Mobile Evolution and the Extinction Event

When Giants ruled … mobile communications

A long time ago, great “Dinosaur beasts” of Mobile Communications were supreme.  The beginnings were in the 1970’s with the launch of a Motorola handset weighing 2kg. This was followed by other barely portable products with huge batteries such as the Nokia Talkman. Only for the ‘new adopters’ who had to be in touch all the time.

Then came the ‘Bricks’ 

From these humble beginnings, soon a range of solid, reliable but ‘bricklike’ big and heavy phones appeared, like the Nokia 2110 and the Motorola Dynatac 8000X, as featured in the 1987 movie “Wall Street”. Designed for upwardly mobile business people.

Diverse expansion 

Then came a period of rapid expansion with a diverse range of more affordable products to suit wide consumer tastes. Various forms, colours and accessories became more and more important, with slide phones like the Nokia 8110 as featured in the 1999 film “The Matrix” and flip phones like the Motorola Razr, providing a ‘Star Trek’ appeal.

Feature explosion

An expansion of more and more features to make mobiles do more fuelled the explosion of product ranges. Cameras and music players were added to increase the functionality of these increasingly sophisticated and compact pocket-sized devices, such as the Nokia 6230.

6230
Nokia 6230

A glance at the 2004 Carphone Warehouse catalogue shows how varied mobiles had become, with the top 10 dominated by Nokia, Sony-Ericsson, Siemens and Motorola as the biggest manufacturers of the time.

2004 Carphone Warehouse “Top 10”

‘Tyrannosaurus’ functionality heavyweights 

For a while, the king of the land was the bulky, terrifyingly expensive but impressive (for its time) Nokia Communicator, offering phone, text, email and even fax. Opening up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard, the range started with the 9000 which appeared in the 1997 film “The Saint” and had evolved by 2007 into the even more powerful E90.  

LegacySmartPhone
Nokia E90 Communicator

Extinction Event: The Death of the incumbents

But then came biggest shock to the world of mobile communications: the launch of the first Apple iPhone on 9th January 2007.

Like a meteorite striking the earth, this shock spelt the end for many mobile types which couldn’t compete with the sudden demand for ‘touch-screen’ devices using apps.

Indeed companies like Nokia, once the biggest of them all, couldn’t adapt and died a death, as well documented in the BBC documentary “The Rise and Fall of Nokia

Survival of the fittest

The ‘smartphones’ from Apple and later Android-based from the likes of Samsung became an increasing hit, wiping out much diversity and seeing a seismic shift away from many form factors to the now standard “slate” style of device.

Apple iPhone 4
Apple iPhone 4

Some ‘featurephones’ as they came to be known have lingered on, and in recent years companies like HMD global, who under licence have taken some iconic Nokia designs such as the 3310 and made a successful relaunch. Diversity is now finally creeping back with new variants such as the ‘folding’ Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2.

Your Paradigm shifts

Any memories or stories to tell? @YellowsBestLtd would be keen to hear your thoughts and experiences of sudden technology ‘paradigm shifts’. Let us know if we can be of any assistance with your future solution or services requirements. 

Legacy Transmission & Line Codes

Before Fibre, there was copper!       

It’s almost difficult to believe that not so very long ago (ok, going back maybe more than 50 years) there were no optical fibre or digital transmission paths of any flavour of technology providing our communications infrastructure.

Analogue FDM

From early to mid 20th Century, an extensive core copper cable network was rolled out, based on analogue FDM (frequency Division Multiplexing) over coaxial pairs, with the valve-based technologies occupying a lot of space and consuming much power. 

Digital PCM

The late 1960s saw the introduction of digital PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) sampling at 8kHz. The ITU-T (International Telecommunication Union – then known as CCITT) standardised 30-channels at 64kbit/s in a 2.048Mbit/s multiplexing system, using 8-bit A-law algorithm (the USA adopted 24-channel 1.544Mbit/s with μ-law algorithm).

