Office on iPad Update

It's great to finally see the world's most productive office suite available on all platforms.

It’s great to finally see the world’s most productive office suite available on all platforms.

The new Microsoft Office Apps For iPad are sitting on top of the App Store charts just a couple of days after their release on the iOS platform.

Microsoft made a long waited for move porting the Microsoft Office suite to the iOS platform. The apps are now among the highest grossing on the App Store with four major apps, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, as well as being some of the most popular free apps downloaded.

Microsoft Word for iPad is also ranked as the number five in the top grossing app charts where Excel is also ranked as twelve.

All of the new Microsoft apps can be downloaded for free on the iPad but require an Office 365 subscription for the full use. You can view documents and presentations for free, but the creation and editing requires purchasing a Office 365 subscription.

Office 365 subscription is available at a $9.99 per month or $99 per year.

Microsoft Office apps for iPad / iPhone can be downloaded for free from the App Store and require an Office 365 subscription for full features. You can download the apps from the links provided.

Microsoft Word for iPad [Direct Link]
Microsoft Excel for iPad [Direct Link]
Microsoft PowerPoint for iPad [Direct Link]
Microsoft Office Mobile for iPhone [Direct Link]

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Exploring The Edge of Our Solar System

Artist's conception of the cold distant Sedna. The sun is a tiny point of light 8 billion miles away from the red planetoid. A hypothesized tiny moon appears nearby.

Artist’s conception of the cold distant Sedna. The sun is a tiny point of light 8 billion miles away from the red planetoid. A hypothesized tiny moon appears nearby.

Our known Solar System can be divided into three parts: the rocky planets like Earth, which are close to the Sun; the gas giant planets, which are further out; and the frozen objects of the Kuiper belt, which lie just beyond Neptune’s orbit. Beyond this, there appears to be an edge to the Solar System where only one object, Sedna, was previously known to exist for its entire orbit. But the newly found 2012 VP113 has an orbit that stays even beyond Sedna, making it the furthest known in the Solar System.

Sedna was discovered beyond the Kuiper Belt edge in 2003, and it was not known if Sedna was unique, as Pluto once was thought to be before the Kuiper Belt was discovered. With the discovery of 2012 VP113 it is now clear Sedna is not unique and is likely the second known member of the hypothesized inner Oort cloud, the likely origin of some comets.

Some of these inner Oort cloud objects could rival the size of Mars or even Earth. This is because many of the inner Oort cloud objects are so distant that even very large ones would be too faint to detect with current technology.

The Oort Cloud is a hypothesized spherical cloud of predominantly icy planetesimals that may lie roughly 50,000 AU, or nearly a light-year, from the Sun.

The Oort Cloud is a hypothesized spherical cloud of predominantly icy planetesimals that may lie roughly 50,000 AU, or nearly a light-year, from the Sun.

Exploring the Oort Cloud

There are three competing theories for how the inner Oort cloud might have formed. As more objects continue to be found, it will be easier to narrow down which of these theories is most likely accurate. Here are the three theories.

A rogue planet could have been tossed out of the giant planet region and could have perturbed objects out of the Kuiper Belt to the inner Oort cloud on its way out. This planet could have been ejected or still be in the distant solar system today.

A close stellar encounter could have put objects into the inner Oort cloud region.

Inner Oort cloud objects are actually captured extra-solar planets from other stars that were near our Sun in its birth cluster.

The outer Oort cloud is distinguished from the inner Oort cloud because in the outer Oort cloud, starting around 1500 AU, the gravity from other nearby stars disturbs the orbits of the objects, causing objects in the outer Oort cloud to have orbits that change drastically over time. Many of the comets we see were objects that were perturbed out of the outer Oort cloud. Inner Oort cloud objects are not highly affected by the gravity of other stars and thus have more stable and more primordial orbits.

 

Beyond the Oort Cloud

As you can see we are still learning about our solar system and no one is 100% sure of where it really ends and interstellar space begins. What is known however is that the Oort cloud is the boundary between confines of our solar system and deep space. Interstellar space, beyond the Oort cloud is where our sun no longer has any gravitational influence.

Artist concept of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 leaving our solar system.

Artist concept of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 leaving our solar system.

 

There is solid evidence Voyager 1 has left the heliosphere and entered interstellar space.

Scientists say the spacecraft became the first man-made object to enter interstellar space on August 25, 2013. It is believed that Voyager 1 is now beginning is exploration of the deeper Milky Way. Not bad for a spacecraft launched back in 1977!

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9 Days from Disaster

solar12I had already posted my previous article regarding the Oort Cloud when I stumbled upon the news of a recent near Solar Storm miss in 2012. Instead of waiting to write about this story I was so excited – or terrified, that I decided to present my first Double Science Friday event.  So here we go.

Did you know that enormous solar blasts, which possessed the potential to wreak havoc on electrical grids and satellites, barely missed Earth in 2012.

