Vol. 22, #4 - January 23, 2017 - Issue #1115

Reader feedback: What? No computer??

Editor's Corner

Two weeks ago in Issue #1113 What? No computer?? we asked whether the personal computer (especially running Windows) has a future or not, particularly as far as young people are concerned. The main issue we raised was whether our readers could confirm a trend observed among young people of smartphones replacing desktop/laptop PCs as their primary or even sole computing platform, and also what the potential impact this could or is presently having on businesses who hire young people. This topic generated a lot of feedback from our newsletter readers and we've selected a sampling to share with you in this issue of WServerNews.
But first here's a Dilbert comic about who has the greater mystical power, cellphone users or those who use a computer:



Ask Our Readers - Windows 10 activation question

A reader named Karl sent us the following question:

Hi, Hello, Thank you for being there! Working for a Non Profit Organization, I received a donation of a number of little Laptop PC with Windows 7 Pro installed. As the machines came from a corporate company of good repute, I didn't think more of it. Two of the PCs upgraded to Windows 10 at the time and activated without a problem. The other donated Laptops still work well and undisturbed on Windows 7 Pro. Now, although still activated, I am being asked to activate the Windows 10 installation be the 27th of January.

What does your panel of wise persons suggest? Should I reinstall Windows 10 from scratch and hope, that Microsoft recognizes the machine activates it automatically? Should I see and wait what happens? Your answer(s) is (are) much appreciated.

Any readers who can help Karl should send their recommendations to us at [email protected]

Ask Our Readers: WServerNews has almost 100,000 subscribers worldwide. That's a lot of expertise to tap into. Do you need help with some issue or need advice on something IT-related? Got a question you'd like us to toss out to our readers to try and answer? Email us at [email protected]

And now let's hear what some of our readers have to say about smartphones replacing PCs…

Clear generational differences

Several of our readers confirm our own observations about the huge difference in the way younger and older people view personal computers. Eldon, an IT Manager in Calgary, Canada expresses this as follows:

I've recently completed at 13-year tenure as IT Manager for an audio visual company in Canada. The business consists of many sales personnel that fall, generally, into an older demographic and field installation technicians that fall into that younger, mobile-first, demographic that you mention. Within this business, there was a HUGE delta in the use and perception in 'computing'. The younger field technicians lived almost 100% off the mobile devices but due to the nature of the business, they would have to test laptop functionality in a boardroom. This might be the only time they might boot up the laptop, to perform field validation of functionality. Because the laptop was powered-up so seldom, frequent were the complaints about laptop performance as Windows updates and Virus updates would overwhelm their ability to perform a simple test. I would encourage them to power it on more frequently for these updates, but most could not be bothered and saw the tool as archaic in nature.

Pivot to the more elderly sales realm and the use of a laptop with Outlook as the primary program is commonplace. 7 years ago, the business shifted from on-premises Exchange to Google Apps, about 1 year ago and for strategic reason, the business shifted from Google Apps to Office 365. The Sales realm could not be happier due to the more-native compatibility with Outlook and Skype for Business. The younger generation see it as a backward-step.

There is a disconnect and IT Managers need to embrace a 'mobile-first' philosophy to application selection, deployment and support. Education in the older demographic to bridge that gap is necessary and ALL need to acknowledge that various forms of communications and computing need to be supported, not only a 'my way' philosophy.

Tom from Dallas, Texas echoes this idea of generational differences by focusing on a peripheral technology, namely printing:

As Project Manager, much of my time is spent developing project Documents that have to be signed off. I slave over these documents much as I did in School. My son is a PC geek but he never prints anything. Even in school, everything was submitted electronically. If he loses his electronic documents that will be no trace that he ever contributed anything.

It's just evolution at work

Frederick who manages a hosting service for self-managed websites shared his thoughts with us as follows:

Think back to your first Commodore, TRS-80 or IBM PC. Compare it to the smart phone you have today. Which system is the most powerful? Which system has the highest resolution screen? There you have it. For most people a phone or tablet is all they need. Especially young people who still have good eyes. I personally can't imagine working without my 5 monitors but I'm a programmer. When I am away from work I use my iPhone and iPad, even when dealing with minor work issues. No, the PC hasn't gone anywhere, it's form has just changed. I remember a high school programming teacher telling me that computers will eventually be nothing but a bump in a wire. The only problem is the computer human interface which will make the device much larger. Perhaps as voice recognition, VR in glasses technology and virtual keyboards improve, I will not need my fancy keyboard and 5 monitors to write software. It's not that PC's are going away; their form factor is just changing.