Problems with high bit-rates

The higher bit rates gave rise to crosstalk interference problems on many existing cables. Also, data signals transmitted as voltage levels in unipolar NRZ (Non-Return to Zero) format are not self clocking and have a significant DC component, wasting power. Bipolar RZ (Return-to-Zero) type AMI (Alternate Mark Inversion) coding prevents the build up of the DC-component for longer distance and addresses the issue of data containing multiple ones. However, long sequences of zeros still present problems with a lack of transitions causing difficulties maintaining synchronisation.

Introduction of Line Codes

Line Coding of the format mB-nB was introduced to overcome these issues. Initially 4B3T (four Binary, three Ternary) was used. This encodes each 4-bit input group into a 3 symbol output using the three states of positive, negative and no pulses.

e.g. ‘0000’ is coded as ‘+0-‘

This improved efficiency in terms of bit per symbol over AMI, which itself is an example of a 1B1T code. Improvements in transverse screened cables were also made. However, transmission problems with high-speed digital data were still encountered due to unsuitable copper cabling which needed to be addressed.

PDH Higher Order Multiplexing

By the late 1970s, the UK had adopted the ITU-T recommended PDH (Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy) of E-carrier higher-order multiplexing at 8Mbit/s, 34Mbit/s (in the US, T-carrier at 6Mbit/s, 45Mbit/s) and 140Mbit/s. 

The lower rates of the E-carrier system adopted HDB3 coding, which replaces 4 ‘0’s with ‘000V’ or ‘B00V’ (or in the US for T1, B8ZS coding which replaces 8 ‘0’s with ‘000VB0VB’).

CMI (Coded Mark Inversion) was included in the ITU-T standards for higher-order PDH at 140Mbit/s PCM (as well as SDH at 155Mbit/s electrical STM-1). This is a 1B2B type of NRZ coding where a ‘0’ is represented by ’01’ and a ‘1’ as an alternatively ’00’ and ’11’, with +V and -V representing the coding levels.  

The advantage of the coding is it makes clock recovery by the receiver simple and for maintaining synchronisation alignment with a long sequence of ‘0’s or ‘1’s.     

Line Coding examples

Optical fibre systems

From the beginning of the 1980s, early optical-fibre multi-mode systems operating at 850nm were deployed, and later single mode at 1300nm, using the PDH multiplexing capacities. 

Typical of long-haul PDH optical-fibre systems, the 2 Mbit/s, 8 Mbit/s and 34 Mbit/s ‘Dynanet’ products from Nokia have ITU-T G.703 compliant digital interfaces using the HDB3 code, but using an optical transmission Line Code of 5B6B. This is another type of mB-nB code, where in this case 5 bit data words are coded using 6-digit code words

e.g. ‘00000’ being represented as ‘100111’. 

As well as its use on electrical systems, CMI Line Coding has also been popular for use on short-haul optical-fibre transmission such as ’tactical’ fibre optical systems operating at 2 Mbit/s.

SDH / SONET – A different approach

For optical SDH systems, STM-1 and above, scrambling is employed instead of line codes to ensure the incoming bit stream contains sufficient transitions for maintaining synchronisation. This works by combining the data signal with a pseudo-random bit sequence generated by a scrambler polynomial generator.

i.e. with a sequence of length of 127, the generating polynomial is 1+x6+x, leading to input data ‘00000000001111111111’ being scrambled as ‘11111110000001000001’.

Optical PDH still serving

In most cases higher-order optical PDH has been decommissioned, but optical transmission at 2Mbit/s is still in operation for many low-data rate applications, where costly replacement with SDH, WDM or carrier Ethernet would bring no advantage. An example product is the Nokia DF2-8 which continues to offer reliable access services, particularly in the Utilities and Transportation industries.

DF2-8 – TA 21518

Copper systems still in operation 

Though core copper electrical transmission systems have now been discontinued, much of ‘last mile’ telephony and related broadband connections are still copper access. For extended data transmission applications, copper systems are still deployed and maintained. Such products include the Nokia DSL2i copper line equipment (including power feeding repeaters) using SHDSL (Single-pair High-speed Digital Subscriber Line). This uses TC-PAM (Trellis-Coded Pulse-Amplitude Modulation) which is a 4B1H Line Coding, since translates 4 binary digits into 1 Hexadecimal (16) levels. It improves range, especially when used with regenerative repeaters, and improved ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) compatibility. 

