Category Archives: Tech Reviews

Review: Samsung Galaxy S8 fails the likability test

Posted by on 18 April, 2017

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What happened? Samsung’s Galaxy S7, released last year, was a very nice smartphone: comfortable to hold and a pleasure to use. It was Samsung’s best Galaxy model ever—not so much the new Galaxy S8, which goes on sale today and ships on April 20.

The Galaxy S8 seems to suffer from the same disease afflicting Apple’s latest MacBooks: engineering navel-gazing leading the product design astray.

Poor ergonomics make using the Galaxy S8 a pain

Take the new shape. It’s taller, the fingerprint sensor is moved to the back, and both sides of the so-called Infinity display are curved. These changes have unfortunate implications in everyday usage:

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Review: Samsung Dex nearly nails smartphone-as-desktop

Posted by on 18 April, 2017

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We all love our smartphones and tablets, but boy do we miss our big screens, mice, and keyboards when doing complex work on those mobile devices. That’s why the notion of a smartphone that acts like a PC when connected to those peripherals has kept recurring ever since the iPhone redefined mobility for the modern era.

But so far, reality has not delivered on that promise of the mobile-on-desktop notion. Now, Samsung is trying its hand at this puzzle, with the Dex dock available for its new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones.

The journey from the Lapdock to the Dex Station

The Motorola Lapdock back in 2011 was the first dock to put smartphone screens on a computer monitor, as well as provide a full-screen browser and connections for physical keyboard, mouse, and other peripherals. But the constrained smartphone apps weren’t much easier to use as big-screen windows, and the Linux-based browser was too limited.

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Review: VMM 2016 stiffs Azure, older Hyper-V

Posted by on 17 April, 2017

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As you read through the list of new features in System Center 2016 Virtual Machine Manager (VMM), you will be hard-pressed to find any new features not directly related to Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V. As I worked with VMM 2016, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that VMM 2016 was good ol’ VMM 2012 R2 with bolted-on support for features introduced in Windows Server 2016.

Don’t get me wrong—VMM 2016’s support for Hyper-V 2016 is a good thing. Microsoft would be doing us a huge disservice if it didn’t provide a way to manage Nano Servers, rolling cluster upgrades, shielded VMs, and other new Windows Server 2016 capabilities through VMM. But there is nothing here to entice those organizations that are sticking with older versions of Hyper-V into upgrading to VMM 2016.

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(Insider Story)

Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V: More secure, but not faster

Posted by on 12 April, 2017

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With Windows Server 2016, Microsoft has introduced a lengthy list of improvements to Hyper-V. Along with functional additions like container support, nested virtualization, and increased memory and vCPU limits, you’ll find a number of new features, including production-grade checkpoints and the ability to hot-add memory and network adapters, that ease administration.

But Microsoft’s primary goal in the 2016 Hyper-V release seems to have been to improve security. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Hyper-V’s new killer feature is shielded VMs, which work with BitLocker encryption and a guardian service to ensure that virtual machines run only on authorized hosts.

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(Insider Story)

Linux Mint 18.1: Mostly smooth, but some sharp edges

Posted by on 10 April, 2017

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We’ve been fond of Linux Mint for its ability to present a friendly interface to the average end user, while having a stable foundation of Debian and Ubuntu underneath. In this review, we looked at LinuxMint 18.1, dubbed Serena. We found a solid operating system that can run into problems in edge case scenarios.

Mint offers a number of user interface options, keeping each variant in sync with a release.

Part of Linux Mint’s appeal is as an alternative to Canonical’s Ubuntu, which features the unpopular Unity interface. Last week, Canonical announced it was killing Unity and returning to Gnome, which Mint offers as well, which should make things interesting going forward.

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(Insider Story)

Backup software features that IT managers love and hate

Posted by on 5 April, 2017

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With corporate data more important than ever, selecting the best data backup and recovery software for the organization would be a career-enhancing move. According to online reviews by enterprise users in the IT Central Station community, three of the top backup and recovery products on the market are Veeam Backup, HP Enterprise’s Data Protector, and Altaro VM Backup. What do enterprise users really think about these tools? Here, users give a shout-out for some of their favorite features, but also give the vendors a little tough love. 

Editor’s Note: These reviews of select backup and recovery tools come from the IT Central Station community. They are the opinions of the users and are based on their own experiences.

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(Insider Story)

Review: Amazon QuickSight covers the BI basics

Posted by on 5 April, 2017

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When I reviewed self-service exploratory business intelligence (BI) products in 2015, I covered the strengths and weaknesses of Tableau 9.0, Qlik Sense 2.0, and Microsoft Power BI. As I pointed out at the time, these three products offer a range of data access, discovery, and visualization capabilities at a range of prices, with Tableau the most capable and expensive, Qlik Sense in the middle, and Power BI the least capable but a very good value.

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(Insider Story)

Review: Windows 10 Creators Update is worth waiting for

Posted by on 29 March, 2017

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Windows 10 Creators Update is coming for you, and it will get you sooner or later. The question is whether to embrace Creators Update immediately or to wait a few months until the bugs get worked out—because, as we learned with Anniversary Update, there will be bugs.

Many who rushed to Anniversary Update paid the price with inexplicable freezes, broken antivirus utilities, stalled or disabled apps, disappearing volumes and drives, changed settings, and a legion of installation problems. No doubt many of those users wished they had waited the four months for Anniversary Update to reach Current Branch for Business status—Microsoft’s designation for builds that are finally stable enough for enterprise deployment.

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Review: VMware vSphere gets much-needed facelift

Posted by on 27 March, 2017

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VMware’s vSphere 6.5 virtualization platform fixes many issues we had with vSphere 6.0 and delivers significant improvements in management, security and high availability. There are also first steps toward vSphere-Docker integration.

Upgrading and in some cases installing vSphere 6.0 was arduous; the good news is that is no longer the case. Our Lenovo server upgraded with ease. Our HPE Gen8 and Gen9 servers required a different ISO, but installed without drama. An ancient Dell 1950 appears not to be able to upgrade past 6.0, so be sure to so check moldy hardware for compatibility.

The biggest news for day-to-day administrators is the new vCenter Server appliance, and it’s breathtakingly more evolved than prior versions. It’s worth the price of the upgrade for the sheer functional and aesthetic value.

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(Insider Story)

Review: SaltStack shifts devops into high gear

Posted by on 22 March, 2017

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The only sane and efficient way to manage a large numbers of servers—or even a few dozen, if they change often—is through automation. Automation tools have to be learned and mastered, so they exact a significant up-front cost, but they dramatically reduce the administrative burden in the long run. Perhaps most important, they provide a staunch line of defense against the fatal fat-fingered mistake, which even the most sophisticated cloud operators struggle to avoid.

Configuration management tools such as Puppet, Chef, Ansible, and SaltStack hold the key to automating server provisioning and management tasks. Puppet and Chef are long-established, feature-rich tools that handle the complete lifecycle of IT operations regardless of the hardware platform, OS, application, and configuration model. Ansible is a relative newcomer distinguished by its simplicity and ease of use. SaltStack is neither as convenient as Ansible, nor as feature-rich as Puppet or Chef. But with a highly scalable architecture, powerful orchestration of services, and reliable performance, SaltStack stands tall among these competitors.

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(Insider Story)

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