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1:47PM

The “Real” Mobile Revolution–A Guest Post by Latiff Cherono

In my earlier post on mobile payments, I asked Latiff Cherono to weigh in on the impact mobile payments have made in daily life in Kenya.

His thoughts are below

The “Real” Mobile Revolution

clip_image002Image courtesy of @Prepaid_Africa

Mention “mobile money” and Africa to someone and you will likely hear “mPesa” in the reply. Much has been said about the revolutionary product, but until you witness it on the ground, it is hard for someone in the west to fathom how much of a game changer it is.

I grew up in Kenya in the eighties and early 90’s when access to technology was a luxury available to the select few. A measure of how successful a middle class family was not if you owned a car, but whether you had a landline phone at your phone. I left Kenya in 1995 to attend Engineering school in US Midwest. After graduation I worked as Process Engineer in the Automotive and Electronic manufacturing sectors for 10 years.

I witnessed the evolution of the internet boom, the peak of the PC age and the start of the connected mobile age with smartphones and later tablets. Though these changes were remarkable, they still appeared evolutionary. In 2011, I made the decision to move back to Africa, predicated on a need to improve personal growth. I have always considered myself to be an early adopter, keeping up with tech trends. Armed with the latest smartphones and gadgets I thought I was well prepared to school my Kenyan friends on technology. What I encountered on my arrival back into Nairobi completely changed my thinking on the power of technology.

As I drove from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport towards the City of Nairobi, I encountered the telltale signs of economic development: New construction had changed the landscape that I couldn’t recognize landmarks from my child hood, thongs of people all along the highway engaged in little business (one selling used clothing, the next selling soft drinks and snacks). Though I expected improvement, I wasn’t ready for the scale of change. We were then caught up in a massive traffic jam. Cars, busses and trucks were everywhere. In my childhood, automobile ownership was exclusive to the very rich, but now even the average professional was driving. How was this possible? My cab driver explained that buying a vehicle in Kenya, even with the 70% tax was within the reach of many more Kenyans. Paying close attention to people along the highway, I noticed many were on their mobile phones (dumb phones, we called them back in the States. “Smartphones haven’t made it to Kenya yet” I theorized.

As we sat in the traffic jam, a man pulling a hand cart laden with goods pulled up alongside us, controlling his cart deftly with one hand, and texting with his free hand. This in itself was a remarkable feat, as the cart must have had at least 500 pounds of market produce on it. However, what struck me as odd was that this cart pusher earned less than $10 on a good day, yet he had the time to chat? I asked my Cab driver how this was possible. The answer blew my mind. The cell phone was key to Hand Cart owners business. He used it to schedule deliveries with his customers and most importantly, receive payments. This means that hand cart owner could scale his business easily. I immediately understood the impact of Mobile Money. This “Third World” country had successfully created a solution that delivered transformative financial power to its entire public. A solution which did not need the latest gadgetry, was available on all platforms and elegantly simple. I smiled knowing that I was the one who would be schooled by the Real Mobile Revolution.

Additional Links:
In 2014 Kenyans moved KES 6.4 Billion, U$ 69.5 Million per day in mobile money. This includes Peer to Peer transactions (whether informal business like the handcart owner, or personal transactions like sending money to a loved one), Peer to Business (purchasing goods from a supermarket or service provider) and Business to Business.

Kenya - Card Payments drop 18.2 % in favor of mobile money.

Latiff Cherono is a Lean Consultant (Nairobi, Kenya and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa)

Training Leadership Consulting TLC

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1:29PM

Most Exciting Current Technology at SmallBizWindows: Mobile Payments

08- Most exciting current techIf you look at the landscape for payments, our increasingly mobile world requires payment technology the is equally mobile.

While the usual players are starting to see this, several new players are already here, with ideas that run the gamut, and options galore.

This, people is a very good thing.

Interestingly, the early leader seems to be a company that has correctly determined that there is a nexus between mobile payments and customer loyalty.

That company, folks, is Starbucks, with their eponymous card.

Which I carry, and have activated, thanks to Markham Lee. I have also connected it to my Microsoft Band.

Echo Mobile Solutions is another firm working on delivering new, actionable value to mobile payments.

I asked three of the smartest folks I know that are at the confluence of mobility, payments, and technology to weigh in on what they think the impact of Mobile payments would be.

Trent McMurray is a former Microsoft MVP for mobile devices, and the sounder of the mobile payments startup, Echo Solutions.

Actually, this is a very simple answer when you look at how simplistic mobile payments “should” work in the US and globally. One standard, (not technology) that will work wherever you can pay for goods and services.

I will define the “standard” as EMV, the technology behind or in front of EMV really doesn’t matter, as long as an EMV transaction takes place.

If this can be achieved, then the impact will be as large if not larger as when credit and debit cards came into existence. Therefore generating Trillions of dollars in transactions and revenue for everyone.

Trent L. McMurray, Chief Executive Officer
Echo Mobile Solutions LLC

I asked the same question of Markham Lee, a well-traveled technology consultant, and one of the most logical and financially astute gentlemen I am privileged to engage with:

“While the potential for impact is huge, I remain cautiously optimistic overall. I say this because large numbers of American companies are still sending paper checks despite the long existence of ACH payment technology, tap to pay NFC credit/debit cards never caught on in the US, citizens of major economies like Germany and Japan rarely use credit cards and the Japanese have been ignoring their rather extensive mobile payment tech and infrastructure for nearly ten years.

