Posts Tagged ‘ Windows 8 ’


Microsoft created a virtual assistant, made Windows free on small devices, and brought back the Start button – but it’s still playing catch-up

This has been a big week for Microsoft, with a flood of new announcements and changes of direction. Along with its Build conference, new CEO Satya Nadella has made a number of moves designed to reverse the public perception that the company is an aging also ran in the technology races.

The changes include
Rolling out its new Cortana digital voice assistant
Announcing that Windows would be free to manufacturers of devices with small screens
Coming out with “universal” Windows technology that helps developers build apps that run on multiple versions of Microsoft’s operating system
Reviving the popular “Start” menu for Windows 8.1

Though some of those moves are more important than others, they’re all good things. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll be enough to solve Microsoft’s problem of being seen as your father’s technology vendor. Here’s why:

Consumers vs. IT
As noted above, Microsoft’s issues right now revolve around how the company is perceived by consumers, and it’s unlikely that these initiatives will be enough to change those perceptions. While all useful, none of them are truly new. Instead, they’re playing catch-up to existing products and services from Microsoft’s competitors, perhaps with incremental improvements, or acknowledgements that previous Microsoft strategies simply weren’t working out.

Technology professionals will welcome these changes, but the IT community isn’t where Microsoft’s problems lie. In my experience,, enterprise IT generally likes and trusts the company. Microsoft’s challenges lie in convincing fickle consumers that it’s as cool and innovative as Apple and Google. I can’t imagine these moves being exciting enough to do that.

Better, but not better enough
While initial reports suggest that Cortana is a credible or even superior alternative to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, the fact remains that other companies pioneered the voice assistant idea. Cortana would have to be light-years better than its already-in-place rivals to truly give Microsoft a significant advantage.

Similarly, making Windows free for mobile devices may help spark more device makers to adopt the platform, but it’s not like it will make an immediate difference to consumers. Besides, Android is already free to license. Once again, Microsoft is playing catch up.

Universal Windows app development may pay off with more app choices in the long run, but it’s a pretty geeky concept for most end users. Finally, bringing back the Start menu will ease the transition to Windows 8 for some holdouts, but let’s face it, the cool kids aren’t really interested in desktop Windows at this point.

Put it all together and you’ve got a collection of tweaks and that could change the substance of what Microsoft does, but won’t dent the way most people think of the company.

More, please!
Still, there’s a big ray of hope here. The fact that Microsoft was willing and able to make these changes could signal that more are on the way. If Microsoft can keep shaking things up and continue to show that things really are different now, eventually people will begin to notice and perhaps change their minds about the company. And then it truly won’t be your father’s Microsoft any more.


 

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Tutorial on Using Windows 8

Written by admin
December 27th, 2013

Finding things and doing things from the new Windows 8 interface.

The first time I sat in front of the Windows 8 interface, I have to admit I was not thrilled; no Start button, I couldn’t find the control panel, things just weren’t what I was used to. That was over two years ago in the early adopter program for Windows 8, and now when I use Windows XP or Windows 7, I find it very inefficient to “have to click through so many menus” to find and do basic stuff.

The focus of this article is to share with you not simply how to make Windows 8 work like Windows XP/Windows 7 “the old way” (which I will go through and give you tips on how to find stuff and configure stuff to work the old way), but instead to really focus on how to do things better and more easily, effectively helping you shortcut the learning process that makes Windows 8 actually extremely easy and efficient to use.

Note: I’ve made a copy of this Tutorial available in PDF format so you can easily download and print/keep a copy, the PDF is up in my SkyDrive at https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=C99D5C694EA9E532!109&authkey=!ACC7qwl6DQle-SM

First of all, some basic terminology and “old way” of finding things so that I can take you through Windows 8 in a way you have learned how to use Windows. As I’m sure you are aware, Windows 8 no longer has the “Start Button” at the bottom left of the screen. Instead, Microsoft has the “Windows 8 Style Menu” (that they formally called the Metro style menu, until Microsoft was informed Metro Style was copyrighted, so they’re just calling it the Windows 8 Style menu). This is the menu that Windows comes up with.

If you are in the middle of an application (browser, Word, or any other app) and you want to get back to the menu, on a tablet, you press the “Home” button (usually a physical button on the bottom middle of the tablet device) or from a keyboard system, you press the “Windows-key.”

The “start button” for the most part (the thing that gives you access to the Control Panel, shutdown/restart, etc) is called the “Charm” and it pops up on a touchscreen tablet when you swipe your thumb from right to left on the right side of the screen (basically swiping the charm menu out from the right edge and into your screen of view). On a keyboard system, the charm menu pops up when you move the move cursor all the way to the right bottom of the screen.

