All things must come to an end. Especially technology.

As far as computers go, the vast majority of those used in households, schools, businesses and organizations around the world are running some form of Microsoft Windows.  Most versions are only around for a certain amount of years before the newer version comes out, and then support ends for the older version some time after.  One such version of Windows lasted through its four replacements, and while it still works just fine, it just might be time to upgrade.

Last Tuesday marked the end of an era. Windows XP, an operating system that was released in 2001, had it’s online support ended by Microsoft.  What this means is that there will be no more software or security updates developed and sent to the majority of its users at the consumer level.  Some businesses and government entities have paid millions to keep their XP machines secure for up to 2 more years, for various reasons, but Microsoft has required them to have an upgrade plan in place.

This also marks the end of related Microsoft software developed for XP.  There is no more support for any products under Microsoft Office 2003, and no more support for Internet Explorer 8. The current version is actually Internet Explorer 11, so that along with versions 9 and 10 were not even developed for Windows XP (one of the reasons I HIGHLY recommend using alternative web browsers like Firefox and Chrome).  Microsoft Security Essentials will still receive virus and malware scan definitions sent to it until next summer, but the program will constantly remind you in bright red that support for XP has ended.

So say your main computer is still running XP.  What are your options?  The most recommended option is to buy a new computer. Chances are, if your computer is running a 12 year old operating system, then your hardware (processor, hard drive, RAM) is also 6 to 12+ years old. Parts can be added and replaced inside of a PC, but only up to a certain point before some things just become incompatible. Laptops and tablets are much harder to upgrade. In some cases, it’s cheaper to buy a new system than to upgrade your current one. Computers cost a lot less than they did 12 years ago, and they also work much faster, have more features, and are more energy efficient. The current version of Microsoft Windows is 8.1. An Apple computer is also a nice alternative, but if you’re used to Windows then there’s a few things you’ll have to learn to do differently under the Mac OSX operating system.

Another option is to simply install a newer version of Windows that is still supported by Microsoft. Windows Vista came out in 2007, Windows 7 in 2009, Windows 8 in 2012, and Windows 8.1 was released last year. Depending on your hardware setup, this could be a good or bad option. Each version of Windows has low system requirements  just to be able to run, but those operating systems will work much better on systems with 7200+ RPM hard drives (or solid state drives), dual or quad core processors, at least 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, and a modern day graphics chip or separate graphics card. If your system doesn’t have anything close to that, it might be time for a new one.

Another option is to take a step away from Windows altogether and try one of the many versions of Linux. Linux has been around for a couple decades, and is quickly becoming a usable option for even basic computer users.  It was also used in the creation of the Android operating system, which is available on millions of phones, tablets, and other devices. It’s open-source, which means an individual, group of individuals, or a business can take the basic files and develop a full operating system or supporting software for it. Depending on the version, it will most likely have lower system requirements than the newer versions of Windows, the majority of your hardware will immediately work right after installation, there’s a very low chance of receiving a virus or malware, and best of all: it’s free. The Indian State of Tamil Nadu has elected to go this route instead of paying Microsoft to continue support, and the government of Munich, Germany, has passed out copies of Ubuntu to its citizens for free. Ubuntu is the most popular version of Linux, but there are others as well.

One last option is to continue to use XP. It’s still a good operating system even after 12 years of use. While not the safest option, the operating system has had over a decade of security patches and service packs, the last one being Service Pack 3 of 2008. XP users also only make up 21% of the rest of the computers online. While that’s still millions of users, it also means many more people have moved on. If you plan to keep business as usual, make sure your antivirus software is up to date, you’re using the latest versions of other software, you’re behind a firewall, and you’re using alternatives to now-defunct software.  Stop using Internet Explorer 8, and switch to a modern internet browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. It’s FAR safer that way, and web developers will also thank you for it since those browsers will show websites the way they are intended to be.

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One credit card that will replace many.

In this day and age, a lot of things that weren’t digital or “smart” now are or are about to get there.  For us Americans, our payment methods might seem slightly primitive compared to the Europeans with their chipped credit cards, or the Japanese, who pay with their cell phones.  We do have Google Wallet and iOS Passbook, but if you still prefer to pay with something with a magnetic strip, you’ll soon have another option.

The Coin is pretty much a “smart” credit card that can essentially replace all of the credit, debit, and gift cards that you carry. The card is controlled by an app installed to your iOS or Android phone, and is connected to your phone via Bluetooth.  The Bluetooth connection also doubles as a security feature.  If the connection between the phone and card are lost, the phone will vibrate and the card will shut down. When using the card to pay, a button on the card allows you to cycle through the cards you have saved inside of the app.