The near-misses, revealed by researchers last week (March 19), would have been akin to the 1859 Carrington Event. The Carrington Event was the largest solar storm ever recorded. While there were no satellites to cripple back then, the storm managed tp knock out telegraph systems across the U.S.

 

A study from 2013 estimated that a Carrington type storm would cost the global economy more than United States $2.5 trillion if hit today.

The storms from 2012 involved enormous bursts of solar wind and magnetic fields, which shot off the sun and into space on July 23.

Had the phenomena occurred nine days earlier, they would have been aimed squarely at Earth.

Technically speaking: The solar bursts “carried southward magnetic field that would have clashed with Earth’s northward field,” as Reuters explains. This would have caused a shift in electrical currents, and could have caused electrical transformers simply to burst into flames.

I hope that knowing all of this and that we were only 9 days away from disaster in 2012 places some of the things that stress us on a daily basis in their proper perspective!

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Office Improves on Android

It's great to finally see the world's most productive office suite available on all platforms.

It’s great to finally see the world’s most productive office suite available on all platforms.

Microsoft made other news yesterday that was drowned out by their “Office for iPad” announcement. If you are an Android user listen up because Office for Android that had previously been released has been quietly updated as well.

Android’s version of Microsoft Office for Mobile, unlike the iPad version actually allows you to both view and edit Office docs without needing to pay for an Office 365 subscription.

However, you’ll will still need Office 365 to create new Office documents.

Microsoft Office for Mobile is not new, but the ability to now edit Office files, without an Office 365 subscription, is. Microsoft calls it “the official Office companion optimized for your Android or iPhone.”

Although you are limited by the small screen, you can use Microsoft Office Mobile in a pinch to access and edit Office documents from your smartphone.

Microsoft also emphasizes the ability to access Office files from wherever you are, assuming you have a smartphone and connection to the Internet. For example, you can use Microsoft Office Mobile to access any Office documents stored on OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint.

Other features that I really like is called “Resume Reading”.  This allows you resume reading where you left off on another connected device. This has been available for a while on Windows Phones and is one of things I miss the most since moving to Android so it’s great to see it available on all platforms now.

 

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Office for iPAD Has Arrived

It’s official! Microsoft has indeed launched a version of its Office suite of productivity apps for Apple’s iPad. This was officially announced by Microsoft at an event in San Francisco earlier today.

word-for-ipad

The app suite, which comprises Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The apps are more full-featured than their counterparts on iPhone, with extensive editing tools. However and here is the catch. You will need to be an Office 365 subscriber to use all of them. Non-subscribers can still view and present documents, but they will not be able to create documents.

The Office for iPad apps will look familiar to Office users, complete with tables, Microsoft fonts and the dreaded Ribbon, which has pop-up menus that appear when you tap an icon. The iPad version includes some unique features as well including a custom numeric keypad and table recommendations in Excel. It also has a built-in connection to OneDrive. The iPad apps also support real-time collaboration within documents, which Microsoft earlier rolled out.

I found that you need to install Word, Excel and PowerPoint individually but that’s OK. No need of wasting space on your iPad if you only need one or two of these apps. Because of this you will need to search Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint in the App Store. You do receive an option after downloading one of the Apps, like Word to install the other applications afterward.

Of course the idea here for Microsoft is that they will get more subscribers to their Office 365 cloud service. Office 365 for Home is $99/year and you can learn more here.

I will write a full review of the new app soon.

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Understanding https

httpsIt’s more important then ever to be secure when browsing the internet, especially when shopping online.

So If you ever shopped online, and chances are that you have, you probably noticed, or been told to look for, certain indicators that you have a secure Web connection.

For many years, the primary indicator was a padlock at the bottom of your browser screen. Now, the padlock is likely to be found in the address bar up top. Sometimes the address bar itself will turn a different color (usually green) when you enter a secure website.

The “http” prefix on the website, if it’s visible, will change to “https.” The “s” stands for “secure.

So why do we use https?

As I noted above, the main reason is security. https means using http protocol with ssl ( secure socket layer )

https = http + ssl

SSL ( secure socket layer )  is the layer which is placed in between the application layer and the transport layer which provides a secure channel for communication. There are different types of cryptographic algorithm that can be used and it up to the server and client  to decide on the algorithm using which they need to communicate.

Learning to read these browser indicators and be aware of them is an important way to avoid becoming a victim of cybercriminals.

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Photowall Your TV

Screenshot_2014-03-26-08-06-01I have not spoken much about gadgets here recently but there is one that I was actually given this past Christmas as a gift and that was Google’s Chromecast. One of the tasks I was excited to try out was streaming pictures from my Android phone to the TV so I could share them with family and friends easily and in their 60″ HD glory. Imagine how upset I was to find that this feature was not “out of the box”, meaning it dot not really work as I had thought it would.

