Category Archives: Hardware

Hardware

Overview of Intel’s new processor

Hardware_June12_CDo you know what type of processor your computer has? Most people will answer ‘Intel’, because it’s the most popular processor maker there is. If you were to follow processor news, you would know that Intel has recently introduced a new version or ‘generation’ of their popular Core processors that could prove very useful for your business.

While the new processors are not out just yet, many business owners and managers are wondering what exactly this new version will bring and whether upgrading is worth it when it’s released?

Overview of Intel’s processors
If you have looked at buying a computer in the past three years you have likely heard or seen computers being advertised as having an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7. These processors are Intel’s current line or models, used in laptops and desktops.

  • Core i3 processors offer the lowest amount of processing power and are generally found in low-end laptops or desktops. These are best for users who only need computers to check email or browse the Internet.
  • Core i5 processors are the mid-range and can usually be found in mid-range laptops and desktops. These are best suited to most personal users and can handle most computing needs.
  • Core i7 processors are top of the line and are the most powerful processors Intel makes. These are really suited to businesses and high-end consumers who need powerful processors.

Introduced in 2010, these processors have seen updated versions released almost every year. Intel calls each update a ‘generation’ and the latest, introduced in May 2013, is the 4th generation. You can tell which generation of processor your computer has by looking at the model number e.g., Intel Core i7 3xxx is a third generation processor.

This year’s generation is called Haswell by Intel, but many computer manufacturers will not use this name when presenting technical specifications to users. They will instead use the model name e.g., Intel Core i7 4xxx.

Changes made with Haswell
There are numerous changes that Haswell processors bring and here are three that businesses will benefit from:

  • Faster performance - Because the new processor uses a slightly different layout, more processing power has been added. This means computers using this processor will be faster. This chip is also smaller than the previous versions, so you should see smaller laptops introduced with more computing power.
  • Power savings - Intel has said that when they develop new generations of chips, they aim to always reduce the power consumption. This leads to longer battery life in laptops, without having to sacrifice computing power. How much power saving this new generation of processors will bring remains to be seen, but you can be sure that newer laptops will have a longer battery life.
  • Enhanced graphics - With the introduction of the first Core i3, i5 and i7′s, Intel included an integrated video card. Graphics performance is important to a number of different types of users, including gamers, graphics designers and to some extent, businesses. If you use graphics-heavy programs, like Photoshop, on a daily basis, you need a powerful graphics processor. The new update brings an increase to the integrated card performance which should be more than powerful enough for most users’ needs.

A question being asked by many is whether the new processors will bring a price increase. At this time, prices have not been released,but there is rumor that they are going to be higher. Past releases have not generally affected the overall price of laptops and desktops though and if anything has made them less expensive.

Should I upgrade my systems?
From what we can see about Haswell it will be worth the upgrade for businesses with aging systems, or users needing a boost to the processing power of their systems. If you updated last year, or even the year before that, you will likely be better off waiting a while yet.

Another option could be to wait until computers with Haswell processors enter the market, which should be by mid summer. You will probably be able to get computers with a third generation processor for a lot less. Meanwhile, a third generation processor should be more than able to meet all of your computing needs, especially if you have or invest in a Core i7.

If you are thinking of upgrading or would like to learn more, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Computer sluggish? 4 tips to reverse that

Hardware_May15_CThe computer has become such an invaluable tool to all businesses that it’s hard to imagine life without one. While computers are important, many companies can’t afford the latest and greatest and must make do with older systems. A problem with this is that older systems often run slower and can cause you to be counterproductive. However, there are steps you can take to keep your computers running as they should.

Below are four things you can do to keep your PC running smoothly.

1. Shutdown properly
If you turn your computer off at the end of the day, or it freezes, it may be tempting to flick the off switch on the power bar, or press the power button until it turns off. This isn’t ideal for your computer’s health because when a computer is unexpectedly shut down, there could be damage to the operating system.

You may notice that when your computer crashes, it takes longer to reboot. This is because Windows is actually searching for, or trying to repair any damage that may have been done. There is a chance that powering down improperly could cause files to become corrupted which may make the system inoperable.

Therefore, you should follow proper shutdown procedures. If you need to shut down quickly, try pressing Control+Alt+Delete and selecting Shut Down from there.

2. Close unnecessary programs running in the background
Some programs are written to be always running in the background. If you look in the bottom right of your screen, you should see programs running beside the clock. In truth, most of these likely don’t need to be open. You should be able to right click on the icon and close them. This will save computing resources and make your computer run smoother.