Good eyes are definitely a must for using smartphones. I've personally had to stop using an iPhone because I have difficulty focusing my eyes properly after using one for only 10-15 minutes, so I now use a flip phone instead of a smartphone. I guess that makes me either a celebrity or someone who is wildly successful:


And as Greg who a Plant Engineer in IT for a company based in Illinois, USA shares, businesses seem to be adapting to this evolution which may in fact be inevitable:

While we still use PC's in our office and our MRP/CRM systems run on Windows and the vendor has built apps for iPhones & iPads. So my boss and my sales people no longer carry laptops on the road. They are more than happy using their phones and iPads to get work done since they can access our systems with them. We own the phones and control them and they all have hot spot features to connect their iPads. Our maintenance systems are in the cloud and I really don't need PC's for that either. Our maintenance people roam the facility with iPhones, iPads and Surfaces and everything runs just fine. Maintenance work orders can be sent from anyone, anywhere from anything. Our PC upgrade cycle has slowed dramatically and we don't buy Microsoft Volume licensing anymore either. I'm generally not pleased with Windows 10 with its heavy intrusions on wanting to know everything And MS restricting even more on what we can and a cannot do on Win 10, so we stayed on Windows 7 as more business minded OS. We're here for business not feed Microsoft's advertising habits. Besides we tightly restrict internet usage to business only here. I can see PC's slipping further away in the near future for most things. Offices will probably be the last to go but it's coming.

Another reader named Patrick who is Managing Director for a Management Consulting company based in Illinois, USA also feels the evolutionary trend here is inexorable:

The smartphone is the PC, and more. Having gone through the entire evolution of computing starting with paper tape and punch cards, I find it hard to believe that anyone can get their work done on a "phone" but they do. Just because I have a preference for a full-size typewriter keyboard and a giant display with giant images that I can actually see does not mean that this is the only way. The trend is inexorably toward more variety allowing individuals to choose how they want to do their necessary functions. Is it effective? You bet it is. The days of the "furniture police" are over, and you may thank God for it.

Hmm, maybe I should buy a bigger monitor too. Perhaps this one?


Mitch, the Director for Infrastructure at a health system service provider, makes an interesting prediction that smartphones and PCs will eventually "converge" somehow:

Well, of course it just morphs like it always does. The "smartphone" is a personal computer as much as the Surface Pro I'm typing this on is a "personal computer" when compared to an IBM PC. Marketing has just decided to somehow further break down personal computing into multiple categories. The same thing happened when the PC was "joined" by the "luggable", then the portable , followed by the laptop, the tablet, etc. They are all personal computing devices.
At some point the Smartphone and the "desktop" will converge more, but there will always be a need for specialty displays, peripherals and sorts. At this mythical point in the future the Smartphone will connect into devices at your desk and become primarily indistinguishable from what you have now, it's just not there yet.

I actually wonder about that. Wasn't Microsoft's UMP initiative intended to help drive convergence between software for PCs, tablets and smartphones? That effort seems to be failing--badly. And would Mac users be happy if Apple replaced MacOS with iOS as some have predicted will eventually happen?


But which Apple denies of course:


So I'm really not sure whether smartphones will eventually converge or will continue to compete until one "wins" over the other (and perhaps thereby change us humans in the process).

Evolution can also work both ways however. For example, as technology improves, other things can decline as George from Brooklyn says:

I blame this move away from proper computers to smartphones for the general decline in business literacy.

I personally think the problem may be even bigger: a decline in all forms of literacy with young people nowadays…

PCs are still needed

If you create content instead of simply consuming it then most of our readers seem to agree that PCs trump smartphones any day. Let's listen to David, the IT Manager for a city in California, USA as he shares his views on this:

Great subject. These days you only need a computer when you are creating content. If you are just reviewing other peoples content then a smart phone is all you need. If the content you are creating is a photo or video and maybe a line or two of text then a phone is all you need. However if you are writing an article, calculating a budget or writing a report to your boss, then you need a computer. I don't know how you could go through college without a keyboard.

Rick from Australia echoes this as follows:

This is a target audience issue. You do not go through college and survive without a computer. So is your audience "information consumer" or "information generator" biased and at what level? This will determine their type of hardware preferences. To kick your goal you have to generate information (no change here), make it available, (change here), and be relevant (some change here -- as you can be reviewed faster -- the overhead for handling your information has changed to a service). It appears you want to transfer information to the consumer and low level information generator. They wish to consume from an on-line source so you have to meet that expectation. You are imposing on them to give you more attention and resources than they wish to give by owning a PC or similar. Since most email reader services online or pc based have never had the ease of use of current more popular products, they do not interpret their personal information flow with an email address but it basically is an easier equivalent..