Seems like a great idea, but if you want one, you’ll have to pay $50 and wait until the release next summer, when it will go on sale for $100. You’ll have to ask yourself if that’s worth the ability to leave your “free” cards at home.


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“Ctrl-Alt-Del” was a mistake.

If you have ever had to use a Windows-based computer within the last couple of decades, then you most likely know about the three button combination that is Ctrl-Alt-Del (Control, Alt, Delete). You may have had to use that combination just to login, or, most likely, your computer might have slowed to a crawl and you needed to get into the Task Manager to shut down a process. Regardless of the reason, Bill Gates recently stated that forcing people to use the three button combination was a mistake, and he blames IBM. Gates explains the key combination is designed to prevent other apps from faking the login prompt and stealing a password.

“It was a mistake,” Gates admits to an audience in an interview at a Harvard fundraising campaign. “We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn’t wanna give us our single button.” David Bradley, an engineer who worked on the original IBM PC, invented the combination which was originally designed to reboot a PC. “I may have invented it, but Bill made it famous,” Bradley said in an interview previously.

The combination still works in Windows 8, which lets users lock a machine or access the task manager.

I wonder if the Blue Screen of Death was a mistake as well…

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Do you still Yahoo?

For anyone that uses Yahoo, you may or may not have noticed something different every day you went to check your email or read the news. Yahoo has decided to change their logo, but unlike most companies or organizations, it wasn’t a sudden change to one new logo. Instead, they decided to cycle through 30 different examples; a different logo for each day. None of those logos included the outgoing logo, although a couple were similar. They finally unveiled their permanent logo today.

Yahoo logo

It is a new sans-serif typeface created by Yahoo in-house, and it’s only part of a brand new branding and image campaign. The logo was last updated in 2009, and that logo wasn’t too far from the original 1995 logo. It would be interesting to see if another company or organization pulls off a similar ad campaign that stretches out over time.

To see the other logos leading up to the final product, click here.

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Yes, another mobile post.

Another interesting tidbit of mobile goodness. This time, it involves China. The most populated country in the world has not only recently hit the roadways in full force with new cars, but also the internet as well. But it’s the way that they’re doing it that is the most interesting.

The overall penetration rate of China’s internet has grown steadily, from 41.1 percent to 42.1 since the end of 2012, with the majority of that growth coming from mobile devices. Currently, 591 million internet users reside in China, with 464 million of those categorized as mobile users. That means 78.5% use a smart device to go online. Since June of of 2012, this mobile-user subset increased by a total of 4,379,000 users. CNNIC predicted that at the current rate, the total number of internet users in China will reach 800 million by 2015. How many will be mobile then?

70 percent of first-time Internet users since June 2012 went online through a smart device. That’s very significant, since myself and most people I know started out on desktop computers. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times. It also makes sense because 3G cell phone towers and Wi-Fi hotspots are much more easily accessible than wired connections, especially in rural areas where internet access would most likely be unavailable. Most phones and tablets are also cheaper and more portable than laptops and desktops.

Probably the biggest consequence of all this is that mobile apps and websites are flourishing along with more sophisticated businesses and business models. Some Chinese Taxi apps, micro-blogging apps, and chat apps are going through the monetization process since they’re doing so well. There might even be a mobile payment system setup, if there isn’t one already.

Yet another reason why going mobile-friendly is important. No matter what country you’re in.


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Google AdWords – Pay-Per-Click Advertising For Your RV Park

One of the top requests we get as a website builder and SEO consultant is ‘make sure I’m at the top of Google!’ And while you can optimize a website to make it the most SEO-friendly, it’s still not an exact science as to whether you can make it to the top or stay there.

However, Google, along with the bigger search engines, conveniently created a bidding system to allow anyone to appear at the top of the list – for a price. We have many customers on our Google AdWords program that accomplishes this very feat. What happens is we set a monthly budget with Google (and a credit card on file) so you never go over a designated amount. Then we target specific words that people use to find your business – ‘branson rv park,’ ‘hill country campground,’ etc. Then we unleash the campaign and check the real-time results.

Being in the (more targeted) campground business, we’re grateful that we don’t incur the high costs that (broader) hotels and restaurants pay to make it to the top. In fact, most clicks for our RV park customers cost between $0.50 and $1.00 per click. Our most common monthly budget is set at about $100 which results in 100-200 additional visits per month to your parks website. From there, you’ll convert a number of those to reservations.