A word of warning: It’s best not to shut down the antivirus or security software as this will leave your computer open to attack. Also, don’t shut down anything from NVIDIA or AMD as this is your video card software. Closing programs like this could cause your computer to crash.

3. Utilize Add/Remove on a regular basis
Chances are high that you have installed a fairly high number of programs on your computer, some of which you may not use anymore. Those you don’t use just take up valuable hard drive space, and should be removed on a regular basis. You can do this by:

  1. Clicking on Start or the Windows Orb.
  2. Selecting Settings followed by Control Panel.
  3. Opening Add/Remove Programs.

It may take a few minutes to scan your system for programs, but a window will open with all the programs you have installed. Click on those you don’t use anymore and remove them. We strongly recommend that you do not go into different files and delete programs, this could damage your system.

4. Use a malware scanner and antivirus program
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is still worth mentioning that having an antivirus program and malware scanner is a good idea. Many viruses and other malware often hijack system resources causing the computer to run slower, or crash. A regular scan can go a long way in minimizing this, which means your computer will likely run better for longer.

If you are looking for ways to keep your older systems running at their optimal levels, please contact us today to see how we can help you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Define: overclocking

Hardware_April18_CWhen it comes to technology there are so many different components, ideas, concepts, etc. that it can be hard to keep track of them all. It’s not made any easier by the fact that many of the acronyms and terms thrown around are confusing. A common term you may have heard and wondered about is overclocking. Do you know what it is?

Here’s a brief overview of overclocking.

Definition: Overclocking
When it comes to most tech based devices, the processor (or CPU) is the integral component that functions as the brain of the device; it runs the show. The job of the CPU is to take instructions and input from all the other devices and components and execute them. For example, double-click on a program on your desktop and the CPU computes what to do with the mouse click (open the program), and runs the related code, which is shown as the program opening.

One thing many computer sales people talk about is processor or CPU speed. This is the number of instructions it can run in one second. These instructions are grouped together into one cycle, and one cycle per second equates to a Hertz. You may see computers that have 2Ghz processors, this means 2 Gigahertz or 2,000,000,000 cycles in one second.

Now, when manufacturers release a new CPU they design it to run at a standard, or optimal speed, and will generally limit it. This is done to preserve the life of the components, however there are often ways to break this speed limiter. When you raise the maximum clock speed, beyond the intended clock speed, you are overclocking it.

Why overclock?
The main reason users overclock a processor is to make their computer or device run faster. By overclocking, programs will often run or open faster and the general operation will seem smoother. In other words, you can get more out of existing technology without paying to upgrade.

Are there any drawbacks?
While overclocking will give you more power and speed, there are some serious drawbacks that make this option risky. The biggest being heat. As you probably have noticed, when you use some devices (say a laptop on your lap) for an extended period of time, they get warm. That’s because the components of computers create heat, lots of heat. When you overclock, the processor works harder, thereby generating more heat.

Computers are designed to operate at certain temperatures and if this level is surpassed, the components can wear out more quickly or in extreme cases melt. This means that overclocking will cause your computer’s parts to wear out quicker and will decrease the life of the device.

Should we overclock our devices?
Did you know that you can overclock nearly anything with a processor? The most common are computers and new smartphones, especially Android devices. When you hear people talking about overclocking their device, they are almost always talking about personal devices.

While it’s true, you will get a speed boost in the short run, overclocking will increase your IT budget in the future, because you will have to replace parts more often than is usual. Because most businesses tend to use their technology longer than personal users, any action that causes tech to wear out more quickly is not a good idea.

That being said, you can also do the opposite of overclocking. Underclocking is telling a computer’s processor to run slower than it’s designed speed. This will increase component life but decrease processing power, and could be beneficial for companies that have new computers and don’t need intensive computing resources.

Before you take any actions however, it is best to talk to us, as we may have a better solution for you and one that will cost less.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

7 essential hardware components

Hardware_March20_CComputers, love them or hate them, you most likely use them on a daily basis and would be lost without them. Like the car, these machines are an integral part of modern society, but few of us know the first thing about them beyond how to use them. Yes, computers are complicated, but it can really help to know a bit about the internal components of your trusty computer.

Here’s a basic overview of the seven essential hardware components of the modern computer that businesses rely on. These components are found in nearly every computer, and now many tablets and smartphones too.

1. Motherboard
Think of the motherboard as the backbone of nearly any technological device. It holds all the major components of the computer, including the hard drive, processor, memory and peripheral ports like the USB. Most motherboards in computers, and to some extent laptops, are called expandable. This means that you can replace components as long as they are compatible. For example, you can take out a hard drive and replace it with another that has more storage capacity.

