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Microsoft has finally tied its good old dog, Windows XP, to a tree ... and bashed its head in with a shovel. After 13 years of loyal service, Microsoft has finally cut off support for Windows XP, which means the company won't be issuing further security updates for it. But plenty of people are going to keep using Windows XP anyway; it's still operating in machines everywhere, from ATMs and point-of-sale systems to computers at government agency and large corporations.
Fortunately, there are still several ways to stay protected now that XP is vulnerable to new attacks and zero day bugs that won't be patched by Microsoft.
The largest and laziest companies and governments agencies are putting off the inevitable and paying Microsoft for additional support. For instance, the U.S. Treasury Department is paying Microsoft because it was not able to finish the migration to Windows 7 at the Internal Revenue Service in time, and has reportedly paid millions for new patches. The British and Dutch governments are both paying for XP extended support as well.
These companies and governments have had years to consider how to plan for the death of XP and now they have to pay the piper. Extended support is not offered to smaller businesses and for those whose personal machines are affected, only for large businesses that strike a custom support agreement (CSA).
As an individual or small company, you are not going to be able to get extended support from Microsoft. You probably do not want it anyway. Your best bet? Buy some new computers.
If new hardware is not an immediate option, here are five things you need to know about the end of Windows XP, plus one option to consider.What End Of Support Means
Microsoft has moved on to Windows 8 as the core of its OS business, so it will no longer provide software updates to XP machines from Windows Update. Technical assistance will no longer be provided by Microsoft, and Microsoft Security Essentials downloads are not available. Anyone who has Microsoft Security Essentials already installed will continue to get anti-malware signature updates for a limited time.
"Microsoft will continue to provide anti-malware signatures and updates to the engine used within our anti-malware products through July 14, 2015," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email.The signatures are a set of characteristics used to identify malware. The engine leverages these signatures to decide if a file is malicious or not. The Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) will also continue to be updated and deployed via Windows Update through July 14, 2015. Windows XP will not be supported on Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection, Microsoft Security Essentials, Windows Intune, or System Center after April 8, 2014, though anti-malware signature updates can still be delivered by these products through July 14, 2015.
Along with security, Windows Update also provided XP users software updates, such as new drivers. That will not happen anymore, so hardware may become less reliable over time.Watch Out for Heartbleed
The dangerous Heartbleed bug does not effect Windows machines (as far as is known at this point), but it does attack websites that XP machines connect to. No security patches for Windows XP means the Heartbleed vulnerability creates another layer of danger. Websites that have not updated their OpenSSL certificates could be targets of Heartbleed and it is possible that information from an unprotected laptop could be exposed.3rd Party Security Software That Supports Windows XP
A bit of good news is that Windows XP users are not completely helpless, because Microsoft will allow downloads of existing patches it has already released. Microsoft's Windows Update will still be the home for existing patches. Anti-virus software is readily available off the shelf and it's a good idea to grab one of those as well.
Avira and AVG are two capable and free tools that could help. Avast 2014 Free Anti-Virus is another free tool that gets good reviews, as is Kaspersky Internet Security 2014. In many cases the paid software will be more feature-rich than its free brethren. Keep in mind most of these tools themselves will quit supporting Windows XP by this time next year, so these are really only temporary fixes.What About Embedded Systems?
Windows Embedded devices, like scanners, ATMs and other commercial products, also run a version of Windows XP, but they have a different support cycle than the desktop version. Official Microsoft support for these products continues in many cases, for some up until April 9, 2019, according to Microsoft. Windows XP Professional for Embedded Systems is the same as Windows XP, and support for it is finished just like for most people on XP. Windows XP Embedded Service Pack 3 (SP3) and Windows Embedded for Point of Service SP3 will see extended support until Jan. 12, 2016.
Windows Embedded Standard 2009 will be supported until Jan. 8, 2019, and Windows Embedded POSReady 2009 will live on until April 9, 2019. These were released in 2008 and 2009, and that explains why they are seeing much longer support. Note to Windows Embedded product suppliers: don't let these end dates sneak up on you like it seems to have for so many Windows XP desktop users. Plan ahead and prosper.Update To A New Windows Version
If you opt to update old hardware (as opposed to just buying a new computer), the process is a bit more involved because it entails manually updating all of the operating system for every computer in the company. Nor is it free. It’s not free, but Microsoft does offer a tutorial on upgrading Windows XP to Windows 8.1, the most up to date Windows version. Windows 8.1 has hardware requirements (generally, 1 GB of RAM and at least 16 GB of storage as the lowest compatible devices) so some older machines simply won’t be able to run Win 8.1.