That being said I see the greatest potential for mobile payments in emerging markets, for everything from remittances, banking alternatives and everyday spending, as mobile technology will enable them to leapfrog to the future over their current lack of banking and payment infrastructure”

----Markham Lee, Tech Consultant & Co-founder of ABS Payment Systems

Latiff Cherono is based in his native Kenya, and there to see firsthand how mobility has fueled an explosion in Africa, where tiny Kenya virtually leads the larger economies in terms of innovation in several tech areas:

In lieu of a short quote, Latiff has written an informative guest blog on mobile payments in Kenya, which follows immediately after this.

It shows how a true groundswell is lifting the fortunes over there.

There you have it.

Mobile payments will be huge.

However, like all new technologies, the path to nirvana in mobile payments will be fraught with pain and pitfalls. Determined investors and stockholder's will need knowledgeable handholding to traverse the terrain.

However, success here will create a new breed of oligarchs.

Below, you will find a primer that Markham has freely provided on his reviews and tests of the leading mobile payments platforms in use in the United States.

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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12:39PM

The SmallBizWindows Collaboration Product of the Year 2015: Logitech ConferenceCam CC3000e

11 - CollabThe Logitech ConferenceCam CC3000e is the SmallBizWindows Collaboration Product of the Year 2015.

It wins this easily, despite going against a sister device that we are very sweet on as well, the Logitech ConferenceCam BCC950.

Then it comes to conferencing devices, the CC3000e is peerless.

Videoconferencing takes center stage

Technology has shrunk the world.

However, that shrunken world requires folks all over the globe to engage with, and collaborate.

3In the past that meant traveling back and forth to the far flung reaches of your distributed environment for face-to-face meetings.

Video conferencing solved that.

Then came the need for video collaboration.

However, in order to both conference, and collaborate better video told were needed.

In the recent past, that meant establishing a “Halo Room”, that award-winning dedicated twin room solution costing

Logitech ConferenceCam CC3000eFor under $1,000 you can have the Logitech ConferenceCam CC3000e which offers full HD resolution, is foolproof easy to install and setup, is portable enough to be put into an average padded case and transported, works out-of-the-box with Microsoft Skype for Business (formerly Microsoft Lync), Skype, and Cisco WebEx. It is also supposedly compatible with other new-fangled unified communications platforms. Funny enough, I don’t know if it is compatible with or certified for Logitech’s own LifeSize US offerings.

It works out of the box, needing nothing, and the 280-degree pan, tilt, and zoom camera, coupled with the integral microphone array, make using the CC3000e a cakewalk.

Based on the feature list, the ease of use, and the extremely low cost, our panel found it quite easy selecting the Logitech ConferenceCam CC3000e as out SmallBizWindows Collaboration Product of the Year 2015.

Runners Up

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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11:18AM

The SmallBizWindows Scanner of the Year 2015: Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100

07 - SCANNER-ZThe Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100 is the SmallBizWindows Scanner of the Year 2015 and also a SmallBizWindows Business Ready Award of Excellence recipient.

Small, fast, wireless, portable.

Those features alone put it in the offing. However, the ScanSnap iX100 delivered more value than that.

Having a built-in battery meant that it is truly portable. For recharging, the iX100 uses a microUSB cable. Any microUSB cable. That is a very smart decision, and extends the portability of the device as far as our panel is concerned.

Another plus is wireless, and manual duplex scanning.

1ScanSnap iX100 also has a very useful feature, PC-less scanning, which is in addition to the built-in easy-connectivity-to-Wi-Fi networks software: all you have to do is point your [mobile] device at the iX100 in device settings, and you are off! Seeing this feature in action across several devices and operating systems is impressive.

Unlike most scanners that are sometime quite ‘unintelligent’, the iX100 uses a custom processor, dubbed ‘G1’, that “not only created the PDF or JPEG file and corrects the image inside the scanner, but also creates a bridge between the iX100 and your [mobile] device to wirelessly transmit documents to your device at speed.”

Windows-Live-Writer-Shiny-New-Thing-to-Review-The-Fujitsu-Sc_14200-Again, impressive.

Finally, there’s the very good quality of the included software.

Here again, the iX100 shines. The software performs, auto-de-skew, auto-orientation, auto stitching, auto paper size detection, and auto color correction. It also allows users to perform dual scans of small documents such as ID and business cards.

Honorable Mention
2Bubbling under the ScanSnap iX100 is the Epson Perfection v600 Flatbed Photo Scanner, a winner of our SmallBizWindows Business Ready Award .

I like this device, which I have hogged for myself.

Employing a maximum optical resolution of 6400 dpi, though the Perfection v600 is perfect for photo scanning, it is also a very good home/SOHO scanner.

Perfection v600 was placed at a medical professional’s Windows-Live-Writer-d3610a97d4e3_E94B-office where it was used by the clerical staff there to scan and import old X-ray photos into their new EMR system*.