An addiction problem

An alumni of MIT who goes by the initials DB shared these thoughts about how many of us have been totally addicted to our smartphones:

No surprises there. When you say that you "found the two young associates who staffed the place sitting behind the counter totally absorbed with their smartphones", when is that NOT so much the case, no matter where you're looking. Plus, even those "older" folks are getting totally absorbed (totally!) in their smartphones, so much so that I have had to tell cohorts of mine, when meeting for dinner, to please not leave your phones out on the table staring at you (except for obvious cases of someone on call, e.g., a doctor). I really think it has gotten to be a epidemic of ISSI, Inflated Sense of Self-Importance! Plus FOMO of course.

On the other hand, as reader Bob says maybe back in the old days us old-timers were just as addicted to our computers as young people today are to their phones:

What do the 20-somethings do for a living? I admit that my 20's are a thing of the distant past and I too recall the lust for the TRS-80 and other PCs of the past, but I like the ability to work from anywhere if the need arises. I have a smartphone, 2 tablets (Work/Personal), a laptop, a work PC, a home PC. I find that if I want to entertain myself or have informal interactions, I use my smartphone or tablet. They are readily available with near constant connections. If I have work to do, then I tend to use a PC. I can use my work tablet for work, but it is cumbersome because I have to type a lot to do what I do. I'm a technical manager which involves some report writing, reviewing of code, upper tier tech support/problem solving, etc.

Of course there's a difference between computer addiction and smartphone addiction as Terry tells it:

Traded in one slavish addiction for another... My granddaughters have their smart alec phones in their hands constantly, at least with my computer I am only addicted while at home with it...

So what's the problem here?

As reader Katherine comments, maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill:

Interesting. I don't think the story makes sense though. You don't need a PC to check your email and you don't need a PC to open a word doc. All the 20 something's I know can check their email directly from their phones. Also, they all have some sort of computer as they are in collage or just finishing up. I guess if they aren't in school and don't have much direction in life they wouldn't have the need for a PC. I do agree the use of PCs has declined. I typically only use mine for work these days. Most of my communication is done from my phone or tablet.

Colin, a Computer and Communications Systems Manager working in Vancouver, Canada shared some similar thoughts:

I work in a post-graduate medical education and research environment and have not noticed any lack of computer skills in the 20-something group. If they can't operate a computer with an office suite and some specialized research software, they won't be writing many university papers. They seem to have a similar mix of office computer knowledge as the middle-agers, but more knowledge of social media. In the outside world, I know a few 20-somethings that only have e-mail accounts for occasional use, like job hunting or communicating with older adults. If they don't have to bring work home and don't have any need for an office suite, why would they buy a computer?

And who needs a computer anyway, isn't there just an "app" for that i.e. for whatever you think you might need a computer for? Here's what Mark, a network admin who works for a small charity, says:

I see this a lot. Many people don't play demanding games, don't need to render videos in HD quality, create 3D drawings in CAD programs etc., so owning a computer is overkill if all you need to do is browse the Internet, use a messaging program or play games that do not require multi-GB graphic cards and multiple quad core CPU's on machines requiring dedicated cooling systems. There seems to be an 'app' for everything - especially considering the empowerment/betterment of third world cultures through smart phone ownership, monitoring and diagnosing health issues etc.! The use of connected mobile devices has, in the western world become far more social and is only used for basic work-related issues e.g. email.

Allan from Ontario, Canada makes a similar comment about "apps":

Your scenario was interesting if only to emphasize a lack of understanding by the millennials on how the various technologies can integrate and be used on their devices. If your using an Apple product you will more than likely have an Email address associated. With your Apple account to gain access to various Apps and music. There are numerous App options which you can download to view and edit a Word document for free and then you could easily place the document on the cloud and text message them the link which they can access your document. Millennials use of technology especially on a smart phone is one dimensional in that Apps are single focus and single purpose and they're not use to fully integrated applications such as those found on a PC.

What? No email??

Rusty, a Regional Field Service Manager in IT for a large enterprise in Texas sent us his two cents as follows:

Good morning. I can understand the 20 somethings of today not owning a computer. My old eyes still prefer the larger screen of a laptop, and many web sites I use today are still not fully mobile compatible. These are the two primary reasons I am still mostly a computer user, but I have friends my own age that use their smartphone 90% of the time. I doubt either of these reasons would have much influence on today's 20 somethings decision to spend money on a computer. However, I don't understand 20 somethings not having an email address and the ability to read a Word doc on their phones. I have two daughters that are 17 and 21 and they feel that email is an archaic communication tool. They much prefer the various forms of social media for communicating with their friends, but both of them to have an use email. Despite how archaic some may consider it, email is still a necessity. I think postal mail is an archaic form of communication but I still have an address and I send and receive mail the old fashioned way in order to be a functioning member of society. Just my two cents.

