Monday, November 19, 2012

Holiday shopping technology recommendations

Hello Everyone,

It is that time of year again - this Friday the holiday shopping season begins!

To celebrate, we've compiled the following technology recommendations to assist you to purchase the best quality and most sustainable technology available this holiday season.

Mobile device recommendations - please check out our recent blog post:

Desktop and laptop computer recommendations - please check out our recent blog post:

In the spirit of the season, we are pleased to announce that we are including free data copy service for any of our clients who purchase a custom desktop or laptop computer from Union Tech Coop beginning today through December 31st, 2012.

Please feel free to give us a call at (608) 616-9925 if you have any questions.


The Union Tech Coop Technical Committee

Mobile device purchasing recommendations

Hello Everyone,

The technicians here at Union Tech Coop have been monitoring the many mobile device offerings since the first modern smartphones became available in 2007 and the first modern tablets became available in 2010.

We have deliberately avoided making purchasing recommendations for mobile devices until we've been able to determine the sustainability of the available options. In the years since 2007 we've had the opportunity to work with all of the major brands of mobile devices and we've gained experience configuring them all. The two dominant platforms are Apple 'iOS' and Google 'Android'.

We've recently become aware that the latest software update for Apple iOS has serious bugs which cause wireless connectivity problems:

In addition to the recent reliability issues with Apple mobile devices, we've also noticed a pattern of planned obsolescence with Apple mobile devices. Apple is discontinuing software updates as quickly as 2 years after the mobile device hardware is released. In addition to discontinuing software updates in an unreasonably short period of time, Apple mobile devices have a trend of being difficult to repair:

Due to these reliability and sustainability issues, our consensus is that we're unable to recommend Apple mobile devices to our clients.

Google Android mobile devices have had some sustailbility issues with lack of software updates as well, but these issues resulted from the cellular service provider partners refusing to approve and allow the updates that Google was providing. In response, Google is offering their 'Nexus' branded Android devices, which receive software updates directly from Google as a solution.

Based on our years of experience supporting modern mobile devices, we're making the following purchasing recommendations this holiday season...

Tablet - Google Nexus 7 - $199:

E-book reader - Amazon Kindle Fire HD - $199:

Smartphones - Recommendations for each cellular service provider are available on our website at:

However, if you're looking for an affordable and sustainable mobile device for accessing the Internet, we're recommending the Google Chromebook over all of the mobile devices listed above. The Google Chromebook provides a much higher level of functionality (nearly equivalent to a traditional computer), while being very close to a mobile device in price at $249:

Please feel free to give us a call at (608) 616-9925 if you have any questions.


The Union Tech Coop Technical Committee

Updated computer lineup

Hello Everyone,

We're proud to announce that we've updated our computer lineup.

We've included the latest and greatest newly available hardware to coincide with the recent release of Microsoft Windows 8. As usual, all of our custom desktop and laptop computers include the professional version of the Microsoft Windows 8 operating system (Windows 8 Pro). If you'd like more information about Microsoft Windows 8 and why we're recommending it, please check out our recent blog post:

We've designed our custom desktop and laptop computers to be the most reliable and sustainable computers available anywhere. We're using the highest quality components with the best warranties we can find - all components are warrantied for 3 years, and many of the components have lifetime warranties! We know from experience that laptops tend to suffer from more wear and tear throughout their lifecycle than desktops, so all of our laptops include 3 years of accidental damage protection so you're covered if an accident strikes.

If you're considering a new computer purchase, please take a look...

Custom desktop computers:

Custom laptop computers:

Please feel free to give us a call at (608) 616-9925 if you have any questions.


The Union Tech Coop Technical Committee

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

No reason to fear Windows 8, we've pre-configured it to 'just work' for our clients!

Hi Everyone,

You may have heard that Microsoft recently released Windows 8 on Friday 10/26.

Members of the Union Tech Coop Technical Committee have been testing Windows 8 for several months using the Evaluation copy Microsoft provided to developers prior to the final release.