Like me they were very pleased with the features of the Perfection v600.

We highly recommend it for the very small office.

*We recommended the Epson Perfection v850 Pro Photo Scanner to this clinic because their needs require the performance and file management features the Perfection v850 Pro offers.

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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11:04AM

The SmallBizWindows Software of the Year 2015: Microsoft Office 365

09 - softwareMicrosoft Office 2013 is the SmallBizWindows Software of the Year 2015.

Surprisingly, this is the first win for Microsoft Office in any category here, if I remember correctly.

Well, feel free to notch our oversight as a slight, and a travesty!

For which we profusely apologize.

When it comes to desktop productivity applications, there’s only one product that resides at the pantheon of excellence: Microsoft Office, now in version Office 365 both as a subscription, and also as traditionally licensed boxed software.

I don’t believe there’s anything else I can add but to say that it works magnificently with Microsoft OneDrive.

Oh, and it is now completely free on devices 10” and less in screen size.

This is the best desktop productivity suite offered on Planet Earth!

What are you waiting for?

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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9:04AM

The SmallBizWindows Logitech ConferenceCam CC3000e Review

3There was a time – in the not too distant past, mind you – when high definition video conferencing required a budget of at least half a million dollars, several months of planning, and dedicated high speed data links between them.

I know. I have seen the ‘Halo Rooms’, at HP and at DreamWorks Animation Studios.

They are explicitly planned-for solutions that deliver exactly what you money pays for.

For the rest of us without 6-figure budgets however, Logitech has created their ConferenceCam series, of which we reviewed the very fine ConferenceCam BCC950 here.cc3000e

As good as the BCC950 is, there is nonetheless a flagship device Logitech offers: the ConferenceCam CC3000e.

The CC3000e completely blows the completion away.

It is equipped with a full HD Carl Zeiss optical zoom camera with pan, tilt, and zoom functionality, an array of omnidirectional microphones, and best of all, compatibility with Microsoft Skype for Business (formerly called Microsoft Lync), which is the unified communications platform and standard in use here. It is also compatible with the consumer UC offering, Skype.

20150126_050706203_iOSVideo conferencing is a technology I have come to rely on in order to reach and collaborate with my staff wherever they might be.

The detail presented by the 10x lossless optical zoom is extremely useful, allowing my to be able to zoom in on whiteboards in Lake Elsinore or blackboards in Port Harcourt.

It has touch controls, a remote control, 90-degree field-of-view, 260-degree pan, and 130-degree pan.

The Logitech ConferenceCam CC3000e even has NFC built into it!

I set up the CC3000e in my office at MedikLabs where it had to pan between looking at my ugly visage and a whiteboard used for my conferences.

What makes the CC3000e differ from other solutions I have used, and also the BCC950 is the crispness and detail of the video taken. In a word: superb. There’s nary any loss of detail even as I zoom closer to the dashboard. On the other hand, I have swiveled the view of the camera back to my face at zoomed distance quite a few times inadvertently, hearing my staff gasp audibly as my face permeates their vision. Which is undeniably funny.09_CC3000e Thin Client Video Meeting

In an unprecedented scenario last month, four staff members from Los Angeles were over here in Colorado, and we used the CC3000e to connect us to our on-site colleagues at a customer location in Marysville, California. What was most interesting about this was the level of engagement we had at this impromptu meeting which enabled us to not only resolve the issues that came up, but also allowed us to conclude the tasks that had brought the staffers to Colorado without having a trio of them dash off to Northern California to help resolve matters.

It definitely wouldn’t have been possible with even my former stalwart, the Microsoft LifeCam HD Studio.

The Logitech ConferenceCam CC3000e has the features, the OOBE, the application and platform compatibility, and performance required of a true high definition video conferencing solution. Moreover, it is portable enough to be easily transported to wherever it is needed.

Additionally, it is priced right, as I see that this very evening, it can be yours for the low price of $851 delivered by Amazon Prime, a discount from the MSRP of $999.

Resultantly, it is the recipient of the SmallBizWindows Superstar Award.

It is that good!20150126_050613894

I have used and appreciated this device for the past few months. Alas though, sometimes very good things must come to an end. I have kept the CC3000e for an extraordinarily long period – Sorry A.F., my apologies! – and now, it must leave here.

I tell you this though: I see myself pulling the trigger on the CC3000e for both my Colorado and Lagos offices sooner, rather than later.

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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7:21AM

The SmallBizWindows Monitor of the Year 2015

Nothing

Nada

Non

Nein

We threw the book away.

Back in the middle of December 2014 when we were putting together our POTY candidates, we were informed of the forthcoming whiz-bang monitors detailed below.

Immediately, all monitors we had been considering for the SmallBizWindows Monitor of the Year 2015, including the famed DreamColor, became poor cousins to them.

None of them were suddenly worthy.

