Trails End Computer Club

Bulletin for the week of JANUARY 5, 2014

WEEKLY MEETINGS
EACH Wednesday 

Program or Lesson 9:30 - 10:30 AM
One on One Help 10:30-?
In the Library


SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS:

If you would like to meet in a small group to discuss special computer related subjects or form a Special Interest Group lets discuss it.

Our bulletin is also available on line by visiting tecc.apcug.org and clicking on bulletin.


Our weekly program or lesson is intended
to be of interest to all computer users.
Following the program an allotment of time will
be available for one on one help to those
who want a better understanding of something done
 during the presentation.

Upcoming Events

Wednesday JANUARY 8, 2014 Meeting
 9:15 AM Set up your computer
 9:30 AM Lesson 3 - - - Backup your hard drive. I've  added quite a bit to last years back up lesson. It covers several types of backup amd restore. Although it goes into detail, the users must have an understanding of the possibilities.
10:30 AM One on One help

I/O, I/O, It’s Off To Work We Go

By Phil Sorrentino, Past President, Sarasota PCUG, Florida

November 2013 issue, PC Monitor,       www.spcug.org,     philsorr (at) yahoo.com

The work I’m talking about here is computer data transfer. I/O or Input/Output is a term used to collect all the ways you can move data into and/or out of a computer. (This may be a review for some, but there are a few new ideas that might make it worth the time.) For all of those that have been with computers from the beginning, circa 1980, the only way into or out of your computer, then, was through the serial and parallel ports (the keyboard, mouse, and display interfaces were really internal and were only used for their intended purposes). Fortunately, the serial and parallel interfaces have been replaced with interfaces that are much faster and much more flexible and easier to use. Today, most of the I/O is conducted over the Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface. However, there are a few special purpose interfaces that have become basic to computer use.

Early on, audio was included in the computers bag of tricks so we now typically have an audio-in for a microphone and an audio-out for speakers. Many computers also have another audio-in, usually tagged as line-in. Audio-out is typically used to drive external speakers and line-in is typically used to input a stereo analog signal for use by audio processing software. Also added early on was an Ethernet connection which has become the computers on-ramp to the Internet. Yes, and Wi-Fi (Wireless-Fidelity) has certainly become the mechanism for all, laptops, netbooks, tablets, and smartphones to get on to the Internet. Wi-Fi is a wireless I/O and therefore needs no connectors or wires. It is all accomplished by the transmitter and receiver hardware and software, within the computer. There are two other wireless interfaces, Bluetooth and NFC. Bluetooth is becoming very popular as a way to easily connect various Bluetooth compatible devices to the computer with no wires cluttering up the computer area. Bluetooth sets up a PAN (Personal Area Network) around the computer, usually within 10 meters. Bluetooth is also finding its way into many places like the living room entertainment center and the automobile. NFC (Near Field Communications) is a very short range (less than 4 inches) wireless interface that may or may not be used on a computer but will probably be used with smartphones to help make the electronic wallet possible in the future.

Not so early on, around the time laptops became portable, rather than luggable, a video display output port started to appear. This became the very popular VGA (Video Graphics Array) output port (a.k.a. the RGB port because it provided Red, Green, and Blue analog video signals). The VGA port was typically used with an external display device like a larger display or a projector. For a brief time, the DVI (Digital Video Interface) began to take over the job of moving digital video information from the computer to an external display device, but it was soon overtaken by a more comprehensive and versatile interface. Today, the VGA and the DVI port, is being replaced by a digital multi-media port, the HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port. The HDMI port carries both digital video and digital audio signals from the computer to a digital display device. (HDMI is also used in most new digital entertainment centers and digital televisions. Many new digital TVs even provide multiple HDMI input ports, so you can connect cable boxes and DVD players to the TV.) HDMI is also being used on small devices such as smartphones and camcorders and as such is being made available in mini and micro sizes.