From the charm menu, you can click on the top most icon (“search”) and it shows you all of your applications installed (this would be similar to doing a Start/All Programs in Windows 7). You’ll see the search bar (circled in red) and on the left you can scroll through all of your apps.

When you search/find the app you want or simply just scroll through the apps off this Charm/Search view, you can right-click the application, and at the bottom of the screen you are given options to Pin to Start, which adds the app to your Windows 8 Style Menu (THIS is a good idea as it puts a shortcut on your main menu screen so that every time you press the Home button or press the Windows-key, your apps show up on the main menu). You can also Pin to Start things like Control Panel, Command Prompt, Run, etc. I usually Pin everything I usually use/access to the Start which makes it easy for me to just go back to the main Windows 8 style menu to launch my apps!

Note: You’ll also see when you right click an app, you can also Pin to Taskbar (this pins to the old Windows 7 style taskbar at the bottom of the “Desktop” screen). I used to Pin stuff to the Taskbar, but now that more and more apps are coming out with Windows 8 menu icons (like Office 2013, SkyDrive, Box.net, Real Player, etc), I no longer find myself working from the older Win7 “taskbar.” This is one of those crutches you can continue to use, or just move into the 21st Century and start using the native Windows 8 menu.

Note: You’ll also see when you right click an app, at the bottom of the screen you can choose to run the app as an Administrator, uninstall the app, find the file/application location. These are helpful “things” we used occasionally in Win7 in the past that you now have shortcuts to run.

Another option off the Charm Menu (when you move your mouse cursor to the bottom right, or swipe your thumb right to left off the right edge of a tablet) is the Settings options (the bottom-most option on the charm) when you click on Settings…

…this is where a LOT of common things are found, such as Control Panel…

…Power (where you choose to shutdown/restart the computer/device), Network (where you select the WiFi connection you want to connect to), Change PC Settings (where you can change other things that are not in the Control Panel like desktop background, the photo you associate to your logon…

…add printers, etc).

Basically click on this Settings place and you’ll get to a lot of things you may normally access for configuration.

Okay, so with the basics under your belt, here’s where you learn to be a Windows 8 person and not a WinXP/Win7 person trying to run Windows 8. Instead of moving your cursor to pop up the charm to then click on Search to then find your application, or instead of moving your cursor to pop up the charm to then click Settings to then go to the Control Panel…you would do one of two things. If you are on a Tablet (or a keyboard-based Win8 device), ADD all of your apps, control panel, etc. to your Windows 8 style menu. It’ll take you a couple minutes to right click and “Pin to Start” all of your apps and utilities, but once they are pinned, you will almost never have to go fiddle with the charm thing. You’ll just press the Home button (on a tablet) or press the Windows key (on a keyboard-based system) and from the menu, click/tap the app and you run the app. To “switch” to another app, press the Home button or press the Windows key and click/tap the other app you want to run. All apps stay in memory; you just “toggle” between apps by simply pressing the Home button or pressing the Windows key to get to your apps.

Note: On a keyboard system, you can still Alt-Tab between apps, so toggling between apps is really easy. No more Start/Programs to get to applications. No need to Charm/Settings/Control Panel to get to the Control Panel if you simply pinned the Control Panel onto your Windows 8 style main menu!

So what happens if you want to access an app that you did not pin to your menu? On a keyboard-based system, at the Windows 8 Menu, just start typing a few letters of the app or function you want to do, and the “search” starts working immediately. For example, at the Windows 8 menu, if I start typing the letters n-o-t-e-p, the search bar will appear in the upper right and it’ll zero in on the Notepad application on the left.

Assuming the app is highlighted on the left, just press the Enter key any time and it’ll launch that app, no key clicking, nothing extra. If it pops up several apps with n-o-t-e-p, then either keep typing to zero in on “the app” you want and press Enter to launch, or you can arrow around/tap-touch/click on the app name on the left side to select “the app” you want. Fiddle with this, but effectively this is a very quick way to launch apps that may not be on your Windows 8 menu (yet).

If I start typing w-o-r-d, if I have Microsoft Word on the system, it’ll show me Word, or e-x-c-e-l will give me the option of launching Excel. Or even things like p-r-i-n-t-e-r will pop up under Settings the option for me to “Add a Printer,” or n-e-t under search settings will show me options like “Connect to a Network.”

Between Pinning things to Start and simply typing a few letters of something, I can launch apps, run utils, add printers, and do things on a Win8 system FASTER than what I thought was super efficient in WinXP or Win7. This was the trick to making Windows 8 easy to use.

Now that you have the navigation thing figured out, go to the Windows Store and download “apps” for your most common things you do, so things like there are Box.com apps, Acrobat reader apps, Picture viewers, Real Media Player app, etc.

