Hey, There’s No CD in There!

f you have purchased a new laptop recently, especially a notebook, ultrabook or even a good sized tablet you probably realized right away, “Hey there is no CD drive in there!”  CD drives are in fact starting to become less relevant as consumers demand smaller and lighter form factors from their computing devices. This desire for small devices in conjunction with fast and dependable network/internet connections makes this all expected and logical.

Physical Discs are in the process of becoming extinct.
Computers without a disc drive aren’t so different. Let’s talk about why all of this is no big deal.

First. Can you really download everything? The answer is yes … if your Internet connection is up to the challenge. This is the first item to check before turning your back on physical media.

Let’s imagine that you want to watch a movie on a new Ultrabook. Since you have no disc drive, you decide to buy the movie from iTunes or Amazon. You opt for the HD version, so the file size is about 4GB.

If you’re on a 10 megabit per second (Mbps) connection, and the actual speed of the connection is close to what was advertised, the file will take about an hour to download. If you speed at home is 20 Mbps your download time will be reduced by half. The faster your internet speed the faster the download will be. That is not bad.

Reduce the speed to 6 Mbps, however, and the download will be closer to two hours. A connection of 2 Mbps extends the download to over four hours, and a person on a 0.5 Mbps line could start the download before leaving for work, only to find it not yet complete when he returns home.

Solving the Internet issue is an important step, but it doesn’t address the other big problem: What should you do with your DVD collection?

Second. Buy an external optical drive. Optical drives are boring commodity hardware and inexpensive. Before picking one up make sure that it supports “read and write”. Also make sure the drive supports Blu-ray if you want to watch HD movies from a disc. These external drives connect via a USB connection and just about all of these computing devices still come with these connections, except of course for Apple’s iPAD.

The second way to deal with physical CDs and DVDs is to create digital copies, or ISO images. This is a little more complicated so I will cover that procedure in a future article.

Creating ISO Images

Ok – so in the previous article we talked about some ways you can live without a physical optical drive in your new computer. However there are still some tasks that require a little trickery on your part. This is an example of when a human being must out think a mere computer. What do you do if the task you are trying to accomplish, such as installing an application wants a real – honest to goodness disc?

The Solution is Creating ISO Images

You might think that software on a disc could be copied straight away. The disc contains the software, right?

Not exactly. Discs contain an installer, which isn’t the same as the software itself. To make matters even worse, some software installed from a disc will need the disc inserted to function. That will be a problem if the software is installed on a PC with no optical drive.

The solution is known as a disc image (or .ISO) file. It’s a single file containing everything that was on a disc and packed up so that it acts exactly like a disc when opened by the appropriate software.

Windows doesn’t have the ability to make and use .ISO files on its own, so you’ll need to download third-party software. There are some great free options available like ISO Disk (to create .ISO files) and Virtual Clone Drive (to mount them). These utilities will help you make the .ISO and then mount it into a “virtual drive,” which tricks your computer into thinking the .ISO file is a disc in an optical drive.
Screenshot of ISODisk in action.
You’ll also need to use .ISO if you want to reinstall Windows. You can do this by using one of the above tools to make an .ISO of your Windows install disc, and then, using the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool, mount that file on a USB drive. Note that you must use the tool; simply dragging the .ISO file into the USB drive’s storage won’t work.
A Note about Storage Space

When you buy a new computer that lacks a disc drive you are forcing all of your data to your computer’s hard disk. This may or may not be a problem, depending on the size of your existing media and software collection.

An average Ultrabook on sale today comes with a 500GB hard drive. That’s a lot of space, but it can also go quickly. A drive of this size can handle just 60 uncompressed DVDs. Think about the size of your physical media collection and whether you want to rip all of it, or just some. An external hard drive will be necessary if your collection is large, and that adds another $60 to $180 (depending on capacity) to your tab.

Some computers come with small, fast solid-state drives. These score well in our reviews because of their incredible performance, but are hampered by limited capacity. If you purchase a new PC with such a drive, you should plan on also buying an external optical drive, an external hard drive, or both.


Ditching the optical drive is not for everyone. Consumers who don’t have and can’t access fast Internet will find them annoying, and budget buyers will find the necessary extras – like an external hard drive – irritating.

