Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Dell XPS13 Developer's Edition - Finally Real Stability with Manjaro 17.1 Gnome

Dell Developer Edition laptops are designed and integrated for Linux.  Ordered directly from Dell, Developer Edition laptops come pre-loaded with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (currently).

I ordered the Dell XPS13 DE 9350 over a year ago.  My experience up until recently was this -- the laptop hardware and design -- excellent!  The Linux experience -- mediocre.  There were issues with the trackpad, the touch screen, resume from standby, occasional network issues and a disappointing HiDPI experience.  With each new kernel release things seemed to get better, a bit more stable and a lot less frustrating.  Too often, however, when you desperately need the laptop to work you instead end up spending valuable time troubleshooting.  In my business time is money

I tried Ubuntu 16.04 (kernel 4.4) and would frequently have issues with the trackpad, touch screen and resuming from suspend.  Plus the Unity desktop was not completely HiDPI friendly.  I've also installed Ubuntu 17.04 Gnome (kernel 4.9) and 17.10 Gnome (kernel 4.10).  With each upgrade the laptop would become a bit more stable but still not the level of stability desired for serious field work -- usable but certainly not ideal.

Then I installed Manjaro 17 Gnome...  Running kernel 4.14 the laptop has approach near complete stability, on a par with a MacBook Pro.  Gnome 3.26 handles HiDPI very effectively and the 4.14 kernel is rock solid on this hardware.  I haven't had any problems with the trackpad, touch screen, resume from suspend, etc..  Manjaro is a rolling release so each new major update (and they are frequent) brings with it a bit of a "pucker factor" but so far so good.  I am currently running Manjaro 17.1 Gnome (achieved through the rolling release) and kernel

If you have a Dell Developer Edition laptop and you are not satisfied with it's performance, give Manjaro 17.1 Gnome a try.  Works for me!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Linux In Small Business

Just a few years ago most small businesses were exclusively Microsoft "shops".  Microsoft desktops, servers and applications.  There were few exceptions.

In the last few years I have personally observed a pretty profound shift.  More and more Macbooks (or other Apple computers) are showing up in these once exclusive shops.  I believe the willingness of small business owners to move away from Microsoft and toward Apple is a direct result of their experience with other Apple products, namely the iPhone but the "why" part of this story is a post for another day.

This shift has created an opening for introducing Linux into the small business space, as well.  In a small shop of, say, 10 to 20 computer users where over half of them are Mac users it becomes less and less beneficial (read: cost/beneficial) for the business owner to invest in a Microsoft server product.  Especially when a small Linux server running DHCP and DNS daemons along with SAMBA and CUPS for file and print can provide many (if not all) of the services they receive from a comparable and way more expensive Microsoft server.

In addition to cost, Linux servers can be easily configured to automatically install critical security updates and actually get them very quickly.  Updating and upgrading a Linux server is quick, easy and, in my humble opinion, much more reliable than doing the same in the Microsoft Windows world.

I have recently deployed two Linux servers in just such a scenario.  The cost of entry to running an Ubuntu LTS Server OS on a small Dell Server is many times less than the equivalent hardware-software combination running Windows Server.  Using Webmin as a management front end even provides administrators inexperienced in Linux the ability to easily manage the essential functions.

Linux integrates well in these small shops with diverse sets of operating systems and the cost of entry is low - reliability is high.

Times are changing in the small business IT support world.  Linux and open source products are well positioned to be a part of that change.

Friday, April 6, 2012

O’Connor Headwear has moved to Google Apps for Business!

O’Connor Headwear in Charleston, SC, a leading provider of performance golf headwear, has moved their IT infrastructure to Google Apps for Business.

According to Bert Atkinson, President of O’Connor Headwear, the most significant benefits have been the immediate savings in terms of annual IT expenditure and the "anywhere from any device" access Google Apps gives to his mobile workforce.  Google Apps for Business provides enterprise grade products at a price point affordable to small business.

Geeks On Call of Charleston managed the O'Connor migration from an in-house MS Exchange server to the full suite of Google Apps products.  The migration took place on a single Friday afternoon and during the migration, O’Connor experienced zero downtime and only a slight disruption while their existing store of email was uploaded to the Google cloud.  

