Tag Archive: Windows 8


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With just over a month left until the Xbox One launch, the rumors about as-yet-unannounced details continue to fly.

Two weeks ago, the word was that the Xbox One’s bundled Kinect camera could be used to harvest lucrative data about console owners and their homes – a claim that Microsoft vehemently denied – while leaving the door ever so slightly ajar in case its policies change.

There appears to be a larger morsel of truth to the latest rumor, sparked by the Dell website and noticed by Engadget yesterday. “With all your favorite Windows 8 apps able to be run on and synced to your Xbox One, now your phone, desktop, tablet and TV can all give you a unified web and entertainment experience,” the page still reads.

A Microsoft spokesperson said that’s not quite true: “The suggestion that all Windows 8 apps run on Xbox One is not accurate,” they wrote in an email.

That’s not a confirmation that any specific apps will work across both devices without additional fiddling on the developer’s part, of course. And the company has said in the past that the similarity between the Windows and Xbox operating systems should make it possible to write Xbox apps that strongly resemble their Windows counterparts. But it leaves open the possibility of universal apps that could help prop up the Windows 8 ecosystem with Redmond’s robust gaming brand.

SkyDrive

SkyDrive in Windows 8.1 has a secret weapon no one’s talked very much about. It’s actually pretty amazing, in that small sort of way that doesn’t change much, but still manages to completely alter how you use something. In fact, it might just make SkyDrive the best cloud service around. If you install Dropbox, SkyDrive, or even Google Drive on your desktop today, you’re going to sync the whole of your folder to your drive, at once, and keep all the files there whenever they’re synced. If you don’t have enough space, tough. Delete something you don’t have synced to the cloud, or just stop syncing. SkyDrive has a different solution. Microsoft calls this its “secret sauce”. Basically, SkyDrive makes files and folders you store in the cloud behave as though they’re stored there anyway, without taking up space on your computer. You can browse, inspect, and even preview them, even though the whole file isn’t taking up space on your drive.

Read the full story at Gizmodo.

pokki

Lenovo has agreed to preload onto all of its new PCs the full range of SweetLabs’ Pokki software, which tweaks the Windows operating system, the companies announced today.

The deal is the second major OEM partnership this summer for Pokki, which runs a platform for installing and using Windows apps, making the desktop experience feel more like a mobile one. Back in June, Acer began preloading a Pokki-powered game “arcade” onto all of its new PCs.

Today’s announcement is broader than that, though. Under the Pokki brand, SweetLabs makes the games launcher, a custom Start menu that launches apps via a mobile-esque interface, and an app store for discovering new apps. All of those products will be bundled together in the Lenovo deal.

That’s potentially a big deal for Windows developers who are having a hard time gaining traction. Baked into the Pokki suite is a recommendation engine, which surfaces new apps for users to download in visible places like the bottom of the start menu. Some of those recommendations are populated Netflix-style, targeted to users based on what they already use, which the software “learns” over time.

But other recommendations are sponsored, said Chester Ng, co-founder and chief marketing officer of SweetLabs. He pitches sponsored and targeted apps as a better alternative to the “outdated and irrelevant” crapware preloads that have historically padded the profits of OEMs like Lenovo. For example, a computer sold during tax season might have TurboTax automatically preloaded through the Pokki store, while one sold in the summer or fall would have no need for it.

In the past, the Pokki store has hosted desktop-optimized versions of Web apps like Facebook, Gmail and Hulu. SweetLabs is also announcing today that it will soon be possible to distribute native Windows and Windows 8 Store apps alongside Pokki-specific apps in the same store.

The sliding glass doors open, and you walk into your local Best Buy store ready to browse for some new electronic toys. As the blue-polo-and-khaki-clad salespeople start approaching you to offer assistance, you realize they’re practically speaking a different language — a language that includes confusing technical phrases not used in everyday conversation.

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But you, too, can become fluent in geek speak. In this week’s column, I’ll walk you through some terms that are often used when talking about smartphones, TVs, cameras and laptops. The words range from those that describe a category of device to particular features found in a gadget, but all are helpful to know as you’re shopping around.

Let’s start with cellphones. Go into any electronics store and you’ll find a myriad of touchscreen phones — some with displays so large that they look like they belong on tablets. This latter group is often referred to as phablets — a term born from combining the words phone and tablet (a la Brangelina).

Phablets offer all of the capabilities of smartphones, including the ability to make calls, but they feature screens between five inches and seven inches. (More normal smartphones have screens in the 3.5 to 4.7-inch range.)