We're happy to say that our test results have been very positive. Windows 8 has several advantages over Windows 7:
  1. Performance – some 'eye candy' visual effects have been removed due to the design requirement for Windows 8 to run on lightweight hardware.
  2. Security – Microsoft's anti-malware security software and Adobe's Flash Player have been integrated into Windows 8...and they receive updates automatically.
  3. Compatibility – Windows 8 seems to be very similar to Windows 7. From our testing, every program designed for Windows 7 that we tested worked properly under Windows 8.

The biggest noticeable change in Windows 8 is the new user interface (called the 'Metro' or the 'Modern' user interface). The new look is the default setting on any newly purchased computer from a retail store that includes Windows 8. This new user interface has large buttons (called 'tiles') rather than a traditional 'desktop' that previous versions of Windows displayed. The new look was designed for computers with touchscreen monitors and for touchscreen mobile devices. The new look works well for touch use cases but can be unfamiliar at first.

Our technicians are able to easily configure Windows 8 to display the 'classic' desktop environment that you are familiar with if you find the new user interface is not to your liking.

Due to the advantages we've seen in our testing and the minimal effort involved in configuring Windows 8 to display the traditional look, Union Tech Coop will be including Windows 8 with our custom desktop computers going forward. We're happy to build custom computers with Windows 7 upon request for clients who prefer to continue using Windows 7 rather than move to Windows 8.

All Windows 8 computers purchased from Union Tech Coop will be configured to show the 'classic' desktop environment by default. Users will be able to easily switch to the new user interface at any time to try it out. We're happy to assist our clients to configure the new user interface to be the default on computers purchased from Union Tech Coop at any time at no additional charge.

We're proud to offer the highest quality custom computers and to include the latest Microsoft Windows 8 Pro as the operating system. We're also happy to schedule a demonstration of the computers for anyone who is interested in giving the hardware and software a try before making a purchase.

Please feel free to give us a call at (608) 616-9925 if you have any questions.


The Union Tech Coop Technical Committee

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Join Us!  Saturday, September 29, 2012 @ The Monona Terrace for the 2nd Annual Co-op Connection

Summit Credit Union (SCU) is hosting the 2nd Annual “Co-op Connection" on September 29, 2012 at the Monona Terrace.

Visit for complete information and a registration and sponsorship form.  Look for the opportunity to share Co-op stories on this year’s registration!  SCU will let others know what the Co-op Connection will have to offer in 2012 - the International Year of Cooperatives.

If you have any questions, contact SCU at

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ongoing network wide hacker attacks related to Java software

Hi Everyone,

Since Monday 09/03 Union Tech Coop technicians have been monitoring breaking security news that hackers are actively attacking computers that are running out of date versions of Java software.

Java is a prerequisite software that some applications and some websites require to work. Computers that Union Tech Coop has deployed in the past include Java software for several reasons:
1. The OpenOffice/LibreOffice software suite uses Java for the Database application in the suite.
2. So clients that use websites that require Java do not receive error messages.
3. So clients that run applications that require Java do not receive error messages.

The difference between previous hacker attacks and the current ongoing attacks is that previously only a single computer would be compromised. In the recent series of attacks a single computer is compromised, then the compromised computer is used as a platform to attack all other network computers that are missing security updates. In a typical network environment this means that nearly every computer on the network will be compromised as well - a disasterous situation for an organization that relies on those computers for day to day operations.

Here is a description of a real world infection scenario, including the amount of work required to recover a single infected computer:

Emergency security updates have been released, but hackers are continuing to attempt to exploit the most recent versions of Java as they are released. Until the current versions of Java have been confirmed to be secure, the best practice is to remove Java software entirely:

Union Tech Coop technicians have identified several ways to allow an organization that requires Java to continue to use Java software only for trusted applications and websites - while disabling Java for all other untrusted uses.