Any time you update an operating system, it is a good idea to back up all your data and files. Windows XP offers and emergency backup function, but it is best to just save everything to an external system or the cloud ahead of time. The emergency backup functions is the Windows.old folder and it saves some files for 28 days, so those who didn’t back up or save their data can retrieve it.Switch To Linux
Anyone ready to ditch Windows altogether who doesn’t want to spend the money on a Mac can also opt for the open source Linux operating system. It’s free, but does require more technical know how with a steeper learning curve. All personal data and files will have to be saved or backed up or they will be erased upon switching. Part of the fun with Linux is there are 58 separate varieties, known as distributions, on the Linux.com website.
That means there are lots of choices of different looks and feels of operating systems. Some popular versions are Debian, Ubuntu and Fedora. Look for distributions with good documentation and be sure to check the hardware requirements for compatibility.
Image of Microsoft chief operating officer Kevin Turner by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite.
Guest author Matthew Brian Beck is a journalist and advertising strategist based in New York City.
The next big thing is getting smaller and smaller.
Historically, our social media experience has been chained to the first-screen browser and the one News Feed to rule them all. We've been saturated with bloated content from overpopulated streams. We've been bombarded with updates and notifications from friends and family we love, pages we Like, accounts we follow, colleagues we connect with, and acquaintances that can't even remember where we knew them from—we just couldn't keep up. We felt an impulsive urge to clean house, to make our feeds less cluttered and more manageable.
But as our daily Internet consumption moves away from the desktop (and even the laptop), the landscape of social media is seeing a dramatic shift in native platforms and user behaviors. Smartphone hardware has matured. Wireless data networks have advanced. Mobile-first design has gone mainstream. But content oversaturation and deterioration of meaningful interactions is still a concern. That problematic intersection has birthed a new zeitgeist: Mobile tribes.
We crave interpersonal interaction, the basic human need to connect and communicate with each other. The basal layer of social media has remained unchanged, but the chief characteristic of tribes is the tendency to categorize membership in distinct groups, movements, cultures and ideologies—to band together in subpopulations of shared interests, tastes, demographics and marketplaces. Yet, within tribes is the free will to exercise personal choice over who we connect and communicate with. That's where mobile comes in.
The Age Of The Mega Platform Is Over
In the post-PC era, we're increasingly finding content and connections exclusively on our phones.
The first generation of social media touted "networking", but the next generation, raised in always-on connectivity, will embrace ephemerality and digital tribalism. Those users will abandon the major social networks and migrate to more granular mobile villages with simpler ecosystems. They will follow a small circle of close friends on Instagram, pin with a small handful of followers on Pinterest, message with a girlfriend or schoolmate on WhatsApp or Snapchat, or follow a co-worker's check-ins on Foursquare. Or, they will build the next platforms and apps that don't exist yet.
Every platform will be socialized, but every user base will be judged on quality of life, not sheer numbers. Big data will not matter as much as small relationships. Media and content will become less fragmented and centralized, more native and branded to the single-channel niche apps they appear in and the mobile tribes they appeal to.
Even Facebook, the big-box chain of social networking, realizes its problem of content oversaturation and the trend towards granularity and mobile tribes. The company has doubled down on developing its mobile suite (where most of the company’s active power users live, and where the ad dollars are most brisk) and "unbundling the big blue app," according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
"I think on mobile, people want different things," Zuckerberg told The New York Times. "Ease of access is so important. So is having the ability to control which things you can get notifications for. And the real estate is so small. In mobile, there's a big premium on creating single-purpose first-class experiences."
Brands, companies and startups that build social products, services and devices must build for app-only tribes in the future. They must think like the end user, one that has always grown up with a smartphone and a few favorite apps. These new platforms will be connected for (and by) app-only mobile natives—carefully curated and tightly managed for the community, but also streamlined for productivity and responsiveness. They must know and respect the user, and his or her mobile tribe.
Because on the Internet, there's just too much stuff to see, people to meet, food to Instagram, and not nearly enough time for it all.
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I’m a music junkie. Like many of you, my life is often accompanied by a soundtrack. I’ve got playlists for working out, and just plain working. Music for when I’m feeling on top of the world, and music for when I'm down in the gutter. Songs that make me think, and songs that bring back memories. Music is important to me—and probably to you as well.
But despite the importance of music, technology is really what allows it to be such a huge part of our lives. So how is tech going to shape the future for music fans like me and you? I needed to find out.