Note: When you are in the store looking for apps, as much as you can scroll through the “Popular” apps or “Top free” apps it shows you on screen, if you wanted to “search” for an app to download, it’s not intuitive how to search for an app. The way to search for an app is when you are in the Store, pull up the “charm” thing (move mouse to the bottom right, or on a tablet, swipe your right thumb right to left to have the “charm” menu on the right side pop out and then use the “search” function in the charm). So just as you “searched” your apps earlier in this blog to find stuff on your local computer, when you are in the Store app and do a search, it’ll now search for apps in the Store (ie: searching for Acrobat, or Box, or Alarm Clock, or USA Today or the like).

When you install the app, it shows up on your Windows 8 Style menu. Simply clicking the app launches the application. However, from your Windows 8 Style menu, you might want to move your most commonly used apps to the left side of your menu so they are visible to you more frequently when you pop up the Windows 8 menu. To move the app with a mouse/keyboard, just click and hold down the mouse button down and “drag” the app to the left. On a touch tablet, you touch the app with your finger and then slide the app “down” and then to the left. This took me a while to figure out as I logically tried to push the app with my finger and immediately drag to the left which would tend to just launch the app. The trick is to touch the app with your finger, drag down a bit, then to the left to move it around! Move any non-commonly used apps from the left side over to the right side so they are out of your way.

Many times apps take up two spaces on the menu. I hate that. I’d rather have all of my apps as the small 1-square wide icon. All you do is right-click the app icon and at the bottom it’ll show you “larger” or “smaller” to make the icon a different size. Some have this option to make small icons larger. Oddly, you cannot tag multiple icons and make them all “Smaller” at the same time, you have to right click and “make smaller” one by one. It takes a few seconds to do, but buys you back more real estate on your Windows 8 menu to get more apps 1 click away to run. (Note: if you have a touch tablet, some of these first time configurations are BEST off doing with a mouse. I would usually plug a USB mouse into my tablet and run through some of these basic right-click configuration things, or drag/drop icon things as it is a LOT faster with a mouse. Everything “can” be done with your finger on a touch screen; it’s just not as efficient if you have a lot to configure/setup).

When you are in a Windows 8 app, you likely find there are no application configuration options, settings, things you can do with the app that you have in Windows XP or Windows 7 apps might have found as Tools/Options, or Options/Settings. With Windows 8, apps typically DO have configuration settings, you just have to know how to find them. Here’s the trick, app settings are in the Charm/Settings on Windows 8. Launch and sit in the Windows 8 application, and then with a touch tablet, swipe your right thumb from right to left off the left edge of the tablet screen, and press Settings; with a keyboard system, move your mouse cursor to the bottom right to pull up the Charm menu, then click Settings. With the Charm/Settings exposed, you’ll see configuration settings for that app!

Also, when you are in a Windows 8 application, there are frequently more options when you “swipe down” from the top of the tablet, or “swipe up” from the bottom of the tablet screen (or on a keyboard-based system, you position your mouse cursor at the top of the screen where a bar appears, or you move the mouse cursor at the top of the screen and right-click). As an example, when I’m in the Internet Explorer in Windows 8 and want to have the Address Bar appear, or I want to switch between IE “tabs”, things like the below pop up and give you additional application options…

For applications on your Windows 8 menu, there’s also this thing called “Live Tile,” in which the icon changes screens, like the way the CNN news live tile shows you the latest news and flips through things, or the Photos “Live Tile” flips through your pictures. You can turn Live Tile off (again, right click the icon, choose to turn Live Tile on/off). I find it annoying to have the thing flip through stuff when I don’t remember what icon is what, but it’s really your call.

To flip through running apps, you can Alt-Tab from a keyboard-based system, or from either a mouse or touch tablet, move the cursor to the upper left hand corner and little tiles of the running apps show in the left margin of the screen. You can right-click and “close” any of those running apps. I used to close apps all the time as I’m old school and after running an app and don’t need it anymore, I close it. But after a while, I just leave the apps running. They don’t take up processing power and with 4-8GB of RAM in my systems these days I have plenty of memory. Every now and then I reboot my device/tablet/system but on occasion, and I will run my finger to the upper left and choose apps to close.

And a hidden thing in the bottom left corner of the screen is a “start”-type button thing that when right clicked will show you a list of common tasks like Event Viewer, Disk Management, Command Prompt, Task Manager, Control Panel, Windows Explorer, Run, etc. It’s sometimes helpful to use that, although these days with most stuff on my Windows 8 Menu or I just type a few letters, I don’t bother with these various other menu things, but just FYI…

Logging Out of a system is done by click on your name from the Windows 8 Style menu as shown in the Figure here:

To shutdown or restart the computer, you can navigate the menus (like Charm, Settings, Shutdown), or what I did was create a Windows 8 style menu “app” that I simply click that’ll shut down my computer. You effectively create a “shortcut” on the “desktop” and then you “Pin to Start.” That’ll add the shortcut to your Windows 8 menu. Here’s what it looks like:

1) From the Windows 8 menu, click Desktop to switch to the old Windows 7 style desktop
2) Right click on the desktop and choose New | Shortcut
3) When prompted for the Location of the item, enter in c:\windows\system32\shutdown.exe /p as shown below, then click Next
4) For the name of the Shortcut, type in something like Shutdown, then click Finish
5) Right click on the shortcut that is on your desktop and choose Pin to Start

You now have an icon on your Windows 8 menu that allows you to shutdown your system with a single click.