If you can’t take parts out, you may see the term mainboard used. This term is usually applied to devices like TVs, washing machines, refrigerators, and so on.

2. Networking cards
Networking cards, or network interfacing cards, may be separate cards or integrated into the motherboard. Their purpose is to provide a way for your computer to connect to the network and Internet.

Many new computers will have the network card integrated into the motherboard, along with other components. If you own a laptop, you can connect to Wi-Fi networks through a Wi-Fi card which is usually close to the outer edges of the device. Most desktops don’t have this card, but you can purchase them if you want to be able to connect to Wi-Fi.

3. Graphics card
A graphics or video card can come in two varieties – integrated or expansion. An integrated video card is connected directly to the motherboard and is usually found as a part of the processor. An expansion video card is a separate card that is connected to another part of the motherboard called an expansion port. The job of the video card is to create the graphics and images that can be shown on a monitor. Without one of these, we would not be able to visualize the data, and computers would be useless.

4. Processor
The processor – also known as a Central Processing Unit or CPU – is the brain of the computer. Its job is to carry out the instructions of computer programs that are stored in the computer’s memory.

The speed of a processor is measured in MHz or Megahertz. This measurement indicates how fast a processor can read electrical pulses. For example, a 100MHz processor can read 100,000,000 pulses of light in one second. As a reference, most mid to high-range computers have processors with speeds around 3.0GHz.

5. Hard drive
The hard drive is where programs and files are stored. More traditional drives are called Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and are comprised of a series of magnetized disks which store the data. These disks spin under a magnetic arm which can read and write data.

Newer hard drives are called Solid-state Drives (SSD) and use electrical circuits to store data. These are much faster than traditional HDDs and are starting to be found in more and more computers.

6. USB ports
The Universal Serial Bus, or USB, is a standard that covers a certain type of cable, connectors and communication. It is a standard way for computer components like mice, keyboards, phones, etc. to be connected to the computer. Nearly everything that is not a physical part of the motherboard or internal computer is connected using a USB connection.

The cool thing about the USB is not only does it allow you to use your computer as a communication device, but it also allows the connected device to draw electrical power from the computer, essentially transforming your computer into an electrical outlet. That’s why you can charge your phone, or run an external hard drive simply by plugging it into your computer’s USB port. This standard has become so popular that many computers now come with multiple ports – some with as many as eight!

7. Monitor ports
Computers are great, but without monitors, they would be largely useless for everyday use. Monitors come in many sizes and varieties. Newer monitors can connect to your computer through HDMI or VGA ports. HDMI – High-Definition Multimedia Interface – is a newer format that can display high-definition images, while VGA – Video Graphics Array – is typically found in older monitors.

As technology advances, you will see fewer VGA monitors and connections in use, with many manufacturers offering monitors that only use HDMI.

This was just a basic overview of the essential components of a computer, if you would like to learn more about the machine you use on a daily basis, please contact us. We would be happy to sit down with you and give you a more detailed tour of the inside of your computer.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Overview of printer types

Hardware_Feb20_CAmong the more popular hardware components we connect to our computers are printers. They are versatile machines that are essential in the creation of hard copy, whether standard business documents or presentation material for colleagues and clients. For many business owners, there is often a real lack of knowledge about what exactly the differences between the types of printers available are.

Here is a brief overview of the five main types of printers most often used in businesses.

Impact
Impact printers work by physically striking an inked ribbon onto paper, one dot at a time, to make up the printed image or word. Most users refer to this printer as a dot matrix which is the name of the physical printing mechanism.

Impact printers are the simplest and oldest form of printer used by businesses. They are most often used for documents or forms that require multiple impressions, like paychecks and older style invoices. While you can still find companies using these printers, and can still buy them, most businesses are opting for more efficient, and quieter units.

Laser
Laser printers use create a static charge on a drum which attracts and melts toner, which is then passed over a piece of paper to produce the printed image or text. They are fast, efficient, print high-quality text and are generally economical.

These printers are similar to large photocopy machines, (they use the same technology), and can often offer the same capabilities, just in a smaller package. They are best suited for offices that print large amounts of text, like business reports and simple graphics.

Inkjet
Inkjets physically spray ink from a nozzle onto the page to make the graphic or text. These printers are generally slower than laser printers, but tend to produce higher quality printed images, and are usually cheaper to purchase.

If you have a business that needs to print high-quality graphic-heavy documents e.g. brochures, the inkjet is likely your best bet. On the downside, ink is absorbed by standard paper causing some smudging, so for the best quality you will have to use more expensive printer paper.

