Windows Server Essentials

It’s a Microsoft product that offers industrial as well as home-based solutions. The product is aimed at small businesses with zero IT support and shows the dedication of the company to serve the market. Given below are some of the features that you can find with this product:

  • Ease of setup

Microsoft allows an easy process of getting the Windows Server Essentials set up. You go through a checklist and get it done.

  • Easy management

You can find that the dashboard is easy and straightforward.

  • Navigation bar

You can click on the navigation bar to get access to the relevant tasks and information. Every time you open up the Dashboard, you will see the Home page.

  • Action pane

You can check out this pane for a short description of tasks and features. In addition, you can get links and open information pages and configuration wizards.

  • Tasks pane

On this pane, you can see links to information and tasks related to a certain category.

  • Category pane

Here, you will show features that will give you access to different information tools and information so you can set up and customize your server.

Examining Computer Hardware

Checking the Keyboard
The keyboard might not seem important as a hardware component, but it is used in almost all tasks and taken for granted. For laptop users, the keyboard is very important. If one has to send the laptop away for repair the entire computer must go with it. There is also an online test tool available to test all your keyboard keys called “KeyboardTester”.

Checking the Disk Drive (HDD & SSD)
Your HDD/SSD has your operating system and most of your applications and files. Having your HDD/SDD completely healthy is very important. This is most imperative when dealing with a used computer since you have no awareness of the previous history or care of the used computer and its HDD/SDD.

Different tools are available to check the condition and health of the HDD/SDD.

HDSentinel is one you can use for your HDD. The left hand side of the screen will display drives connected the computer. Health is the main parameter to look for. HD Sentinel will explain the meaning of the health percentages and the steps that you should take based on the results. As an example, you shouldn’t throw out your HDD just because of a few bad disk sectors and IO errors.

SSDlife is another tool specifically for an SSD. It also shows health in percentages and the expected life of the drive. Similar to hard disks, bad sectors can occur in SSDs.

Checking the Processing Units (CPU & GPU)

The main components that do all the processing are the Central Processing Unit (CPU) and the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). These are the components that allow you to run your office applications and your games. These are also essential components to ensure are in perfect working order. So it is necessary that these two components should be in perfect condition. For testing both, we use CPU speed test

For testing your GPU, the tool.Base Mark Web 3.0 works just fine.

Removable USB Mass Storage

The development and adoption of removable USB mass storage is truly remarkable. Never before has it been so easy to move gigabytes of information around on a portable device that is small enough to clip onto a key chain. These pocket size devices are known as a jump drive, thumb drive, flash drive, USB drive or USB flash drive. These devices have large capacities and they can copy data at lightning speed. It’s hard to buy a USB flash drive these days with less than 128MB of storage and some devices can achieve data rates greater than 20MB per second. The technology is so convenient and powerful that we wonder how we could have lived without it. It’s unthinkable to use floppy disks for the amount of data that we need to carry around today. While the capacity of a CD-RW might be sufficient the procedure of inserting and “burning” simply can’t compete with the ease of plugging a flash drive into the USB port.

To deal with this issue, some organizations have disabled USB ports through the BIOS, while others have gone to the more extreme measure of filling the USB connectors with a thick epoxy adhesive. While this solves the problem it also prevents any beneficial uses of USB mass storage to be garnered. But what other functions are there for USB mass storage devices? Besides moving large amounts of data around at lightning speed what else could we be missing by banning their use? Surprisingly, there are very compelling advances to be gained in the security industry by properly harnessing the power and protocol of USB mass storage.

USB mass storage devices are evolving and we are starting to see many new features and behaviors that were never conceived when the USB mass storage specification was written. For example, many devices today offer encrypted storage so that if you lose your device, the information on it remains safe. Some flash drives even have fingerprint sensors and processors built in so that biometric authentication of the owner is required before the storage can be accessed. These are examples of some security driven extensions to the basic functionality of mass storage. The on-board capabilities of strong cryptography and authentication that we see on some of the more advanced devices are the prime ingredients for a new direction in the evolution of USB mass storage. That direction is Portable Security Devices that offer identity management and secure storage.

Digital identities take many forms. They can be simple credentials such as usernames and passwords, or more complex forms such as PKI based X509 certificates or claims based assertions in SAML tokens. To be really useful in today’s identity infrastructures an identity device must be more than a secure store of static credentials. It must also be able to generate cryptographic keys, perform digital signature operations, parse request messages and emit security tokens in standard formats. Furthermore, it must bind identity operations to an authenticated user and be able to enforce security policies that have been defined by security officers.

One doesn’t normally associate these operations with USB storage. In fact, digital identity functions are very different from mass storage, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot exist on the same device, just as digital cameras now exist on cell phones. Despite the differences there are significant benefits to putting digital identity functions on a USB mass storage device.