You can change the command syntax in #3 above to restart the computer by making that c:\windows\system32\shutdown.exe /r or /h at the end (instead of /r) will hibernate a system.

Oh, and one more thing – so once I tricked out my Windows 8 menu with all of the icons I wanted, how do I transfer my icons, menu items, etc. to other systems? Microsoft came out with this thing called the User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) that is the new generation of “roaming profiles.” However, unlike roaming profiles of the past where EVERYTHING was moved from system to system whether you wanted it or not (ie: registry settings, apps, icons, junk on your desktop, etc), with UE-V profiles, you can specifically just note to “roam” your Windows 8 menu. Microsoft did a case study on my organization’s experience with UE-V [link download].

More information on UE-V is available on the Microsoft site. UE-V isn’t free; it’s part of what Microsoft calls its Desktop Optmization Pack (MDOP) that includes a bunch of other tools like RemoteApp, App-V (application virtualization), VDI, etc. Any case, you might find your organization owns MDOP as part of the Software Assurance for Windows client licensing, and if so, explore UE-V where you can roam your Win8 menu from your desktop, to your laptop, to your tablet, to your VDI guest session, to your Remote Desktop (terminal server) guest session, etc.

Hopefully, this is a place to start. I REALLY fought the whole Windows 8 menu thing for a long time, even filed several “bug reports” during the early adopter program noting that the whole Windows 8 menu was a major “bug,” although with a bunch of these tips and tricks I’ve noted in this article, I think you’ll find this whole Windows 8 menu thing to actually be a LOT easier to use and definitely faster than having to fiddle through a bunch of menus.

Questions and Answers
As the “comments” section below has gotten pretty massive, I wanted to create a little index of some of the more helpful questions/answers that people have asked about (and I have answered). Scroll down to the appropriate Comment/Reply below for more info:

Having Windows 8 “forget” the WiFi passcode and WiFi default connection so you can re-enter in a new key or choose a different WiFi default connection (see response to posting from “Sara” from January 5, 2013)
Accessing POP3 email from Windows 8 (see response to post from reedfunchap from January 4, 2013)
Re-associating Windows 8 with a new email / logon / local account without having to restore the whole new system (see response to post from catey44 from January 1, 2013)
Difference between a Windows 8 Store “App” and downloading an app from a vendor’s site (see response to post from Scott Schulte from January 1, 2013)
Disabling the “Charm” from popping out all the time see response to post from Jesse A Vasquez from December 23, 2012)
Adjusting the timezone in Windows 8 (see response to post from Sabir Ali from December 17th-ish, 2012)
Choosing a different “response” when a device is plugged into a system, ie: setting a new default action for a device (see response to post from Ken Reynolds from early December 2012)
As I respond to “comments” with information of value, I’ll continue to add the info in here for a quick summary…

Several other postings I’ve done on Windows Server 2012, Exchange 2013, Intune, System Center, etc. Just click the Next Article or Previous Article buttons on this blog post to get to other articles I’ve covered, or click here to see a listing of all of the various blog posts I’ve done over the years. Hopefully this information is helpful!


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Microsoft insists on selling us its Surface laptop/tablet hybrid, but it needs to take user preference into account.

With the announcement of the second version of Microsoft’s Surface tablet coming up later this month in New York City, this might be a good time to ask a pertinent question: What’s really important in a hybrid tablet?

Hybrid devices like the Surface and Surface Pro, the HP Split 13 x2, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11s, along with many others, fall somewhere between a classic iPad-style tablet and an Ultrabook-style laptop like the Macbook Air or Sony Vaio T Series. They are designed to work as both standalone tablets and keyboard-equipped laptops. The idea is that one device can take the place of both, saving money and the hassle of carrying and switching between multiple devices.

The Problem With Hybrids
It’s a nice theory, but the devices haven’t really caught on yet, and I’m pretty sure I know why.

The problem, as I see it, is that most of these hybrid devices are trying to too hard to do it all, and that’s pretty hard to pull off. Hybrid makers would do better to concentrate on one aspect of the device, and then make the other capability a nice add-on for extra functionality.

But here’s the kicker: The laptop, not the tablet, needs to be the core of this combo.