There are many advantages to going digital, but don’t forget the disadvantages. It’s important to not feel pressured to move away from discs because they’re considered outdated. Ditching the disc has hidden costs and can take more effort than some users find worthwhile.

IPad or Surface – Early Considerations

With the release of Windows 8 tablets the already crowded market for your tablet money just became a lot more confusing. So if you are thinking about investing in a new tablet should your choice be Apple’s iPad or something else? Well that is a good question and to make the decision even harder for you here are my thoughts regarding reasons to buty an iPad and reasons why not to.

Reasons You May Want an iPad

1.  I personally have never read an entire book on my iPad but I do read magazines with the Zinio app. I also read the daily newspapers with Press Reader app. Both of these work great on the iPad.
2.Gaming. The iPhone became a surprise hit among gamers, or at least expanded the market to include lots of previous non-gamers. The iPad is obviously optimized for the gaming experience.
3.The iPad makes it easy to share media. With Apple TV streaming movies and music to your television is seemless. It is also just the right size for sharing up-close and the lack of a keyboard makes the iPad easier to handle than a notebook.
4.Applications.  No one has more “apps” available then Apple. It seems eveyone has an IPad or iPhone app these days so if you like the simplicity of these apps the iPad will work for you.

5. The iPad is an obvious winner and one of the biggest success stories in the technology world, so it is not going anywhere.

Reasons You May NOT Want an iPad
1. The wrong screen. It’s not clear why Apple didn’t choose a 16:9 aspect ratio, the standard for widescreen entertainment, but not doing so makes the iPad much less interesting for watching movies. The Microsoft Surface as well as many Android tablets have much better displays.
2. It’s not much of a work machine. The Microsoft Surface is incredibly superior here. Maybe it isn’t even fair to ask a device so well-tuned for entertainment, like the iPad to work at the office too. The Surface Pro has the ability to run any Windows application inclusing of course Microsoft Office.
3. If you are primarily looking for an e-book reader and you do not need all the other features, a Kindle or Nook offer better battery life for e-reading.
4. The iPad is a “tweener,” in the best sense of the word. It is not a computer, laptop nor is it an ultrabook. The iPad lacks the functionality of a notebook and the convenience of smartphone. The iPad may be just one more thing to haul around if you already carry a notebook, which it doesn’t come close to replacing. Once again this is another area where Microsoft’s Surface shines. Earlier this year I was able to travel with only my Surface tablet. No laptop had to go with me for the first time in at least a decade.

There are many more reasons, both pro and con, regarding an iPad purchase but the best one may be the simplest: What do you want to do with your tablet? If it is basically for recreational use including basic functions such as email and internet surfing the iPad is probably a good choice. If you have bigger plans such as professional work, a Windows 8 tablet, especially Microsoft’s Surface may be the best consideration.

Cost Considerations

The iPad with Retina Display (128 GB) retails for $799 while the Microsoft Surface Pro with 128 GB goes for $999. Therefore is the extra $200 worth it to you? It all depends on you and what you are looking for from your tablet.

Cyber Criminals Looks Towards Mobile

Symantec’s 18th annual Internet Security Threat Report is was issued yesterday. The report reveals that cyber criminals are increasingly scouring the Web for personal details in order to target their attacks. Armed with your information they can exploit security gaps in social networks and other sites to infect your system or steal your details.

It is no longer just your PC that’s at risk either; the report shows an alarming 58 percent increase in attacks on mobile devices with just under a third of these aimed at stealing data without the user’s knowledge. Android is the most targeted mobile platform as its open source nature makes it easier to hide malware in apps. Apple users receives a bas news as well because the report notes more than 600,000 Mac systems were infected by a single attack last April.

When it comes to the types of threat, the growth of ransomware continues with infections becoming more aggressive and harder to undo. I have written articles many times regarding ransomware threats and sadly I believe this trend will continue.

Another very scary statistic is that 61 percent of malicious sites are actually legitimate websites that have been compromised so you may be at risk even if you think you’re practising safe surfing.

