29 May 2016

Switching to a Chromebook.

speedylaptop.jpgThe era of needing to deal with over five million known virus strains and constant Windows updates when working remotely is coming to an end thanks to the Chromebook. Heck, Google just recently doubled their reward to $100K for anyone that can hack a Chromebook. Do no take mine or Google's word for the security - independent security experts have been saying for some time that Chrome OS devices are the safest to use. The only thing holding back the corporate world is how to take advantage of this new world. Everyone has spent years, or perhaps decades, creating a remote access environment specifically for Windows devices and now we need to make some minor changes to switch to this safer, faster, longer battery life and less expensive devices world.

The first thing you should do is create a Google account, provided you do not already have one. I also highly recommend having Google Drive convert all Microsoft Office documents to Google Drive format for easy offline editing. You will want to set your Chromebook to sync your documents offline so you can edit all Google Drive documents. Now whenever you save to Google Drive on the desktop or copy over Word or Excel documents into Google Drive on your desktop it will convert them to local Google Drive format that can easily be read and edited offline on the Chromebook. After you get done editing the documents in Google Drive you can easily export them back into Microsoft Office format. There is even an app for accessing Google Drive directly from within Microsoft Office on the desktop.

You can read, edit and create Microsoft Office documents directly on a Chromebook without using Google Drive and even have it directly connect with OneDrive and other third party tools, but everything works vastly better when you use Google’s offerings since Chrome OS is made to work with those natively.

Most all major software companies have been building extensions of major basic applications for direct use in Chrome OS. VMware, which virtualizes most all servers, is available for Chrome OS. I use Citrix Receiver daily to connect to virtual machines. There are numerous applications for doing PDF reading and editing in the Chrome, including Acrobat Reader, but my favorite is Xodo.

There are some notable exceptions, like Skype, which could easily be fully compatible on a Chromebook but Microsoft would prefer wait for Android compatibility on Chrome OS later in 2016. Once the Google Play store is operating in Chrome OS the end user will be able to run nearly every major piece of software made.

The biggest advantage to Chrome is that it does not natively run Windows software. This allows the device to have zero viruses and be impervious to the Crypto schemes that are bringing hospitals, banks and everyone else to their knees. So, how are people able to use all of their favorite Windows software? You simply remote control a Windows computer or connect to a virtual machine. This allows you to use this software faster than any Windows laptop can run it plus have access to all network data since you are working with your actual computer.

Perhaps the easiest way to give an employee all of their Windows applications when working remotely is to simply use LogMeIn or Ericom AccessNow or some other remote control solution. These applications work perfectly from a Chromebook and can allow an employee to connect directly to their desktop in seconds. This can also be used to connect directly to servers or a server gateway. Another option is

If you are looking for a free option, you will want to pick up Google’s own Chrome Remote Desktop which I use daily to connect to multiple different workstations. Simply install Chrome on any Windows or Mac PC you want to connect to and install the Chrome Remote Desktop application on there. Follow the instructions to install an additional runtime app on the system, set a password and then you should be set to connect at any time. A huge bonus is that applications like Photoshop and Visual Studio run at full desktop speed and can put to shame laptops at any price.

Many offices already use VPN connections to allow RDP/Terminal Server on Windows devices. Yes, to get a Microsoft server to permit Chrome OS connections you will need to install a secondary program. VPN connections themselves are a security mess and are particularly dangerous when using them from Windows remote devices (this is how companies are being destroyed by CryptoLocker), but I can fully understanding wanting to keep a similar setup. There are many VPN options available for Chrome OS and it is just a matter of finding the best one for your agency to implement or wait for Android compatibility to support your current option. That said, for security reasons agencies should never allow VPN from Windows devices.

If you need to run the Microsoft RDP app and are not able to install the Chrome add-on on the server and cannot wait for “official” built-in Android compatibility for Chrome OS, you can actually install nearly any Android application today. You can compile the Microsoft RDP Android app specifically for Chrome OS with this GitHub information. Personally, I am waiting for the Play Store (Android compatibility) directly from Google later in 2016, but many companies are already running their needed Android apps on Chromebook devices.

Google has a list of devices that they have officially blessed for Android compatibility later this year. I would recommend selecting a device from that list if you will need to run Android apps.

26 May 2016

It is time to kill the NFL.

During Roman times the most popular sport in the land was participating in gladiator battles and citizens would sometimes volunteer for this "job". No doubt, only the most fit and well trained in fighting tactics had a chance of long term survival, but it paid extraordinarily well and made many (including women) famous throughout the land. Of course, we are far too civilized today to accept any sport that has a high percentage chance of killing someone. Or ... That is what we used to say before we discovered that the gladiator battles take place every Sunday.

You know where these words are leading. It is truly painful for me to type this article. I have been a huge fan of American football for as long as my memory permits. I have football posters on my basement walls. My family has had season tickets at college football games for decades and attended numerous bowl games. Whenever my favorite NFL team comes to town my brother and I would pop down to the Kingdome/Qwest/CenturyLink Field to watch. I started and managed a football fan website for a number of years. And despite my love for the sport, I now know that I have watched my last football game.

American football is killing people. Not instantly. It takes five, ten, twenty years after these young men retire from the sport. They are, essentially, not the same person they were due to repeated massive impacts. Some are smart enough to only play long enough to make some cash and then exit. Some exit early and still end up a statistic. Regardless, we know that the very nature of how this game is played - massive people hitting each other play after play after play - shortens their lives dramatically.

The human brain is a blob of Jello sitting in a shallow puddle of fluid. When your body has a massive change of direction that Jello smacks against the cranium. Since there are no pain sensors inside that coconut, we have no idea that it is being damaged. An occasional hit is not likely to cause long term damage, but a hundred times in a day? Week after week? It causes brain damage, a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), that will have a long term neurological impact and potentially end in death.

How likely is a football player to find themselves with CTE? Of the 91 former football players that have been tested they have discovered 87 of them (over 95%) have CTE.

There is strong evidence that the National Football League first became aware of this problem in 1994 and started their campaign to hide it. They make over 7 billion dollars a year and are in charge of the most popular sport in the richest country in the world. How many parents of the next generation of athletes would allow little Johnny to play a sport that is as dangerous as boxing? The NFL continues to do everything in their power to make it look like they are helping (supposedly donating tens of millions of dollars to research) while simultaneously dismissing the danger.

Even after public acknowledgement of the dangers, even after rule changes to the game, even after Nike makes billions from selling safer sports gear - the bottom line is that the NFL has spent the past two decades hiding this problem from the public and, more critically, the players that has made them so rich. The National Football League has knowingly been profiting off of these kids that were, unknowingly, sacrificing their long term health.

There is still considerable research that needs to be done on whether there is a safe way to play America's favorite sport. Until we know the answer, parents should exclude their children from participating. Colleges should consider dramatic safety measures (flag football, anyone?) or indefinitely suspend the game until professionals can determine how it can be played safely. And while the health prognosis of football players is still unclear, what should be clear is the long term health of the organization that gambled the brains of our kids: The NFL needs to be abolished.

My heartfelt thanks to all of the football players that made this game so exciting to watch.