I’ve used many of these devices, including the Surface and Surface Pro and the HP Envy x2, as well as touchscreen “laptops” like Google’s Pixel Chromebook. They’re all interesting devices, but none of them is perfect. Working through each one’s compromises, though, made it abundantly clear that for the device to have a chance of replacing a separate laptop and tablet, it had to ace the laptop portion of the test.

A hybrid with a strong laptop function that also works as a mediocre tablet could still find a home in many business users’ kits. After all, having a second-rate tablet at hand is often better than not having a tablet at all.

But if the device can’t cut it as a laptop, all bets are off. What good is a hybrid laptop/tablet if you still have to lug along your laptop to do your real work?

A Tale of Two Surfaces
The differences between the two existing Surface models make the point obvious. The Surface is lighter and enjoys longer battery life than the Surface Pro, but its Quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 chip is underpowered for a laptop. Worse, relying on Windows RT means it may not run all the Windows programs a laptop would. It simply won’t replace a laptop for anyone who really needs one.

The Surface Pro, while bigger, heavier, more power-hungry and much more expensive, sports an Intel Core i5 chip like those in many traditional laptops. If you can live with its relatively small screen and those snap-on keyboards (I could), then it might actually be able to replace a standard laptop for you. And it’s still usable as tablet. Sort of, anyway.

And that’s what these hybrids are all about: Replacing what you absolutely need to have, and doing a good-enough job at the add-ons that would be nice to have. Or, that’s at least what they should be doing. Let’s hope the upcoming Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro do a decent job.


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As I wrote last week I have been on a quest for a new laptop. I quickly realized that convertibles were not yet ready for primetime in my price range (sub $1,000), so instead I decided that I would get a touchscreen model to fully utilize the Windows 8 interface. Finding the perfect machine for me took a lot of shopping, reading and testing, but I am happy to report I have a new machine that will hopefully last me for the next 18 to 24 months. I bought a VAIO Fit 14. Why did I choose this one? Let me tell you.

My VAIO sports an i7 Intel Core CPU, it has 8GB of RAM, a 750GB (would you believe I wrote MB at first and then realized I was using 2001 specs) traditional hard drive and an 8GB SSD. It also has a DVD-RW drive and a slick 14-inch touchscreen. The screen sports a 1600×900 HD display with an Intel HD 4000 on-board graphics system. It also has USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, Ethernet, wireless and an SD card reader. The keyboard is the Mac-like chicklets with backlighting. The computer is housed in a slick brushed aluminum case. Taken in total, it is a really nice package.

While the size is not quite netbook or as small as some of the other Ultrabooks I looked at, it is much smaller than my previous Toshiba 15.6-inch screen model. The brushed aluminum gives it a rich, solid look. The keyboard is a pleasure to type on compared to my mushy Toshiba keyboard.

Most of all, the touchscreen is a pleasure. I have used a tablet and my Samsung Galaxy S4 has a big screen, but using Windows 8 on a screen this size is really nice. The live tiles are really live. But just scrolling web pages with your finger is a hell of a lot easier than using a mouse or touchpad. I really like the ease of touchscreen and don’t know if I will ever be able to go back to a mouse or touchpad. It is a game changer. Before you knock Windows 8, you really need to play with it on a touchscreen to appreciate it.

With the touchscreen I am using the tile interface much more than my desktop, compared to my previous Windows 8 machine. I also have downloaded several apps from the still underpopulated Windows app store.

This is the third time I have loaded a Windows 8 machine up with all of the software I use. By now I am pretty good at it. It only took me most of the first night I had the machine and it was fully loaded. Using Windows Office 365, which you can install on up to 5 machines, is great. I gave my old machine to my wife and leaving Office on there while installing it on my new machine still leaves me with three more installs. I didn’t get any extra software on my laptop. Besides Windows 8 it came with some Sony software for movies and sound, but that was about it.

I bought my new laptop in a Sony store. Yes, that is right, the Sony store in the mall. I looked at all of the computer-type stores around town, looked online, but at the end of the day the Sony store had the best selection of Sony machines and the prices were the same as online and even cheaper than what I saw in the computer stores. In many of the computer stores they were showing older models that were a little cheaper, but the Sony store had the newest models at a good price. I was able to get mine for $999.99. Right at my $1,000 dollar limit.

I have been using it now for about four or five days. I love it. I know a lot of people knock Sony for not coming up with anything groundbreaking since the first Playstation or the Walkman before that, but Sony is the original Apple. Its products are designed well, the quality is evident throughout, and they just look nice.

I was hesitant because I remember when VAIOs were plagued with problems. But the reviews that I have seen recently seem to be very positive for the most part. At this point I would give the machine a high recommendation.