I connected with the band Switchfoot—known for the songs "Meant To Live" and "Dare You To Move"—to see if and how they are embracing technology to make their music more enjoyable to fans. What I found is that they're using tech to give their fans more: More access, more content and more control.
This isn’t a story about artists making more money. It’s a glimpse into what the future has in store for people who love music. People like you and me.Why Switchfoot?
There’s no scientific reason for the choice. I wanted to pick an artist, so I picked one I was a fan of. As it turned out, the way these guys use technology to connect with their followers probably represents a decent cross-section of how artists in general are using tech to engage with fans. Switchfoot has a wide range of experiences that makes it a worthy envoy: The band has been independent, it's been signed to a major label and it's won a Grammy.
Within minutes of our first conversation, I could tell this band was using technology in innovative ways—especially to create closer connections with fans. According to Switchfoot’s bass player Tim Foreman (who majored in computer science and handled the band’s early Web development) the band’s music—and it’s use of technology—is all about connectivity.
“We’re part of this greater creative community that includes our fans," Foreman said. "We want to make them co-conspirators with us. They’re just as much a part of this as we are. For us as a band, it’s all about the conversation, and to that end we’re always looking to eliminate barriers between us and the people that listen to our music.”Building Bridges
RebelMouse is a tool Switchfoot uses to simultaneously break down barriers and fuel the conversation. Implemented on one of the band’s websites, FadingWest.tv, RebelMouse pulls together tweets, Instagram photos and videos into a single unified hub. As social as social media is, not every fan has an account on every platform. With RebelMouse, fans on one network but not another—Twitter, but not Instagram, or vise-versa—suddenly have access to a treasure trove of content.
As empowering as the band’s social media strategy is, Switchfoot has gone even further to include fans in its journey—literally. Switchfoot has used services like WeDemand! to give fans a chance to help shape the touring schedule.
WeDemand! works by allowing fans to raise social support for bringing their favorite artists to areas that may normally be overlooked. Aside from demanding a show, fans can also leave comments for the band on the site. A glance at the band’s WeDemand! page shows a large group of commenters requesting a show in Omaha.See also: Can Technology Predict The Grammys?
Band-to-fan communication is commonplace in the music industry, but fan-to-band communication is finally becoming more common. Switchfoot has also tried to encourage and enable fan-to-fan communication as well: When group messaging service GroupMe was brand new, the band encouraged fans that purchased tickets to download the app in order to communicate with each other while attending concerts and festivals.
A messaging app may not sound like the type of tech a band would be on the lookout for—and in truth, it isn’t always a natural fit—but Switchfoot is always looking for benefits that aren’t necessarily obvious.
“One of the interesting things I’ve discovered is that many times the primary use of technologies or services is not actually the primary benefit for us," Foreman said. "For instance, we’ve used LivingSocial to promote some of our album and tour stuff. Most people are just focused on the sales numbers, but for us, that’s not really the main equation there. What’s often overlooked is the fact that they have this huge mailing list. So whether you sell 100 or 10,000 tickets, you’re reaching millions of eyeballs. I think a lot of technology and services out there have a second layer that is beneficial but often overlooked.”
Some services do offer obvious benefits, and the band has those covered, too. Will Call is an app that offers fans a better concert experience by helping them coordinate with other friends at the show, buy merch from their phones without having to face frenzied crowds, and even discover more concerts to attend. Switchfoot has been an early adopter of the Will Call service, which is currently only available in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.An Organized Strategy
Switchfoot doesn’t just stumble across new technology and decide to use it willy-nilly. Bruce Flohr, the band’s manager and an executive at Red Light Management, is dedicated to finding new tech that fits with the band’s desires to connect with fans.
So what’s his strategy? Flohr says he’s not just looking for the next Snapchat or Twitter.
“We’re trying to find things that make sense for our fans," he said. "We look at things that fit into our fan’s lifestyle and try to work with technologies in that space.”
Flohr said it all comes down to one simple test: “The first question I ask is, ‘Would I use this?’ Because if it’s too complicated, then it’s very hard to get the early adopters on board.”
One piece of technology that passed Bruce’s test was Square, the payment platform led by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. At Switchfoot’s latest BroAm charity surf event in San Diego, volunteers were sent out with Square-equipped iPads to collect donations from the crowd of 11,000 people.
Though Square made it easy to collect donations for the band, the iPad has become instrumental for Switchfoot in other ways, including the way the band records.