Below, please find your early candidates for the SmallBizWindows Monitor of the Year 2016

HP Z27q IPS UHD Display
Z27qZBookLifelike image presentation with this display, which delivers 5K resolution plus a massive 14.7 MP & 217 ppi, 10-bit color quality, and up to 1.07 billion colors as well as 99% coverage of Adobe® RGB.Z27qRIghtFacing2

  • 27-inch diagonal, 16:9 IPS 5K UHD 5120 x 2880 resolution
  • 300 cd/m brightness
  • 14.7 Megapixels at 218 PPI
  • Immediate, accurate color calibration for sRGB, Adobe® and BT.709
  • 4-port USB 3.0 hub
  • 4 way ergonomic stand

The HP Z34c Curved Display
Z34cLeftFacingHP Z34c and ENVY 34c Ultra Wide Curved Display

Z34cRightFacing2

  • Expansive field of view with 21:9 aspect ratio with a 3,000 radius curvature
  • Low Haze Enhancement technology reduces reflectiveness without losing clarity
  • Ultra-high resolution and vivid color with 98.8% sRGB
  • Picture in Picture for viewing between sources simultaneously
  • 34-inch diagonal, 21:9 IPS WQHD 3440x1440 resolution
  • 300 cd/m brightness
  • 8-bit color depth, 110 ppi and 98.8% sRGB color gamut
  • Dual-HDMI (One HDML port is also an MHL input), DisplayPort

HP Z27s 27-inch IPS UHD Display

Z27sLeftFacingUHD display with picture-in-picture and picture-bypicture that allows you to display mobile device and PC feeds.Z27sRightFacing

  • 27-inch diagonal 16:9 UHD 3840 x 2160 resolution
  • 300 cd/m brightness
  • IPS, 1.07 Billion Colors; 100% sRGB panel
  • DisplayPort, HDMI, Mini-DP, MHL
  • 4-port USB 3.0 hub

HP Zvr 23” Virtual Reality Display

ZvrLeftFacing

  • 23.6”diagonal Full HD stereoscopic display with full images rendered for each eye
  • Seamless interaction with an intuitive user interface
  • Lightweight passive tracking eyewear for viewing comfort
  • Stylus pen to rotate, manipulate, navigate, and zoom in and out of every detail of the holographic image
  • Real-time sharing on a large 2D display with zView
  • DisplayPort and DVI connectivity
  • Adjustable height and tilt features

ZvrRightFacingI saw, and played with an early prototype of the Zvr display back in September 2014 at the 2014 HP Global Workstations Event. This device has to be seen to believe. Definitely a ground-breaker.ZvrLeftFacing3

This is going to be an exciting year in displays!

HP’s CES presser on these monitors and their new line of oh-so-sweet, just-from-a-paleo-diet world’s thinnest mobile workstations can be found here.

Naturally, we will be covering these monitors in great depth shortly.

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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7:17AM

The SmallBizWindows Virtualization Product of the Year 2015: Microsoft Hyper-V 3.0

SB-13The battle between Hyper-V and VMware is ongoing, with both sides taking no prisoners, and each player bringing their product up to par when new features are implemented by the other.

This time though, Hyper-V takes this round, especially with all the goodies in Hyper-V for Windows Server.Next.

A few of the features that this award selection board like about Hyper-V aren’t those features that might garner the most attention. However, they are the features that we see making the lives of our staff, and those of our clients, easy.

They are:

    • Alternate credentials support
    • Down-level management
    • Better Hyper-V Backups
    • Updated management protocol
    • Distributed storage QoS
    • Hot-pluggable NICs

Honorable mention

VirtualBox
Thanks to a Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols post on ZDNet, I tried Oracle VirtualBox, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use.

I even tried it out on low-spec systems where it performed admirably.

I understand that it does as well on Apple OS X, so I am looking forward to using it when a project I have in mind comes to fore.

Definitely recommended

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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8:09AM

The SmallBizWindows Consumer Product of The Year 2015: APC BackUPS Connect 120

SB-1The APC BackUPS Connect 120 is the SmallBizWindows Consumer Product of The Year 2015.

I like this device, and it is one that satisfies a requirement I had not thought about until I was approached by APC’s Jason Covitz about it, as documented here.

How does it work?

In a word: superbly.

In order to test this product, I used it as the battery backup for the router coming into The Orbiting O’Odua.

However, it handled that task with such ease that I knew I had to increase the load upon it.

It was then taken to MedikLabs where I inserted it into the power stream there.

6BDC5DDB4EEA888A85257CA700621A5A_LEAN_9HKP2F_f_h_500x500I connected three devices to it: the Motorola DSL modem from the local telco, and the two VOIP routers in use at MedikLabs.

One VOIP router manages telephony for the working physician practice there, while the other router is dedicated to MedikLabs research for a total of 16 voice lines, and 3 fax lines.

Yes, Dorothy, healthcare in the USA, even now in 2015, requires faxes!

After letting the BackUPS Connect Network device power for for about 24 hours, I failed the mains power by yanking the power cord out of the wall during the busiest part of the morning for the clinic and lab.

Power to the DSL modem and VOIP routers weren’t interrupted. Notifications aside, nothing.

However, after just under two hours and forty minutes without any mishap, I lost my nerve, and reconnected the power cable.

With a grin on my face, of course.

While the chances of a sustained power failure are low at MedikLabs since the building where it is housed is required to, and possesses a hulking great emergency power generator, I felt very good knowing that in the unlikely event of power being interrupted for a long period of time, the clinic would still be able to stay connected.

