Hello and welcome to Issue 23 of the Hillside Computer Services Newsletter.
Things have been very quiet on the computer front (as has so often been the case in recent years). Having said that, Apple are in the final throws of preparing to release a new version of their operating system and a new range of iPhones in September. Microsoft are releasing a minor update to their Windows 8 operating system and I'm looking forward to my Summer holidays.
This recently introduced service has been phenomenally successful with my clients, both in terms of timescales in order to remedy a fix and the convenience of the service.
As reported in the last issue of this newsletter, Hillside Computer Services are now offering secure remote access to users who may have a small or minor problem with their computer. This process enables me to access and take control of the keyboard and mouse of your computer (with your permission of course) to fix minor problems and thus obviating a site visit. This service is only available if you have a working broadband connection - if your broadband isn't working, then I'm afraid it's not going to work (for obvious reasons) and a site visit may be necessary.
If you feel that you have need of this service, then please give me a call and I can talk you through the machinations. The charge for providing remote access is just a nominal fee under normal circumstances and is totally secure.
In 2015 tablet sales will finally surpass PCs, fulfilling Steve Jobs’ post-PC prophecy
Back in 2010, a few months after the iPad’s release, Apple's Steve Jobs predicted that tablets would eventually overtake PCs. Now, according to updated figures from Gartner Technology Research, after five years of rather crazy tablet growth and slowly declining PC sales, 2015 will be the year that Jobs’ post-PC dream is finally realised. In 2015, Gartner Technology Research, predicts a total of 320 million tablet sales, versus just 316 million PC sales (desktops and laptops) — and that’s an optimistic figure.
OK, that's grabbed your attention. LibreOffice (the free alternative to Microsoft Office) has had a major update / revamp after sitting on the back burner for a number of years.
LibreOffice 4.3, one of the most popular free alternatives to Microsoft Office is now available to download. Its developer, The Document Foundation has made it available for all major platforms (Windows, Apple & UNIX), making this release the most advanced release of LibreOffice so far. They also claim this to be the most successful version of this free office suite.
LibreOffice is just one of the many independent office applications which serves as a free replacement for Microsoft Office, and this fact puts a huge amount of pressure on software developers to make the software, which could compete with the Office giant and gain the attention and loyalty of users.
The creators of LibreOffice are very confident about their new software, claiming that “you can’t own a better office suite than LibreOffice, in term of features, interoperability, support for document standards and independence.”
If you want to find out more details about LibreOffice suite, or to download it, you can go to their official site: http://www.libreoffice.org.
Another excellent alternative to Microsoft Office is Open Office. This is produced by the Apache Software Foundation and is available to download from here: https://www.openoffice.org.
If you use Open Office, Libre Office or Microsoft Office, let me know your thoughts and experiences of it and I can share them with other readers via this newsletter.
I use LibreOffice, Open Office and Microsoft Office on my Macs in the office and to be perfectly honest, I much prefer the free offerings to those from Microsoft. In essence, why pay in excess of £100 for a piece of software you are pretty much forced to update or replace every few years, when you can get something that does a far better job for free.
At the beginning of June Apple officially took the wraps off their next major software release for Mac, a redesigned and enhanced version of their OS X operating system, which will bring much of the cleaner, modern look of iOS to the Mac.
The operating system is named after the California national park, Yosemite, and will be available, hopefully in September, and as with Mavericks (OSX 10.9), the Yosemite update will be free.
New features include "translucent materials" in the redesigned operating system front-end, which also features bright colours and new icons and is similar to the translucency effect introduced in iOS 7.
Apple are also concentrating on "precise and consistent" fonts throughout the OS by ditching their traditional Lucida Grande typeface in favour of a new sans-serif that looks to be a Helvetica variant.
Yosemite also comes with a new "dark mode," which turns the normally-light grey menu bars and dock to a darker grey, while Notification Centre has been updated with a new Today View that can be extended with widgets and apps from the Mac App Store.
Spotlight (the search facility) has been enhanced and will pop up into the middle of the screen, rather than being docked to the menu bar. It can be used to quickly open apps or access documents, while it can also tap into information from the Internet, including news feeds, Wikipedia pages, Maps, Yelp reviews and movie times. The additional information is displayed directly in Spotlight, allowing the user to get information without switching applications.
Mail has also been updated in Yosemite, including a great new feature dubbed "Mail Drop". Mail Drop addresses issues with large file attachments by hosting them in Apple's new iCloud Drive, hosting files up to 5 gigabytes in size which can be accessed by users in any mail client.