“The iPad has become this incredible multi-instrument that let’s you do things that aren’t possible any other way,” Foreman said. “It’s exciting. Just the tactile nature of the iPad allows you to play certain instruments that don’t exist. You can sample things and manipulate them in ways you couldn’t otherwise and we did a lot of that on the new record.”
Foreman said many musicians tend to favor old gear like amps and guitars, but the bassist insisted Switchfoot enjoys exploring new tech.
“I think it’s exciting to kind of let go of that for a second and be freed of those constraints and look at everything as an instrument and a possibility,” Foreman said.The Internet Isn't Always Friendly
There have been times when technology has gotten in the way of the band’s connectivity to its fans.
About 10 years ago when the band was signed with Columbia Records, the label was experimenting with copy protection. One of the band’s albums—Nothing Is Sound, which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart—was included in the experiment… without the guys' prior knowledge. Foreman explains:See also: 10 Music Services You May Not Know About—But Should
“We got our copy of the album a couple of days before it was released to the public and saw this big disclaimer on the back and found out that it had this protection that didn’t allow you to put it on your iPod (which at the time was already a huge deal). And we were just so offended that they would put out this message that basically tells our fans that we don’t trust them. We felt it was the most disingenuous thing that could possibly be put on our album.”
At that point, Foreman's background in computer science kicked in and he posted a hack on the band’s message boards to let fans circumvent the copy protection to “use the music they purchased and owned how they wanted.” According to Wikipedia, the workaround was quickly deleted by Sony.Giving Fans What They Want
By now you’ve probably picked up on an emerging theme. We’ve already seen how the band has used services like RebelMouse to surface and amplify fan-generated content, but technology is also allowing the band to produce more content themselves.
In the future, harnessing, organizing and interpreting community information will help the band determine what kind of content to produce.See also: How To Stream Music With Google Chromecast
“Data can help the band give the consumer what they want," Flohr said. "More and more we’re finding they might not want an entire album’s worth of material once every two years. They may want more material sooner and better experiences on the live side.”
Did you glaze over that last statement or did it sink all the way in? Because it’s important.
You, me, us, as music fans—we may be literally shaping what our favorite artists will produce in the future. We, the consumers, are really the ones being empowered, thanks to all of this technology.
The future of being a music fan is sounding pretty good right now, but it’s also looking better visually thanks to the welcome onslaught of quality video content heading our way. It’s only natural: As the makers of our devices and the networks that connect them build their pipes to be larger and more connected, there will only be more demand for water ("content").Water, Water, Everywhere
There are plenty of ways fans can get extra content these days, especially with all the "behind-the-scenes" goodies out there.
Flohr told me how music fans can use services like SoundHound to ID songs and unlock second-screen experiences with exclusive video content from the band. There's GoPro footage taken on-stage, brief five-minute video podcasts with tour updates, and even webcam setups in recording studios—Switchfoot has kept busy producing this video content, and last year, it even made a feature-length film to accompany the band's latest album. The two projects share the same name: Fading West.
The Fading West movie is a chance for fans to further immerse in the band’s story. “The smart artists realize that they are storytellers and Switchfoot is a perfect example of that,” Flohr said. “Fading West is not a music documentary, it’s not a concert film. It’s a story of the band’s passion of both music and surfing and how they’ve been able to incorporate both into their lives and how both have influenced their career.”
The film adds new depth to the group’s music and history, but after I watched it, I also felt like I’d gotten to know new friends. The film made me laugh, it made me sad, and it showed me things I didn’t expect to see. In short, it was great content. Content that my device—and inner fan—both craved. Content I’d like more of. (Fortunately for me, the YouTube lifestyle network focused on extreme sports called "Network A" partnered with Switchfoot to release some exclusive behind-the-scenes footage.)
Switchfoot's movie—and the pipes that allow it to be delivered to new and existing fans around the world—have gone a long way toward helping the band’s fans feel more connected to the group.
“I feel like the sense of community at our shows has never been greater because of the film,” Foreman said. “I feel like we were really vulnerable and honest in it and showed a different side of ourselves that people hadn’t seen. And I think letting people in on that just kind of furthers that sense of community. It adds to the intrigue and brings people along with us.”The Great Frontier
I was a bit surprised to discover Switchfoot isn’t just using technology; the band is helping drive its development, too. While the band hasn’t built any tech tools from scratch yet and probably won’t fund any new products angel investor-style, Flohr said he “could see the band developing new technology in partnership with a tech company where they help as early adopters and by doing R&D... And it would not surprise me if what they helped develop was not necessarily IP but maybe hardware.”