ACL2i PF GEN – T65580

Feedback and assistance

This has been a necessarily very brief run-through of legacy transmission and some of the Line Codes employed. @YellowsBestLtd would be keen to hear your experiences and knowledge of transmission systems and performance of Line Codes. If we can be of any assistance with your solution requirements, including both new and legacy technologies, then please get in touch

Lessons from the ‘Lockdowns’ for Business

Seeking the ‘new normal’

Most workplaces have seen some considerable disruption over the last year due to the restrictions necessary to deal with the global Covid-19 virus pandemic. Hopefully things are going to get easier over the coming months. But before we race to ‘get back to normal’ (if that’s indeed possible), let’s consider some unexpected benefits we might want to hang onto.

Work is what you do, not where you do it

Commuting has always been a drag. The time wasted driving, not to mention the cost, in order to reach an office in which documents are written, emails are read and replied to, and phones calls are made. Or instead, various ‘productivity’ applications are used. All of which could be done from home. What is needed is a ‘mind-shift’ to recognise that “I’m off to work” can mean engaging in an activity rather than physically travelling somewhere. 

What’s the point of an office?

The broad acceptance that an office is where ‘work happens’ is due to the familiarly of their existence over a number of years. Once upon a time there were good reasons why work had to be so: people needed the facilities they provided, including main-frame computers, desk telephones, fax machines, printers, typing-pools (yes, really – people once didn’t type their own documents!) And memos – remember those ‘internal mail’ envelopes? But now, with laptops and mobile phones and broadband internet, it’s no longer critical to all share the same space.

People ‘like’ keeping in touch

The reality of the office is that it’s no longer a critically functional resource hub, but there are some social benefits over working remotely. It’s a place to meet and greet, share ideas and stories, help each other and generally contribute to high morale. People enjoy discussing last night’s TV or the football. Lasting bonds and relationships are formed, sometimes even being introduced to future partners. Not sure all employers would see this to be their ‘role’; the social side can of course be achieved in other ways. Anyway, flexible remote working offers the opportunity for better work-life balance.

Meanwhile, bosses like collecting their workers in one place as then it’s easier to ‘manage by walking about’. There’s a trust element: how can the staff be really hard at work if they’re not visible, aka ‘chained to the desk’. But following McGregors’s ‘Theory X (authoritarian) and Theory Y’ (participative) style of management, you either micromanage them because they’re not motivated, or trust people to take pride in their work and get the job done. So forcing people into an office isn’t the answer to productivity. Rather, pick the right people, train and support them, give them ownership of their tasks. Let them work where and when they need to. Use performance reviews as a tool (not a chore) to keep on track and set rewarding goals.   

Quantity or Quality

The crazy thing about the 9-5 office culture is people vary between not having enough time to get a job done, and piloting a desk ‘looking busy’, because they’re supposed to be ‘in’. Flexible working on the other hand recognises that people have lives with things that need scheduling from time to time, around varying business demands and commitments. Allowing people the discretion to manage their work-life balance means better motivated and focussed staff who will put the extra effort in when needed. Or else, managers need to take strong decisions on appropriate resources and team composition. Working ‘smarter not harder’ certainly doesn’t mean forcing everyone into an office and making them work all hours.

Meetings expand to fill the time available

It seems like ‘work’ to spend hours in meetings showing each other an endless supply of presentation slides. Discussions often arise involving only a few participants while others wait passively. The reality is very little is accomplished that couldn’t have been better reviewed remotely, in one-to-one conversations or communicated more broadly via team or company-wide bulletins.

Keep your germs to yourself!

Due to the emphasis on ‘attendance’ (perhaps ingrained in people from their school years), there’s often a culture of ‘bravely struggling in’ when ill with a cold, thus almost guaranteeing the sharing amongst all colleagues. Above all else, the pandemic has shown the sense in keeping people separated to reduce the spread of illness. 

Better for you, better for the environment

Not everyone can work from home, and certain tasks can’t be done remotely. But it’s time for a re-evaluation of what journeys are ‘necessary’ and what are the most productive work patterns, both in terms of getting the job done (without sitting in traffic jams for hours) and maintaining a flexible, motivated workforce. Not least because of the unsustainable effect on our planet’s finite resources and impact of climate change due to limitless business activities and excessive travel.