I agree it's weird not to have (or use much) an email address. Perhaps the young people who told me this were just pulling my leg, or perhaps like most young people they're not very self-aware…

On the other hand, as James from Texas indicates maybe it's email itself that's on the way out because of its declining usefulness:

Almost all email nowadays is junk. There are some other old gear-heads like me who use it plus really important places like hospitals for patients' charts, appointments and financial institutions, etc. who still send msgs via email. But your analysis is correct. 99.8% of social interaction is now via Facebook Instagram or some other media. Just look at how Trump has bypassed the media with twitter. They still are screaming and scratching their heads over that. Oh, I still have a FAX machine too and use it occasionally. I think email, like the fax, will hang around just because it's imbedded in business and industry. It's there and we use it for designated purposes. Come to Texas and you still find horses too. The problem is how to regulate social media in the workplace and while driving. The first costs $$$ and the other is just flat out dangerous. I'm not Uberring anytime soon either :-)

What? Just grow up!!

One of our readers feels that the problem isn't smartphones replacing PCs but young people today not being as mature as we were (or think we were) when we were their age. Chris who a Partner in a company that provides computer support for small businesses in Kansas, USA says:

This doesn't surprise me but rest assured, the PC is not in danger. These are the same people who need the milk already in the cereal in the morning because it is too much trouble to wash a bowl. Let me guess, when you then explained to them that they can't have the information you wanted them to have because they didn't have sufficient hardware to receive it, they were distraught and confused, right? As a small business owner that does computer support for small to midsize companies, we see it all the time with the younger generation. They want everything right now and if you can't give it to them due to a technological shortcoming they are lacking, then they are angry with your incompetence. I suppose our previous generation said the same thing about us. PCs are safe. Smartphones and ipads will never be a PC substitute.

What's a PC anyways?

Finally, here is John who takes us back down memory lane and then up to the present and ends with a question:

I remember as a kid in high school when computers became a thing you could own and the thrill at having such a piece of technology. I owned a TI-58C programmable calculator in high school that cost me over $300.00. Soon Atari, Commodore, Timex, and even Radio Shack were all vying for my attention. There was a TRS-80 for awhile, then the Atari 800. I moved on to the Amiga 2000 and stayed there for awhile until office work convinced me to get on board with an IBM 386-40 with EGA monitor. That was somewhat of a let down from the Amiga, but then work is never as fun as what I was doing on my Amiga. You had the freedom to tinker, to explore, to learn about these tools that could let you play games and crunch work down from two weeks to two days. Who can forget dialing into your favorite bulletin board and using z-modem protocol to download ASCII art files!

Desktop PCs remind me of the early days of the worldwide web. I had been using gopher at work to read research documents and wanted to build a similar site. Then the NCSA Mosiac web browser came out and things were never the same. Soon I was reading the HTML behind those web pages, which reminded me so much of my WordStar days, and started writing my own web pages. I used notepad for awhile but moved up to HotMetal Pro. Hand jamming web pages! It was fun and new back then. Every once in awhile I will jump onto the Wayback Machine and look back at those days. But we don't hand jam anymore. We have programs that generate all that now with features and functions you could only dream about back then.

A personal computer in the home was a time that has come and gone. The PC reigned supreme when it was the only way to have computing power with a display in your own hands. Smartphones ARE computers. The things people wanted or needed a PC for can all be done on a Smartphone. Sure, the display is a lot smaller but you can stream your smartphone display to your LED tv now. The PC has become the past and so have several of the tools we used to use on the PC. A prime example is Electronic Mail, E-mail. This super fast way to communicate with colleagues, coworkers, associates, and friends came from the research and work worlds and gave everyone a way to send letters and data in seconds rather than days. Sure, chat was also around but for asynchronous communications that could transmit volumes of information, E-mail was the way to go. In the business world, it still is. For most people outside of work though, we are all now interconnected by smartphones and the devices that connect to them. If a friend does not respond to a text message for hours, the police are consulted to go check on that person since there is no way they would take hours to respond.

