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Articles of Interest
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Apple updates the Mac mini

It looks like Apple has once again done what is best for Apple, and has left their customers with less value and choice than ever.

The October, 2014 Mac mini is an updated version of the previous mini (updated in October, 2012). It includes the latest generation Intel Haswell processors, the latest on-board Intel HD 5000 or Iris Graphics, Thunderbolt 2, and USB 3.0. The October, 2012 models included previous generation Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 and i7 CPUs, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Thuderbolt (1), USB 2.0 and FireWire. And, the 2014 Mac mini's start at $499.00 vs. $599.00 for the 2012's.

It sounds like a great deal - you get all of the latest technology rolled into a very small package - really nice updates to Thunderbolt 2 and much better graphics. But, you are being forced into the Apple non-repairable, throw-away model - the 2014 mini's memory isn't user upgradeable, making the $499.00 base model price very deceiving. 1. the base model comes with 4GB of memory that can't be upgraded, barely enough to boot a new computer, 2. it has a low power and very slow Core i5 processor (CPU Benchmark of 3651 vs. 3804 for the 2012 base model), and 3. it comes with a slow 500GB mechanical hard drive. And, if you aren't satisfied with it's performance in a year or so, you can throw it away, because it can't be upgraded.

On the high-end, the 2014 mini is even less of a bargain. A 2014 Dual-Core i7 (CPU Benchmark of 5068) model with 16GB of memory and a 1TB fusion drive clocks in at $1399.00 (the top-of-the line model with 1TB PCIe storage and AppleCare is $2298.00!). A 2012 Quad-Core i7 (CPU Benchmark of 8328) model with a 500GB SSD drive, a 1TB storage drive and 16GB of memory (with user installed upgrades) would cost around $1250.00. I'm sure that users would love to have Intel Iris Graphics and Thunderbolt 2. But, why force them to get the improvements by charging more money for a machine that is 40 percent slower in processing horsepower?

Finally, if you are looking at the 2014 Mac mini, include AppleCare in your purchase. Since the machines aren't upgradeable, if you need a new high-end motherboard, you will need to buy the model that corresponds to your mini - i.e., you'll need to buy a high-end one with a Core-i7 processor and 16GB of soldered memory. (Funny, adding that extra $99.00 AppleCare cost brings the base model price within $1.00 of the 2012 base model - which we felt didn't need AppleCare.)

Graph Expo Show Specials on Epson 7900 and 9900 Printers

Purchase an Epson Stylus Pro 7900 and you will receive a $750.00 instant rebate plus a Graph Expo Show Special rebate of $500.00 - for a total rebate of $1250.00. Purchase an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 and you will receive a $1000.00 instant rebate plus a Graph Expo Show Special rebate of $750.00 - for a total rebate of $1750.00.

Offers expire on October 31, 2014.

Boycotting the Football Industrial Complex

Boycotting the Football Industrial Complex.

Sale on New Inkjet Media from Epson and Hahnemühle

Check out new inkjet media from Epson and Hahnemühle and save 10 percent off our already low prices. The new Epson Metallic Photo Papers, available in luster and gloss finishes, add a sophisticated degree of intensity to your prints. The Hahnemühle papers include their new Metallic Canvas, with an extraordinary metallic gleam and a pearlescent gloss - and Photo Silk Baryta, an excellent replacement for the discontinued Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk.

Click this link for complete details!

Stop Using Microsoft Internet Explorer!

[5/1/14 update: Microsoft has released patches for fixing this vulnerability - per Adrienne Hall, General Manager, Trustworthy Computing, Microsoft, "We believe, and take a huge amount of pride that, among widely used browsers, IE is the safest in the world due to its secure development and ability to protect customers, even in the face of cyber criminals who want to break it. This means that when we saw the first reports about this vulnerability we said fix it, fix it fast, and fix it for all our customers. So we did. The update that does this goes live today at 10 a.m. PDT [5/1/14]." This fix is available for Microsoft XP users as well as for users of Microsoft's current operating systems, and can be downloaded by using the Automatic Updates functionality of the operating system.]