Previous to their Google Apps migration O'Connor Headwear struggled gaining access to their production and sales data from remote locations.  They relied on Remote Web Workplace (RWW), a component of MS Small Business Server, to access computers in the home office.  In order to use Remote Web Workplace the O'Connor "road warriors" were tied to one browser and one device and were often frustrated by spotty performance.  The "clunky" manner in which they gained access to data through RWW just added to the frustration.  Since moving to Google Apps remote workers and sales reps can access important information from any browser and on any device through the same process no matter their location. Bert Atkinson is especially pleased with the close integration between Google Docs, Gmail for Apps and his Android phone.  The combination of Google Apps and Android is an important resource to O’Connor’s mobile sales team.

Geeks On Call of Charleston is a Google Apps Authorized Reseller serving the IT needs of small businesses throughout the South Carolina Lowcountry.  Contact us for your Google Apps and IT support needs.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Colleton Software has Gone Google!

Emergency Medical Information Systems software development and billing company moves its customer services and software development staff to Google Apps for Business

Colleton Software has Gone Google!
Geeks On Call of Charleston SC is a Google Apps reseller serving the information technology needs of small businesses throughout the South Carolina “Lowcountry”. Our client, Colleton Software, a Walterboro, SC software development and emergency medical services billing company, determined that their IT infrastructure would be best served from the “cloud” and contacted Geeks On Call for more information about Google Apps for Business. 

Previous to Google Apps, Colleton Software hosted their own in-house Microsoft Exchange server for their email solution. The Exchange server was crash-prone and straining the limits of its onboard disk storage. The existing Exchange installation offered no redundancy other than nightly backups, which posed another unique set of challenges. In short, the Exchange server needed to be replaced. In addition, Colleton Software realized they needed a more reliable, robust and easier to implement disaster recovery plan. Google Apps for Business fulfilled each of these needs much more efficiently and at a fraction of the cost of on premises solutions.

Moving Colleton Software to Google Apps took place on one Friday afternoon and evening with data migration continuing through most of a weekend. With many years of MS Exchange experience, Geeks On Call personnel were able to optimize the Exchange server’s performance, increasing the probability of a quick, successful migration. And, with plenty of internet bandwidth at the customer site, the migration took place speedily. Since employees were able to log in to their Google Apps accounts immediately there was actually zero downtime. Follow-on Google Apps training provided by Geeks On Call ensured customer service representatives were quickly up to speed on the new Google Apps platform and able to service their customers with no disruption. 

Since moving to Google Apps, Colleton Software’s team of software developers have created workflows with Google Docs and Sites and provided management with new methods to interact with company performance data. And, all of this data is securely stored in the Google “cloud,” accessible from anywhere at any time, providing for reliable disaster recovery. 

Chris Doyle, Colleton Software’s COO states, “One of the biggest advantages to going with Google Apps is being able to connect all of our people in real time to email, company calendars, reporting for our client and invoicing.” 

Colleton Software uses 8 different shared Apps calendars which meets their unique need to keep everyone up-to-date on important deadlines and staff availability. Their customized workflows and Google App’s intrinsic collaboration capabilities have helped them reduce invoicing time from 3 days to 1 day. 

Contact us for information on how your small business can benefit from Google Apps!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Google Apps Security for Small Business

I wish I had a dollar for each time I've heard a small business owner object to cloud computing on the basis of "security concerns". I always listen carefully because I want to be certain to understand their security requirements so that I can guide them appropriately if those concerns are valid.

Valid -that's the key word.

So my job, as a trusted IT advisor to small business owners, is to try to determine if their objections are based on valid security concerns or are derived from some unfounded fear. Quite frankly, I have identified a whole slew of "unfounded fears" and very, very few "valid security concerns".
It seems that most of my small business customers believe that if they can walk into the server room (and I use the term server room very, very loosely) and hear a hum and see a flashing light or two, their data is secure.

