According to a new study by the BSA Australia’s regulation for the Cloud are falling behind.

 

In 2013 Australia was the second highest ranking global IT economy. As of 2016 it is now 6th. This position in itself is not too bad, but the steadily decreasing trend it a warning. We are still leaders near the top, but other leaders are overtaking us. Japan and Germany are higher on the list.

 

Upcoming deals may help reverse this trend. The WA government is completely reorganizing its data centres to make a more efficient, more coherent system. And Intel Australia, along with distribution partner Synnex, has announced plans for a great number of Internet of things (IoTs) products and services. These items and services will link to the net to provide greater productivity under increased security, all linked to cloud services.

 

Because of the daily changes in the cloud system it is hard to follow trends. But that ability to change shows flexibility, which is one of the cloud’s great strengths. Businesses are attracted to the Cloud because of the agility it offers their operations. They don’t know what the future changes will be, but they know there will be flexible options that they can use.

 

It is hard to stay current when the situation changes so quickly. But this is still an even playing filed as all competitors face the same problems as us. So while it is hard to know what to do to get ahead in a rapidly changing situation it is good to know that the advancements we compete with will be both useful and flexible, whatever they turn out to be.

There are standards that devices are supposed to adhere to. These standards prescribe both the functional specifications of a device (the numbers of pins on a cable, the transfer rate of data, balanced of unbalances operation … etc.), and the quality of its performance. When talking about cables we could simplify this to mean the type and quality.

 

A quick search of online stores shows that there are many types of cables, with great variation in their prices. It is not unexpected for different types of cable to cost a different amount; but the same type of cable can often come in cheap or expensive versions, even if they are the same length. We ask ourselves if the quality varies between various cables of the same type.

 

Of course the quality does vary, but not in a way that directly relates to the price. Some cables are simply faulty; some cables will work up to a point, but aren’t capable of working at full speed or full power, at least not for long. Reasons for this vary, but often it’s just the wrong materials being used.

 

The physics of the situation is complex, but cables will have certain impedance.  This impedance, a combination of resistance, inductance and capacitance, is a property of both the conductive material and the way it is used in construction; two copper wires spaced 1cm apart will have a certain impedance; a copper wire with a shield around it will have a different impedance. If you even plug a 50ohm impedance cable into a TV designed for 75ohm cable you will get a TV picture with ghosting and slightly distorted colours. The cable works, but not very well. Running a longer length of cable will make the problems worse.

 

Computer cables tend to be more complex than old fashioned TV cables. If the wrong materials are used, or if the right materials are used in the wrong way, the cable will not work very well. It might be passable under low power conditions, but overheat when run near full power. Else, it might simply cause transmission errors when running at higher speeds, even if the transmission speed is within spec. Here we simply have a low quality product.

 

There can also be problems with cables just being faulty. And if multi-pinned cables cross the power with data lines they can cause serious damage to the equipment they connect. This is made all the worse when we realize there is probably no warranty to cover this. The damaged computer equipment is not responsible, and the cheap cable company probably doesn’t care.  The owner is stuck with an expensive problem.

 

Recently Amazon has announced that they will no longer allow the selling substandard USB-C cables. As Amazon will not be testing the cables themselves it will probably block sellers based on customer feedback. This is less than perfect as there is always the chance that the customer has made a mistake; and of course the cable has to fail (and possible cause serious damages) before the complaint is made. But Amazon’s decision is a positive one, and at least prevents further sales once a problem is discovered.

 

AVOID COMPUTER REPAIRS WITH A FEW TRICKS

  • Find ways to sort your cables neatly. Use binder clips to run cables over the edge of desks. Use those little tag from sliced bred to label individual cables. Label power cables so the wrong one isn’t pulled out at some point.
  • Find ways to keep the computer cool, especially if you overclock it. Separate the base of the computer from the desk or any other insulating material with an egg container or wire cooking rack. Use a small fan to circulate air. Find what part of the computer seems to get hot and concentrate on cooling that.
  • Cardboards tubes are great for storing cables that are not always used.
  • Find an old stereo system, second hand stores are full of them, and connect it to your computer. DVD and YouTube are suddenly like mini-theatre.
  • Plenty of devices connect to USBs, and while most are just novelties there are a few you will find Useful. You can cool a soft drink or keep coffee hot, power a work light, keep toes or fingers warm with heated gloves and socks.
  • Get a multi USB hub, for all the gadgets that proved useful.
  • If you are worried about things getting stolen, make them look worthless. People steal laptops and camera equipment, but not pool testing kits. Make your parcel look worthless and it is far less likely to be stolen.
  • Some people worry about their webcam spying on them. Cover it with a post-it note. If you worry about a microphone eavesdropping, put a radio next to it.
  • Bu a refurbish computer cheaply and have it there for general use, like family sending emails or general browsing. Save your new computer for yourself. A refurbished computer that ran window 7 can be updated to windows 10 for free, so you can be quite up to date.
  • Clean your keyboard with the sticky part of a post-it note. Or you can by a tiny novelty USB powered vacuum cleaner for about $10.oo
  • The people at the computer shop have heard virtually every anecdote and trick. Ask them and they will enjoy showing off … I mean sharing their knowledge.

Presuming you have some good, solid antivirus protection, you also want to protect your computer in other ways.