Multifunction
An increasingly popular printer is the multifunction or all-in-one. Part copier, fax machine, scanner and printer, these machines bring a number of important office tools together into one package. These printers often come in both laser and inkjet versions and many can even connect to Wi-Fi.

If you are looking to replace existing components, like the scanner and copier, these types of printers are an ideal solution. If you are looking for a new printer then they are perfect, as you won’t have to buy other peripherals.

Thermal
Thermal printers use heat and specially treated paper to print. You see them most often in receipt and cash machines. If you own a restaurant, store, etc. one of these printers can be a valuable investment.

There are a wide variety of printers out there, and we can guarantee that there will be one that meets your needs. If you are looking for a new system, or to replace existing components, why not call us today. We may have a printing solution that fits your needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Five laptop cooling tips

There are many office tools that make an employee’s job easier. One of the greatest has to be the mobile computer, more commonly called a laptop. Frankly, it’s amazing that a powerful computer is crammed into a device that can fit easily onto your lap. The downside to having this much technology in a small space is that the components can produce a lot of heat. In turn, this can affect how your laptop functions when you use it for extended periods of time. However, there are a number of steps you can take to minimize this problem.

Here’s five tips on how to reduce the heat your laptop generates

Keep it out of the heat and sun - Laptops are designed to operate within a set heat range (usually between 30 and 55 Celsius or 86 to 131 Fahrenheit). If the ambient temperature is high, the laptop’s operating temperature will be higher, which will greatly increase component wear and the chances of your device overheating. It’s best to keep your laptop in a cooler room and out of the sun. If that’s not possible, turn off your computer when it’s not in use.

Put your laptop on your desk, not the couch - Those pieces of rubber on the corners of the underside of your laptop are like tiny feet, they are meant to provide enough space for air to circulate under the device and cool it. You’ll notice that if you keep your laptop on a fabric surface like a couch or table with a tablecloth, the bottom gets really hot. To avoid this, it’s best to keep your laptop on a solid, flat surface.

Don’t use your laptop on your lap – Despite the name, laptops don’t the best thing to use on your lap. There have been incidents in the past of laptops overheating and burning users. This happens because air can’t circulate under the laptop and pull heat away. So best to keep your laptop on a flat surface rather than on your lap.

Invest in a cooling pad or lapdesk - If you find that the bottom of your laptop gets hot even on a desk, you could look for a cooling pad. Your laptop sits on this device, which plugs into your USB port, while fans cool down your machine by circulating air. If you feel comfortable with your laptop on your lap then look for a lapdesk which has a flat surface for it to sit on.

Clear dust out of the machine - Dust is one of your laptop’s worst enemies. It often collects in nooks and crannies and over time can cause components to stop working. One place you’ll often find a lot of dust is on the cooling fan’s blades. If it builds up, your fans will not be able to spin and cool your laptop. To tell if your fans are affected by dust: Put your hand near the fan vents and run a power intensive program, or watch an HD movie. If you can feel a steady stream of hot air coming out, you are ok. If you don’t feel anything, it might be time to clean your fan.

With many laptops, you won’t be able to access the fan without opening the case. It’s important to remember that many manufacturers have a clause that if you open the case, the warranty is voided. If your machine is still under warranty, take it into a vendor to be cleaned. Also, if you’re unsure about what you’re doing when you open the case, it’s best to let professionals clean your computer instead.

It’s good to remember that laptops will always be warm to hot when you use them, and more power intensive programs will cause them to heat up even more. If you don’t take steps to manage the heat though you could see the life of components and your battery decreasing, and an increase in random shutdowns. If your laptop shuts down, or starts to beep, this is a good indication the components are overheating. You should give your computer at least half an hour to cool down before starting up again.

In general, not taking care of your laptop will mean you will have to replace it earlier, which is an added expense many businesses can’t afford in this current economic climate. If you find that your laptop isn’t running the way it used to, and seems increasingly hot, don’t go out and buy a new one. Instead, give us a call, as we may have a cool solution for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

3 hardware trends for 2013

Q1 of a new year is a time for many businesses to start fresh. To do so, many managers look back at the previous year and reflect on how to improve in the next. Looking back, 2012 was an interesting year, especially for technology. The question many businesses are asking is what tech goodies and changes will happen in 2013? It’s hard to be 100% sure, but based on what we know it will be a good year for hardware.

Here’s our prediction of the top three hardware trends small to medium businesses can expect this year.

Phones and tablets that fly
The processing power and capabilities of both smartphones and tablets are advancing at a rapid pace. From the looks of it there should be an octo-core mobile processor (8 cores) introduced along with increasingly powerful quad-core processors. If an 8 core phone surfaces in 2013 it will give many modern computers a run for their money.