Are you ready for the ‘paradigm shift’?

@YellowsBestLtd we’d be interested to hear your thoughts and feelings about the changes brought about by Covid-19, and how you see habits changing for the future. Will you be rushing back to the office, or reaping new flexibility from remote working? Please get in touch, and let us know how we can help with your continuing business requirements. We look forward to hearing from you.

International Trading (Post Brexit)

New rules for Business

It’s been an uncertain period leading up to the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the European Union (EU). Now that that ‘Brexit’ has happened, as of 1st January 2021, businesses are having to work out the practical changes having an impact on international trading.

The reality of the situation is that it will take time to fully understand the new rules and what effect they have on imports and exports. Due to this uncertainty, some companies are choosing to curtail international activities, which is having an effect on availability of supply.

So this is a subject that will need to be revisited as experience is gained. What seems likely is that there will be more administration and higher costs.

@YellowsBestLtd has a 5-year history of trading not just within the EU, but globally, and it’s this experience which is helpful in understanding the adjustments needed. Put simply, all import and export business within and beyond the EU is now ‘similar’ in principle in terms of customs and tax, with or without government ‘trade deals’ being agreed.

VAT charging and reclaim in the UK

It’s helpful to first understand how VAT works on a national level. In the UK, it’s charged on the sale of many goods where ‘value has been added’ at a rate of 20% of the selling price. To consumers, that’s just a tax they pay within the total purchase price. For businesses, that element of the sale is ‘collected’ on behalf of the government, totaled and paid quarterly via their tax return. However, VAT-registered businesses are able to ‘claim back’ the taxed paid on their own purchases. The logic being, that when you’re ‘trading’ i.e. buying and selling, the amount of tax due on goods is that relating to the ‘value add’ – so the difference between the tax charged on the cost price and that charged on the selling price. Which of course should be more, if you’re making any kind of profit.     

How VAT previously applied for UK businesses trading within the EU

To avoid the complications of how to ‘settle’ the collection and claiming back of taxes on purchases made between EU member states, an arrangement is in place such that each country is responsible for  their own VAT affairs.  Here’s how charging for VAT works for businesses when trading within the EU:

  1. The goods are zero-rated for VAT, from suppliers that are VAT-registered. This means that the export invoice, stating “intra-community supply”, charges VAT at 0%.
  2. The VAT-registered buyer (importing company) then declares the ‘acquisition’ on their VAT return (in “Box 2”)
  3. The buyer simultaneously also ‘reclaims’ the VAT (included in “Box 4”) on the same VAT return
  4. The logic behind these transactions is that the purchaser acts as both the “seller and the buyer”, for VAT purposes, Hence the transaction is accounted for entirely within one member state, and no funds need to be transferred to or from the tax authorities.  

When these arrangements applied to UK businesses selling goods to buyers in EU member states, a ‘VAT EC Sales List” also needed to be completed and sent to the HMRC.      

VAT and trading globally

Now the UK is ‘outside’ the EU, the ‘intra-community’ arrangement for VAT no longer applies from 1st January 2021. Instead, all international trading follows the same process, for all countries both within and beyond the EU.

UK businesses making global purchases receive an invoice from their international supplier which has no VAT added. But the UK government will separately charge VAT at 20%; this amount needs sending directly to HMRC. Typically, this amount will be collected by the courier physically transporting the goods, and normally an administration fee will be additionally charged for this transaction. If an agreement hasn’t been made with the seller, it is often the case the buyers find they need to pay these additional costs before the imported goods will be released from customs and delivered. Reclaiming of import VAT will then be made via the VAT return as an input tax, following the normal rules for UK-paid VAT. 

Alternatively, import VAT can be accounted for using “postponed VAT accounting” on the VAT-return, which essentially is a similar scheme to the EU “intra-community” arrangement. This requires ensuring that the courier is advised how import VAT will be accounted, so they can complete the customs declaration appropriately.

Similarly, UK businesses selling goods internationally don’t add VAT to their invoices, but are likely to have import taxes added by the authorities in the receiving country. If the buyer has not agreed to include these additional costs within their purchase order, this can mean that the seller needs to settle these charges as part of their cost of supply, typically being charged by the courier used to deliver the goods. The difficulty is knowing in advance what is likely to be charged.