That’s a good thing.

With that in mind, and for the numerous uses this device 1can deliver when needed, the panel here is bestowing the APC BackUPS Connect Network Battery Backup both the SmallBizWindows Consumer Product of The Year 2014 Award and the SmallBizWindows Business Ready Award of Excellence, as it is ready for most SMB needs.

One of these days, I will try to see how long it will hold it’s power under a full load.

Once I steel my nerves, that is.

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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7:39AM

The AbsolutelyWindows HP EliteDesk Mini 800 Giveaway

You asked for a simple giveaway, and I am agreeing to that. With a twist, of course.

elitedesk_mini_product3_tcm_245_1545819As sponsored by HP, AbsolutelyWindows is one of ten sites giving away an HP EliteDesk Mini 800 PC, and reviewed here.

Each website/blog is free to create their own giveaway.

As a result, for the past few weeks I have asked what or how you would like me to perform this giveaway.

elitedesk_mini_product5_tcm_245_1545815Here it is.

Riffing off a suggestion among us internally, and also cribbing ideas from site members, and adhering to you request for a simple giveaway, it boils down to this:

Send an email to Mini800@absolutevista.com telling us how this powerful diminutive device will positively impact your business or work computing life.

Simple.

I will enter all email addresses from the entries into a randomizer, and the top selection is the winner.

Again, simple.

Here are the twists:

  • If you send in a plain email, you get a single entry into the randomizer.
  • If you are very prolific, and have a different idea, please wait 24 hours to send in another entry. You have a whole week to send in entries, for a total of seven. Multiple emailed entries within a 24-hour period will be discarded. Also,
  • If you send in a video, you get 15 entries into the randomizer for your effort each time.
  • If you send in an infographic, you get 30 entries into the randomizer for each infograph.
  • If you can squeeze your entry into a relevant haiku, you get 51 entries, and my eternal awe!
  • You assign me, and by proxy, HP or anyone I so designate, the royalty-free rights, on all known worlds, to use your entry/entries for comedic, training, and any and all uses we might see fit, as long as all attribution to you is duly noted.

At the end of the giveaway here at AbsolutelyWindows, I will announce the winner on this blog, and reveal as much detail as the write would like me to reveal.

I will also forward the winner’s shipping details to HP, which is handling prize fulfillment for this giveaway.elitedesk_mini_product4_tcm_245_1545488

Fine details:

    • This giveaway is for a North America SKU, so only folks residing in the US or Canada can win.
    • If the winner sends in a mailing address outside of those two countries, that winner would be disqualified, and the randomizer will be run again with the remaining entries in order to determine a new winner.
    • This giveaway if for the PC only, which comes without a monitor. It does come with a keyboard and mouse in the box.
    • Desk stand not included.
    • The 1st runner up gets an HP Stream 7 Windows 8.1 Tablet courtesy of Blackfriars Capital.
    • My decision is final.

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

00 - Ivy

7:29AM

The SmallBizWindows Printer of the Year 2015: Epson WorkForce Pro WF-5690

SB-10In mid-2014, Epson released the follow-on device to the famed WorkForce Pro WP-4540.

The new Epson WorkForce Pro WF-5690 is an altogether serious beast of a printer.

It is more powerful, more capable printer. Utilizing Epson's new PrecisionCore technology, it is able to lay inks more efficiently, delivering sharper, laser-class images with a vibrancy that is just superb. It is also much faster, and at $399.99 MSRP, it is priced at a very sweet point for the workgroups it is designed for.

In our tests, it has shown itself to be up to the task of supporting small workgroups without bogging down, and consumables are also quite affordable.

Based on these points, our awards panel had no difficulty bestowing the SmallBizWindows Printer of The Year 2015 Award on it.1

It is also the winner of the SmallBizWindows Business Ready Award of Excellence.

Honorable Mentions

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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7:25AM

The SmallBizWindows Utility of the Year 2015: The Logitech Wireless Combo MX800

SB-19When it comes to input devices, I really don’t ask for much.

What I do require, however, is a mouse and keyboard combo that just works, is sturdy, completely compatible with any of the systems I may decide to use as my PC, and not leave me harrying for either a driver disk, or to have to search online for a download.

Oh, and it must be backlit.

In the absence of this ideal, I had been using the Microsoft Reclusa keyboard and a Microsoft ‘Explorer’ mouse.

No longer.

Screenshot (149)This keyboard/mouse combo is wireless, and comes with rechargeable batteries, which can be charged via USB since the charging interface is microUSB!

This makes it easy to charge it wherever you may be. I cannot stress the utility of that enough!

Finally, it come with Logitech’s miniscule ‘Unity’ USB RF dongle, which can be paired with other Logitech devices, saving other USB ports on a user’s system.2

I recommended this keyboard combo to other members of this panel late last year, and subsequent to their use of it – one panel member refuses to use anything other than a laptop! – it was deemed worthy, and as a result, the Logitech Wireless Performance Combo MX800 is the SmallBizWindows Utility of The Year 2015.

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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10:09AM

The EU Antitrust Browser Lawsuit: It accomplished NOTHING!