The obvious question that comes to mind is why is it not just a simple matter of creating a composite device? After all, digital identity devices already exist in other form factors such as smart cards and yes, USB key fobs. These could easily be integrated into the same physical package with relative ease to produce a combined mass storage/digital identity device. The answer is that the benefits that we gain go beyond the convenience of having a multi-functional device and are attributable to using the USB mass storage protocol itself.

The USB mass storage interface itself has a number of desirable properties. First it is ubiquitous. Practically every PC and operating system in use today supports it natively and there are no device drivers or software to install in order to use a USB flash drive. This is what makes them so portable and interchangeable. It doesn’t matter which vendor or brand of USB memory stick you have, as long as the device implements the specification it will work.

Portability has been the Achilles’ heel of smart cards and USB tokens. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to carry a smart card around without lugging a reader, device drivers and proprietary middleware? Without all of that the smart card just won’t work. In fact the situation is worse than that. Even when you have deployed a smart card solution with all of the required components and middleware, you’ll probably find that the solution won’t work with another brand of smart card without swapping in new middleware components.

The U.S. Government has addressed these interoperability challenges by developing GSC-IS (Government Smart Card Interoperability Specification) so that they can deploy smart cards to federal employees without being tied to one smart card or middleware provider. Despite these and other enormous efforts on standards and interoperability, smart cards have suffered from the lack of widespread adoption of a common specification.

The widespread native support and high bandwidth of the USB mass storage interface enables a digital identity device to be truly portable and accept high level application messages through a protocol that is as simple as reading and writing to a file. Work in developing open specifications to exploit this new direction has already begun. In partnerships with key device manufacturers, Microsoft is currently developing a specification called PSTS (Portable Security Token Service), which will enable file system based communication to USB devices that can be used as portable credential carriers and generators of SAML tokens in response to WS-Trust requests.

This is part of a digital identity metasystem that will enhance privacy and security of digital identity transactions on the web. WS-Trust, along with other WS-* specifications are already submitted to OASIS for standardization. With the adoption of InfoCard in new Microsoft operating systems and popular browsers, it will be possible for you to roam to any machine, say at an Internet café, and perform a digital identity transaction using your USB digital identity device.

There are still challenges to be addressed to make this direction a reality. Device manufacturers need to design for portability. The installation of drivers and middleware to assist in some of the digital identity computation is not an option. The device itself must be able to process high level messages, perform cryptographic operations and handle user authentication internally, otherwise portability will be lost. The development and adoption of standards must continue relentlessly otherwise we will fail to achieve interoperability. Finally, the industry must be assured that these new devices are secure. The same types of security validations that are being applied to smart cards and other security modules will be needed.

Now that we have seen the new digital identity direction of USB mass storage devices and what it could mean for portability and interoperability, organizations should rethink their decisions to disable USB mass storage. There are good solutions appearing on the market that can control the use of USB mass storage without disabling them completely. For example, many offerings allow you to prevent any unwanted devices from being used except those that are issued or approved by the corporation, and you can even monitor the files that move on and off a device.

Digital identities play a key role in many security applications from single sign-on, to PKI, to the emerging systems of federated identity. By keeping USB mass storage enabled, corporations can leverage the new breed of USB mass storage based digital identity devices to enhance and simplify their deployments of digital identity security solutions.

Tricks For Printer Shopping

You should definitely shop around when looking for a new printer. Don’t feel obligated to buy the first one you find. Ask a lot of questions so you can do thorough research to ensure this is the printer that will meet all of your needs. Reading reviews of the different types of printers available would be an excellent idea before you begin shopping for a new printer. Asking for the opinions of friends and family about what printers they use would also be a good way to get a recommendation.

Are you going to need special inks for the printer to get the best possible print quality? If this is the case this can become a large expense for you as the consumer. Typically a great print should not need top of the line ink to make a high quality print.

An important issue to consider while shopping for a new printer is: Are there compatible printer ink cartridges and refill kits available to use with the printer you are interested in purchasing? The cost of replacement printer ink cartridges produced by the manufacturer can be many times more than the printer itself so compatible printer inks can be a huge money saver.

Does the ink in the printer smear when touched? A good quality ink should be fast drying and not smear when touched. If it is at all possible you should ask a sales person to print a test page on a printer that you may be interested in purchasing. Also you should ask if you can see a test copy printed on normal paper. The laminated paper used in a lot of shops will make the print quality of any printer appear to better then it actually is.

Another thing consumers should consider when shopping for a new printer is that many refurbished printers cost considerably less than brand new printers and still carry a full manufacturers warranty. This could be a great money saving purchase if you are on a budget.

These are just a few of the things that consumers should keep in mind before purchasing a new printer for use at home. If a good amount of research is done before a purchase is made, most consumers will end up with a great printer that should meet all their printing needs.