We have come full circle from the days of AOL with Keywords to get information from this mystical thing called the Internet. We probably didn't even know back then that AOL was just a helpful interface you used to traverse the information on the Internet. Now, we have returned to those days. Apps are used to access information a browser used to provide. All over the world people are connected to the Internet and don't even know it. Somewhere between 25% and 75% of people from all over the globe when asked if they used the Internet replied no. They only use Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. No Internet needed. I'm not kidding, they have no idea. And, maybe they don't need to. With these handheld devices that are more powerful than computers that use to occupy whole buildings, we use Apps like Snapchat and Facebook to communicate with family and friends. We go to work and use machines to word process, build presentations, sequence DNA, or scan the galaxy for signs of life. We come home and turn on a console to play, video chat, or work out. We talk to Google, Siri, Alexa, or Cortana to get directions, weather, restaurant recommendations, facts about what we are doing or watching, and order pizza or reorder washing machine detergent.

A personal computer? What's that?

OK maybe that's two questions, sorry.

Send us your feedback

Got feedback about anything in this issue of WServerNews? Email us at [email protected]


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Factoid of the Week

Last week's factoid and question was this:

   The US National Institutes of Health recently issued a press release saying that they've changed    their recommendations for parents on how they can help their children avoid getting peanut allergies. The NIH used to recommend that parents avoid exposing babies to peanuts, eggs and other potentially allergenic foods, but now they've reversed themselves and say that recent research indicates the best way to help children avoid getting peanut allergies is to feed them peanuts (mushed up of course) even when they're babies. At least that's how I understand their press report which you can read in full here:

What's the most unusual allergy you have heard about or are aware of? And what (potentially strange) implications would the new NIH guidelines have with regard to helping infants avoid contracting such an allergy?
Allergies are obviously a serious concern for many of us and especially for those who have young children. But the topic of allergies is also a fascinating one, and the range of diverse things that may cause allergies can be strange indeed. Here are a few of the many responses we received on this topic from readers:

Let's hear first from Wayne:

Wonderful newsletter as usual Mitch, but just an example for you of allergies that may seem a little strange. I have heard of an allergy to water, (and not the kind espoused by Fred in Accounts who seems to think that showering is optional ;) ) where the sufferer was unable to spend any time in a shower or pool due to their skin being hyper sensitive:


On a more personal level, my wife is allergic (anaphylactic) to chilies and all peppers in the American pepper family which includes chilies, capsicum, and horseradish. Do you know how many foods do not list chilli as an ingredient instead they list "spices". We have been to our local hospital 7 times in the last 6 months with allergic reactions. Obviously she carries an epipen but she still needs to attend the hospital to ensure that her breathing and heart are ok. This has got worse instead of better as she has been exposed. We now have to test any foods for her to ensure no chilli has accidentally made its way into her food.

Sorry to hear about your wife's allergies, I'm not allergic to chilies myself but they cause me digestive problems so I basically can't eat anything Italian no matter how good it smells…

Other readers mentioned water as the strangest allergy they had heard about. Here's an ABC news story about this sent to us by Dave:


Jeremy, an IT Director for a company in Florida says he's heard about some individuals being allergic to penicillin--ouch!

Tony from Denver, Colorado says:

I'm allergic to tuna, but no other fish/seafood -- makes my throat swell shut. Weird.

Pat shared a story about another peculiar allergy:

My (now 23 yo) son was 17 when he developed an allergy to sunflowers. He was at a friends house eating sunflower seeds when his mouth became numb; his lips and tongue began to swell. The friends mom immediately gave him some Benedryl. Fortunately, that stopped the swelling; she would not let him leave until she was sure he was alright. When he was able to call me, I knew immediately something was wrong. (Speech not clear because of the swelling.) I asked him to bring the bag home. I contacted the company with all the codes. My query to them was, are your sunflowers processed in a plant that processes other seeds and/or nuts or was there something else going on with the seeds. Their answer: Allergies can happen at any time to anything to anyone. What a garbage answer! I know that; they never answered my question. He now cannot eat anything with sunflowers or sunflower oil in it. So, we read labels; all labels; every bit of the labels.

Finally, a different Pat says:

Work is the only thing to which I am allergic.

Me too! Seriously--if I take on too much work I tend to break out in hives :-P

Now let's move on to this week's factoid:

Fact: Black holes are not black.

Question: What other N's are also not-N? For example, I'd say that shortcuts are often not the shortest way of getting where you want to go, and smartphones seem actually seem to be making us dumber, and…you probably get the idea. Email us your creative ideas: [email protected]

Until next week,
Mitch Tulloch

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Here's another tip from Raymond that you might find useful in a pinch:


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Events Calendar

North America

Microsoft Ignite Australia on February 14-17, 2017 at the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre, Broadbeach, QLD


Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) on July 9-13. 2017 in Washington, D.C.


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WServerNews - Product of the Week


WServerNews - Editors

Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit and has been author or series editor for almost fifty books mostly published by Microsoft Press. Mitch is also a ten-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his  outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com.

Ingrid Tulloch is Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also manages research and marketing for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.