There’s a good chance your favorite artists will use some of these same tools and community-building techniques to engage fans as well, if they aren’t already.
“It’s like anything,” Flohr said. “Good ideas get repeated over and over again. Even though you might be first to market with technology, if it works you open the floodgates.”
So what kind of technology is the band looking into adopting next?
“We’re looking into [Bitcoin]," Foreman said. "I like the idea of straight peer-to-peer interaction. I think that’s something we’ve tried to do whether it’s online or offline—you know, like hanging out with kids after the show. It’s kind of the same concept of trying to eliminate barriers.”
Music will always be about bringing people together, but it's clear that technology’s role will only help to amplify these community conversations to drive more—and better—content. And that's something anyone can nod their head to.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock; Switchfoot images by Chris Burkhard
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Every time ReadWrite publishes a story, I get a jolt. Literally. And I don’t mind, because that good vibration may point us toward the news industry’s wearable future.
Even when I’m away at a conference or traveling on business, I want to stay on top of ReadWrite’s newsroom. So when I joined the publication a year ago, I signed up to get a text message when we tweeted a story. Soon afterwards, I turned off my phone’s vibrate feature: There were just too many notifications for me to get shaken up every time one came in.See also: Pebble's Eric Migicovsky On How To Build A Smartwatch People Want
Yet when I began testing a Pebble smartwatch recently, I started getting those vibrations again. The Pebble’s best feature is how it carries notifications automatically from your phone to a screen on your wrist. I found I didn’t mind the gentle buzz it gave me for every tweeted headline.Awash In News
Already, we live in a sea of headlines. Twitter has defined this mode of information sharing. We have all become bureaus of the world’s largest wire service, passing on 140-character bites of news to our subscribers.
If you haven’t tried out a smartwatch like the Pebble, you do have a device that can give you a glimpse of what it’s like. Take out your smartphone, and look at your lock screen. Now imagine the stream of updates you see condensed down to a screen that fits on your wrist. That will be the primary experience of using a smartwatch: Consuming bite-sized, timely bits of information, all day long.
The publishers who are using push notifications today are most prepared for the wearable world. Like Twitter messages, notifications have size limits. Android is more generous than iOS, but whatever the platform, we need to get ready for a world of constraint.
Brevity is the soul of wit, and self-indulgent headline writers will seem witless on wearables. 100 characters or less will be the rule of thumb for headlines readers will thumb through.
Wearables will come in all shapes and sizes—but as a medium for news, short will rule.The Rules Of The Wrist
One startup that seems wrist-ready is Circa News, which strings news stories together as a series of facts, only updating them as events warrant. I’ve admired its timely, well-written notifications, which keep me updated on fast-moving stories like the situation in Ukraine. It’s always kept those alerts, which it calls “pushes,” under 120 characters.
Circa employs its own editorial staff, rather than reformatting stories from other publications originally written for print or the desktop Web. It also has its own content-management system, which allows it to adapt quickly to new media. Already, Circa is preparing to launch on four different wearable platforms, a company representative tells me.
Meanwhile, Pebble has a number of apps in its online store targeted at news consumption, from feed readers to watchfaces that display breaking-news alerts. One app lets people read top stories from Hacker News, the developer-friendly discussion site, right on their wrists. One intriguing concept Pebble and other smartwatch makers could pursue is a “read it later” feature on headlines broadcast on the watch—tap one button, and the story’s saved for leisurely reading on your tablet or desktop.Twitter May Be Flying In The Wrong Direction
Most publishers won’t be able to adopt Circa’s model of a content-management system and an editorial staff tuned for wearable devices. For them, doubling down on Twitter may be their best strategy. Twitter’s character constraint makes it ideal for wearable devices—as long as the company doesn’t break the purity of its product by trying to turn itself into Facebook and saturating its stream with photos and videos that won’t play on your wrist.
Some will gripe that the pithiness of wearable media will cheapen our culture. I don’t think that has to happen. Instead, by pulling news alerts and other short snippets of information out of our pocket and onto our wrist, wearable platforms for news may turn our larger screens into more contemplative environments. If we’re not endlessly scrolling through TweetDeck on our desktop, we’ll have more time to read the stories behind the headlines we glanced at earlier in the day. In the end, tiny screens on our wrists, tied to the cloud, means more time and space for learning about the world around us—and that’s good for everyone.
Lead image via "Knight Rider"; photo of smartwatches by Kara Brodgesell
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