Maybe you’ve heard about Google AdWords or, at the very least, you know you want to make it to the top. Until the end of the month, TXAD Internet has a special offer to all new AdWords customers. Since we are active participants in the Google Engage program, they allow us to bestow special credits on new customers every once in while, including this month. If you’re one of the first 20 people to contact us before July 1, you can receive an additional $100 in AdWords advertising when you spend $25 (plus the TXAD admin fee). If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at Pay-Per-Click, now is the time.

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Any gamers out there?

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has been going on all week, and the world is currently getting a sneak peak at the new devices that will be hitting store shelves this fall. The main buzz is set on the Xbox One by Microsoft, and the PlayStation 4 by Sony. Even if you aren’t that into video games, both companies want you to invest in their new devices anyway because they both aim to take over your living room entertainment. Both devices will offer Blu-Ray DVD viewing, streaming music and video services (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), web browsers, video chat, and in the case of the Xbox One, live television.

Where both devices differ will be in overall cost, features and some services and restrictions, but both are largely similar in terms of graphics power. The Xbox One is being touted as a big entertainment machine, but if you’re into buying used games or traveling with game systems, be wary as the system will not work properly without a broadband internet connection, and there’s even more restrictions if you want to borrow a friend’s game, rent one or buy used. Currently, it looks like the Playstation 4 will have slightly less capabilities in terms of media partners, but they’ve built on top of the successes of the Playstation 3 with new system hardware and an all new controller, and they have already started criticizing their competition’s new internet and Digital Rights Management policies. Plus, they’re taking a “games first” approach, but still providing various entertainment and application options as well.

It will be interesting to see which of these two will be the better system in terms of sales. There’s still alternatives, as the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are still being sold and already have much of the capabilities of the yet to be released systems, and there’s also the Nintendo Wii U if you just want something totally different.

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20 Years ago…

The first website went online on April 30th, 1993. Relatively few people were probably privileged enough to even see such a thing, much less have a way to get to it. Many of the websites that came a short period after this one have either been updated or eliminated, but the creators of this one decided to bring it back from the dead. Let’s take a look:

I wonder how long that took to load back in ’93? No styling, no videos, no mobile version, not even any images. Just Times New Roman on a white background. However, there’s lots of links ranging from browsers you could use to access the internet (I don’t think any of them exist anymore, and you have to go through a ton of steps just to POSSIBLY download them), to an information page that has links to campaign materials from 1992 and the Bible (there was no such thing as a search engine to find these things, yet).

We’ve definitely come a long way since then, but it’s nice to see the beginning. It’s pretty much a museum or time machine that you can now access from the comfort of your home computer…or anywhere on any device, since this is 2013.

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Retina and Web Design

In this day and age, one does not simply create a website. They have to create a website to work with a plethora of different devices. One feature that hasn’t been discussed a lot is how websites will respond on devices with a Retina display.

Unless you own or keep up with Apple devices, you probably don’t know what Retina is. Even if you have an Apple device or two, you still probably wouldn’t know what Retina is. That might not exactly be a bad thing as long as the average consumer appreciates the extra sharpness of the screen and factors that into buying an Apple computer or i-device. However, a web designer should eventually factor in Retina into their designs if the technology catches on any further.

Basically, a Retina LCD display has a higher pixel density than the majority of other displays in other devices. What that means is that pictures and text will show up much sharper on a device with Retina, versus one without. A Retina display is supposed to have a high enough pixel density that the human eye should theoretically not notice any pixelation from a normal viewing distance. In order to better achieve this, apps and widgets are doubled in width and height to compensate for the smaller pixels.

For a website to be “Retina-ready” just requires a little Javascript, CSS, and images that are twice the size as what they normally would be (they will be scaled down to the proper size for everyone else). This definitely goes well with a responsive design.

While 30 million people have bought Apple devices with Retina displays, that number is only a fraction of the total people online. While definitely not a required add-on, having your site Retina-ready still shows that you’re ahead of the game and providing an enhanced experience.

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An award-winning example of good usability.

Usability is something that all designers and developers, no matter their background, should strive for with their product. Sometimes the simplest looking designs end up being the best at accomplishing that task. Here’s a perfect example:

Yes, it’s a government website. There’s barely any graphics or exceptional use of colors, and yet it won British Design Museum’s Designs of the Year 2013. By the way, this simple-looking website beat out 99 other buildings, inventions, software, and cars on the list, and is the first website in the award’s 6 year history to win the title. Pretty amazing for a website most people will only visit a couple times a year…and that’s if you’re British.

After visiting other government websites for information, this one seems like a piece of cake. It’s also responsive (load the site on your phone, or simply reduce the width of your browser). The developers even want other governments and people to use their code, so they’ve kindly hosted it on Github.

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