Cryptolocker Warning: in the past fortnight we’ve seen an increasing number of companies hit by sophisticated cryptolocker viruses.
These dangerous programs, often installed by accident, lock your files over time, encrypting data and eventually demanding victims pay a ransom to retrieve their irreplaceable data.
In all of these cases, security products were installed but they did not protect against the threat. In our experience the only product that is reliably detecting these new threats and offering sufficient protection at this time is ESET. Older, less effective or out of date security products are offering little or no protection against these new cryptolocker variants.
Once affected by a cryptolocker, there is no way to de-encrypt scrambled files without paying the ransom, and users must remove the trojan before recovering recent versions of a file from their backups – highlighting the importance of a regular backup plan for data.
Education tracking software LearnSprout has been bought by Apple, in a purchase expected to extend the computing giant’s reach into the education sector.
American software platform LearnSprout, already used across 42 states in over 2500 schools, is an analytics dashboard that allows teachers to monitor pupil’s performance and results, attendance, student health and more.
LearnSprout’s developers argue that by aggregating data, schools can help study trends for promoting better teaching, improving readiness for higher education and ensure a more efficient use of resources.
This is the second announcement in recent weeks about Apple investing heavily in technology for the education sector, following the January launch of Apple’s Education package and iPad modifications designed for classroom use. It’s unlikely to be the last.
For education sector IT support – talk to Lineal today: 01271 375999
Apple launched the new OS X 10.11 El Capitan to Mac users yesterday, in the latest free update of its trademark operating system.
The new offering is not a revolution, but an evolution of Apple’s OS X Yosemite released last year, with the newest version including a host of tweaks to improve performance and ease of use.
Having test-driven the software, Lineal staff had the following initial verdicts on El Capitan:
Immediate downloads are for die hard fans – even with 60+ Mbps download speeds, it took us several hours to download the full version today, less than one day after release. Conversely, some of our team managed to download it hours after release in under 20 minutes. Early download performance seems very inconsistent, presumably due to global load on Apple’s servers. For a more user-friendly experience, be patient and download over the weekend.
We liked the new multitasking tools, including the Split View window management system highly reminiscent of Microsoft Windows 10, but even more useful on Apple’s smaller screen MacBooks.
El Capitan improves performance behind the scenes, loading a test PDF file around 50% faster, and improving battery life in the process. Finder also shows a greater initiative, intelligently understanding ‘edited yesterday’ and similar phrases to speed up searching for your files.
Safari finally gets a refresh that includes pinned tabs, allowing for a more efficient way to keep persistent information open. This has been possible in Chrome and Firefox for some time so it’s good to see improvements to Safari to complete the user experience compared to the rivals.
Several of Apple’s most basic apps have received an overdue refresh – for example Notes, where users will find they can now add hitherto excluded images and video if needed, along with a few basic formatting options. Shake your mouse cursor and it will swell in size so that you can find it easily. Apple hasn’t changed – these are thoughtful touches.
Overall OS X El Capitan is a solid, if somewhat modest, revision to Apple’s software range, which clearly has not been rushed to release. The new features have been developed with care and the real draw is increased performance. Both are worth waiting a day or two for though, giving other users time to test the new system, and yourself a less stressful update.
Online shopping giant Amazon have announced they will sell a budget tablet computer, the Fire Tablet, at an advertised price of just £50 from the end of September.
In possibly a promotional world first, Amazon will sell the Fire Tablet in a ‘six-pack’ for the cost of five tablets. Take note education sector; for under £1500 an entire class of 30 children could have personal access to this basic tablet computer.
Nor are there any indications that the Fire Tablet will be poor quality. Like many tablets the Fire will burn on a standard Android system, with the technical specs boasting a 1.3Ghz processor, 8GB of storage space, a 7-inch (171 ppi / 1024 x 600) screen and 7 hours of battery life, all fairly standard for the lower end of the tablet market.
Of course Amazon’s pitch is more strategic than it may first appear – the bargain handheld device allows the massive retail conglomerate another way to promote Amazon video streaming services, Amazon Prime, Kindle Books and other online shopping services.
But commercial clients too could benefit from working with low-cost handheld and mobile devices like the Fire Tablet – here at Lineal we’ve long argued that technology needs to suit your business, not vice versa. Portable access and low outlay means that these tablets allow your digital information to spread into less static or safe working environments – out of private offices and studios, into public places, onto construction sites, factory floors, classrooms, or the remotest of small businesses.
