Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em

Netscape introduced most of major features that define a modern web browser as we know it in 1994. That same year Bill Gates announced “I see little commercial potential for the Internet for at least ten years.” Just one year later, his viewpoint had changed – as documented in a company memo: “The Internet is a tidal wave. It changes the rules. It is an incredible opportunity as well as incredible challenge.”

Netscape commanded 85% of the market in 1995, when Microsoft Internet Explorer was introduced. By 1998 Internet Explorer captured 50% of the browser market share and 95% by 2004.

Netscape, acquired by AOL in 1998, disbanded in 2003. Netscape founded the Mozilla Organization in 1998 to develop an entirely new browser; in 2003 this became the non-profit Mozilla Foundation which introduced Firefox in 2004. Firefox gradually increased its market share to 32% in 2009 and has since slowly declined to 9% this year.

On September 2, 2008 Google launched Google Chrome, a new open source browser “featuring a simple user interface with a sophisticated core to enable the modern web.” Compatible with virtually every computing device and operating system, Chrome became the market leader in less than four years and today has a 64% market share – more than three times its closest competitor – Apple’s Safari.

The popularity of Internet Explorer has steadily diminished since 2009; in 2015 Microsoft introduced Microsoft Edge as a brand new default web browser for Windows 10. Early reviews concurred that Edge was an improvement over the ageing Internet Explorer, but was an incomplete product when introduced. Despite steady improvements and added features, Edge never caught on with Windows 10 users. The usage share of Edge and Internet Explorer together is currently just 6.6% – less than half that of Internet Explorer alone in 2015.

On December 6, 2018, Microsoft figuratively “threw in the towel” and formally announced it will discontinue its proprietary EdgeHTML “engine” (the software that drives the browser). Instead Microsoft will rebuild the Edge browser using the Chromium open-source project “Blink” engine developed by Google and “become a significant contributor to the open-source Chromium project” along with Google’s proprietary Chrome browser plus Vivaldi, Opera, Yandex, Brave, and a dozen more similar Chromium browsers.The Microsoft Edge brand and the bright blue “e” logo will continue. The revised Edge will run on Windows7, 8 and 10 as well as Android and macOS. There are plans to support most existing Chrome extensions. Updates will likely be offered through the new browser rather than through Windows updates. A preview release is expected in a few months, but the first official download is still “a year or so” away.

Will this effort bring Edge the prominence Internet Explorer once enjoyed? Or will Edge fade into one more footnote in internet history? Time will tell!
Dennis Korger

Twenty Years of Community Service: SaddleBrooke Computer Club

SaddleBrooke was founded in 1987; access was via Lago Del Oro parkway, then a narrow dirt road. By 1990, the SaddleBrooke population had reached 578 and construction on the clubhouse had started. In 1993, three men sharing coffee and conversation in the new Roadrunner Grill discovered a common interest in home computers. Their occasional discussions became weekly meetings with a growing audience. Circa 1996, these became scheduled classes around a single Windows 95 PC attached to a television in space shared with the sewing club in what is now the SaddleBrooke One Arts and Crafts Center. That TV set was soon lost in a burglary, nearly putting an end to the developing organization.

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Get Smart!

The latest electronic wonders selling like hotcakes are … smart speakers!

Taking advantage by seizing a long head start, Amazon leads in the United States with 70 percent of the domestic market, compared to Google Home with 24 percent and Apple HomePod at 6 percent. Facebook reportedly is developing its own version. Fifty million US homes had smart speakers at the end of 2017; this is expected to double by the end of this year. Smart speaker adoption in China is growing even faster, but uses different products. The worldwide smart speaker market grew 187 percent in the second quarter of 2018.

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No Internet Connection

A few weeks ago, I found myself suddenly shopping for a new router. Initially puzzling transient “No Internet Connection” service outages became constant in a few days, and the culprit was finally readily identifiable. Router failure symptoms can include isolated wireless or Ethernet cable connection failure and marked slowing of data transmission. Rarely are there dramatic puffs of smoke or other visual indications of failure. Premature failure can be caused by excess heat, electrical surges, mechanical shock, static electricity and corrosion, but electronic devices still inexplicably fail under seemingly ideal circumstances. Warranties range from one to three years, but there is still no reliable way to predict product lifetime.

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Windows 10: Three Years of Windows as a Service

Twenty years ago, 97% of all personal computers were desktops and laptops running Windows. Today, 90% of desktops and laptops run Windows, but now constitute just 36% of all personal computers. While business still runs on Windows desktops and laptops, only 15% of new tablets feature Windows and Windows phones are virtually nonexistent.

Microsoft had big expectations for Windows 10 at product launch on July 29, 2015, predicting that one billion devices would feature Windows 10 in “two to three years” since Windows 10 would work on every conceivable device.

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Router Risks

On May 28, 2018 the FBI issued a public service announcement urging everyone to immediately reboot their routers in an attempt to thwart a Russian malware attack identified as “VPN Filter”. This attack can gain access to connected devices, copy your personal information and even permanently disable your router.

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A Modern Never Ending Story

My laptop computer already has a completely dead battery, even though it has seen infrequent use. Originally priced at $650, it is now worth $160 in good working condition on eBay. A replacement battery is $65 and requires professional installation for an additional $100; replacing it now makes more sense than repairing. The lifespan of a laptop battery varies depending on how it’s used, but averages between 18 and 24 months. This is planned obsolescence at its finest, especially since a user replaceable battery is now a rare commodity!

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In Search of the Best Browser

Exploring the World Wide Web and discovering new information and ideas is one of my favorite computer activities. Most of us have acquired rudimentary browser skills, but all too many casual users fail to explore the wide range of web browser choices available by staying with “the one that came with my computer.”

Just which program is the best web browser?

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The Times They Are A-Changin’

Introduced in 1985, Microsoft Windows proceeded to dominate the world’s personal computer market, peaking with a 95% market share in 2003. That dominance began to fade by 2009 and was finally surpassed by Google’s Android operating system in 2017.

Steve Balmer became CEO of Microsoft in 2000 and established a “devices and services” strategy. Under his 13 year tenure, revenues more than doubled. He added the profitable x-box entertainment and data centers divisions to Microsoft’s product lines, but he failed to capitalize on tablet computing, smartphones and music player opportunities, seeing them as threats to the continuing success of Windows and Office.

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Happy Anniversary!

The first cell phone call was made 45 years ago – on April 3rd, 1973 by Martin Cooper, a Motorola engineer. He jubilantly called Joseph Engel, his rival at Bell Labs. Mobile telephone service had been introduced in 1946 by AT&T; their MTS system linked VHS radio signals to the local telephone system, requiring eighty pounds of hardware mounted in an automobile.

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