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Sunday, 18 November 2012

Windows 8 PC Sales "disappointing" for Microsoft

Insider cites figures as "well below Microsoft's internal projections"

 


Paul Thurrott, tech blogger and Microsoft insider, reported on Friday that Windows 8 PC sales have fallen well below Microsoft's expected target.
Specifically, blog stated, "Sales of Windows 8 PCs are well below Microsoft's internal projections and have been described inside the company as disappointing."
Thurrott's claim about Windows 8 PC sales may be a good indicator of why the tech giant has been so reluctant, particularly with the perceived conflict-of-interest with Surface sales.
The reason for the sales slump may also be that consumers just aren't that interested in Windows 8.

Microsoft's gamble

Despite announcing the sale of four million Windows 8 upgrades in the days following the OS' release, Microsoft remains tight-lipped about any figures relating to Surface or new Windows 8 PC sales.
This may be due in part to Microsoft's perceived conflict-of-interest as it steps into the hardware business with the Surface RT.
Microsoft contends that it still fully supports all of its participating OEMs like HP, Lenovo, and Asus, even in the wake of Windows head Steven Sinofsky's departure.
Windows 8 laptops have garnered largely favorable reviews, particularly touch screen-enabled models, and have created a new, albeit smaller, niche for mobile PC users.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Windows 8 Touch Keyboard


In this blog I’ll cover what I’ve learnt about the Windows 8 Touch keyboard.
There are several different types of touch keyboards available with Windows 8 providing you have a touch screen.
The Touch Screen is available for the conventional touch screen computer and of course for the Surface tablet. The Touch Keyboard is a useful alternative to using the conventional keyboard on either.

Accessing the Touch Keyboard

To access the Touch Keyboard go to your Desktop view. In the right-hand side of the Taskbar you’ll see the Keyboard icon. Click it and the keyboard appears on your screen.
Now this is where the fun starts because there are four types of keyboards of keyboards available! They are:
  1. Standard keyboard (this is the default one)
  2. Split-screen keyboard
  3. Full keyboard
  4. Handwriting Recognition Keyboard

1. Standard Keyboard (default)

2. Split-Screen Keyboard

3. Full Keyboard

4. Handwriting Recognition keyboard

 

Looking Closer at the Features of the Standard Touch Keyboard

On the top right of each keyboard are two controls – Minimize/Maximize and Close. On the lower left is the “change keyboard” button.
Clicking this allows you to toggle through the keyboard of your choice. The other features are much the same except for the addition of the Smiley key, a fun thing!


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

10 best Windows 8 social apps

The top apps for Facebook and Twitter from the Windows Store 

 


Windows 8 and Windows RT come with the built-in People app which shows you updates from and lets you post to Facebook and Twitter.
It also shows you your entire address book from Facebook, Twitter, Linked in, Skype and your email accounts.
So while it's great for seeing what's going on, you can't Share to the People app from other apps like the browser to tweet or post things to Facebook.
Of course you can always look at the website for your favourite social network, but if you want to get live tiles, notifications and sharing, you want an app.


We know an official Twitter app is under development; not so for Facebook – Facebook says it has no plans and points at Microsoft, Microsoft points back at Facebook.
In the meantime, here are our favourite Windows 8 social apps so far.

1. FlipToast

FlipToast lets you see updates from Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and Instagram in the same app; you can see the most updates, notifications, photos, messages, birthdays and your first twenty or so friends as you scroll across the screen or tap each pane to get a longer list of each of those. If you want to see updates from just one service, pinch to semantic zoom out and you get tiles to pick from. The design is friendly and fun rather than sleek and stylish but this is like the People app on steroids.

2. MetroTwit

Even without an official app, there are several good Twitter clients. Rowi doesn't have a live tile and its black and green interface only fits in one column of tweets and one of photos, leaving lots of space for seeing one tweet in a large font, with its replies. The fixed ad at the top of the timline is badly placed, especially in snapped view. Gleek has handy options like adding a hashtag to all your posts and choosing how to mark replies (RT or via or just quotes) and the tile view is great for photos but it's a little odd to see the same tweets in a column and as tiles. That makes the colourful MetroTwit our favourite app for running full screen; although you can only see two columns on screen at once, it has a big, clear bar for writing your tweets in, plus previews of weblinks open in a nice large pane.

3. Tweetro

Also worth trying out, Tweetro has a comprehensive interface that sprawls across the screen to fit in your timeline, photos and the lists and searches you add (mentions, messages and favourites open in their own panes), with slightly confusing positioning but buttons like Reply and Retweet. If you don't mind scrolling you see more than with other Twitter apps full screen and Tweetro is definitely the best Twitter app to keep snapped into a side window so you can glance at your choice of tweets, mentions, messages, favourites or lists - and the conversation view when you reply fits neatly too.


4. Social Dribble

Want to see the tweets in trending topics at a glance? tMetro picks up the latest trending hashtags and grabs tweets for all of them. EventWall lets you pick hashtags to search for so you can easily follow a popular topic like an Apple launch or an event. But if you want to turn Twitter into a screensaver, Social Dribble displays one tweet at a time for your chosen hashtag in a font large enough for you to see across the room.

