New Computer Products from Microsoft and Apple

This past week was indeed a big one for tech news, since two of the most iconic companies of the PC-era, Microsoft and Apple, both had major announcements about multiple products.

MICROSOFT

Microsoft Windows 8 operating system - Windows 8 start screenWindows 8
Microsoft is making one of their biggest operating system changes in the move to Windows 8, which will be officially available tomorrow (October 26). The new OS is a radical departure that some people really love and others… not so much.

CNET’s review of Windows 8 praised its fast boot time, gorgeous apps, Sync feature, security improvements, and affordable $40 upgrade price (only $15 if you bought your PC after June 2 this year). They did warn users about a steep learning curve. Read the full Windows 8 review here. 

Or check out this CNET Windows 8 buying guide for the pros and cons of various product configurations.

Surface
The other big Microsoft news is the Surface, the first ever computer (a tablet) made by Microsoft. Most reviewers praised Microsoft for its bold new ideas for a tablet. Th most common critique was the disappointingly small number of available apps (no Facebook, Instagram, Angry Birds, Spotify, etc.). Surface prices range from $499 – $699 depending on configuration. It will be available in Microsoft Stores tomorrow but you can pre-order the Surface from Microsoft now.  Read a round-up of Microsoft Surface reviews on the Wall Street Journal website or this in-depth review from Wired.com.

 APPLE

Apple’s press event on Tuesday was anticipated as an announcement of a smaller version of the iPad. It was that. But Apple also announced an upgraded version of its full sized iPad, a new all-in-one iMac, a new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, and a new Mac Mini. You can read the New York Times’ live updates from the Apple product event here. Mashable also has a good round-up of all the new Apple products here.

New Apple iPad MiniiPad Mini
The mini is, not surprisingly, a mini version of the regular iPad. More specifically, it’s 7.87 in. x 5.3 in., and .68 pounds. If you held off getting an iPad because it was just too big, the mini may be perfect for you. It costs less, too. Though at a starting price of $329, the expense of the mini has generated the most negative comments. Read a review of the iPad mini on techradar.com.

iPad 4
The previous version of the iPad came out just last spring, so some recent buyers are miffed that Apple decided to release the new iPad 4. That said, it’s not that much different than the last one. The processor is faster, the Wi-Fi connectivity is more reliable, and there’s a new Lightning connector. But then again, the IPad 3 was already considered a pretty great tablet, so a few additional improvements make it that much better. Read a review of the iPad 4 on techradar.com.

iMac
Apple’s all-in-one desktop is getting a major refresh. Most notably, the new iMacs are now a lot thinner. Inside, they’re faster. There are some new hard drive options, including a hybrid SSD/traditional hard drive called Fusion Drive. And the displays are better than ever. They’re still available in 21.5-inch (from $1299) and 27-inch (from $1799). See a video demo of the new iMac on theVerge.com.

13-Inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display
The new 13-inch is thinner and lighter than the current 13-inch model. But the headline feature is the stunning Retina display, with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600, which Apple introduced on the 15-inch MacBook last spring. DigitalTrends.com compares the Retina MacBook Pro with Sony’s Vaio Z and the old MacBook Pro.

Mac Mini
Mini is Apple’s only PC without a display. The new one is faster, has more memory, new hard drive options, and other upgrades. See CNET’s video review of the new Mac Mini.

Security Tune Up

Like your car, your computer needs to be tuned up regularly to keep it running safely and efficiently. Use these tips to keep your computer safe. If you don’t want to try to preform these tasks yourself, take your computer and this article to a trusted technician and ask them to preform a tune up.
-Patch your operating system software. Vendors like Apple and Microsoft release software updates (called “patches”) to fix security and performance issues. Microsoft releases patches monthly and Apple releases patches on an adhoc basis. Your PC or Mac may automatically install these updates, but, if they don’t, its important for you to turn this feature on.
Here’s how for Windows:

http://update.microsoft.com/microsoftupdate

Here’s how for Macs:

http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1338

-Turn on your personal firewall. If the firewall is not enabled on your computer, hackers may be able to connect to your computer without you knowing about. Firewalls block unwanted attempts to connect to your computer.
Here’s how for Windows:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc875811.aspx

Here’s how for Macs:

http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1810

-Make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date. Thousands of new viruses are created and released each day. Your anti-virus software should be configured to update your anti-virus software with the latest virus information. Not sure if your software is up to date? Check your anti-virus software vendor’s website for information on how to check to see if your software is up-to-date.
Not using anti-virus software? EarthLink Protection Control software is free to subscribers.
-Back up your files. What do you do when your computer hard drive crashes or a virus makes it impossible for you to use your computer? Recovery is easy if you regularly back up your files to another source other than your computer’s hard drive. Both Windows and Mac operating systems have utilities to help you back up your files. Make sure you back up your files to an external hard drive or use a online back up service like Carbonite
-Make sure your passwords are strong. Create strong passwords that protect your computer, your data and online identity. Here are some tips for creating strong passwords.
-Install phisher protection. Fraudsters often use cleverly worded emails or strategically placed search results to trick unsuspecting victims into visiting bogus websites. These bogus websites often attempt to solicit personal information or install malware without your knowledge. For more information, visit the phisher blog article . SiteAdvisor is a free service that check websites you visit against a list of known phisher sites.
-Security check up. Not sure where to get started? EarthLink and Symatec have teamed up to provide you with a free computer security check up tool. Visit the EarthLink security center here .