By now, you probably have heard the news of the latest vulnerability to strike Windows computers. If you are using the most popular browser, Internet Explorer (IE) you should switch to a current version of another browser, like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. And, no matter what browser you are using, you should update Adobe Flash to its latest version or disable it, since the vulnerability depends on Flash.

The latest flaw leaves users open to attack from hackers who can install malware on your system and hijack your computer. Microsoft reports that a patch will not be available until May 13.

If you are using Windows XP, the news is even worse. Microsoft will not release a patch for XP users since it stopped supporting XP earlier this month. As predicted, with no technical assistance and security updates, XP users will be more vulnerable to security risks and viruses. For more information about the end of XP and recommended system replacements, click here.

Announcements from Adobe

"At Adobe, we’ve always been steadfast in our commitment to providing you with state-of-the-art creative tools. That’s why, effective June 1, we're making Adobe Creative Cloud your exclusive source for all future creative licensing. This means that Adobe Creative Suite 6 will be discontinued under our TLP and CLP licensing programs. All other Adobe products available under volume licensing, like Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Presenter, will be unaffected by this change."

Beginning June 1, 2014, Adobe will implement standard, non-promotional pricing for Creative Cloud for teams for the commercial and government segments. Pricing policies for both the complete and single app plans have been set for new and migration seats.

The new standard pricing will be consistent across the channel and adobe.com, and is as follows:

Creative Cloud for teams complete (list price): $69.99
Creative Cloud for teams complete (introductory price): $49.99 (with up to 2-yr price lock)
Creative Cloud for teams single app (list price): $29.99
Creative Cloud for teams single app (introductory price): $19.99 (with up to 2-yr price lock)

Upgrade to OS X Mavericks - It's Free!

Upgrade to Mavericks - You Get What You Pay For!

We do a lot of Mac support in our shop - and felt that we needed to voice our opinion about this operating system.

Why to like it:

It's a free upgrade for Mac users running OS X 10.6 and above. And Macs built in 2007 and newer will run the operating system.

On relatively new Macs, it actually seems like it's a good system - like on Macs that were originally sold with OS 10.7 or 10.8 installed. And, it provides new features for home users that improve iPhone and iPad integration.

Why not to like it:

If you have an older Mac and/or older peripherals, it will probably break something. Some examples:

•External USB, Firewire and Thunderbolt drives can lose their data when plugged into a computer running Mavericks. When this does occur, there is no fix to recover the lost data.

•The Mavericks OS, running on older iMacs and MacBook Pros, too frequently boots to a black or white screen with just a cursor. The fix is to wipe the computer and re-install the operating system and everything else that was running on it.

•Mavericks doesn't support older printers or scanners. One fix is to install Parallels or Fusion and run older programs and drivers in Windows. Neither Parallels, Fusion nor Windows are free programs. Another fix is to buy new printers and scanners - they aren't free either.

•Mavericks has a significant color management bugs in Safari and in professional applications including Aperture and Lightroom. As of today, there aren't fixes for these problems.

Our recommendation - if you have an older Mac and you want to upgrade your operating system, pay 19.95 for the upgrade to 10.8, and forget about upgrading to OS X Mavericks. You'll more than likely find that it will be a less expensive choice. You still might have compatibility issues with older peripherals or software, since, like Mavericks, 10.8 doesn't support Rosetta. But, you won't have data loss, re-installation or color management issues.

Microsoft Windows XP Support Ends on April 8, 2014

Should you stop using Windows XP?

Over the last 12 years, Windows XP has had a great life—it was Microsoft's first contemporary operating system and is still being used on almost 30 percent of currently operating computers. In April, Microsoft will stop providing support for Windows XP. This means that Microsoft won't release security updates for XP that combat new security threats, that they won't update Windows Defender or Windows Security Essentials virus definitions and that they might remove the update services for XP as well.

Since it's less expensive for companies to support fewer operating systems, other companies will probably drop support for Windows XP as well. Possible examples are:

-Free antivirus providers, like Avira, will soon stop providing updates for XP users
-Adobe not providing security updates for Flash
-Oracle not providing security updates for Java
-Printer manufacturers not providing XP printer drivers for new printers
-Software companies not providing XP compatible versions of new software releases
-Web browsers, in addition to Internet Explorer, not updating to accommodate updates to web programming protocols.