Customs Duty and Commodity Codes

In addition to VAT, businesses trading internationally need to take into account Customs Duty (and for certain products, Excise Duty as well) that may be charged on imports.

For UK businesses, this means checking with the HMRC and specifying the correct ‘Commodity Code’ for the goods, which will determine how much is charged. Unfortunately, there are thousands of such codes, covering all manner of products, so identifying the right code can take some searching.

@YellowsBestLtd typically imports a range of telecommunications spare parts, and can therefore advise that for similar requirements the following is applicable: Commodity Code: 8517620000

Commodity Code: 8517620000

According to the HMRC website, sales of these goods should have no Duty to pay on imports. It’s less clear what may need to be paid on exports since this will vary by country. The ongoing concern is trying to anticipate these costs in advance, but by making an excessive allowance for them can mean an uncompetitive offer, causing a loss of business.    

Your Experiences and Questions

We’d like to hear about your concerns or practical experiences of international trading, both before and after Brexit, within and beyond the EU. Please get in touch, and let us know how we can help with your continuing business requirements. We look forward to hearing from you.

Securing Remote Access During COVID-19

Given the current unprecedented situation restricting normal business operations, resulting in revised working arrangements including home working, consideration should be made of the preparations and processes organisations need to take.

Consequently, we recommend joining the following Webinar by Vysiion and Radiflow, Thursday 2nd April 2020:

If you miss this event then please get in touch so we can discuss your interest and requirements.

@yellowsbestltd our mission is to assist with ‘Keeping Customers Operational’. We’re keen to provide #solutions and #services to help your business survive and maintain your systems – let us know if we can help!

Keeping yourself and your business safe …

It certainly is a troubling time with the rapid spread of the Coronavirus sweeping the world.

It’s no exaggeration that for most people, nothing quite like it has been experienced in living memory. There’s a lot of confusing information around and the advice seems to keep changing on a daily basis. This graphic found posted on twitter by @TheLoff provides a sensible guide to being careful …

Businesses in general are also experiencing an extremely challenging situation, testing the most robust of #BusinessContinuity plans. Again from twitter, this summary posted by the @Cabq Economic Development Department, provides an overview of the tips and resources they have put together for businesses and organisations navigating through the Coronavirus …

@yellowsbestltd our mission is to assist with ‘Keeping Customers Operational’. We’re keen to continue to provide #solutions and #services – let us know if we can help!

Most importantly, stay safe!

Further reading and advice:

WHO – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

NHS – Coronavirus (COVID-19)

GOV-UK – COVID-19: guidance for employees, employers and businesses

Coronavirus: How to track the virus spread across the world as cases reach 180,000 via @CNET

Legacy mobile phones – Nokia 6230 & 2610

When phones got small (before they went big again)

In technology terms it seems a lifetime ago, now that large and ever-increasingly powerful ‘smartphones’ are commonplace, but it wasn’t so long since the trend was for mobiles to get smaller and smaller …

The evolutionary beginnings are clear, mobile phones started off as ‘bricks’: heavy, not very portable and limited in use. So the target became to make them ever smaller whilst cramming in as much functionality as possible.

The pinnacle of this development was just about reached with the Nokia 6230, a ‘feature phone’ which boasted a clock, calendar, calculator, music player, radio, photo and video cameras and a few basic games, even a limited internet browser, as well as texts and phone calls of course! A colour screen too, admittedly small (2.5cm square) and low-resolution by today’s standards, but with a battery that would last days not hours providing long talk and standby time. All squeezed into 10x4x2cm package; quite remarkable back in 2003.

Nokia 6230

This was about as small as phones got, and the small-size-format was so successful that it carried on like this for a few years, as illustrated by low-cost ‘entry’ devices such as the 2610 from 2006. Almost exactly the same size and weight, benefiting from improved screen and build but missing a camera – then still considered a ‘premium feature’, now so common place it’s hard to imagine any phone without one. Almost all of today’s phones are much wider, taller but thinner – how times have changed!

