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Reasons to Never Use Internet Explorer Again

[This article was originally published in The Coloradoan on 8/24/12] For years, I’ve avoided Internet Explorer at all costs. It’s a poorly written Internet browser application with numerous security flaws. The fact that these flaws are well documented has always been a point of confusion because I’d think that a mega-company like Microsoft would surely have the resources and brain power to fix them. But, alas, I’ve been saying that for a long time and Microsoft continues to fail on all accounts with Internet Explorer, or IE. Why is IE so bad? Let’s begin with the obvious. In today’s technological age, when a software becomes too big, there are malicious people who try to tear it down. As IE became the most widely used browser somewhere in the past decade, more hackers have been hard at work to breach its security. That’s a red flag in itself to stay away. Another huge flaw with IE is that Microsoft has always released fixes to known bugs on a timed schedule. While these often do fix some of the issues, software vulnerabilities don’t follow the same schedule. As one problem is fixed, many others may pop up. This leaves a window when issues aren’t addressed until the next scheduled security release. Next, there’s the release of Internet Explorer 9, which is supposed to rival top competitors like Safari and Firefox. However, there is a major problem with IE9: older Microsoft operating systems such as Windows XP don’t run IE9 properly. So, only those who have made the leap to Windows 7 are able to use the newer version. Not a very practical update for the masses who don’t yet have or want Windows 7. Last, there are many alternatives to IE, such as Firefox and Chrome, that don’t share the same problems. These alternatives are well-built browsers with better security features, better handling of add-ons and extensions, and more. And, the best part: they are all free. So, why waste your time or energy with IE when there are better options out there? Typically, when I ask people why they still use IE instead of an alternative browser, it’s lack of knowledge of their choices. You should consider all of your choices, and, once you adopt a new Internet browsing experience, I think you’ll enjoy it more. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center. Reach him at (970) 980-8091 or...

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Internet Phone Improving Options

[Originally published in The Coloradoan on 6/7/12] You may have heard the catchy commercials or seen the late-night infomercials. These days, it’s hard to escape advertisers extolling the virtues of Internet phone service. You may ask yourself, “How can I make phone calls through an Internet connection?” Using a technology called VoIP, you now have the power to do just that. VoIP stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol” and allows your home phone to use a network connection and become like your computer, in a similar way that smartphones are computers with phone capabilities. In 2004, the market for broadband Internet access had grown so rapidly that VoIP connections became in high demand for businesses and homes. Since that time, VoIP use has exploded. “Because of the bandwidth efficiency and low costs that VoIP technology can provide, businesses are migrating from traditional copper-wire telephone systems to VoIP systems to reduce their monthly phone costs,” Michael Dosch and Steve Church wrote in an Axia Audio magainze article. VoIP takes an analog signal and converts it to digital, providing better quality phone calls and improved functionality to your phone. At major corporations, VoIP phones provide an easy, digital directory from within the phone itself. For home users with at least a decent Internet connection, VoIP phone calls provide high quality at typically lower rates than standard phone lines. The cost factor is by far the greatest advantage for anyone looking to move to VoIP, as a phone using such service will almost always be less expensive than its traditional counterpart. However, one major disadvantage to VoIP home service is that there are not standardized 911 or 411 services available. Some companies have started to introduce these important services, but not all. So, if this is important to you, check with the VoIP provider before you sign up. Another major disadvantage to VoIP phone service is security. Since the service uses your Internet connection, the IP address you use for phone calls is susceptible to hackers’ attempts to disrupt your service. Whether VoIP phone service is right for you or your business is hard to say, but the benefits keep mounting as the technology of the equipment and service continues to improve. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Call him at (970) 980-8091 or email stu@...

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Microsoft Going All In With Windows 8

[Originally published in The Coloradoan on 3/30/12] As Apple and Google continue to win over new customers with their sleek, modern products and services, Microsoft has been plotting its next move to keep up in the fast-paced technology world. After years of dominating the operating system market, Windows has recently seen its sales decline because of this tough competition. At the beginning of March, Microsoft unveiled the beta version of its newest competitor in the operating system market: Windows 8. After the failure of Windows Vista, Windows 7 returned some dignity back to the Microsoft operating system brand name. Now, the company is going all in with Windows 8 on its latest attempt to keep up with the newest trends. Windows 8 features a new “Metro” style, dropping the well known “Start” menu that has been in versions of Windows from XP to 7. Windows 8 will be available for both desktop and tablet platforms, and devices can easily connect via a cloud system. For different-sized devices and screens, Windows 8 will automatically scale the content. Apps are in your face in Windows 8 as a major feature as well. The ability to customize the apps you want is provided in a user-friendly experience. Plus, the entire operating system has been optimized for touch screens, tablets and mobile devices of all kinds. Now, you can flick in new apps to the focus of your screen with your finger. A new Forrestor Research report indicates that Apple and Google are still dominating the mobile operating system market. However, Microsoft believes Windows 8 will help bring back some of its faithful customers. No one knows if Microsoft will continue to dominate the operating system market as it has in the past, but Windows 8 is the latest attempt to satisfy hungry tech crowds. Let’s wait and see if Microsoft’s gamble pays off. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Call him at (970) 980-8091 or send email to stu@...

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CSS3 Features Add New Level of Excitement to Web Work

[Originally published in The Coloradoan on 3/9/12] The ability to create interesting web pages today continues to advance as the specifications of the Internet languages we use evolves as well. The foundational language of all web pages is HTML, or Hyper-Text Markup Language, and CSS, or Cascading style sheets. As I wrote last week on the latest in HTML, it seems appropriate to mention why the new features of CSS3 are so exciting. CSS3 is the latest specification of the CSS language from the Worldwide Web Consortium, or W3C. This new version of CSS allows for many design elements to be coded through style sheets as never done before. For example, in the past, the only way to create rounded corners of any division of your site was to use some image techniques, and trick users into letting them think the corners of a box were rounded. Now, with CSS3, there is a property available to handle this popular design element. No additional images are needed, which improves the site’s download speeds and makes for an easier page development. In addition to rounded corners, there are other popular design features available in CSS3 such as shadows, gradients, opacity and much more. What is an even better advantage of the use of these new properties is that CSS3 allows certain design elements, that would have had to have been created as an image in the past to display properly, to now be displayable as plain text. And plain text is searchable for search engines such as Google or Bing, which means your page will have a higher ranking. This is a huge bonus for any person or business interested in improving their Search Engine Optimization. The only disadvantage to these new CSS3 rules is that some older browsers, most notably Internet Explorer, will not understand the new rules and, therefore, cannot display them as intended. But, as long as you use techniques for graceful degradation, which means allowing the CSS code to degrade to older properties while still looking good in a browser, then your page will not suffer. For examples of how to use these new CSS properties, you can visit www.css3please.com to test the properties in real time. As with HTML5, the new features of CSS3 have added a whole new level of excitement to the web development world. I am always amazed at what people can do with CSS coding on the web, and this new set of tools will allow all web designers to show off their creative talents that much more. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Call him at (970) 980-8091 or emai...

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