Did the EU-mandated browser-selection screen achieve either the stated goal of antitrust or the under-G goal of creating a Microsoft rival?

Wasn’t the ONLY beneficiary of the monumental EU antitrust stupidity a company that gamed the system by #1) paying the early presumptive beneficiary - Firefox, from the Mozilla Foundation - so much money that they fell asleep at the wheel of business, marketing, and innovation until both their market share, and relevance matched the shittiness of their flagship product?

Didn’t the ‘local hero’ princeling-in-waiting - Opera, from Opera SA – the browser that everyone just knew was browser the EU wanted to win out, proceed to incredibly, and spectacularly flame out, even in the mobile space? Seriously, does anyone, even in Sveeedeen (Sweden, to those not in the know), use Opera as their primary or only browser?

What about their operating system restrictions, you ask?

You dare to ask?

Okay, let’s split that question into two: desktop and server OSs.

In server operating systems, the EU’s attempt to hobble Microsoft by pilfering Microsoft IP by way of forcing royalty-free access by putative European server operating system developers has, how can I put this kindly, failed beyond even the worst scorched-earth scenario the morons at the EU office of Competition could have imagined.

No one emerged. Not from the EU.

In fact, the Linux server operating system that was on a growth trajectory has flatlined.

And innovation there still, ahem, follows the leader: Microsoft Windows Server.

In client OSs, well, “The year 2xxx is the Year of The Linux Desktop”.

That tells it all.

Apart from the attained secondary goal of wresting billions of dollars from Microsoft, the EU’s antitrust case produced nothing.

Nothing, was accomplished.

The citizens of the EU gained, well, nothing!

It was much ado about nothing!

Well, apart from the monies scored from Microsoft.

Resultantly, into the Stupidity Hall of Shame are your December 2014 inductees, Karel Van Miert, Mario Monti, Neelie Kroes, and Joaquín Almunia.

Morons, alla them!

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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2:13AM

Ten Sites Are Each Giving Away the EliteDesk Mini 800

EDM800-000

A total of ten websites are currently reviewing the HP EliteDesk Mini 800 and on Tuesday last week, HP expanded the EliteDesk Mini 800 family to include two entry-level models, the EliteDesk Mini 260 and EliteDesk Mini 400. Due to ship shortly, a teaser site with more details can be found here.

As a bones, HP is sponsoring a giveaway of this same cool EliteDesk Mini 800.

Yes, each website gets to design a giveaway tailored to their readership, and give it away to a lucky person as each site sees fit!

The list of giveaway sites is below, and as you can see, we here at AbsolutelyWindows get to kick off 2015 with a giveaway!

Go ahead, visit all ten websites.

You just might win all of them!

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1:33AM

The HP EliteDesk Mini 800 Review

The HP EliteDesk Mini 800 is the hardcover-novel-sized announced here.

In my review configuration, it came with 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM*, a 120 GB Intel SSD, and no optical drive.

Standard equipment on the Mini 800 are

    • Intel Core i5 vPro
    • (6) USB 3.0 ports, two in front
    • (1) VGA port
    • (2) DisplayPort ports
    • Built-in VESA mounting holes,
    • Built in Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

The first thing that grabs you is the really small size of this true PC.

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Despite that, a comparison of this device with a mainstream desktop reveals that apart from the size, all internal components and capabilities in that larger box are here. Nothing is missing, except for size.

In fact, the added benefit is that the EliteDesk Mini 800 is made for situations where further or any physical expansion is not necessary, or required.

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Despite the small size of the Mini 800, it came in a sorta largish box – relative to the device.

Opening up the package revealed why: it comes with a standard desktop keyboard and mouse.

In the box were

    1. The HP EliteDesk Mini 800
    2. A USB keyboard
    3. A USB mouse
    4. A Ziploc bag containing some warranty information, Windows 8 and Windows 7 recovery and driver disks – 4 disks total.

I connected the Mini 800 to a DisplayPort monitor, attached the keyboard and mouse to it, and off we went.

Boot up was fast, and after accepting the HP TOS, I made it to the Windows 7 desktop. I connected to the network at MedikLabs, the whole process being trouble free.

In use
I installed Office 2013 and other applications I use in my testing regimen for PC devices, and for the next couple of days, I proceeded to put the Mini 800 through a workout.

As mentioned at the start of this article, I took the Mini 800 on an audition to the Midwest.

It was accompanied by an HP Z1 workstation, HP EliteBook Folio 1040, and the HP Pro x2 612 G1 multi-factor tablet/laptop.

As I tweeted,

In space-constrained environments, the Mini 800 is in its element. It is compact and energy-efficient, requiring only a 65W power supply.

As reviewed, it came with no moving parts, equipped as it was with a solid-state drive.

For this prospect, looking to expand in the West, I presented it for use by knowledge workers in place of the Wyse thin clients currently in use.

The EliteDesk Mini 800 would allow them to not only deliver their current offerings, but also be able to reduce costs – as replacing their limited thin clients. Moreover, the Mini 800 would future-proof their business, allowing them to be able to deliver newer LOB applications, including those that might require local processing.

Suffice it to say, Mini 800 was well received.