For me, though, the clincher was the reaction of other geeks. When they saw the machine, I got lots of oohs and aahhs. They liked using the touchscreen and really liked the look of my new computer. Already, two of my friends have said they are going out to get the same one.

I would have liked a total SSD drive, but I need more than the 128GB that comes in this class of machine. A friend of mine recently bought a laptop with twin 512GB SSD, but it set him back a pretty penny and it was not a touchscreen. For me, this hybrid of a traditional big HD with a small SSD works just fine.

So, now that I only paid a thousand dollars for my laptop, I have $500 set aside for my tablet. My HP Touchpad is beyond repair. I think the hard drive gave out or something. Anyway, I almost bought the new Sony tablet, but chickened out when I read a review that said it was slightly slower than some of the leading players in its class. So my quest for the next tablet goes on. But my search for the perfect laptop is over for now anyway.


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Windows Blue can be previewed in June, but Microsoft said it heard our cries for a Windows 8 Start button. A Start button “might be helpful,” but Microsoft is trying to understand “what people are really asking for when they’re asking for that.”

Microsoft sold more than 100 million licenses for Windows 8, keeping up with Windows 7 sales at the six-month mark. In June, people who have Windows 8 will be able to preview Windows Blue.

“We recently surpassed the 100 million licenses sold mark for Windows 8,” stated Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Officer Tami Reller. “This number includes Windows licenses that ship on a new tablet or PC, as well as upgrades to Windows 8. This is up from the 60 million license number we provided in January.” She admitted that “Windows 8 is a big, ambitious change,” and “change takes time” to accept, but Microsoft believes “the Windows Blue update is also an opportunity for us to respond to the customer feedback that we’ve been closely listening to since the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT.”

Microsoft heard our outcries for a Windows 8 Start button but is trying to understand what people are really asking for when they’re asking for thatLack of a Start button is the biggest Windows 8 criticism for users on non-touch devices. Reller told The Verge, “We have heard that, we definitely have heard that and taken that into account. We’ve really also tried to understand what people are really asking for when they’re asking for that.”

Seriously? Hmm, it seems pretty obvious that the outcries for Windows 8 to include a Start button really mean that customers are asking for the Start button. That would lead to a Start menu. Windows 8 is not user-friendly on a PC or laptop. The lack of a Start button, Start menu and the ability to boot straight to Windows are the “loudest” complaints.

“We knew there would be a learning curve with Windows 8,” admitted Microsoft VP for Windows Julie Larson-Green at the Wired Business Conference. She is in charge of bringing Windows to the “mobile age” and may even be a candidate to eventually follow Steve Ballmer as CEO of Microsoft. She hasn’t ruled it out and said to ask her again in a year.

For now, Larson-Green is the head of Windows Engineering and is “tweaking the design and layout of Windows to free it from the desktop and allow people to better incorporate it into their lives through mobile devices.” She explained that Windows 8 was designed for mobile, compared to Windows 7, which was “optimized for the laptop.” She insisted that people want to be mobile, yet added that Microsoft is “not going to be stubborn” when it comes to Blue.

ZDNet suggested that “New Coke, like Windows 8 for Microsoft, was total market failure.” Coca-Cola was wise enough to switch back and give people what they wanted, Classic Coke. Steven Vaughan-Nichols asked, “Does Ballmer have the guts to admit he made a mistake and give users what they clearly want?”

Neither Larson-Green, nor Reller, would confirm that the Start button is coming back. Larson-Green stated, “The Start Button might be helpful,” yet she pointed out that the Start Button is there now, but “basically hidden. Some would like it showing up on the screen all the time.” Although there have been “meaningful discussions” about bringing it back, that doesn’t imply that Microsoft will bring back the “old Start Menu.”

Mary Jo Foley pointed out that the Windows Blue preview, which will be made available in June, happens to coincide with Microsoft’s Build 2013 Conference; it will be held June 26 – 28 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Microsoft planned to “share updates and talk about what’s next for Windows” at Build. Blue is expected to be named Windows 8.1.

Reller told The Verge that Microsoft is interested in 7- and 8-inch form factors for Blue. “We’ve made sure from the product to our pricing and offerings we are supporting 7- and 8-inch devices specifically.” Yet Blue, according to Reller, “does a nice job of optimizing for those small screen form factor sizes.”

Yeah, well, don’t forget that we aren’t all using those small screens at all times. Some of us will continue to work from a non-touch device and we flipping want Windows 8 to stop being so unfriendly to PC and laptop users. It’s not about accepting change; it’s about usability.

 


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Also workers want Microsoft Surface; more storage for Surface

Microsoft had big plans for an exclusive party in New York City to celebrate the availability of its Surface Windows 8 Pro ultrabook, but the ongoing snowstorm named Nemo nixed the event.