So besides audio and video, most of the digital data that is transferred to and from the computer is done via the USB ports. Modern computers usually have multiple USB connectors (laptops maybe 2 to 4, and desktops may have 2 to many). The USB port is a rectangular plug that is keyed so you cannot plug the connector in incorrectly. The USB connector also provides a limited amount of power to the device connected to it, which can be used to charge a battery or even power the device. Because the USB connector provides power to the connecting device, many smartphones and media players charge their batteries through the USB connector. Currently USB is at version 3.0. (Early versions were 1.0 which was little used, 1.1 which was very popular but slow at only 12 Mbps, and 2.0 which was ubiquitous, and fast at up to 480 Mbps.) USB 3.0 devices began to appear in January 2010. USB 3.0 has a maximum data rate of 5 Gbps, yes that’s 5 thousand Mega bits per second. That is a maximum and most data transfers will probably not be near 5 Gbps, but they will be very fast. Fortunately, USB 3.0 is backward compatible with both 1.1 and 2.0. Backward compatibility means that devices at any USB version can operate together, although the data transfer will only be at the speed of the lowest USB version. USB 3.0 connectors usually have a blue center post to identify them as 3.0. Because USB is used on so many small devices, like smartphones and tablets, USB connectors come in Mini and Micro sizes. USB has become so fast and ubiquitous that it has just about eclipsed the other, almost popular, serial bus, IEEE1394 (a.k.a. FireWire).

There are a few other interfaces that may show up on a higher-end computer. These tend to be for special purposes or are extremely fast. One interface, for the purpose of connecting external hard drives, is eSATA (external Serial Advanced Technology Attachment). This interface is not as popular as it was before USB 3.0 became available, but it is still a way to extend the computer’s hard drive capability. Thunderbolt is another special purpose interface, rarely seen on typical computers, with speeds up to 10 Gbps. Thunderbolt can connect multiple compatible devices in a daisy chained configuration. DisplayPort is another special purpose Video Display interface that is very fast, it is advertised at up to 21.6 Gbps, and is designed for multiple displays. These very fast interfaces may be found on professional Display systems that require resolution and refresh rates far beyond those of HDMI. This type of display may be found in medical systems that may be used to display MRI Scans or X-Rays. DisplayPort may be found on some high-end machines, maybe gaming machines and if resolutions beyond 1080p ever find their way to the home, you may find DisplayPort driving those display devices.

The job of moving digital data around is tough work, but these interfaces seem to be up to the job, and I’m sure the ones that will come in the future will probably be faster, more versatile and even more capable.


iraMicrosoft Ending Support for Windows XP and Office 2003

by Ira Wilsker

WEBSITES:

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/enterprise/endofsupport.aspx

http://support.microsoft.com/gp/windows-xp-end-of-support

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/help/what-does-end-of-support-mean

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/products/lifecycle

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/end-support-help

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems

http://www.neowin.net/news/microsoft-windows-xp-market-share-at-21-percent-goal-of-13-percent-by-april-8

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/products/lifecycle


Today, at the monthly meeting of the local computer club (GTPCC), I was asked about the pending demise of Windows XP. Microsoft has announced that it will officially end support for both Windows XP and Office 2003 on April 8, 2014. According to Microsoft, "After April 8, 2014, technical assistance for Windows XP will no longer be available, including automatic updates that help protect your PC. If you continue to use Windows XP, your computer might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses."

One concerned member personally asked me if her computer with Windows XP will still work after April 8, and the definitive answer (barring any other external factors) is yes, Windows XP will not cease to function come April 8. As far as the typical XP user is concerned, April 8, 2014 will just be another day; there will be no differences in XP functionality between April 7 and April 9, 2014. The only differences that users might notice is that after April 8, according to Microsoft, " ... there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates." This lack of security updates may make XP systems vulnerable to new security threats, but there is some debate as to whether this risk is likely to be significant to most users; since many users employ modern, comprehensive, updated security suites, the security suites themselves should provide the updated protection from most of the newer threats likely to appear. Users of Windows XP who have not installed the periodic security patches and updates already released by Microsoft may already be at an increased security risk as many known security issues have already been patched by Microsoft. Additionally, XP users who have not previously installed and maintained comprehensive security suites have left their computers very vulnerable to even the most basic of security threats. In order to be sure that computers currently running Windows XP have been properly patched and updated, XP users can connect to the internet, and then check for updates by clicking on START - ALL PROGRAMS - WINDOWS UPDATE. The computer will check online, presenting the user with a list of available updates (if any), which then can be downloaded and installed. If not already installed, XP users should be sure that XP Service Pack 3 is installed (except that the last Service Pack for the 64bit version of XP was SP2).