These mobile phones show off the relatively recent past of technology development, built to survive the harsh environment of the home of the Finnish manufacturer. So now, 15 or so years later – these ‘legacy’ models are still in working order, having out-lasted the company that made them! 

Much has since changed in the world of mobiles, such that they’re not even used much as just ‘phones’, and Nokia’s phone business itself came and went, though now being revived by HMD Global. Despite promoting smart phones such as the ‘flagaship’ Nokia 9, it’s also interesting to see the ‘re-introduction’ of some ‘classic’ small-size-format phones, such as the 3310, harking back to those early beginnings.       

@YellowsBestLtd we’re here to help #business customers maintain and keep operational “legacy” products and #enterprise equipment, as well as newer #systems, so let us know if we can assist by sourcing and supplying spares, repair and support services to ensure #technologies continue to serve and perform. Please get in touch to discuss your Management Services and Solutions requirements; we look forward to hearing from you.

Mobile Communications for Professional Users

Mission Critical Technologies

For many years, pioneering mobile communications technologies have been developed and implemented to serve the operational needs of professional users, such as public safety, utilities and transport organisations.

Initially based on radio technologies predating the public cellular networks and offering bespoke functionality, these were implemented as individual regional networks. Technology evolved from Analogue to Digital and deployments increased from regional to national rollouts.

We are now on the verge of next generation of mission critical communications with the arrival in the UK of the Emergency Services Network (ESN)

A brief history of PMR

When mobile communications were in their infancy, major organisations with mission critical requirements chose to build their own ‘dedicated’ networks to ensure availability of service. The users of such systems had operational requirements that shaped the technology developments, and gave rise to features such as Press-to-Talk (PTT), instant call set-up, encryption, user priority, 1-to-many and group calling. 

Initially such networks were analogue-based and collectively known as ‘Private Mobile Radio’ (PMR). Inter-operation between systems was rarely possible, though one standard that did evolve was MPT1327 ‘Trunking Radio’, implemented by a range of vendors such as NOKIA and TAIT. Individual organisations built, operated and maintained their own infrastructure.

The next generation of technologies were digitally-based; one of the most widely adopted standards was TETRA. A break-though was the standardisation of the ‘air-interface’ permitting the inter-operability of user mobile terminals with infrastructure from a range of manufacturers, such as NOKIA and Motorola.

In the UK, two nationwide networks were rolled out, AIRWAVE for public safety users and DOLPHIN for professional users. The latter of these hit financial difficulties and was closed. Other regional networks were deployed, such as that on the London Underground, whilst other organisations continued to maintain their analogue-PMR systems.  

ESN is coming

As on show at this year’s @TechXLR8 expo, the Emergency Services Network (ESN) is set to revolutionise professional mobile communications in the UK again, ultimately replacing the existing Airwave TETRA network and offering existing and updated services.  

Essentially, acting as an overlay onto EE’s 4G network, the software from Motorola solutions will deliver an advanced mobile communications experience, including the PTT, group-call, priority and security features demanded by professional users. 

The new service will bring PMR into the modern era with ruggedised mobile-phone-like user terminals providing advanced data capabilities, offering high quality colour-displays, GPS-mapping and location-based services. 

A huge investment in development and rollout is taking place, which will result in additional network capabilities and coverage provided by 500 new base-station sites. The new network will serve the needs of the Police, Fire, Ambulance services as well as other professional users such as local authorities and utility services.

Supporting existing and future requirements

@YellowsBestLtd satisfies new and ‘legacy’ requirements for the operations and maintenance of systems and networks by providing services including consultancy, technical support and hardware repairs, and solutions, with the supply of functional replacements, spare part items and software support.

We would be keen to hear from you regarding your existing or future operational needs; please get in touch.

Apple macOS 64-bit transition – Software ‘Legacy’ issues

32-bit Application compatibility Issues resulting from macOS updates

Issues have started to appear using existing and older software applications on Apple Macintosh computers with the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit operating systems, commencing with macOS High Sierra 10.13.4, and it’s set to get a whole lot worse!

Current Difficulties

Noticeable problems with applications have surfaced with the update to macOS Mojave.