Another alarming piece of information is the news this week issued by Microsoft that they believe 24 percent of all PCs are not protected by virus software today. This is bad for everyone because users who do not protect their PCs are the first ones to get infected and often complicate and threaten even PCs that are protected. I have written several articles in the past regarding free anti virus solutions so there is really no excuse for this.  You can learn about Microsoft’s free anti-virus solution in my early article dated October 3, 2012.

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Contacting Loved Ones in Times of Tragedy

Monday’s tragedy got me thinking about different ways to contact our loved ones and friends during times like the one our country just went through in Boston. I especially thought about this when I was watching TV coverage of the event and and the reporters were reporting that the cellular network in the Boston area had been shut down.

Disasters often strike without warning–and if you have loved ones in harm’s way, you’re going to want to get in touch with them. During tragedy’s like the one in Boston cell signals and land lines can be jammed with the massive amount of calls flowing in and out of an area. In addition just like on Monday officials may have the cellular service shut down.
One of the advantageous of social media and smartphones is that there are more ways then ever before to communicate, outside of talking on the phone. Here are a couple of options for trying to reach out to others when disaster strikes.
1.      First -Do not call! Leave the lines open for first responders.
2.      Text.  Using text messages rather than voice calls helps to prevent network congestion. It requires a lot less data from the wireless networks as compared to voice.
3.      Use Apps. While cell networks and phone lines are generally limited to one communication protocol, apps like Twitter and Facebook Messenger can reach out in many different ways.
If you are the one in harm’s way – what should you do?

  • Get to a hardwired data connection.If you’re in an affected area, a cable internet connection might be your best bet. These faster connections are made to handle large amounts of traffic.  There is also a long track record of reliable performance even during the worst of times.
  • Remember to contact someone! Email someone in your family, update your Facebook status or tweet your condition and whereabouts. Whether you’re totally fine or in desperate need of help, let the internet work for you.
  • Here is a great idea. Update your voicemail message. If you can make only one call, make it to your voicemail. Change your outgoing message, so when family, friends and co-workers try to contact you they will hear you’re updated voice mail message.

Boston Malware Alert

In an unbelievable turn of events and another example of just how far some cyber criminals will go to inflict misery on our computers it has been discovered that cybercriminals have exploited interest in the breaking news story of the explosions at the Boston Marathon by spreading malware.

Messages spammed out by attackers claim to contain a link to video footage of Monday’s terrorist activity in Boston, with subject lines such as “2 Explosions at Boston Marathon”.


Other subject lines used in the campaign include:


  • Aftermath to explosion at Boston Marathon
  • Boston Explosion Caught on Video
  • Video of Explosion at the Boston Marathon 2013


If you make the mistake of clicking on the link, however, you are taken to a website which - while showing you genuine YouTube videos of the horrific incident - attempts to infect your computer with a Windows Trojan horse that Sophos products detect as Troj/Tepfer-Q.

If installed, the malware makes changes to the Registry and installs the following files, allowing hackers to gain remote access to infected computers:




The file NPF.sys is registered as a new service named “NPF”, with a display name of “WinPcap Packet Driver (NPF)”.
Clearly, there are no depths to which cybercriminals are not prepared to stoop in their hunt for victims.


The sick truth is that malware authors and malicious hackers lose no sleep about exploiting the deaths of innocent people in their attempt to infect computers for the purposes of stealing money, resources and identities.


Remember to be on your guard against such tactics. Maybe it’s time to get your news from legitimate news websites rather than an unsolicited email which arrives in your inbox?
If you would like to watch videos from the Boston tragedy you should go to a respected news source directly such as ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX or CNN. Do not click on unsolicted links in your email.


WC Tech Blog @ Flipboard

You can now subscribe to the “West Chester Technology Blog” through Flip board. If you have an iPhone or IPad and you use Flip board, simply click here (from those devices) to subscribe. Once done you can enjoy this fine technology blog right from the comfort of Flip board.

What is Flip board? Flip board makes use of iOS devices to transform blog posts, social networking feeds, images, video, and articles into an impressive layout that replicates the print reading experience, essentially putting traditional RSS readers out of business for most users.  If you recently heard that Google Reader was put out to pasture, know that this app and other similar ones are probably responsible.