If your organization requires Java, Union Tech Coop technicians recommend implementing proactive security measures as soon as possible to avoid a network wide malicious software infection. Union Tech Coop technicians are standing by to provide assistance. Please call (608) 616-9925 if you would like to schedule a security assessment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Madison Worker Cooperatives is sponsoring a screening of the Fixing the Future movie about building a sustainable economy.
When: Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
Time: 7:30PM 
Where: Point Cinema on the West side of Madison
Come on out if you'd like to learn more about worker cooperatives!
For more information on the movie, visit:
For more information on Madison Worker Cooperatives, visit:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Willy Street Coop's 2012 Annual Meeting & Party 

Who knew meetings could be fun for the whole family? Willy Street Coop shows you how!
Dinner and entertainment including:

Live Music * Kid's Activities
Truly Remarkable Loon (comedy juggler) * Chad Vader (comedian)  
Artterro craft tables * and of course, the Business Meeting

Plus a free gift for the first 1,000 people!

When: Thursday July 12th, 4pm-8pm
Where: Corner of S. Dickenson St. & E. Main, 1 block off East Washington Ave.

Free to all Owners! Tickets available NOW at the Customer Service desk.  This year they will not have free tickets at the event site.

Rain or shine ~ come join us for a great time!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

2nd Annual Co-op Connection — Saturday, September 29, 2012

Summit Credit Union (SCU) is looking forward to “Celebrating Cooperatives and Community” by hosting the 2nd Annual “Co-op Connection".  In planning for this year's event, they have met with the Cooperative Network, UW-Center for Cooperatives, CUNA Mutual and the Principle 6 lunch to help shape Coop Connection 2012.  Join us on September, 29, 2012 at the Monona Terrace for this exciting event!

Visit for complete information and a registration and sponsorship form.  Look for the opportunity to share Co-op stories on this year’s registration!  SCU will let others know what the Co-op Connection will have to offer in 2012 - the International Year of Cooperatives.  Plus, there is an added incentive for getting your registration in by August 1st.

If you have any questions, contact SCU at

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Join us at The Madison Cooperative Business Conference


Wednesday and Thursday, June 6th-7th, 2012
Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, Madison, WI

Want to learn more about the cooperative movement?  Already involved in a cooperative?

Check out this conference!

This conference will be targeted to a wide-array of individuals, ranging from existing cooperative owners, entrepreneurs exploring a cooperative model, business service providers, and planning and economic development professionals. 

Resources regarding business cooperatives is available at

Sunday, March 11, 2012

'Our first blog post for 2012' or 'what have the members of UTC been up to lately?'

We've neglected posting to our blog regularly in the last 6 months or so and we're determined to correct that in 2012. Although we haven't been making many posts recently, there has been no shortage of activity that we want to let the community know about. Here is a short summary of what we've been working on lately:

1. We'll be updating the rates page on our website with our 2012 rates soon. The new rates will go into effect beginning on 2012 Q2 and we'll create another post here on the blog as well when the updated rates have been posted. One upcoming change is that we're adding additional scheduling options to work with a UTC technician outside of our standard business hours due to popular demand.

2. We'll be updating our workstation recommendations with new desktop and new laptop models soon. Technology moves fast, and we do our best to keep pace. The new desktop continues the miniaturization trend we began with our previous model while increasing performance, and the new laptop model is faster and more power efficient than our previous model.

3. We've been actively researching and building new cost-saving enterprise solutions in our office lab in the areas of high availability routers, storage servers and application servers. We're working hard to create new solutions that are highly reliable and affordable at the same time using free software, and we'll be posting new products to our website soon that are the result of this research and development.

4. We've been running a pilot program to accept computer donations, refurbish the computers and donate them back to members of the community in need free of charge. We'll be posting the details of the program here soon including information about how you can participate as a business, organization or individual. UTC technicians believe that the best way to recycle is to re-use first whenever possible. We're excited about the potential of this new program to keep working hardware out of the landfill and to get computers into the hands of people in the community that need them!

5. We've become an official repair center for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. This project has noble goals to spread economic opportunity to children in the developing world by providing technology to them free of charge. In addition, the project is at the forefront of sustainable hardware design - all for a cost of roughly $200 per computer. We'll be donating labor time to keep OLPC computers running in support of the project. We'll post more details on this soon, for now you can visit our repair center page on the OLPC website at:

Well, that's everything we can think of at the moment - we also don't want to forget to say 'Happy 2012' to everyone too!