Apple, which has a much shorter product life cycle than Windows, made the same transition with the move to Intel processors. Older Macs that don't have Intel processors can't run the latest web sites, can't use the latest printers and can't run the latest versions of software. The same type of obsolescence will occur relatively quickly with Windows XP.

Windows XP is more vulnerable to viruses than Windows 7 (three times more vulnerable) and Windows 8 (ten times more vulnerable).

Infection rate (CCM) by operating system and service pack in the fourth quarter of 2012 as reported in the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report volume 14.

Many industry watchers believe as the end-of-life nears cyber criminals may even step up their rates of attack and that “black hat” attackers may hold back exploit codes for release after the end date in April. (Sheldon, 2012 and AppSense)

Windows XP PC's are old enough to be replaced with new computers. The last copies of Windows XP were sold in October, 2010 (Tastar sold it's last XP PC in 2009), so any PC running XP is most likely more than five years old, an age where important components like motherboards and hard drives, are also heading toward end-of-life.

Windows 7 Pro, which is still the predominant operating system (running on approximately 48 percent of PC's), is readily available as a free downgrade with the purchase of a Windows 8 PC. Computers are technically sold with Windows 8, but with Windows 7 pre-installed. One advantage of Windows 7 over Windows 8 is that it will run XP Mode, where you can use older, XP compatible software. Another advantage is that it still maintains most of the look and feel of Windows XP.

Click here for a great selection of business PC's that are running Windows 7.

So, what should you do?
While XP has had a great run, its time to move on to a newer operating system. By sticking with XP, some say the question is not if you will get exploited, but when. The best choice would be to migrate away from Windows XP to a current operating system. Keeping antivirus software up-to-date will be little help if new exploits to the operating system are developed. If there are XP desktops remaining in your network, they should be used in isolated situations that don't require an active connection to the internet.

Feel free to contact us if you need assistance in making the move from Windows XP. We can help.

What's Wrong with This Picture?


This image is from a marketing email sent to us by HP on January 19, 2014.

tastarsupply.com sells computers designed for business - to check out our selection of what we feel are the best values in business computers - that are running Windows 7 Pro - click this link. Note: all of our Windows 7 Pro computers come with a Windows 8 license, too.

Apple’s Vision of Equality

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, recently spoke at Auburn University about equality, right in tune with President Obama's push for greater equality in America. I find Cook’s equality platform to be ironic considering the way Apple treats its resellers, customers and its base country.

For over 20 years, Tastar Data Systems has been a member of the Apple Consultants network. We facilitate sales of Apple equipment by referring customers to an independent Apple reseller. One of our customers has been waiting two weeks for a MacBook, which on the Apple web site shows it as available to ship in 24 hours. The reseller’s response to us concerning the availability of this computer is troubling, "All Apple does is blow smoke right now. They are really messing with resellers this holiday season." Where's the equality in this relationship?

A Senate committee labeled Apple’s tax evasion this year as the Holy Grail of tax avoidance--its efforts have shielded $74 billion in profits from U.S. corporate taxation. Good for Apple, bad for everyone else who has to pitch in to cover the share of taxes that it is avoiding.

Several years ago, I was discussing an issue with our credit card processor and commented about how great it was to see that Wal-Mart was getting such great credit card processing rates. The representative pointed out that Wal-Mart’s rates are subsidized by everyone else who didn't get these favorable rates. Now that I am so much smarter, I now can see that Apple's tax avoidance strategies mean that I'm being forced to pay its share of taxes. Equality?

Apple's new iMacs have a repair rating of 3 out of 10 by iFixit--a great source for Apple parts. The previous iMacs that they replaced had a 7 out of 10 score and the new MacBook Pro's with Retina displays have an astonishing low 1 out of 10 score.

It appears Apple is designing these computers to be throw-away devices. If you buy the three-year AppleCare warranty, you can simply throw it away if it breaks after the warranty expires because it will be too costly to repair. Even worse is if you take the risk and decline the three-year AppleCare warranty. Is this policy good for consumers or is it good for Apple?