This is a great app for collecting material from topics you are interested in and placing them into a very readable – magazine like format. I am holding out hope that an official Flip board app arrives to the Windows 8 store soon.

In Defense of Windows 8

Even if you only vaguely pay attention to technology news you no doubt heard how PC sales are at an all-time low and that Windows 8 is the cause. I am here to defend Microsoft’s Windows 8 – sort of.

It cannot be disputed that PC sales have been declining and in fact are indeed at an all-time low. Why this is a shock to everyone simply amazes me. If you look at this trend with a very broad scope – it is easy to explain and more importantly to be expected. Here are some facts to look at before reflecting on what is actually happening in the consumer market as we speak.

During the early 1980’s the first low-cost home computers began to appear on the market. A price war began and home computers were soon showing up in homes across America. IBM PC clones began dominating the market by the late 1980’s. There were always rivals like Apple during this time period, however PC Clones were the easy choice for most people. By 2001 personal computers, running Microsoft’s Windows operating system were controlling the market. This dominance continued until the third quarter of 2008 when laptops made their first real (affordable) appearance in the consumer market. At the time computer sales had reached the one billion mark.

Laptops date all the way back to 1976 however for the consumer these mobile computers became a true option in 2006 and 2007.  The appearance of truly affordable and usable laptops by mid-2008 is important because it marked the first time that personal computers had a true competitor, the laptop. Consumers now had a real choice when it was time to replace their old computer. Should they replace their PC with a laptop or purchase another PC? In fact the choice consumers were making regarding personal computers when provided options is clear as far back as this point in 2008. During the third quarter of 2008 laptops outpaced personal computers in sales.  Let’s be clear – Windows XP was the operating system at this time. Windows XP had nothing to do with the shift away from personal computers. I believe that the same can be said for Windows 8 today, but we will get to that later.
The competition for sales is only beginning in 2008. Just like laptops, smartphones are older than you may think. The first actual prototype appeared in 1992 built by IBM. Bell South than built one in 1994. Then Nokia premiered Nokia 9000 in 1996. As you can see smartphones have been around for quite awhile.  Companies including Palm, HP, Blackberry and even Windows were writing software for smartphones throughout the mid to late 1990’s. By the late 2000’s right around the time of the truly affordable laptop the popularity of smartphones was proven. Here you have the second competitor with personal computers.

Tablets like smartphones and laptops have a longer history then one might expect. Did you know that the first patent for a “tablet used for handwriting” was granted in 1888? That is not a typo. 1888 – Not 1988. For the purpose of keeping this article as short as possible lets jump ahead 122 years. You see it was here, in 2010 that Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s iPad. This was a disaster for personal computers. This is because many consumers simply do not need the complexity of computers. Many people only require the ability to access email, the internet, the ability to shop online, games and the ability to write letters and other documents. Apple’s iPad offered this. The operating system as this time running most computers was Windows 7. PC sales which had already been declining continued to do so. To make matters worse for PC sales Android tablets appeared in early 2011 followed by the Amazon Kindle in September of 2011 and in October 2012 Microsoft launched it’s Surface tablet line. Tablets today are appearing in every size and shape imaginable.

Fast forward to today as we near the end of this article. Today personal computers are at a crossroads and Microsoft is obviously very aware of this. Computing tools are all around us truly for the first time in history. Today consumers can choose personal computerslaptopssmartphones and now tabletsto meet their computing needs. Most consumers simply will not purchase “all of the above”.

Microsoft also realizes that the way in which we use our computers is evolving, even if many consumers refuse to acknowledge it. Think about it. With the exception of most personal computers all of the devices I mentioned in this article have “touch screens”. There is no reason that computers cannot be used in this manner as well. This is why Windows 8 is designed in the way that it is. I believe that Microsoft sees a day in which we will use our smartphones, tablets and computers all in the same way and that all the devives we use will be synced together.
Personal computers sales will never be what they once were. Let me be clear. In my humble opinion Windows 8 has very little to do with this so I really hope that people stop blaming it. Competition from within the digital market is the explanation. For many users a tablet or even a good smartphone meets their everyday digital needs.

Windows 8 needs to and will improve as Microsoft’s development of it continues. But to blame the woes of computers sales on it is foolish, easy and wrong.