Desktop computer user

Tablets could spark a comeback for desktop PCs

There is no doubt that tablets are finding their way into more public-sector workplaces, in government agencies, field offices and, particularly, in educational settings. The form factor started by the Apple iPad is gaining a larger share of the computer landscape practically every month.

That growth might lead people to think that, like the VHS tape in the advent of DVDs, desktop PCs are on their way out. After all, to make room for something new, you have to get rid of something old. But that will probably never happen — in fact, we may see a surge of desktop sales in the future.

The simple fact is that, while a tablet can do many things, there are certain resource-intensive applications that are currently beyond its ability. Graphics programs such as Photoshop and AutoCAD are too much for the average tablet. And while a tablet can handle simple spreadsheets, a grid loaded down with formulae and references likely will be beyond its abilities too. Tasks such as these definitely fall into the realm of desktop computing.

Multitasking is another area where the PC does better than the tablet. Not only do tablets lack the processing power to run more than a few programs simultaneously, there simply isn’t enough real estate on a less-than-10-inch display to effectively see what you are doing in multiple programs at the same time.

So for some tasks at least, the desktop PC isn’t going anywhere. The more likely victim of tablets’ growth could be the notebook PC.

Sure, your notebook is powerful enough to handle most desktop-like activity. But tell me something: Where is your notebook right now? If you are like many government and corporate users, it is docked into a station with a larger monitor, keyboard and mouse. And if you have a tablet to complement your PC — as more and more employees do — why bother carrying a notebook as well? Many IT departments are realizing that, if users are just going to leave their notebooks docked all the time, they might was well replace those notebooks with less expensive desktops.

As tablets become more powerful and eventually comparable to notebooks, I foresee the place of the desktop computer becoming even more secure. And unless really huge tablets go into common usage, many of us will always need desktop PCs.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Dec 11, 2012 at 9:39 AM5 comments

CBP agent checking documents

CBP wants smart-phone scanners for border officials

No matter which side you take on the issue of how best to handle illegal immigration, everyone can agree that current Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials need good tools to do their jobs as effectively as possible while enforcing the laws. And keeping their technology current is definitely part of that strategy.

The Homeland Security Department has announced that it is looking for smart-phone accessories for their CBP officers. These accessories would allow officers at border stations to easily scan documents and biometrics such as fingerprints from their mobile devices and get an instant readout from their databases. That would help them decide whether a vehicle or individual needs to be stopped for some reason.

The main concern about such devices is power consumption, because if the drain caused by these accessories forces an officer to retreat to a docking station every couple of hours, it would defeat any efficiencies gained from using them. But that’s what these requests for information are for — to get ideas from a wide variety of people and companies.

CBP is using advanced technology on several fronts at the border. In August, it awarded a $100 million contract for a sensor system to combat the use of ultralight aircraft to smuggle drugs across the border from Mexico. The agency also is making use of former military aerostats for surveillance.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Dec 07, 2012 at 9:39 AM0 comments

Mobile device management

Misunderstanding about mobile device management

The Lockheed Martin Cyber Security Alliance recently released a paper outlining the challenges of cybersecurity in today’s environment. It had many good things to say about the current state of policy implementation, but some of the statistics show how far there still is to go.

For instance, in its conclusion, the report states that 69 percent of the government IT decision makers in the study believe that mobile device management (MDM) is about the security of the devices. Now it’s worth noting that this was a security survey and that context may have led respondents to give that answer, but MDM is about so much more than just individual devices.

An MDM policy not only governs how devices are set up and what software and data users can access. It also describes how an enterprise manages, monitors and supports mobile devices on its network. Although good MDM supports security, it’s not the real focus.

As David Lingenfelter, the information security officer at Fiberlink Communications, said at a panel at the recent Mobile Government Conference, mobile security is almost a completely separate function from MDM.

As MDM gains more prominence in network administrators’ minds, I’m sure the distinction will become clearer.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Dec 06, 2012 at 9:39 AM1 comments