Ok, so for argument's sake let's say for that moment, the data is "secure", but is the environment in which those servers reside more secure than a distributed series of Google Data Centers? Are the people maintaining those on-site servers following security practices even approaching that of Google's? Has that small business passed a SAS70 Type II security audit? Are world class environmental, physical access, and data backup controls in place? Of course there aren't! So, why do these small business owners think their on-site servers provide a more secure environment for their data? (Oh...and let me just go on record right here as saying I am using the term server very loosely, as well.)

I think the answer is primarily one of a) perceived control and b) inexperience with cloud hosted services. In my role as an IT service provider to small business, my job is to convince the IT decision maker (frequently the business owner) that cloud based services will meet or exceed their needs. And, that the ability to walk up to a server and reboot it does not qualify as control, perceived or otherwise.

It is a constant struggle to convince small business owners that their data is many, many times more secure in a Google Data Center than it is on their own servers. Just take a look at the picture accompanying this article (and these servers are maintained very well on a relative scale). Where would you want your data?

My Geeks On Call franchise recommends Google Apps as the most cost effective and simple to use cloud solution for small business. For additional information about Google Apps visit our web site at http://www.sc-geeks.com/apps or go to http://www.google.com/a

Monday, January 10, 2011

How will cloud computing change the IT pro's job in 2011 and beyond?

Colin Smith posted a blog of the same title as this one on Tech Republic today. You can view the post HERE. As it relates to small business, Mr. Smith got one thing absolutely right - cloud computing provides a small business affordable access to IT resources on a scale unimaginable in the past. From the aspect of a small business managed service provider, I would like to point out a couple of cloud computing truths that he missed.

First of all, the small business managed service provider's value-add does not necessarily become eroded. The managed service provider must, however, transform him or herself into a "performance improvement" strategist as well as an IT guru. The managed service provider must provide value-add by assessing the IT needs of the small business and implementing cloud services to meet those needs. And, this process should be ongoing. Most of us who have spent any time supporting the IT needs of small business know they can benefit greatly from the new scale of IT services at their disposal. In addition (and I know my fellow small business managed service providers can relate to this), small business owners and decision makers must be gently led, by the hand, into the new "cloud paradigm" and the new paradigm must be simple.

Second - Simplicity is key! Mr. Smith cites the Microsoft BPOS/Office365 example in his post, but when it comes to simple Google Apps for Business is king. Google Apps provides all of the large scale IT resources the vast majority of small businesses need. Granted there are some small businesses whose processes might require the complexity of Sharepoint but, from my experience, those are few and far between. Google Sites and Docs usually meet collaboration and work flow requirements with a much greater degree of simplicity.

My Geeks On Call franchise in Charleston SC is both a Google Apps and Microsoft Online services reseller. When we assess the IT/performance needs of a small business, we find Google Apps is very hard to beat when it comes to features and the simplicity it provides.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chrome Notebooks for Small Business

A few posts back (A Pure Cloud for Small Business? How would that look?), I commented about how a small business might embrace "cloud" technology, move data and apps to the cloud, and then use cloud connected devices to greatly simplify their IT infrastructure - saving money and time (aren't they the same for most small businesses?). The following video provides a brief, but striking, demonstration on how that whole process might look, especially with regard to time savings. Take a peek:

So, if putting an end user to work (or back to work if your netbook is damaged by ice cream) is as simple as providing a new Chrome Notebook for access to your Google Apps account, does this spell the end of IT departments, outsourced support providers and system administrators? I don't think so. Does the Chrome OS/cloud computing model foretell a change in the way small business information technology is "done"? You bet it does! We in the IT support community must embrace the new methods and technology exposed by a pure cloud computing model. We must get to know how our customers use IT to do their business and help them find the right tools and methods to enable them to compete. And that's an ongoing, constantly evolving process! It is an interesting and exciting challenge for us small business IT service providers.

Is your IT service provider talking to you about ways to move your business processes to the cloud? Visit our website at http://www.sc-geeks.com/apps for information. We are talking about the cloud (and beyond!) to our small business customers.

Our Geeks On Call franchise in Charleston, SC is a Google Apps Authorized Reseller. We see our job in this new information technology support "climate" as helpers in moving our small and medium sized businesses to the cloud.