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The benefit to the larger display is that it’s easier for reading text, viewing videos and browsing the Web. The downside is that the device is larger in size, making it less pocketable and more difficult to use with one hand. Some examples of phablets include the Samsung Galaxy Note II and LG Intuition.

Another word that’s tossed around when talking about mobile gadgets is processor. The processor acts like the brains of the device. It manages tasks like running the operating system and handling graphics in games and Web pages.

With today’s smartphones and tablets, you’ll most often hear that model X has a dual-core or quad-core processor. The advantage of these multi-core processors is that they can handle numerous tasks at once, thus speeding up overall performance.

But a quad-core processor doesn’t double the power of a dual-core one. Memory, operating system and other factors also play a part in a device’s performance. If all work together and efficiently with the processor, you’ll see increased performance, but the difference in speed will not be that dramatic.

One other term associated with speed, though it has more to do with data speeds, is 4G LTE. LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is fourth-generation (4G) wireless technology that offers up to 10 times the speed of 3G networks. AT&T, Verizon and Sprint all operate 4G LTE networks. Meanwhile, T-Mobile will launch its LTE network later this year.

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Let’s move on to laptops, shall we? Like smartphones, there’s a new subcategory of notebooks called Ultrabooks.

Ultrabooks — the name was coined and trademarked by Intel — were designed to be a compromise between a full-size laptop and tablet (think MacBook Air).

To wear the title, they must meet certain size specifications, use Intel processors and have a minimum battery life of five hours.

Ultrabooks also must awake from sleep mode in less than seven seconds. To help achieve this, many models use solid-state drives (SSDs). Unlike the hard disk drives, which use moving discs to read and write data, SSDs have no moving parts and can retrieve data faster. The downsides are that they don’t offer as much disk space as hard drives, and they’re more expensive.

As such, Ultrabooks really haven’t taken off with consumers, partly due to higher price points that start in the $900-plus range. But prices are beginning to come down ($500 and up), and there is now a greater variety of designs available.

Whether you’re looking for an Ultrabook, laptop or all-in-one PC, you might have noticed that Microsoft released a new version of its operating system. But there are two versions — Windows 8 and Window RT.

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Windows 8 is considered the full version, and can run legacy software that you used on your older Windows machines, in addition to new apps.

Meanwhile, Windows RT can only run new Windows 8 apps, and doesn’t offer access to such features as Windows Media Player or Windows Media Center. Windows RT was designed primarily for use on mobile devices, like tablets.

Over in TV land, two terms are getting a lot of buzz lately. The first is smart TV. This refers to TVs with integrated Internet capabilities.

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Aside from allowing you to stream content from services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, you can also browse the Web from TV, interact with your social networks, access apps and more.

Samsung and LG, in collaboration with Google, are just a couple of the companies that offer smart TVs. But poor user experiences and the availability of the similar features on cheaper set-top boxes, like the Roku, have kept them from taking off.

The second phrase is 4K TVs (also known as Ultra HD). 4K refers to the horizontal resolution of the TV display. At about 4,000 pixels, 4K TVs offer almost four times the display resolution of today’s standard 1080p HD TVs.

Many TV manufacturers will brag that these new sets reduce the gap between pixels, but when viewed from far away, the difference may not be that noticeable. Also, since 4K TVs are still relatively new, they’re crazy expensive (we’re talking in the five-figure range). And there’s a lack of 4K content out there at the moment.

photo

Last but not least, we come to the camera section. If you’re looking to graduate from a point-and-shoot but don’t want to jump to a large, higher-end digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) device, mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras might be a good compromise.

They allow you to switch lenses and can accommodate larger sensors to provide DSLR-like image quality, while still offering relatively small builds. Unlike DSLRs, these cameras do not have an eyepiece (or a mirror-based optical viewfinder) that you can look through to frame and focus your picture. Instead, most offer a rear display to help you capture the image.

The world of tech is constantly changing, and trying to keep up with the latest trends can be frustrating. But, as with anything, a little education and research can ensure that you’re make the right decision when it’s time to buy.

“Microsoft appears to be ‘sold out’ of its 128GB tablet/notebook hybrid Surface Pro,” Daniel Eran Dilger writes for RoughlyDrafted.

“Selling out of your inventory means ‘the market has spoken,’ says Ed Bott of ZDNet,” Dilger writes. “This is because subtracting an unknown number of sales from an unknown number of units in inventory provides clear proof that an unknown number of events have occurred.”

