’re more accustomed to…for now.

If we need to update the UI, let’s do it in an evolutionary, not revolutionary manner. The problem is that XP and its Start Menu have been around too long, and that paradigm of UI is available in Windows 7 as well. Windows XP is still used in the enterprise, and is slowly being phased out, not for Windows 8, but Windows 7. It could be 5 years or more before that UI paradigm is gone. One of the biggest reasons why it was so successful is because consumers were able to use the same UI at home and at work.

Adopting RT in the enterprise currently isn’t possible, as the device integration isn’t there. Home, as well as corporate users, are rejecting Microsoft’s new Start Screen, so, so much for MetroUI.

This is just me; but Microsoft MUST address all three of these issues as part of its reorg or its going to find itself taking additional write-off’s in the immediate future. It can’t afford to do it, and I really don’t’ want to think about a world without a Microsoft… that’s scary, and something that I really don’t want to deal with.

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What if – Microsoft Doesn’t Make it..?

I had an interesting conversation with someone at the office today who asked about the MS reorg and some Surface pricing changes – What happens if Microsoft shuts down?

msreorg

Its an interesting question, and one that made me, as well as some people around me and my friend, shudder – What if Microsoft doesn’t fare well after the reorg and everything continues to tank for them?  More than 80% of the world’s enterprises run on Microsoft clients and servers. What would happen if they just evaporated?

Now, I don’t want anyone to panic.  This isn’t very likely to happen, so don’t go getting your undies in a bunch.  However, when you start looking at how many businesses run MS software – servers, clients, middleware – it’s a legitimate question.  Where does the world turn if Microsoft and Windows dies?

Yeah… I’m at a bit of a loss too. I have no idea what viable alternatives are REALLY out there.  Now, assuming Microsoft is TOTALLY out of the picture (again, possible, but not probable…for now), some companies would likely adopt the same strategy with Windows 7 as they did with Windows XP and ride it as long as they could, hiring as many software engineers and developers to patch their enterprise implementation of the OS for all their clients as necessary. They’d have to do their own security patches, as again, MS wouldn’t necessarily be around 5-7 years from the finalization of their demise.

Thankfully, the problems at the OS level aren’t there when it comes to a productivity suite (meaning, Office).  There are many alternatives available, despite the fact that Office is the defacto choice at this time.  Things like LibreOffice, OpenOffice.org, and SoftMaker Office offer free or affordable, robust alternatives to Microsoft’s classic office suite, without imposing online, subscription restrictions or requirements on users. Regardless of what happens in Redmond, I don’t see this area being as big of an issue as the lack of Windows would create.  All three of the products I cited are MS Office compatible, AND have versions available for Windows, OS X, as well as numerous Linux distributions.

So what does this get us at the end of the day? Not much… The level of speculation here is crazy-huge.  But it’s one that a lot of people have had wander through their minds, especially at the large office I work in.  Many of the PC’s that are in use here today are still using Windows XP.  Windows 7 should be fully rolled out over the next 6-12 months – 4 years after its release in October of 2009.

If Windows were to evaporate, there’s no clear heir-apparent for an enterprise client OS out there.  OS X and Linux both have an enterprise presence, but its miniscule in comparison to what Microsoft has.  If I were Tim Cook or Jim Whitehurst (the CEO of RedHat) I’d be watching Microsoft like a hawk and step up the enterprise marketing at each and every opportunity.

My friend Preston Gralla says that MS has to kill the Windows brand to succeed. Greg Keizer, also from ComputerWorld, doesn’t give Ballmer a good chance of making the recent Microsoft reorg a success.  Part of that is Ballmer.  Part of that is clearly based on industry data of past reorg and culture change success rates.

The odds just aren’t in Ballmer’s favor; and any way you cut it, there’s definitely blood in the water. The only questions left to be answered are when and how badly will the shark attacks be…

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