Four-core processors will also increase in power. For example: Samsung is rumored to be working with a new processor that could very well see speeds of up to 2Ghz (on par with entry to mid level computers). Sound like overkill for a phone? Perhaps, but put that processor in a tablet and you could see a mobile device that can handle almost anything.

Regardless of if these rumored processors make it into devices or not, small business owners should expect to see a wealth of phones and tablets that are not only affordable, but are powerful enough to either implement as an extension of the modern desktop, or even replace it.

Increasing demands for BYOD
People have gone gadget happy. Take a look around the office. How many employees have a smartphone or tablet? Chances are high it’s nearly 100%. With the sheer number of devices available at affordable rates you can bet that tech gadgets were a top gift unwrapped on Christmas morning. Come New Year, employees will be itching to bring their brand new devices into the office.

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – is a growing demand and trend of employees. Who doesn’t want to work on the system they are comfortable with? You can expect an increase in the number of requests for employees to bring in their own device. We’re not here to discuss the pros and cons, but it may be time to look into developing a BYOD policy and ensuring your systems are secure enough to support this.

NFC
NFC – Near Field Communication – isn’t a new idea, but it is just now starting to make its way onto phones. Google and Android device manufacturers are leading the way on the mobile front and companies like Square are pushing the mobile wallet.

The goal of NFC technology is to allow your phone to be a wallet, and handle transactions wirelessly without the need for credit/debit cards or cash. Google is pushing NFC, and it’s rumored that Apple will integrate it into new versions of their iPhone. If they do this you can bet that there will be a legion of smartphone users suddenly demanding to pay for things on their phone. This could become a major trend of 2013 that all small to medium businesses could capitalize off of.

These are just three trends that we could well see in 2013. Time will tell how these three ideas pan out. What do you think will be the the top tech trends for 2013? Let us know.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

5 benefits of the SSD, may force HDD

For years, the most common hard drive in use, regardless of user base, has been the hard disk drive (HDD). While it is an incredibly important part of the computer, it’s quickly coming to a point where price and storage capacity will level off. There is another option waiting in the wings; the solid-state drive (SSD), which brings with it some great benefits.

You’ve likely heard of SSDs – drives that have no moving parts – and you may have even looked at the price of them. Yes, they are more expensive when compared with the aging HDD platform, SSDs however have a number of benefits over their cheaper cousins.

Here’s five benefits of using SSDs in your company:

  • They’re speedy - Put an SSD into a computer or laptop and you’ll notice it screams. On some laptops, like the Google Chromebook, startup time can be as quick as eight seconds. This gets you into your desktop and to your work faster. While it’s only seconds at each startup, it can add up to extra hours across the whole company. Access speed is also important, as traditional HDDs can access data at a rate of about 140 MB/s, while SSDs can access data at over 600 MB/s. This means your computer runs faster.
  • They’re tough - There are no moving parts to most SSDs, so they are less likely to break. That’s why they have been used by militaries, the aeronautical industry and the medical industry for years. Another advantage of not having moving parts is that the SSD will function in a greater temperature range, which is good news for businesses operating extreme climates, or even in the confines of hot server rooms.
  • They can help increase battery life - The power draw of the SSD is considerably lower than HDDs, which means battery life is extended. Some laptops with SSD-only drives can last 8-10 hours, compare this to six hours, (if you’re lucky), on laptops with HDD. When installed in computers, there is a cost savings in energy bills too and while this might not amount to huge savings these can add up over time.
  • They last longer - HDD’s moving parts mean that they eventually wear out, or crash. If this happens, the information stored on the drive will likely be inaccessible. SSDs are predicted to last far longer, which means your data is safer on these drives in the long-run.
  • They can be safer - Some SSDs utilize a memory system similar to flash drives. With an OS that can be configured to this type of memory, users can install these onto the drive, lock it and then use the cloud for media storage. Because the SSD can be locked, each time the OS is booted, it’s booted into the original installed state, so malware that attacks the OS is rendered useless as all you have to do is revert the OS to it’s original installed state i.e., restart your computer.

While SSDs have been around for nearly three decades, they are just now starting to make inroads with personal computers, and even business solutions for that matter. The biggest reason for the slow adoption is the price. On average, SSDs cost USD$0.65 for 1 GB while HDDs cost USD$0.05 to USD$0.10 per GB. This may seem like a big cost difference but the price in SSDs is dropping rapidly, while the price for HDDs is largely staying the same. If you’re interested in learning more about SSDs and how they can fit into your company’s IT, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.