The cost of the device may even ignite interest among some users reluctant to risk moving to a tablet, encouraging them to finally give it a try.
Facebook pages currently include an option for a ‘Call to Action’ button like this one, allowing visitors to ‘Contact Us’, ‘Sign Up’, with similar ‘Donate’ options for non-profits, which will all receive a redesign.
Over the next month however, Pages will be granted access to new ‘Shopping’ and ‘Services’ sections, allowing a business to showcase their products for purchase or a range of professional services for hire. Additionally, Facebook are understood to be testing a voice-activated AI ‘assistant’ service, ‘M’, for both Facebook and the Facebook Messenger App, keeping pace with similar offerings from other giants of the tech world.
It would be a brave business which moved to Facebook sales alone, although some startups may attempt just that, eventually processing all payments through social media as a replacement for a traditional website.
But as the old saying goes: ‘Where there’s crowds, there’s business.’ A conventional internet banner advert is clicked-on merely 0.1% of the time, or one in a thousand views, perhaps tempting internet savvy companies to move more of their efforts to Facebook, a website millions of users log into (willingly) each day.
ASUS have announced their latest new desktop computer, the tiny ASUS Vivo Stick: a PC little bigger than a pocket highlighter.
Smaller businesses take note: it’s easy to imagine commercial clients making good use of such practical technology. At under 14cm long, the tiny Vivo stick resembles a USB memory stick and can be easily moved between hot-desks by mobile employees, or into premises too small for even the smallest of small-form desktop PC towers.
The Vivo Stick will run Microsoft’s new Windows 10 operating system via an Intel Cherry Trail Atom Processor, and can be plugged directly into any screen with an HDMI port. In addition to a micro USB port for power, Wi-fi and Bluetooth are combined with 2 spare USB ports and an audio socket to give the Stick the basic connections needed for everyday external devices: a mouse, keyboard and speakers.
Don’t expect performance miracles at this stage. Marginally superior to Intel’s lacklustre ‘ComputeStick’ offering back in April – the Vivo Stick incorporates only 2GB of memory and 32GB eMMC flash storage, although both Asus and Intel must correctly suspect that many users will find this more than sufficient for ordinary work tasks – email, word processing and other admin.
The low price will also help ensure market interest. Retailing at around only $129 in the US (around £85) ASUS’ Vivo Stick will likely be a cost-effective and portable option for entry-level personal computing, new startups, small businesses, and even presents a competitively priced alternative for computer labs and classrooms in the education market – any sector needing to equip users without ‘fixed’ workstations for basic IT needs.
Intel have announced the release of their new Skylake processors – their sixth generation of processor chips using multiple cores to combine greater processing power with lower energy consumption.
The new chips will boast around a 60% performance increase for a standard PC, with overclocking capabilities and other features clearly aimed at capturing the higher end of the gaming market and similar. There are also more rudimentary improvements behind the scenes: for example supporting multiple 4k displays, and optimising for new connections expected on the next generation of laptops, including USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3.
Skylake’s greatest asset however will be remarkably more efficient power-use. Intel believe superior energy efficiency (and less overheating) will allow more devices to operate without the need for internal fans, saving device weight, size, manufacturing costs, environmental costs, maintenance on moving parts, and prices for consumers. Their smaller models, Core m3, m5 and m7, will also help corner the market on more portable devices, saving weight and critical battery life in the tablets and smartphones of the future.
Intel must realise their market is changing and that it will be harder to keep selling new processors. Both Microsoft and Apple now offer constant upgrades to their Windows 10 and OS X Yosemite operating systems via free downloads – such that users are no longer forced to buy a new computer or package when they wish to upgrade. The IDC estimated last November that new tablet sales were also slower than the industry expected, as users hold on to older, well-built devices longer than expected rather than purchasing newer models. Hard drive capacities, in devices of all sizes, will only increase.
This all leaves Intel with a sales challenge – how to sell computer hardware to a world that doesn’t necessarily need or covet new devices as regularly? Skylake must provide new opportunities to manufacturers to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with a better chip to drive fresh sales across the industry.
Expect to see Skylake processors become available by the end of 2015, with the PC market picking up the range fully in the New Year.