Windows 7, 2008 Server, and Office 2010 End Of Life

Windows Software
Windows Software

Windows 7, 2008 Server, and Office 2010 End Of Life

When Windows 7 was released on October 22, 2009, Microsoft made the initial commitment to provide 10 years of product support. Currently, Microsoft has indicated that it will discontinue Windows 7 support on January 15, 2020. After this date, technical assistance and software updates standardly provided through Windows Update (Including Security Service Packs), will no longer be available for the product. Also, both Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Microsoft Office 2010 share the same end of life date.

At this point, Microsoft strongly recommends that all Windows 7 users move to Windows 10 before this January 15, 2020 deadline.

For those users who DO NOT intend to update their computers, there are a number of things to consider as follows:

  • Security Issues – Hackers will be ready to take advantage of any security flaws that are currently and later found in Windows 7. So while any PC’s running the Windows 7 operating system will continue to work, you will be at risk for both hacking and malware infections that could be potentially catastrophic.
  • PCI Compliance – Because Windows 7 will no longer be supported, if you run a Point of Sale System that runs Credit Cards through the system, you will be required to update all of your systems to PCI compliant systems. Failure to do this could result in possible penalties and fines especially if your systems are compromised.
  • Windows Explorer – Being that Internet Explorer is part of the Windows 7 operation system, it will also be part of this end of life process. While Internet Explorer is still supported by many web sites, developers will likely also discontinue support for using this Internet browser. Many on-line retailers and banks have already started pushing users to run alternative browsers such as Chrome and Firefox. In some cases, you will see warnings from websites, and in other cases, the site may just hang or crash.

For those users who DO intend to update their computers, there are a number of things to consider as follows:

  • Hardware Issues – Is your current Hardware Windows 10 Compatible? – If your computers/registers are more than 5-6 years old, the hardware may not be supported in Windows 10. Some older printer models and peripheral devices may not have drivers available for Windows 10.
  • Software applications – Is your currently installed software application supported running on Windows 10? Will it have to be moved to newer equipment? As an example, your currently installed POS and/or accounting software application may need to be updated. Do you have any customizations and/or third party applications that will require retrofitting or re-programming?
  • Time Constraints v.s. Support Costs – Based on experience, I have found that Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrades of existing PCs can take anywhere from 8-24 hours per machine. The wide time element is largely dependent on a number of factors such as Internet bandwidth (Download speeds, resources), CPU Clock speed, amount and type of RAM, and any additional update work required after the upgrade has completed.

This means that when these upgrades are done in place, you should expect to see some extended down-time, and extended support interaction… which could also result in subsequently higher overall costs,

Over the years registers and PCs have actually come down in price, so in some cases, it might actually be less expensive to replace a register or a PC, rather than trying to upgrade an old and obsolete ones.

  • Scheduling and Assistance – Who will need to be involved in doing the required work? If you don’t have your own in-house or on-site IT personnel, will there actually be someone available to assist with the required work that is involved?

Please contact CCS Retail Systems in order to schedule the above work.

– John

Windows 10 Build 1903

Windows 10 Build 1903

Microsoft has released Windows 10 Build 1903 in the month of August 2019 and has been gradually rolling out the availability to downloads to end-users. However, the availability of this update is not user-controlled and is being controlled by Microsoft. This is resource-hogging, time-consuming process is similar to what was experienced with the Windows 10 Upgrades from Windows 7 and Windows 8… meaning that no one should expect this finish in a timely manner, so it should only be done during off-hours.

Failing to do this could mean that with some older, slower registers, they could end-up being non-operational for at least half a day or more.

Some finer points:

  • The installation packet is several Gigabytes in size, so the downloads take a really long time. So while this is offering is being provided as part of the standard Windows Update, the entire process this is going to affect bandwidth, especially for users who have only basic Internet service, limited bandwidth and/or use multi-site.
  • The typical download times can be as great as 4 hours, plus another 2 – 4 hours for the actual installation to fully complete.
  • The entire installation process requires multiple automatic restarts of the computer. – It is important that the end-user NOT intervene with this process by physically powering off the PC or register, as doing that is will corrupt the operating system.
  • Of note: The previous Homegroup feature has been completely removed from the operating system.