It is not just Windows XP that Microsoft is "killing" on April 8, 2014; Microsoft is also ceasing updates and support for Office 2003. Users of Office 2003, regardless of operating system, should also go through the update procedure by clicking on START - ALL PROGRAMS - WINDOWS UPDATE, as the same process and procedure that locates patches and updates for Windows also performs the same functions for any version of Microsoft Office that is installed on the computer. If a user is still using Office 2003, it is necessary to install any available patches and updates prior to April 8, or they will no longer be available. Just as with XP, Office 2003 will still function normally after April 8, but will no longer be supported or patched by Microsoft. Microsoft is encouraging Office 2003 users to upgrade to more recent versions of its flagship Office product; this effort has not been lost on the publishers of competing office suites, such as OpenOffice and LibreOffice, who have openly invited Office 2003 users to switch to their respective competitive products, rather than purchase an expensive license for newer versions of Microsoft Office.

Despite its upcoming discontinuance of support by Microsoft, Windows XP still remains very popular as an operating system, and will likely continue to be widely used for an extended period of time. According to Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems), as of October, 2013, Windows XP still has the second largest share of the currently operating desktop systems, with 31.24%, compared to the current leader, Windows 7, at 46.42%. Behind Windows XP in desktop utilization is Windows 8 with 9.25%, and Apple OSX at 7.73%. Vista, Linux, and other operating systems combined are currently running on slightly more than 5% of the desktop machines. Microsoft challenges these statistics, reporting that Windows XP only runs on 21% of the machines, and its goal is to have the number down to 13% by the cessation of support on April 8 (source: www.neowin.net/news/microsoft-windows-xp-market-share-at-21-percent-goal-of-13-percent-by-april-8).

One may wonder why Microsoft is "pulling the plug" on such a popular operating system; the answer is simple, costs versus revenues. According to Microsoft (windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/products/lifecycle), retail sales of Windows XP officially ended retail sales of the XP software on June 30, 2008, and ended sales of PCs with Windows XP installed on October 22, 2010. Microsoft revenues from XP have dried up, effectively ceasing, while the cost of producing patches and upgrades, with corresponding revenues to cover those costs, has become prohibitive. This is a normal effect of a system of continuous improvements, upgrades, and new releases, and no different than the practices of many other industries, such as the automobile industry, where new models are introduced on a regular basis, and older models are discontinued. On the several Microsoft web pages providing information on the April 8, 2014 cessation are also strong encouragements for users with XP to upgrade to more modern equipment running Windows 7 or 8.1, which obviously creates a new revenue stream for Microsoft.

While it is nothing new for Microsoft to announce "End of Sales" and "End of Support" dates for its primary products long in advance, the dates for the "End of Support" for the remaining Microsoft operating systems is already posted online by Microsoft at windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/products/lifecycle. According to this posting, extended support for Windows Vista will end on April 11, 2017, while extended support for Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 (latest currently available) will be on January 14, 2020. Windows 8.1 (latest version of Windows 8) will reach the end of its support life cycle on January 10, 2023. It is inevitable that Microsoft will continue to develop operating systems capable of utilizing the latest technological developments, and these too will have a finite lifecycle commensurate with continuing revenue streams.

For now, as long as their machines are still in good working condition, and modern security suites are installed and maintained, users of Windows XP and Office 2003 can continue to use their computers. It would be an excellent idea approaching an imperative, to check for, and install any updates and patches for XP and 2003 right now! Come April 8, 2014, users of XP and Office 2003 will not notice any changes in functionality; it will just be another day, and their computers will continue to function much as they do today, until a catastrophic hardware failure or a desire to get something new provides the incentive to switch operating systems to a newer one. Also, just as with any other operating system, it is very important to maintain current backups of all critical files, as older computers have an increased likelihood of hardware failure, and without a contemporary backup, important files may be lost forever. For all operating systems, not just Windows XP and Office 2003, update, patch, and backup now; later may not be an option!


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