Dilger writes, “Unfortunately for Ed Bott and the ‘Surface Must Be Successful, Damn the Reviews’ crowd, this isn’t isn’t the first time Microsoft has sold out of a product that subsequently did so poorly that the company abandoned the entire business. Remember the Zune HD? That was just over three years ago in 2009, back before Microsoft scrambled to port Windows 7 to the ARM architecture for the Surface RT. It was widely reported to have “sold out” from Amazon to Newegg to BestBuy. Two years later it was discontinued because in reality it never sold well.”

Read more in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: GWAK.

Surface

Unlike its competitors, Microsoft has largely stayed out of the hardware business. They have the Xbox and a line of input devices, but coming up with the Surface RT was a big step for them. And the Surface RT is a genuinely different computing experience, one that can be enjoyable in the right circumstances.

Those interested in a laptop replacement may find the Surface RT insufficient, which is why the Surface Pro is being released early next year. Even though the Pro is not yet available, there are some pretty clear areas where I feel the RT version isn’t quite ready for prime time.

Surface

The many keyboards of Surface

I had a lot of hope for the Surface’s keyboard. I’ve noticed that Windows Phone 8 has a fantastic software keyboard — it handles auto-correct well and has excellent logic when it comes to figuring out where your finger is trying to press. The same can not be said for Windows RT, unfortunately. The virtual keyboard has pretty good auto-correct, but the layouts for both docked and split modes leave much to be <a href="http://xphonegadget.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/waterproof-ipod-shuffle-green-4th-gen-2gb-by-underwater-audio-free-and-discounted-waterproof-headphone-promotion/&quot; title="Waterproof iPod Shuffle GREEN (4th Gen 2GB) by Underwater Audio – Free and Discounted Waterproof Headphone Promotion! <>” target=”_blank”>desired. The split keyboard, for example, makes the keys either too small or positions the keys away from the edge of the tablet. As a result, I am not nearly as capable a typist on the Surface’s virtual keyboard as I am on an iPad or Android tablet.

Fortunately, Microsoft released two different very clever keyboards for the Surface. There’s the Touch Cover, a buttonless touchpad with grooves and raised “keys” that allow you to type in much the same way you do on a virtual keyboard. It takes about a day of serious typing to get used to, but once you do adjust the keyboard a very good experience. Then the Type Cover is available for those of us who would prefer to hit press-able keys when typing. The Type keyboard feels about twice as thick as the Touch Cover, which adds a little to the bulk of the tablet when carrying it around, but the keyboard works well and will mean more words per minute for almost all users.

Neither of these keyboards use the same auto-correct as the virtual keyboard, so when you misspell something there’s no pop-up or suggestion to replace. You are left with that menacing red squiggle as though you were using a regular laptop. To make things all the more frustrating, the Touch Cover does offer a basic form of auto-correct where the OS assumes you meant to type a word and corrects it without even warning you. This seems to only happen if the keyboard detects your fingers on more than one key, and then it makes a judgement call for you. While this sounds really helpful, it’s somewhat maddening to see some words change right in front of you without warning or explanation while completely ignoring other words that you have clearly misspelled.

Surface

A barren wasteland of apps

When I first booted up the Surface RT I knew that the app selection wasn’t going to be stellar. I have been using Windows 8 on my desktop since the Developer Preview (in other words, over a year), and have watched as the slow trickle of apps seeped into the corners of the Windows Store. It makes perfect sense — neither iOS nor Android had a bustling ecosystem at launch, and there is a clear chicken-and-egg issue that must be dealt with. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a ton of developers interested in making quality RT apps and Microsoft isn’t making any public cries for help, like Google did in the early days.

This situation is made worse when you see paid apps for things like “meme generation”, basic services that are available on dozens of websites for free. This is not unique to the Windows Store, it also plagues iOS and Android, but when crapware like this show up in the recommended rotation you’ve got a problem. Because Microsoft can’t let the store appear stagnant by promoting the same 30 apps, occasionally you open the Windows Store and see offerings that are clearly not something anyone would recommend.

Surface

The perils of Desktop Mode

Desktop Mode is the place you go to when you want to be productive. It allows you to escape the Modern UI (formerly known as Metro) and go back to the real world with, you know, windowed apps. It works great on my desktop and the Windows 8 laptops I have tested. Sadly Desktop Mode isn’t touch friendly, which puts the Surface RT at a disadvantage.