5. Digital Dictator

The interface is a bit of a joke, but this is a handy app for using snapped next to the People app to post updates to more than one network at a time; Digital Director posts to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare (with your location) and Yammer.


6. NGReader

This isn't just the best Google Reader app we've found; it also has one of the nicest interfaces we've seen in a Windows 8 app. You can see your list of feeds, the stories in one or all your feeds and the selected story on screen all at once in a view that still manages not to look crowded (and tapping the story loads the original web page into the story pane very elegantly). Or you can flip into a tiled view with no interface, just headlines and pictures for a quick overview; tapping a tile brings up a half-screen pane showing the story in an interface that defines clean and clear. Plus it syncs well with your Google Reader account so you won't find yourself reading the same stories again on other devices.


7. ReddHub

Ribbit and Narwhal are both worth a look, but the best Reddit app for Windows 8 so far is ReddHub; you can even use it without logging into Reddit if you want to see the cat pictures without joining the debates. You can pin subreddits to the Start screen, submit and reply to links (with decent quoting) and use the Share charm to send links to Reddit or share links from Reddit but perhaps the best feature is the way it automatically resizes pictures to fit on screen. We've never thought of Reddit as beautiful but that's what ReddHub is. Also, prepare to lose hours reading…

8. Tumbukun

If you want to explore random Tumblrs or follow one in detail, Single Stream has a nice interface for doing that. But if you want to manage and update your own Tumblr as well as reading the Tumblrs you already follow, Tumbukun is a good – if rather primary coloured – app for that. You can like and reblog posts and write your own posts from scratch in the editor, although if you want to end an existing post you have to open it in the browser (annoying if you spot a typo right after you post).

9. IM+

The Messenger client for Windows 8 is very purple and uses a lot of space for just Messenger (and linked services like Yahoo and Facebook Chat). If you use other IM services, grab a copy of IM+ which covers all the main services including Google, Jabber and ICQ as well as the ubiquitous Messenger, AOL, Facebook, Skype and Yahoo plus international ones like RenRen and Yandex. The interface is fairly stark but there are plenty of handy options from blocking people you don't know to getting email alerts for messages you miss when you're offline.

10. Skype

The Windows 8 Skype app merges Skype and Messenger (and your Skype and Microsoft account); you see recent calls and chats made on multiple Skype devices, your favourite contacts and people you've talked to recently – or you can see your full address book as tiles. Plus you get Skype as another way to contact friends from inside the People app. If you prefer Google Voice for calls, check out Freetalk.

Friday, 9 November 2012

First Patch Tuesday coming next week for Windows 8, RT

Microsoft also patching prior versions of Windows 

 

 

Microsoft has issued advance notification for the first round of patches for Windows 8 and Windows RT, which are scheduled to roll out next Tuesday.
The so-called "Patch Tuesday" will be an important event for early adopters of Microsoft's Windows 8 and Windows RT, judging from a Security Bulletin Advance Notification the company issued Thursday.
On November 13, 2012, Microsoft intends to release the initial set of security updates to its brand-new Windows 8 products - including the tablet-centric Windows RT - as well as older versions dating back to Windows XP.

Security detail

Tuesday's updates are comprised of six security patches: Four critical and one each in the "important" and "moderate" categories.
While Windows itself is the primary target for the upcoming fixes, one also covers a flaw discovered in Internet Explorer 9, while another focuses on Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010, including Office 2008 and 2011 for Mac editions.
The patches aren't all about Windows 8: Windows 7, Vista and XP will also receive the security updates, including Server releases from 2003, 2008 and 2012.
For Windows users who have flipped on automatic updates, the patches will install themselves magically come Tuesday, but can be triggered manually via Windows Update on the Start menu

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac gets Windows 8-minded update

Tablet gestures, USB 3.0 and Retina display support 

 


Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac, the desktop virtualization software, welcomed a bunch of new updates Thursday, answering consumer calls for Retina display support plus adding features tailored just for Windows 8
The hallmark of Microsoft's new OS is that it's touch capable, meaning everyone from hardware makers to software manufacturers is scrambling to embrace the new possibilities.
Parallels is among the firms adapting to the W8 landscape, bringing tablet-touch gestures to the desktop mold with Thursday's update.
The company has also integrated a single tile to the Windows 8 interface for swift access to shared Mac apps.