Strange and unwanted things have crept in. For example:

  • opening a new Finder window causes a new tab to open instead. It’s like the wrong option has been selected – now opening a tab or a window are incorrectly identical. If you want a new Finder window, you need to then select ‘move this tab to a new window’. So suddenly this is a two-stage process 
New Finder window opens a New Tab instead
  • Trying to print from Microsoft Word causes the application to ‘crash’. The work-around for this is its still possible to print by using the toolbar button, instead of selecting ‘print’ from the drop-down menu. But then this doesn’t allow for changing print settings etc.
Microsoft Word quits when trying to print

Promise of worse compatibility problems

This is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. A whole range of software applications which currently run happily on the Apple Mac are set to become unusable in the next update to macOS. We’re talking about mainstream applications such as Microsoft Office as well as ‘niche’ applications that you may utilise. This appears to represent the biggest shift in software compatibility since the change from Mac ‘Classic’ (OS 9 and before) to Mac OSX, more than 10 years ago.

A warning is displayed when a 32-bit application is launched in macOS High Sierra, and in macOS Mojave the alert appears every 30 days.

The official Apple advice is to ‘contact the application developer’. For the average user, that’s unlikely to achieve anything, particularly for mature applications that perhaps are no longer available or don’t have ongoing development. With something like Microsoft Word, then it should be possible to obtain the latest version, but naturally that will require a new purchase and/or an annual subscription.

Purchasing a new version of existing software will be an expensive business to just maintain your existing functionality

Maintenance Decisions

The standard maintenance advice for computers is to upgrade to the latest available version of operating software; that way, security patches are up-to-date, keeping the system secure, with new functionality as well as bug fixes provided, and support for the latest applications.

On this occasion however, it is worth taking a long considered look at the benefits of upgrading verses sticking with your current macOS release. If you haven’t yet moved to macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or macOS Mojave 10.14 then you may wish to stay where you are for now, particularly if you’re happy with your current applications and functionality, such as Microsoft Word 2008. If you’re contemplating upgrading, either because you ‘must’ for security purposes or need to support a new generation application, then it will be worth taking the time now to review all of your existing software and work out what the upgrade path will be, or find out what the alternatives you could migrate to e.g. Apple’s ‘Pages’ to replace Microsoft Word, etc.

The most worrying situation will be for owners of specific hardware e.g. the M-Audio USB Midi interface, which may not (and never will) have a suitable updated driver software alternative

In such circumstances of uncertain application support, backups are as always essential; ideally you should be in a position to ‘roll-back’, dual-boot and/or run virtual machines to maintain previous applications and functionality. 

Consideration should also be given to maintaining a dedicated computer at the existing macOS version, and over time, migrating day-to-day applications (where they can be) to a new computer, keeping the old machine for ‘legacy support’.

Further Assistance

Take a look at the full Apple announcement about the transition to 64-bit technology and how it affects 32-bit apps.

@YellowsBestLtd satisfies new and ‘legacy’ requirements for the maintenance of systems and networks by providing services, such as technical assistance and hardware repairs, and solutions, including the supply of spare part items and software support.

We would be keen to hear from you regarding your operational needs, please get in touch.

Legacy Computing – Windows through time

DOS Beginnings – the early days of ‘personal computing’

The ‘Personal Computer’ (PC) launched by IBM in 1981 was a breakthrough that revolutionised the workplace, though the early ones were quite limited especially in terms of how to use them and what they displayed. Not only did they have no ‘touch screens’ for ‘swiping’ and ‘apps’ as we know them now, but there was no ‘graphical user interface’ either. Rather than a ‘desktop’ with icons and a mouse pointer, there was just a black screen with text and a flashing cursor.

DOSscreen
DOS

This was Microsoft DOS (Disk Operating System), which seemed to be the ‘proper’ way to use computers for at least a decade.

GEM - Atari ST
GEM – Atari ST

Indeed, some PC users were initially ‘suspicious’ of icons and windows which had appeared on the Apple Mac as well as other alternatives in use like GEM on the Atari ST.

People had become so used to typing commands, and knew all the ‘switches’ and other modifiers e.g. DIR /W to display a list of the files across the screen rather than in a column. And ‘WP’ was all you needed to get ‘Word Perfect’ to launch – the then favoured Word Processor, which gave rise to some still familiar short-cuts like ‘Control-C’ to copy.