While we have been long supporters of Apple, Tim Cook’s vision of equality is troubling to the future of Apple and its customers.

Documenting the Dome: A Photographer's View of the Civic Arena

Documenting the Dome

In 1961, Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena made history when it opened as the first major-sports venue in the world with a stainless steel retractable roof. An architectural marvel, the arena was most notably home to the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, but in its history hosted thousands of concerts from the Beatles to Elvis Presley political rallies, circuses and many other sporting events including wrestling, tennis, indoor soccer, NCAA basketball games, figure skating and much more. Fifty years later in September 2011, it made history again as it was demolished.

“No one had ever taken a building down of this type," notes David Aschkenas, an award-winning Pittsburgh photographer who was granted special access to capture its demise. Equipped with a hard hat and a safety vest, David spent nearly a year taking more than 10,000 photos of the dismantling of the famed silver dome.

“Because of asbestos, the arena could not be imploded,” said David. “The demolition crews had to carefully cut through the steel to dismantle the dome.”

David’s work can be seen permanently at Consol Energy Center, the new home of the Pittsburgh Penguins; in a newly released book Arena: Remembering the Igloo; and beginning next month, at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s 707 Penn Gallery.

Five minutes with David Aschkenas.

How did you get started as a photographer?
After studying film at Penn State, I moved to Boston where my roommate was a photographer. I saw a print being developed in a basement darkroom that convinced me that still photography was the way to go. As an impatient person, I liked the idea of instantly capturing something vs. working in film where it took months to produce a final product. From there, I became consumed and learned everything I could about photography.

Do you still work with film?
I was late to embrace the digital photography movement, but when I got my hands on the Nikon D3, I was amazed at the quality. Since then, I have sold all of my film cameras.

What printers do you use?
At home I have an Epson Stylus Pro 7800. If I need to print something larger than 24”, like I did for my upcoming exhibit, I like having the option to go to Tastar to use the Epson Stylus Pro 9900.

What is your best tip for photographers who do their own printing?
Calibrate your monitor. Often people ask me how many times it took to get a certain photo to print perfectly. I tell them once. I calibrate my monitor every week and know exactly how the colors will appear in print. There is no guesswork.

Favorite photography assignment?
The best photo assignments are the self assigned ones, like the Civic Arena project or another self assigned project that I'm currently working on: photographing the Allegheny County Courthouse designed by Henry Hobson Richardson.

Guarding against the CryptoLocker Virus

No doubt you’ve probably heard about CryptoLocker, an extremely fast spreading virus that's hitting Windows users. We have directly come across several infections, including one Mac user who was using Parallels to run Windows applications.

Usually downloaded through email, CryptoLocker is ransomware that encrypts certain types of files and then attempts to get infected users to purchase a decrypting tool (using bitcoins) in order to regain access to their files. There’s a lot of chatter online on whether or not you should pay the ransom, and whether or not paying it will allow you to recover damaged files. If you pony up the cash within 72 hours, the cost is around $300, but if you wait, the price increases to 10 bitcoins, which is approximately $2,290.

There are a number of steps you can take to protect your valuable data from this destructive virus. You've probably heard most of these recommendations before, but they are worth repeating in light of this virus. And added bonus--they are less expensive than paying a ransom to recover your own files.

1. Make sure you have a good backup system in place. If your files are backed up, then paying a ransom is not an issue.

2. Use antivirus software. Enough said. We recommend Trend Micro Worry Free Business Security for networks and Symantec's Norton Internet Security for individual users. For additional information about anti-virus software, check out these articles: techradar.com's recommendations for the best free antivirus software (we don't like free...) or pcmag.com's review of antivirus software (sort the listing by Editor's Choice to see current recommendations).

3. Don’t open suspicious emails. Look closely at emails before you click on a link or download a file. Better yet, don’t click on a link. Just go directly to the company’s web site. The hackers have been known to disguise the malware in emails allegedly sent from USPS, ADP, XEROX and ironically, McAfee.

For more information about this malware and how to protect against it, click here.

Please don’t hesitate to call us if you need advice on setting up a secure backup system or installing antivirus software.

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