– John

Administrative access is often Overused.

Administrative access, root access in the Linux world, is often overused. For the most part, these super-user level logins should only be used for system setup and administration, and not for everyday use.

Most of the packages that allow remote access, at least in the Linux world, such as ssh and Samba, do not allow the root account to be used by default. While they can be configured to allow access for the root account, they require that it specifically be setup to do so. While it may be tempting to set them up, it should be considered whether or not it is needed. There are very few cases where such a need can be justified.

In the majority of cases, it is better to leave root access disabled. Of course, access for regular users should be thought out and implemented only where needed. When root access is needed in the Linux world, it can usually be handled with much finer control via such things as sudo. For example, the ability to do a system shutdown can be granted to specific users through sudo (sudo shutdown), without giving them access to other superuser level functions.

While the sudo approach takes a little time for planning and implementation, it is much more secure. Far better to spend a little time, than have to recover from a user mistake where they have unlimited access. Or, a malicious, disgruntled employee, which we all hope never happens.


Speeding Up Your Computer

Speeding Up Your Computer

Have you noticed recently that your emails are not zipping out rapidly as they once did? Maybe your programs are loading slowly, or documents or pictures take forever to come up. Perhaps your most-used browser just hangs there for a while before doing its job.

It is so annoying when your computer starts slowing down, but it’s useful to know that this will happen, sooner or later, to all computers if some basic steps aren’t taken. There are many reasons why computers slow down, but here are some basic steps that you can take as a starting point to help solve the problem.

Clean out your trash bin. The items you have put there are not removed from your hard drive but kept there so they can be restored if you need them later. Check contents first, then delete those that will not be needed in the future.

Clean out your Temporary Internet Files. If you do a lot of web browsing, information accumulates rapidly here. Close all Internet browsers, open “Internet Options,” then click delete in “Browsing History” section.

Get rid of unneeded programs. Remove all programs that are no longer used, but make sure that you have completely uninstalled them, leaving no application leftovers that will slow down your computer.

Re-organize your desktop. Desktop icons are there to make it easier to navigate your system, but too many files or widgets can clutter your desktop and slow your system. Remove icons that are seldom used.

Keep your computer updated. Hardware, software, and operating system should all be in sync. New updates often have bug fixes that can improve your computer’s speed and performance.

If your business needs to purge files that are no longer needed, we can help you take care of this quickly and safely. Just give us a call at 800/425-672-4806 or email us for professional service that will enhance your business needs. Call today!


No More Passwords?

No More Passwords?

No one likes those clunky passwords we use at work, home, and online. And most of us tend to forget a lot of them, especially with auto-save features on so many platforms. But now there’s good news for forgetful web users with a new standard that could do away with your old passwords.

The World Wide Web Consortium is the organization that creates internet standards and arbitrates major disputes. They’ve approved a new protocol called “web authentication” which could soon replace traditional passwords online with things like USB keys, smart devices, or biometrics like face I.D. or fingerprints. The Consortium says passwords that are stolen, are too weak, or left as “default” are to blame for 81% of data breaches.

Now, if a site supports the new “web authentication”, you can get in using USB or biometric confirmation, with no need to type in a password, giving us a look at what a password-free world might look like.

Many big companies are already joining up to create new password-free authentication protocols led by Silicon Valley. Google has already replaced most of its password-driven security with a set of physical security keys to access computers, and it’s paying off big, eliminating breaches throughout the company. And experts say the technology has the potential to go even farther, with a set of standards possibly spurring innovation and lowering the cost of the devices to access sites without passwords. “Web authentication” is already enabled system-wide on Chrome OS and Windows 10, and on the most commonly-used web browsers, like FireFox, Chrome, and Safari. So if you’ve been wanting to ditch your passwords, we are almost there.


NCR Counterpoint Supports Windows 10

NCR Counterpoint Supports Windows 10.