Desktop computing takes-off and ‘Windows’ takes-over

Windows 3.1
Windows 3.1

Windows 3.1 showed PC users something different from around 1992, when 386 and 486 PCs powerful enough to run it well became available.

mouse tutorial
mouse tutorial

It even came with a tutorial to show users how to use a mouse!

Windows 3.1 floppy disks
Windows 3.1 floppy disks

No-one enjoyed having to install it using 7 floppy disks though.

And at first it seemed somewhat unnecessary to run existing applications.

Win95-DOSprompt
Windows 95 – DOS prompt

Indeed, there was a bit of an ‘outcry’  that Windows 95 and later variants didn’t first boot into DOS!

But then it was realised there were some key benefits. Now you could delete a whole directory in one go without having to clear out each ‘level’ – not always the safest feature! Email really became more useable when you didn’t have to log in specifically to check to see if you had messages; now it could be running all the time in its own window.

The rise of the Internet – and security issues

Win98Desktop
Windows 98 ‘desktop’

With each variant of ‘Windows’ came more sophistication, and suddenly a whole world of connected information could be accessed with Netscape and then Internet Explorer, which then meant Windows really became a ‘must have’.

Internet Explorer - WinXP
Internet Explorer – Windows XP

Certain difficulties were experienced getting old and new applications to behave themselves in the Windows environment; stability and also backwards compatibility started to become issues. Users now had to deal with ‘blue screen’ crashes of Windows, and then a variety of increasing security threats and viruses requiring ever-more enhanced anti-malware protection applications and mandatory backups.

The continuing need for ‘Legacy’ support

Although the majority of modern offices, educational establishments and homes now use the latest PC hardware as well as phone and tablet computing devices running the newest generation of operating software and applications, some industrial workplaces have professional implementations of systems that still make use of early computing platforms (ranging from desktop PCs to OSS servers), where the basic requirements are unchanged, and particularly in stand-alone use where security threats aren’t an issue. And some people still have old PC games to play!

Drive Setup
Drive Setup

It can however be quite a task to restore the operation of legacy systems, particularly if backups are missing or incomplete.

FDISK for partitioning
FDISK for partitioning

Associated issues include obtaining the appropriate hardware replacement parts such as disks (modern versions can be too high capacity to work well with old systems) requiring the right settings of cylinders, heads and sectors, and preparation using FDISK and FORMAT commands.

Floppy Disk
Floppy Disk

Software ‘patching’ of configurations may be needed, hunting out correct versions of driver files and specifying the right parameters. Creating a floppy disk with ‘boot’ files can also be a helpful tool!

Emulation and Virtualisation

There’s still a way today to run legacy software even without the old PC hardware, and that’s via the ‘joy’ of emulation and virtualisation. Even using an Apple Mac or Linux computer, it’s possible to run various flavours of Windows legacy software.

Particularly useful applications to enable this include:

DOSbox
DOSbox

DOSBox – a handy emulator tool which enables the running of old DOS based applications in an application window. Relatively straight-forward to setup, with the ability to ‘mount’ folders so that files can be imported.

VBoxWin95
VirtualBox-Windows95

VirtualBox – a fully featured virtualisation tool that allows the creation of ‘virtual machines’ into which can be installed a full operating system, such as Windows 3.1, Windows 95 or Windows XP. The tool also emulates CD and Floppy drives for  loading disk images and running legacy applications.

CPU fix for Win95
CPU fix for Win95

Takes a bit of work to set up, preparing a virtual ‘hard disk’, and then installing the operating system. There’s a ‘work-around’ needed to take account of modern processors being ‘too fast’ for the old operating software! Also, to set the display to the necessary resolution and get sound working, special video and audio drivers may need to be installed.

win95app
Win95app

 

Or you could try the Windows 95 ‘computer as an’ App created by Felix Rieseberg, which can be downloaded and installed on macOS, Windows and Linux!

 

@YellowsBestLtd we can assist with support services for both legacy and new software and hardware solutions, so please get in touch if you have any requirements you’d like to discuss;  we look forward to hearing from you.