IF TRAVELLING

  • Buy a protective bag or case. Buying a new bag can be a little expensive, but this type of thing often turns up in bargain bins or cheaply on eBay. As long as it’s the right size there isn’t too much to go wrong. If it prevents a damaged computer you have got you money’s worth. It travelling overseas find something that is Transport security Administration (TSA) approved.
  • If you can make your computer case not look like a computer case it is less likely to be stolen. Thieves only want it if it is valuable
  • Don’t let it out of sight; don’t let it get beyond arm’s reach. Thieves will not hesitate to grap an opportunity and steal a computer. A cable lock will help; these cost about $A10.oo
  • Get some software that keeps track of your computer. MYLaptopGPS, Find My Mac and Prey are good options; register in advance.
  • Sometimes mild paranoia is justified. Driving instructors tell us to pretend that everybody else on the road is a risk, so we end up driving defensively. Treat social circumstances in the same way. There need by only one thief in the crowd for a theft to occur. The thief isn’t specifically targeting you, but they will steal if they can.
  • Use a ‘Do not disturb’ sign on hotel doors; the less people in the room the better. Keep the computer out of sight.
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for public use. If on a business trip ask your company to provide this. Don’t update anything on WiFi or foreign network, these are open to malware spyware and everything else
  • A spare battery can sometime make all the difference.
  • Look at getting insurance. If you don’t have some insurance, maybe you shouldn’t be travelling.
  • Backup everything before you go on a trip. If you need to install updates do so before you leave.
  • Don’t update anything on WiFi or foreign network; these are open to malware spyware and everything else.

Adaptor plugs are an issue overseas; every country has different plugs and different voltage levels. Remember that many adaptor plugs change the pins but not the voltage. It is better to buy power supply locally than complex voltage changers. Most computer shops have no problem with this. Some Hotels can supply appropriate equipment.

PREVENT DATA LOSS

If you save everything to the Cloud you are already preventing most issues. If not, send all your files to yourself as emails. Even if your computer is stolen or damaged the files are on line. If the files are confidential they are only as safe as your email account; you will have to weigh up security issues versus risk of loss.

MAINS POWER

Get a surge protector on the power mains. This isn’t quite the issues as it was in the 1980’s when we had no end of disaster stories about surges causing no end of damage and data loss; back them people had to spent considerable amounts on surge protectors. A power surge is still cause for concern, however. But as the protectors are relatively cheap you have no excuse for skimping on protection.

If there is a thunderstorm you should disconnect everything from the power mains. You can still use a laptop if the battery is charged. With other computers you might do well to buy an Uninterruptible Power supply (UPS), which will protect from power surges and give you at least a few minutes to finish what you are doing before you are forced to power down. You can buy a respectable UPS for about $A200.00, which will probably last longer that than the computer if the power doesn’t go down too often.

For any repairs or queries talk to Elite Computer shop, Homebush.

When we have a decent typing keyboard that we are used to we tend to simply get on with our computer work. Spend some time on a lousy keyboard and you’ll understand why professionals can get fussy about the mechanism. What we are used is part of the equation, but when you are using a keyboard for most of your waking hours it makes sense to invest in something that really works to your advantage.

THE LOUSY OPTIONS

A bad keyboard can be enough to ruin good computer product, or at least be part of the excuse when it fails. Membrane keyboards were the bane of early computers that tried to cut costs. They looked cheap and gave no ‘physical feedback’, no click when the keys were pressed. For some reason people don’t like this when typing, and never really get used to it. The fact that typing speed had to be slowed down to prevent letters from being recorded twice was the last straw for some individuals. The Sinclair ZX80 was criticized for its early membrane keyboard.

A variation on this is the Chiclet keyboard, which adds plastic keys over the membrane system. It is an improvement, but some were better than others. The IBM PCjr is thought to have suffered from using this particular keyboard. After a lot of media promise the keyboard looked and responded poorly on shop display models, so nobody bought the device. Sales improved when IBM replaced the keyboard for free, so it wasn’t a complete disaster.

WHAT LONG TERM USERS PREFER

The physical feedback, the satisfying click seems to be important for typing. This doesn’t seem to be just a hangover from the days of manual typewriters; individuals born long after the golden age of typewriters still prefer keyboards with a solid click. Add to this the fact that clicking keys usually means much longer lasting mechanical keys and you’ll understand that this type of keyboard is preferred whenever possible.

Layout preference with a keyboard is a mixture of taste and ergonomics. If you find you have cramped hands after a days typing it might be because your present keyboard is forcing your hands and arms into unnatural positions. Sometimes this can be solved with raising or lowering the desk of keyboard height; sometime you need an odd looking keyboard to get a good working position for your hands. Unfortunately, this is not something you can discover with short term use; and if you are used to a regular keyboard the ergonomically models actually feel bad at first; people tend to go back to things they are familiar with, even if they don’t really work out for them. In the end you’ll have to read a lot of reviews, and spend some time adapting to a new keyboard layout, but this is preferable to long term damage to your fingers.

OTHER ISSUE TO CONSIDER

  • Backlit keys, when typing in the dark. Experienced typists pride themselves on not having to look at the keys.
  • USB connection to other devices
  • Washability, if you are prone to crumbs or spilling coffee.
  • Number Keypad- some people use these, some do not. A keyboard is much smaller without a keypad.
  • Just looking cool, as it encourages you to work, or at least enjoy is a little more.

CONNECTIVITY

This tends to be a decision up front. Wireless is pretty common these days, though a USB cable is not really much of a hassle if the device isn’t often moved. The only slight disadvantage is some new batteries once or twice a year, which cost little. Occasionally a 2.4 GHz keyboard will interfere with a TV wireless transmitter, but this hardly ever comes up.

Portable devices do make some compromises with their keyboards. It is unwieldy to carry a large keyboard on a pocket sized device, so a projected alternative is used. As these are not usually our main computer, but rather our terminal away from home, they are a short term inconvenience we put up with for the legitimate convenience of having a portable computing device.

Apple and PC keyboards have different layouts. Check this factor before anything else.