It is getting harder and harder to find and install the tried and true Windows 7 operating system. And like Windows XP before it, it will soon be obsolete and unsupported. In comes Windows 10, which I see as a kind of mash between the best of Windows 7 with a feel of Windows 8. NCR Counterpoint versions 8.5.2 and above are certified for use with Windows 10. As with all changes, there is a little learning curve to Windows 10, and like the previous version of the Windows OS, there’s usually more than one way to accomplish the same task. Windows 10 aims to be more user-friendly by giving the user more of an On/Off or Yes/No type options depending on where you are making changes. There is still the old Control Panel as before, but Windows 10 has added the “PC Settings” which gives you more of an explanation of what you are trying to change and an option to search for a specific setting unlike the regular control panel. There are many other helpful and useful features in Windows 10 which can be found on the Internet. Before upgrading or replacing any equipment to run Windows 10, be sure to check your other hardware (i.e. printers, network cards, devices) that they are compatible or that the manufacturer has updated drivers that will work.

As mentioned NCR Counterpoint is Windows 10 ready, and NCR is now offering both the XR7 and XR5 all in one terminal with Windows 10 preinstalled.

For any question about running Windows 10 in your NCR Counterpoint environment, please call the CCS Retail Systems Support Department at 800.672.4806 or email us.


Automatically Applying Windows Updates on Servers.

Automatically Applying Windows Updates on Servers.

It is important to apply updates to your Windows server. These updates help to keep your system secure and running at peak performance.

I do not recommend automatically applying these updates on your server, though. It is much better to set Windows updates to either “notify”, or “download updates and notify”. The biggest problem with automatically installing updates is having the server reboot. This may occur automatically. Even if the time for installing updates is set to sometime in the middle of the night, when you are off the system, such a reboot may occur later, when you are on. I have seen this in cases where the updates took a long time to install. Also, however, the reboot may be delayed. If for example, a user is left logged in on the console, the reboot may be delayed until after the user is logged off. Of course, that would typically occur when you are open and using your server. Also, some updates are installed when shutting down or starting up. I have seen such updates take an hour, or more, to install. Your server is unavailable during that time.

In addition to inconvenient restarting of your server, occasionally an update may require additional attention. Although it is rare, there may be recommended setting changes, or other manual steps. It is best to know about these and be prepared to address them, instead of suddenly being confronted with a server that is not working as desired.

My recommendation, therefore, is to not automatically apply updates on your servers. Instead, make it a frequent task to check the updates that are released, and determine which should be applied. Then, after checking for any possible issues with your setup, or software, to install those updates at a time when the server may be rebooted if needed. Then check your system after they are installed, and rebooted if needed, to make sure your system and software are operating properly.

While that is my recommendation for servers, it applies to a lesser degree to your workstations, also. For workstations, you should determine if you can tolerate an unanticipated reboot, with some possible downtime. If resources permit, I recommend handling your workstations the same as your servers, and reserve updates for manual processing.


Windows Domain Networking

Windows Domain Networking

I have recently run into a few customers network domain issues.  When their Internet goes down so does the customers’ ability to run some of their software.

The reason for this is they have set up a Windows Domain controller node. You would think that this should not make that much of a difference but how you set this up can make all the difference.

There are pros and cons to Windows Domain.  If you are thinking about setting up your network in this way, you should weigh both the positives and negatives before you implement.

Here an example scenario.

There are 3 stores in a Domain.  The Domain Controller is located offsite at corporate headquarters. All stores have a connection to headquarters via the Internet and VPN.

As long as there is an Internet connection networking is functional.  When the Internet goes down, at either the stores or at corporate, the networking problems start.

A Windows Domain requires managing user accounts, Windows Updates, security and permissions to be centralized.  Being centralized, you can add, update, disable many different settings from one Server instead of going to each workstation to make these changes.  In medium and large companies can be a big time saver. That’s one of the pros of having a Windows Domain.  The big con in this scenario is, if the Internet goes down, the workstations now cannot authenticate to log in or resolve hostnames resulting in cascading issues. One of the biggest issues is that the workstations no longer have a way to “find” your application server on the network, so the software will not run.

There are a few different ways to approach resolving the issues mentioned above.   When your connection to your Domain Controller (or Internet) is lost, you will still be able to do business and get your customers through the checkout line.

If you are thinking of setting up a Windows Domain, or are already set up in a Domain, contact the CCS Support Department to help with setting up a fallback resolution when your Domain Controller (or Internet) is inaccessible.