Returning to MedikLabs, the Mini 800 was put to test in place of a comparably configured HP desktop PC, the only difference being that the full-size desktop has a 500GB hard disk.

The user performs both billing and some management tasks.

For the week the Mini 800 was being used, there wasn’t a drop-off in productivity. The user did not experience any reduction in a needed tasks, and actually liked the available USB ports right there on her desktop.

I have been using the Mini 800 for a week as well, trying to see if it is adequate for the business tasks I perform at MedikLabs. It has been.

Windows 8.1 on the HP EliteDesk Mini 800
I then upgraded the Mini 800 to Windows 8.1 using the supplied disks.

The upgrade was painless, and all drivers have either been migrated over, or work with Windows 8.1. I applied available patches with any issues.

While awaiting the delivery of the memory upgrade, I have activated Hyper-V in this install of Windows 8.1 – thank you for nothing for making me have to go into the BIOS to initiate that, HP! – and I am now running a low-footprint Windows 10 VM on Mini 800, though performance is sluggish due to the low system RAM.

However, it works.

Since I work primarily in Windows 8x, using Mini 800 with Windows 8 has been easy. Office, Lync, other desktop productivity applications, and most importantly, my LOB applications all work quite well and without fault on Mini 800.

In short, apart from the size, there isn’t anything a regular desktop does it cannot do. It however, does so quietly, and energy-efficiently.

Though I did not mount it to any VESA arm or to the back of any monitor, it has stayed unobtrusively on the desks I where I have installed it.

Conclusions
UntitledIf you have a space-constrained, low-power, or non-upgradeable requirement for a PC, look no further than the HP EliteDesk Mini 800.

While it is diminutively sized, that small size hides a cub with the heart of a full-grown lion: it uses the same desktop components that larger-sized, comparably equipped PCs use. It can also, and very easily, replace thin clients in situations that require it.

All this, in a truly tool less case.

We deem it Business Ready.

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An overhead view of the Mini 800

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Rear view of the Mini 800 with the case removed

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Frontal view

Dislikes
I am sure I am not the only one perplexed by the number of PCs that, while they ship without optical drives, come with optical discs – DVDs – that contain either OS recovery media, or device drivers.

I do understand that most businesses have PCs on hand that contain optical drives, and that Microsoft has that very necessary USB/DVD tool. However, that hided the incongruity here.

There has to be a better solution to this.

I waited for Cyber Monday offers, and then ordered 16GB of RAM to max out the memory on this unit.

Nine other websites have received copies of this device, and are reviewing it.

We have an HP EliteDesk Mini 800 to give away.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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10:52PM

HP announces the EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 at HP Discover EMEA

The elephant in the room when light, powerful, and durable laptop computers has been the MacBook Air.

Useful, in the limited way that Apple Macs are, that device had grown both real, and illusory powers, that the rumors about it had reached mythical proportions.

I couldn’t shout “Gimmie a break!” loud enough, and openly prayed for someone – for me, that means HP! – to deliver a device that would knock not just that device, but it’s countless proponents off their maybe deserved perch!

Well, I worry no more.

A few seconds ago at their annual HP Discover Barcelona exposition, HP’s Chairman (Chairperson? Chairwoman?) & CEO, Meg Whitman, publicly announced a device I have had for a while now, and that I have been dropping veiled hints about: the new HP EliteBook Folio 1020.

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I believe that this device which has the chops to be the MacBook Air killer, has, like the proverbial eagle, landed.

The HP EliteBook Folio is new, sports the very latest Intel Broadwell CPUs, it is completely without any moving parts.

None whatsoever.

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Look at that gorgeous screenshot!

clip_image006It has a MacBook Air-thrashing touchscreen with a resolution of 2560x1440 pixels, has solid state drives, and ships with a fingerprint reader, a vastly improved keyboard with backlighting, Intel vPro and TPM support.

Additionally, as an EliteBook, it gets to use a discrete and enhanced technical support route within HP.

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It comes with twin charging USB ports, and an integral HDMI port for collaboration.

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Aesthetically, this device also rocks, as the case is made of Mg-Li and reusable carbon fiber.

So Far
In testing, the device is responsive, the new keyboard is superb, and the integrated touchpad is the most comfortable I have used in a very long while.

It is light. Very light, in fact.

Best of all, it runs Microsoft Windows.

For years, the ne plus ultra when it comes to business-class notebooks has been the Apple MacBook Air.

No longer.

This device has the specs, and moxie, to be the New Leader in notebook computers.

In fact, I will put my money where my mouth is, and purchase an Apple MacBook Air to test this device against once a GA copy is laid on me.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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4:58PM

Shiny New Thing to Review: HP EliteDesk Mini 800 G1

I am in possession of the HP EliteDesk Mini 800 small form factor PC for review here at elitedesk_mini_product2_tcm_245_1545487AbsolutelyWindows.

This is one very compact device.

It is the size of an average hardcover novel, yet it packs in goodies such as a total of 2 DisplayPort ports, 6 USB 3.0 slots, up tp 16GB of RAM, up to 1 TB of spinning media or a 256 GB SSD.