While the Touch Cover and Type Cover do include trackpad areas, they are quite tiny and not particularly comfortable to use for more than a few minutes. For the most part this is fine because the Surface is a tablet. Because of the touchscreen you would ideally never need a mouse, unless maybe you were on a website that wasn’t formatted for touch. Explorer for Windows 8 includes a lot of functions that make touch use easier. For example, folders include select all functions and when you long press you can get to the right-click pretty quickly. Selecting multiple items out of a folder or trying to use any of the menu options in the top right of a given window are just a few of the things in Desktop Mode that aren’t particularly finger friendly.

Doing anything at all on the taskbar, aside from accessing pinned apps, is just a bad idea. The icons are way too small and you will miss more often than not. This isn’t such a big deal on Surface RT, since not a lot happens in the taskbar. For the Surface Pro, especially if you install a lot of apps that prefer the desktop for use, this is going to become a problem pretty quickly. Since the Surface Pro isn’t out yet, there’s not a lot to say about how Microsoft plans to handle that.

Commendable, but not recommendable

My time with Microsoft’s first attempt at their own tablet confirmed that a Surface Pro is something I am interested in. The Surface RT hardware is fantastic, combining everything I want out of a 10-inch tablet and everything I want out of a travel laptop. I feel like Windows RT struggles to compete with Chrome OS, and I hope that Microsoft is learning from some of the things that aren’t quire right with this first Surface and makes sure that the release of Surface Pro goes off without a hitch. Otherwise, I’m afraid that the first generation may be the only generation of Surface.

Read more: 5 cool Surface RT features

Australian consumer advocacy group CHOICE is a bit exercised about Windows 8, an not in a good way. Australian John Hollow is alleging that Microsoft is intentionally misleading retail shoppers with its packaging for the Windows 8 Professional upgrade. Specifically, he takes issue with the fact that the actual word “upgrade” doesn’t appear anywhere on the packaging. Compounding the confusion, says CHOICE, is the fact that Microsoft announced that Windows 8 would be made available as a “full packed product” and then later backpedaled and said that only the upgrade would be sold in stores.

The Windows 8 Pro upgrade can be used to perform a full installation, but the purchaser needs to have a valid license sticker for a previous Windows version. It’s not really a full version, and that’s something that really should be spelled out right on the box.

Hollow and CHOICE aren’t the only folks who think Microsoft could have done a much better job with its Windows 8 editions. After ditching the maze-like product map of Windows Vista for a more focused Windows 7 SKU line-up, it was hoped that Microsoft would keep a good thing going with Windows 8. Yet the reality doesn’t seem to have changed much. Most folks who head to a retail store or pop onto Newegg or TigerDirect are probably going to be confused as to which copy they should buy. It’s still not as simple as it should be for the average consumer to buy Windows.

And with the recent revelation that Microsoft is going to start offering new Windows versions on an annual basis, this is a problem that the company needs to fix now. With Steven Sinofsky gone and Julie Larsen-Green and Tami Reller now in charge of Windows, hopefully finding a permanent solution to version confusion is a top priority at Microsoft.

More at Sydney Morning Herald

“According to TechRepublic Pro and ZDNet research, Microsoft hasn’t convinced many IT decision makers that Windows 8 is an essential OS upgrade,” Bill Detwiler reports for TechRepublic.

“In October 2012, we asked TechRepublic members to share with us their organization’s plans for Windows 8. Over 1,200 people responded, and we compiled the data into our Windows 8 Business Intentions report,” Detwiler reports. “The following are five key takeaways from the report.”

73.7 percent of respondents say their organizations have no plans to deploy Windows 8, with 23.8 percent reporting that they will skip the OS altogether
Only 15.8 percent of respondents who run Windows XP or an earlier version as their organization’s primary OS say they plan to deploy Windows 8
Security and tablet/mobile integration top the list of factors rated important by respondents who plan to deploy Windows 8.
The Windows 8 style UI and associated end-user training requirements are off-putting to many respondents
The number of respondents in Australia, Canada, Europe, and the US with plans to deploy Windows 8 was lower than in China, India, and Southeast Asia

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Windows 8ista.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dangerfrog” for the heads up.]

TechIT has posted a series of Windows 8 ads from Microsoft that have not yet aired on television:

”Meet Windows 8″

”Work Hard, Play Hard”

”Make it Yours”

“All about Apps”





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