Thus far, Google’s Chromecast has pretty much been about streaming video from your mobile phone to your TV, with a handful of third-party apps integrating with the service. And Chrome users on desktop can mirror more content from their screen too. Now, with a new standalone app in tow but now it look’s like Google is finally adding the feature of streaming photos from your phone to your TV.

According to its description in the App Store, Photowall for Chromecast does exactly as it says in its name, though oddly it is referred to as a so-called ‘Chrome Experiment’.

I tested this out on  and found that when connecting the Chromecast to the app, you’re asked to sign-in using your Google+ credentials so it can “make sure you’re not a robot”. But then, after giving you the option of which browser to use to sign in, it just takes you to a blank page with a password field in it (see screenshot on the right below). Thus, it’s likely the iOS app has just been pushed live early – though we have reached out to Google for clarification on this front.

photochrome

Photowall for Chromecast lets anybody “take a picture and send it to a Photowall to instantly see it on the big screen” – photos can be added via the Web too. It then creates a YouTube video of this collaboration, which can be shared with everyone.

I look forward to using this with my Android phone shortly. So if you are looking for ways to stream your photos to your TV check this out.

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XP Security Options Arise Post April 8th

xp-end-of-lifeIf you are a regular reader of this fine tech blog you are aware that Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014, which is fast approaching. Just look at my countdown clock on the right menu bar if you don’t believe me!  That being said there are many computer users out there for one reason or another who will still be using XP after the ominous April 8th date.

The biggest problem here is that post April 8, Windows XP will no longer be receiving security patches and updates from Microsoft which can and will place your computer, it’s files and your data at risk.

For those of you who will be using XP after April 8 there is a security solution available for $29.99 which may be worth the cost.

Malwarebytes_Anti_Malware

Available now, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium is a tool that aims to protect home-based PCs against the dangerous software that criminals are using to hack into computers. The company is promising to catch even advanced cyber ploys that traditional antivirus programs miss.

“We are committing to XP support for as long as is technically possible because we feel it is important people using the OS are protected,” Marcin Kleczynski, founder and CEO of Malwarebytes, told us. He noted that XP users make up 20 percent of its user base. “There is nothing new with software reaching the end of its commercial life, but the risk with XP is directly proportional to the amount of people thought to still be relying on it as their main OS.”

The Microsoft Windows XP Stand

Microsoft is reporting that the chance malware will infect your Windows XP-based PC after April 8 could rise by two-thirds.

“Microsoft Windows XP was released almost 12 years ago, which is an eternity in technology terms,” said Tim Rains, director of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft. “While we are proud of Windows XP’s success in serving the needs of so many people for more than a decade, inevitably there is a tipping point where dated software and hardware can no longer defend against modern day threats and increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals.”

“When support for XP comes to an end, people will be easier to exploit,” Kleczynski says. “Becoming infected could lead to anything from having your personal details compromised, to being infected with adware and other unwanted programs.”

Protecting XP after April 8

Malwarebytes is reprtably confident it can help. The company said its Anti-Malware Premium tool brings together five technologies in a 16MB download. Part of the secret sauce is a heuristics engine that works to detect and kill malicious software based on behavior rather than slow-moving signatures.

I recommend a solution like this as a stop-gap measure because it really is time, unless you have some very unusual reason to move onto a new version of Windows at this point.

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New Microsoft Word Vulnberability

Logo_Microsoft_Word_2013Microsoft is investigating a new remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft Word. Microsoft has issued a security advisory after confirming reports that the flaw is being exploited as part of targeted attacks against Word 2010.

Microsoft has found that the vulnerability affects all supported versions of Microsoft Word. The flaw in question makes remote code execution possible if you open a specially crafted RTF file using an affected version of Word, as well as if you preview or open a specially crafted RTF email message in Outlook while using Word as the email viewer. Doing either could allow the attacker to gain the same user rights you have.

While there is no patch as yet, Microsoft is offering the following workaround.

  • Apply the Microsoft Fix it solution “Disable opening RTF content in Microsoft Word.” This temporary fix configures the Microsoft Office File Block policy to prevent the opening of RTF files in supported versions of Microsoft Word.
  • Read emails in plain text: To help protect yourself from the email attack vector, read email messages in plain text format. Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010, and Outlook 2013 all provide such an option.
  • Use Microsoft Office File Block policy to prevent the opening of RTF files in Word 2007, Word 2010, and Word 2013.

The first option can be enabled and disabled on the fly. The second and third options require a bit more effort. Still, all are valid until a patch is available to plug the security hole for good.

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Help Us Redesign Our Website

Borough Seal

Citizen Website Survey 

Here are The Borough of West Chester we are very excited to be building a new website as well as upcoming mobile app.

It is with this in mind that we are asking for your input in respect to the design of a new and improved website which is scheduled to launch in summer 2014!

Please click on the link below by April 18th, 2014, to complete an eight-question survey about how you use local government websites:

Take Our Citizen Survey

Your feedback is valuable in helping the Borough of West Chester meet the needs of our citizens. Thank you for your feedback and participation!

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