A keyboard and mouse are standard, though you have to spring for a monitor yourself.

elitedesk_mini_product4_tcm_245_1545488This device came to me with Windows 7 Professional, though I understand I have upgrade rights for Windows 8.1. Disks included.

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© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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4:46PM

Shiny New Thing to Review: HP Pro x2 612 G1

I am in possession of the new HP x2 612 G1 hybrid device.

pro x2 612 g1Nominally a 12.5” tablet, this tablet comes with a close-coupled but removable keyboard/cover that contains dual USB 3.0 ports, a DisplayPort, and RJ45 NIC port.

Screen resolution is full HD at 1080p, and the device shipped to me with both 8GB of RAM and 256 GB of solid state memory.

For 1st looks, it is solid.

Oh, and it came with Windows 8.1 installed.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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11:34PM

Day 2 at Storage Field Day 6: Nexenta Systems

Nexenta Systems

Nexenta Systems is a company I have heard about for a while, since a couple of acquaintances Mike L. and Matt V. went to work for them.

All I knew was that Nexenta had developed a software-defined storage platform that folks liked a lot. B1yUo-oIEAQvxh9

As a result, I was was quite stoked when Nexenta was revealed as a sponsor, and one of the stops, for Storage Field Day 6.

So, who or what, is Nexenta Systems?

Founded in 2005 – they’re an aged company by Silly Valley standards – Nexenta was probably at the vanguard of the software-defined revolution, coming up with a software product that aimed to democratize storage by using their software on commodity hardware.

Going forward, I’ll chug a snifter of Grand Marnier whenever I write the phrase, “commodity hardware”.

I have noticed that Nexenta is well-received in the storage enthusiast community, FWIW.

Starting off our visit is Jill Orhun, VP of Marketing & Strategy led the introductions and welcome to Nexenta.

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She gave a brief bio on the company and their products.

For her, there was this shoutout from the Interwebs:

It was indeed very good to see.

What are their products?

Nexenta’s products can be described as a journey, where your first step is NexentaStor, followed by NexentaConnect. Your third step is NexentaEdge, and your journey concludes with NexentaFusion.

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NexentaStor
NexentaStor is software defined storage technology based on ZFS, and utilizing Nexenta OS, a variant of Linux. It is block and file storage.

Personally, I have to say that all the talk about hardware agnosticism and commodity hardware has me shuddering at the thought of the size of the hardware compatibility lists Nexenta must maintain in order not to have hardware failures incorrectly attributed to them.

Nexenta can install on bare metal or as a VSA (virtual storage appliance) on VMware vSphere or Xen today. Microsoft Hyper-V support is expected soon.

This, is annoying. It means that Logikworx cannot avail ourselves of this product until Hyper-V is supported. Most importantly, I cannot play with it until then.

Jill then gives us a few market statistics: Nexenta has approximately 5500 customers, about evenly split between enterprise and community (free, enthusiast) editions. It has close to an exabyte of licensed customer capacity. Their largest user has over 100 petabytes of storage. No, they didn’t reveal who that customer is.

Nexenta offers unlimited storage per license, but you must pay for Nexenta Connect on a per socket basis.

NexentaConnect
This is Nexenta’s orchestration and deployment layer for their storage management products.

It is tightly integrated with VMware Horizon and Virtual SAN. In VMware Horizon, NexentaConnect leverages a GUI in order to provide automation of storage management functions.

NexentaEdge
Next up is Robert Novak – no, not that Robert Novak, another one! – to talk to us about Nexenta’s new new thing, NexentaEdge.

Robert promises us that NexentaEdge 'will be superior to other things you've seen'

NexentaEdge uses UDP. Yes folks, UDP! Pretty interesting implementation of object storage from Nexenta: "Multicast UDP reliably”. Run Windows Storage Server for file services on vSAN.

While we had marveled earlier on about whiteboarding, Robert went old old school, and brought out a paper board, an easel, and colored crayons!

(In reality, colored markers, but this is my story, right? Thank you!)

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NexentaEdge is like BitTorrent storage.

It is Nexenta’s entry into the object storage space.

It is replicast much like BitTorrent: chunking & tracking with hashing over multicast groups and IPv6. for retrieval.

Using ZFS, NexentaEdge will allow for global dedupe, scale up to several hundred petabytes, allow snapshotting, cloning, and dynamic performance optimization.

It is being engineered to use the next gen server CPU platforms including low-power chips such as ARM and Intel Atom.

Targeted uses are for Swift, S3 and Openstack.

UPDATE: Corrected to reflect that it’s NexentaEdge that uses UDP, not NexentaConnect. Thanks, Enrico Signoretti

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© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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4:40PM

Shiny New Thing to Review: The Epson Perfection v600 Flatbed Photo Scanner

Screenshot (18)I am in possession of a new Epson Perfection v600 flatbed scanner.Screenshot (16)

Recently feeling nostalgic, I decided to post some old photos to an online repository, and found out that they were less than ideal.

Since I have the film negatives – yes, we used film cameras back then, thank you – I decided to obtain a photo scanner with film negative scanning capabilities in order to volunteer my kids into scanning them.

I feel this scanner, despite being a consumer product, will be up to the job.

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Let’s do this!

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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