Microsoft says it’s canceled the gathering of some selected customers nearby the New York City Best Buy store in Union Square where the devices are scheduled to go on sale at midnight. Even the head of the Surface project for Microsoft, Panos Panay, has backed out, according to All About Microsoft blog by Mary Jo Foley.

Microsoft had to use Best Buy as a venue for the launch because it has shut down its Times Square store, apparently finding that other sites – mostly malls – are a better bet for its retail outlets.

Workers want Surface
Thirty-two percent of workers surveyed by Forrester say they would be interested in getting a Windows Surface tablet for work. Of the same 10,000 polled 26% say they want an iPad, although 12% already had them, the study says. Only 2% had a Surface.

More storage for Surface
Microsoft was widely criticized for labeling its Surface Pro tablets as having 64GB and 128GB of memory when actually a good portion of each model’s disk space was unavailable to users. While admitting that more than a quarter of the 128GB version and nearly a third of the 64GB Surface is unavailable, Panay says things have gotten better.

“Initial reports out regarding available disk space were conservative (eg. 23GB available on 64GB and 83GB available on the 128GB system),” he says in a chat on Reddit, “however our final production units are coming in with 6-7GB additional free space.”

Panay doesn’t explain where that extra space comes from. He also says the reason for a large chunk of that space being tied up is that the devices ship with recovery space allocated by default, leaving customers to free it up if they choose.

8 got game
Valve polls users of its Steam multi-player software platform monthly to find out what operating system they are using and Windows 8 did pretty well, appearing on 8.04% of its community’s machines in January. That’s up 1.71%from December. That’s enough to rank Windows 8 fourth behind other two versions of Windows 7 and Windows XP.


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Microsoft has no reason to save Dell

Written by admin
February 2nd, 2013

If I kicked in a few billion dollars for anything, I’d want something in return. But does Dell have anything Microsoft would want?

By now, you’re probably familiar with the reports that Michael Dell is looking to take his company off the public stock market and make it private again. The deal would be the largest leveraged buyout since the economy hit the skids in 2008, and one of the biggest ever. Because of this, the current problem won’t be easy to solve.

As it looks now, Michael is basically going to have to empty his piggy bank, which means his 16% stake in the company, financing by private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners, and arrange another $15 billion in debt financing with banks.

Microsoft is also involved, reportedly ready to contribute $2 billion or more of equity in the form of a preferred security. Other reports put Microsoft’s contribution at between $1 and $3 billion.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft’s role is proving to be a sticking point, which should surprise no one. You don’t hand over $2 billion and let a company go on its way. Word to the WSJ is the key players in the deal still need to work out the ways Microsoft would and would not be involved in Dell’s business after a deal closes.

Looking things over, it would seem there is more downside for Microsoft and Dell than there is upside. The great upside potential for both companies, as I see it, is that they would be the closest thing to an Apple-like scenario of merging hardware and software under one roof. It won’t be as tightly knit as Apple, but it will be closer than it is now.

That said, I’m not sure how much tighter they can get. Dell and Microsoft MCTS Certification are already close and have great integration between hardware and software. There’s not much more the two need.

At the same time, Microsoft risks alienating or damaging its relationships with other OEMs, especially HP and the surging Lenovo. We’ve been through this argument before when talking about Microsoft MCITP Training making prototype smartphones and tablets. It’s risky business, but at the same time, where else would the OEMs go?

And, on that note, will a meddling Microsoft put an end to Dell’s Linux efforts? Dell offers Red Hat and SuSe enterprise servers and is working with Canonical to certify Ubuntu on the PowerEdge servers. What will become of that?

Dell has sworn off smartphones for now, having gotten burned on some earlier models like the Streak a few years back. But Microsoft is anxious for OEM partners. Will it lean on Dell to offer Windows Phone 8 devices? If so, how will Nokia, Samsung, HTC and LG take it, if they aren’t the supplier through Dell?

Taking all of these headaches into account, it’s hard for me to see an upside. In this case, Microsoft might want to just wash its hands of the whole thing. Or give a loan with no expectations of influence, although I kind of doubt that would happen.

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Windows 8′s new Start screen evokes many emotions from customers, with most falling on either the love or hate side with almost no middle ground. However, one thing that can be agreed on is that the screen has no shortage of information. Users are bombarded with messages from Facebook, email, weather and countless other endlessly updating tiles. Now Microsoft has added one more to the perhaps overloaded mix.

Today the company announced it is pushing an update to the SkyDrive app for Windows 8 that will bring the live tile features to the cloud storage and sharing platform.

In an announcement earlier today Microsoft’s Mike Torres outlined the new feature. “The SkyDrive app from the Windows Store will start showing you notifications on the live tile when you add new files to your SkyDrive”. In other words, this should not be a constantly flickering icon that will be in your face. Torres went on to explain that “whenever you add new files to SkyDrive, the app tile shows you relevant details. If you add a document, you’ll see the document name, along with when it was added, and what folder it’s in. If you add photos, the tile gives you a nice view of those photos”.