Windows 8 upside

According to Parallels, its Desktop 8 for Mac software already has deep built-in integration between the Mac OS X and Windows 8 operating systems.
Match that with the new updates and users can use Mountain Lion's Dictation feature in Windows applications, plus add Windows apps to Launchpad and Mac Dock.
Retina display settings, as mentioned, nabbed an update that should make for easier screen optimization.
Parallels has thrown in full USB 3.0 support as well as increased virtual machine limits, letting users run larger apps.
Lastly, Desktop 8 for Mac users will find smoother transitions when entering and exiting Coherence mode thanks to the added USB 3.0 support.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

HP launches Connected Music to stream gigs to Windows 8

Plus some other download treats 

 


HP has revealed one of the ways it plans to set its Windows 8 devices apart from the pack: by streaming exclusive music shows to the new OS. The musical addition comes to HP's Windows 8 line-up thanks to a new partnership with Universal Music. The collaboration covers the whole of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and kicks off on all of HP's Windows 8 laptops, Windows 8 tablets, PCs and Ultrabooks in the region with an exclusive show from No Doubt later today.
As well as the live music, the partnership allows customers with new HP consumer PCs rocking Windows 8 free streaming access to Universal's full catalogue for 90 days.
If you've invested in a Windows 8 HP Spectre or HP Envy PC, you'll also get 10 free MP3 downloads per month for three months.

You can win, too

As well as streaming the shows live, HP and Universal will be giving users the opportunity to win trips to the private gigs as well as other exclusive music content from artists on Universal's roster, which includes Robbie Williams, Pixie Lott, Maroon 5, Drake and Frank Ocean.
It's not the first time HP has put its eggs in a musical basket; the company teamed up with Dr Dre's Beats brand to improve audio playback on its devices, and has also sealed deals with music streaming services

Monday, 5 November 2012

Why does Secure Boot need such draconian control?

Pros and cons of Secure Boot explored

 


There's a new unavoidable conundrum for free software, and it has a name that conjures up thoughts of either a totalitarian regime, or a decent way of ensuring that malevolent code doesn't slip in between the cracks in your BIOS and your operating system.
 It's called Secure Boot, and it's part of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface specification (UEFI) developed for the next generation of PCs.
Secure Boot is designed to only allow signed code to boot your machine, and only entities that hold a valid key can sign the code that will allow your machine to boot. If the code can't be verified, it won't be able to run, in which case you'll probably be presented with an updated version of the message you used to get when you accidentally overwrote the master boot record.
It means that the USB version of Ubuntu 10.10 you've been relying on to undelete your Windows files and repair over-written master boot records will no longer work - at least not on a new machine that conforms to the specification. But then you probably won't have MBRs any more, either. Windows 8, and machines that are sold and certified to run it, will need to use Secure Boot. This is a good thing in some ways. For Microsoft and for Windows users, it will mean that one of the most glaring loopholes in PC security can finally be sealed. Trojans won't be able to hide, and Microsoft will be able to control the entire software stack from the boot to the desktop.
This will make it a lot harder for anything to usurp the operating system before it reaches sentience, and it's something Apple has been able to do for a long time.
It's part of the reason why iOS hardware hasn't yet been compromised and why, despite everyone owning one, Apple's devices seem to be retaining their integrity (though now that I've written this, there's probably some terrible malware infecting every iOS device on the planet).

The downside 

But in other ways, this isn't a good thing. Apple controls every line of code that goes through the CPU, whether that's the bootstrap or any one of the thousands of apps vetted and sandboxed to run on its devices.
It does this on an Apple TV, its music players, its tablets and its phones. Its PCs famously only run on authenticated hardware too, and Apple wants to take the sandbox approach used in iOS development to the desktop.
It will do this by making the OS X App store as popular and as integral to OS X as possible, and by forcing developers into the sandboxed environment it is creating.
There are similarities between the level of control in Secure Boot and the direction Apple is headed in when it comes to running software on your hardware, and while this development will be good for consumer confidence, I don't think it's a good thing for freedom or for security.
It stinks of an easy option being made because, surreptitiously, it's an idea that also works to give Microsoft more control. There should be a more imaginative solution to these problems, because it's unclear what this going to mean for Linux - and more importantly, what is it going to mean for choice.
Do you really want an operating system vendor to have this level of control over your hardware? Apple customers can be excused somewhat because they buy a device that's been 'Designed by Apple in California', and they know what they're not getting. But the PC market is completely different, and in a good way.
There's no official platform, hardware or vendor. There's massive variety, and whether you're buying a laptop or putting your PC together from components, you have a great deal of choice.

Removing choice 

Big Linux distributions like Fedora and Ubuntu are making their own arrangements for procuring the credentials to allow booting - the price isn't prohibitive, and it's a system managed by Verisign, not Microsoft. But it's causing a split, not just because people can't agree on the best approach, but because it's already creating friction.
The Free Software Foundation, for instance, criticised Ubuntu's plans use an Ubuntu-specific key for what the FSF calls Restrictive Boot, as well as Canonical's intention to drop the Grub bootloader over concerns that using it will break the terms of the GPL used to distribute.
But what about the smaller distributions, updates, unofficial re-spins and personal redistribution to friends? I don't understand why Secure Boot needs to have such draconian control over the PC. Why can't it be used only when booting Windows, for example, and who's naive enough to think that the keys won't be cracked or stolen, giving hackers an even softer back door into Windows than before?

Secure Boot isn't a solution, it's about control and it's removing choice from a platform that has always flourished because of it. Whether that was Microsoft capitalising on the rise of IBM-PC clones, or Linux undercutting UNIX when it appeared on x86. And to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, those who sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.

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