Mac Mail also gains "Markup," which adds the ability to draw notes on attachments included in emails. Users can add signatures or text annotations, and Markup will recognise hand-drawn shapes like arrows and automatically change them to neat vectorised versions.
Safari also gains HTML5 Premium Video, which supports services like Netflix without additional plugins. This will add up to 2 hours of additional battery life on a laptop during playback.
Other features add greater integration between iOS and OS X. Macs will be to automatically configure hotspots from connected iPhones for instance, and both operating systems give users the ability to automatically continue working across devices in first-party apps like Numbers and Safari.
So, watch this space for more details.
Windows 8 - See what's running
If you launch a Windows 8 app, play with it for a while, then press the Windows key you'll switch back to the Start screen. Your app will remaining running, but as there's no taskbar then you might be wondering how you'd ever find that out.
You could just press Alt+Tab, which shows you what's running just as it always has.
Holding down the Windows key and pressing Tab displays a pane on the left-hand side of the screen with your running apps. (To see this with the mouse, move your cursor to the top left corner of the screen, wait until the thumbnail of one app appears, then drag down.)
And of course you can always press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to see all your running apps in the Task Manager, if you don't mind (or actually need) the extra technical detail.
Windows 8 - Close an app
Windows 8 apps don't have close buttons, but this isn't the issue you might think. Apps are suspended when you switch to something else so they're only a very minimal drain on your system, and if you need the system resources then they'll automatically be shut down. (Their context will be saved, of course, so on relaunching they'll carry on where you left off.)
If you want to close down an app anyway, though, move the mouse cursor up to the top of the screen. When it turns from the regular mouse pointer to the icon of a hand, hold down the left mouse button and drag it down the screen. Your app should shrink to a thumbnail which you can drag off the screen to close it.
If that's too much hassle, then simply pressing Alt+F4 still works.
And when all else fails then press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to launch Task Manager, right-click something in the Apps list and select End Task. Beware, though, close something you shouldn't and it's easy to crash or lock up your PC.
iOS7 - How to hang a picture straight
Most people don't know that an iPhone with iOS 7 installed comes with a built-in Compass app. Although that app could use some help in terms of finding North or determining what direction your house faces, it also has a feature that works pretty well - a bubble level.
Just launch the Compass app (or tell Siri to "Launch Compass" if you don't remember where you hid it), calibrate it by rolling the little red ball around by tilting the iPhone in all sorts of directions, then look down at the bottom of the display underneath where your latitude and longitude are.
Two little white dots indicate that there's another screen that you're not seeing in the Compass app. Swipe the compass to the left, and the level appears! If your iPhone is in a flat orientation, it acts as a 3D bubble level - perfect for determining if a table or other surface is precisely level. Hold the iPhone up in either a portrait or landscape orientation, and it's a 2D bubble level. Just put the iPhone on top of a picture frame, and you can quickly adjust a photo or painting until your obsessive-compulsive need to have it exactly straight is fulfilled.
When the level is perfectly flat or exactly level, it will turn green - a quick visual validation that you've tweaked the painting just enough to get it straight. If it's even just the slightest amount off, the level will be black and will display the exact angle at which the picture is skewed.
OSX - Guest user account
It's an old one, but still a handy one at that.
Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups and set up a Guest User account. Now when people need to borrow your computer for something (if you are being nice) you don't have to worry about sharing your information, but also if your Mac is acting strangely as you can see if its something you are running or whether it's the computer itself.
If you have any questions / queries about any of the points raised in this newsletter, don't understand anything or indeed if you have any computer problems, then please do contact me - my contact details are at the bottom of this page, or you can just click here.
Bill Gates is at the beach when he discovers a bottle, he opens it and a Genie appears.
The Genie says, "I have been trapped for 1000 years. As a reward you can make a wish".
Gates thinks about it as he carries the bottle back to his beach cottage. Once there, he goes to a bookshelf, pulls out an atlas and turns to a map of the Middle East. "This area has seen conflict and suffering for many hundreds of years. What I wish for is peace in the Middle East".
The Genie replies, "I'm sorry I can't grant this wish as it's far too big a problem. Isn't there anything else you could wish for?"
Bill Gates thinks and finally says, "OK. The whole world hates Microsoft because we have conquered the software market and because Windows still crashes. I wish you would make everybody love us".
The Genie says, "Let me see that map again".
Well that wraps up another issue. Thank you for taking the time to read it and I hope you enjoyed it. I shall get the next edition out to you in the next three months or so.
Remember, and I know I say this every time:
Happy and safe computing.