Let there be graphics

Though Xerox implemented a mouse-based Graphical User Interface on its Alto Computer as early as 1973, it took about a decade for Microsoft and Apple, in direct competition with each other, to sell this system to the world.

Windows 1 first arrived in 1985, introducing graphical matter into the black void that was MSDOS. Twenty-eight years later, Windows is estimated to be the operating system of choice on around 90% of all personal computers. Over time, each new stage in the advancement of digital technology has been incorporated into the functionality of the Windows operating system. The advent of more powerful CPUs, the internet, social media and the rise of mobile devices; all of these have played their part in its evolution.

Twenty-seven years and eight versions later

Learning to use a computer can be a frightening thing, with the inexperienced being under the false impression that a click in the wrong place will initiate a self-destruction sequence.

Imagine those same people using the MSDOS interface and its system of commands that preceded Windows 1. Well, in truth that might actually have seemed less threatening to them, in the sense it would be hard for them to believe that typing commands like “DIR” on a black screen could do anything whatsoever, let alone cause something to blow up.

Windows 1 arrived in 1985 with its GUI (Graphical User Interface), allowing users to execute commands by clicking on them with a mouse. It was the beginning of a philosophy that would become the fundamental tenet of User Interface Design: Make things simpler and more intuitive, which usually implies making it more visual.

In 1987, Windows 2.0 replaced the commands with desktop icons, and supported keyboard shortcuts; in 1990, Windows 3.0 introduced multitasking and improved multimedia support. It also incorporated the 16 color graphics made possible by the introduction of VGA cards.

Windows 95 was the next major step. Whereas previous versions of Windows were basically MSDOS dressed up in a Graphical User Interface, Windows 95 was the first to do away with the underlying MSDOS core, and introduce an entirely new GUI that would be the basis for the versions that followed.

It was the first 32-bit operating system, allowing specifically designed applications designed to run much faster than before, and it was the first to implement plug-and-play compatibility, meaning that new hardware devices added to the computer would be detected by the operating system  and assigned the necessary resources.

Versions that followed included Windows 98, with its FAT32 system allowing for file partitions larger than 2 GB; Windows 2000 and Windows XP in 2001, each of them enhancing the Windows 95 interface and introducing new features.

In 2006, Windows Vista introduced the “Aero” visual interface, with new features that included the ability to preview windows before opening them. In 2009, Windows 7 sought to implement an enhanced version of the Aero interface without the clunkiness of its predecessor.

Windows 8 was released in 2012, with a completely redesigned interface that reflected all the trends we’ve seen in User Interface design over the past few years. Touchscreen usability, for example, and a menu system geared towards both desktops and mobile devices.

DotTech created a visual representation showing the evolution of the Windows interface over the decades. It perfectly emphasizes how far the operating system has come. Some will swear by Linux, others by Mac, but few can deny the impact of Windows.

Warning: Apple’s Mavericks Breaks Records, But It Isn’t Perfect

When Apple announced that it would be releasing its latest operating system, OS X Mavericks, free of charge, fans must have felt it was a dream come true. They were so psyched that, according to Angela Moscaritolo from ITProPortal, 5.5% of Mac users downloaded it within 24 hours. Apple’s Mountain Lion OS took four days to reach that level of adoption. Not only were fans looking forward to a no-cost upgrade, but they were also looking forward to the improved memory, extended battery life, and host of new apps that Mavericks promised. Unfortunately for some, things didn’t go quite as planned.

Jamie Hinks, also from ITProPortal, reported that Mavericks has at least one significant flaw – it causes external hard drives to break down. The situation is such that Western Digital recommends that people don’t download the new operating system until it and Apple have figured out exactly what is causing the problem, and have come up with a solution to ensure the safety and integrity of external drives.

What’s happening?

According to Hinks, problems include hard drives not mounting and not even appearing after Mavericks has been downloaded and installed. According to Jonny Evans, from ComputerWorld, some users are losing all of the data on their external drives, although the likelihood of this is reportedly low.

The problems seem to be most commonly experienced with Western Digital (WD) My Book devices, and WD Drive Manager, WD Raid Manager, and WD SmartWare apps. As a result, Western Digital has actually taken down the apps and advised users to uninstall them before downloading Mavericks, or to hold out a little longer before getting Mavericks.

Western Digital is not the only had drive manufacturer experiencing the problems, however. Hinks says that Seagate and LaCie have also reported episodes of hard drive failure, and apparently any external storage device that uses an USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt connection is at risk.

Data loss is not the only risk Mac OS X poses to Western Digital drives, as some users have also reported sound loss when their Macs go into sleep mode. Fortunately, the problem seems to be temporary (albeit annoying), as it can be fixed by restarting the computer.

It’s not all doom and gloom

Evans says that the lost data can be recovered fairly easily – provided users stop using the device immediately after the upgrade and invest in some third party recovery software. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal solution, but it does give some hope to those who may be panicking because vital business documents or treasured family photos have gone missing.

The other good news, according to Western Digital, is that the problems seem to arise only when a “specific set of conditions and timing sequences between the OS and WD software utilities occur”. Even with the low rate of occurrence, however, Western Digital says that users should still take the recommended precautions. If problems do occur, then it’s recommended that you contact WD customer service before you try anything else, like recovery software.

Mavericks still has plenty of benefits

Glitches with external drives aside, OS X Mavericks still offers users plenty of new benefits, some of which are not entirely well known. Macworld’s Keir Thomas has written an article listing his top five ‘unknown’ built in apps, three of which include:

  1. Keychain Access, which allows you to store login details, and which will remind you of any details that you may have forgotten. You’ll find it in the Utilities folder under Applications.
  2. Stickies, which are effectively Post-it notes for your desktop. You’ll find it under Applications.
  3. Migration Assistant, which allows you to transfer data from a variety of Mac and PCs on a shared network. You’ll find it in the Utilities folder under Applications.

By and large, Apple fans have no reason to be disappointed in OS X Mavericks, nor do they have any reason to fear it. However, they should exercise care when downloading the operating system to external drives.

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Your CD/DVD data has a limited shelf life!

How many of us leave our CD’s and DVD’s in the car or on our desk exposed to sunlight and high temperatures? Contrary to popular belief, your data written on this type of media has a limited shelf life.

According to the National Media Lab, you can expect CD’s to last up to 50 yrs and DVD’s up to 25 yrs.

The dye layer that is altered to accept a laser beam when data is written is composed of organic matter. This dye layer breaks down over time and the process is speeded up considerably with humidity, high temperatures and exposure to light. Makes you think twice about leaving your important data and backups in unfavourable conditions!

In recent studies, dye type has been proven to play a crucial role in the longevity of your data on magnetic and laser recorded media. In the study, samples of CD’s that contained the dye phthalocyanine lasted longer than those that didn’t contain this dye type.
You might be asking the question, “How do I know if my DVD’s and CD’s contain this dye layer?” Simply put, you need to stick with well known quality brands. These brands have been tested against high temperatures and humidity. Even though it has been advised not to expose your media to these conditions, should it happen, you have less of a chance of data loss.

Media that was produced using outdated equipment and processes will not stand the test of time. Of course you will find the price more affordable, but in the long run it pays to buy quality brand media to keep your data and memories safe.

In the event of data loss on magnetic and laser recorded media, Data Detect can assist you. We are a Sydney based data recovery company, with more than 20 years experience in the field. We recover data from most medias including: CD-ROM, CD R/W, DVD-R, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM disks. For a comprehensive list, view all media and operating systems.

Get Data Detect – a professional, experienced data recovery company to help you retrieve important lost data from CD’s and DVD’s. Give one of our highly experienced data recovery engineers a call or simply fill out a no obligation quote on the top banner of our website.

Useful Flash Memory

Flash memory has fast become one of the most popular mediums of data storage throughout the world.

Flash memory utilizes the popular universal system bus as its communication interface, and is used widely by ordinary people and businesses alike as a quick program and erase portable storage facility. It is a common storage medium for personal media devices such as MP3 players and personal digital assistants. To put the usage into context for the less expert hardware users, the format is used in much the way floppy or stiffy disks were used throughout the last storage era – only far with far bigger capacity for storage.

The electrically programmable and erasable memory does not need to be powered constantly by an energy source such as a battery, this being a leap ahead from the old technology. The read time is almost as fast as the internal random access memory of a personal computer. A huge advantage is the memory is much more resistant to shock and vibration, which is a far cry more convenient than the jumping and skipping that most compact disk players are prone to. The silent running of flash memory also challenges hard disk technology, which have long presented a struggle in creating absolutely silent running hard drives. On the down side, the cost is greater on the flash memory side since a megabyte of flash memory is more expensive than the same in hard disk space. This is not a permanent fact, however, since the research into flash memory capacity, speed and cost efficiency continues to hammer increasingly, to accommodate the high commercial demand. It is not yet foreseen whether flash memory will totally replace hard disk technology, but then nothing is impossible!