I honestly like live tiles. When I walk away from my computer I switch to the Start screen so that when I return, or even pass by, I see relevant information. Its easier than clicking on different tabs. I also realize that I very well may be part of a minority in saying that.

As for the update, it is promised to be rolling out today — apparently on a gradual basis, so don’t panic if you don’t have it yet. I don’t either. Hopefully soon.


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Why I abandoned Windows Phone 8

Written by admin
January 7th, 2013

I recently acquired a Nokia Lumia 920 to experiment with Windows Phone 8. But a few weeks in, I’m already back to my Android-based device.

A few months ago, I forced myself to switch to Windows 8 on my desktop system (and laptop) and ended up liking the operating system very much. Once I got used to the quirks and garish look of the new Start screen and learned many of the shortcuts built into Windows 8, I found myself enjoying the operating system and was more than pleased by its myriad of enhancements and performance improvements.

I initially made the switch to Windows 8 because I wanted to fully immerse myself into the OS before formulating any strong opinions. Considering how much I ended up liking Windows 8 on my desktop, I thought I would conduct a similar experiment with my smartphone. For the last few years, I have been deeply entrenched in the Android ecosystem and have experience with a multitude of devices. I enjoy installing custom ROMs on the devices and have experimented with countless apps and utilities. At this point my smartphone is an integral part of my day-to-day computing, and I’ve grown fond of a handful of apps and the convenience of always having my inboxes and access to the web in my pocket.
I picked up a [Windows Phone 8-based Nokia Lumia 920 and was initially impressed. The hardware itself is excellent. The Lumia 920’s camera is top notch. The device is obviously well-built. The screen looks great, and navigating through Windows Phone 8 was smooth as silk. At first, my Android-based device (currently a Samsung Galaxy Note II) remained my daily driver. I kept the Lumia 920 handy until I felt I was comfortable using its email client, browsing the web. But eventually I customized the Start screen to my liking and got a good feel for what Microsoft and Nokia were trying to accomplish with the phone. I installed only a couple of apps and got comfortable with them too.

After a couple of weeks and a good initial impression, I decided to dive in head-first and make the Lumia 920 my daily device. At first, I was happy with the decision. I dug the Live Tiles and the Lumia 920 never lost its luster; it’s a great phone.

But as I started to install more and more apps and dig deeper into the Windows Phone App Store, I was regularly disappointed. There seemed to be three kinds of apps available for Windows Phone 8:

Apps specifically designed for the OS that showed signs of greatness
Quick-and-dirty ports of apps obviously designed for other platforms
Kludges that were nothing more than wrappers for mobile websites

The apps designed with Windows Phone 8 in mind were mostly great. I especially liked the IMDB app, which blows away its counterparts on other mobile platforms. The Facebook app was also very fast and responsive, but it wastes a TON of screen real estate with larger-than-necessary fonts in the navigation menu and wasted white space in the feed. There were times when I could only see a single post in my news feed because of all the wasted screen real estate. I’m not sure what the app developers were thinking with that one.

Then there were the obvious ports that just didn’t look right on Windows Phone 8. One in particular, Words with Friends, comes to mind. I know it’s an older title and games aren’t a necessity, but I enjoy playing Words with Friends; it’s a nice break in the day. Anyway, fonts (like the one used to display the score) were nearly illegible and the game is just plain broken. As of a couple of weeks ago, you couldn’t use words with the letter “Z” and the main screen wouldn’t update when it was your turn. You’d think with the amount of complaints logged in the app store someone at Microsoft would fix the game, but no such luck.

And then there’s apps like YouTube, which seem to be little more than wrappers for the YouTube mobile site. Minimal effort was put into optimizing the app for Windows Phone 8, and it shows.

As you probably guessed by now, my little experience was a failure. I’m back to my Android device and don’t plan to give Windows Phone 8 another try for a few months. If Microsoft wants people to give Windows Phone 8 serious consideration, they’ve got to get serious about offering quality apps for the platform. It’s not just about the number of available apps, it’s about the quality, and at this point in time Windows Phone 8 trails in both departments.


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Tablet smackdown: iPad vs Surface RT in the enterprise

Written by admin
December 11th, 2012

IPads are already making their way into businesses via bring-your-own-device efforts with Microsoft Surface RT tablets hoping to follow suit as employees lobby for their favorite devices. But which one makes more sense from an IT perspective?

Read Network World’s other tech arguments.

The two products are roughly similar in price ($500), run touch-centric operating systems, are highly portable and weigh about a pound and a half.

The two most significant differences are that Surface RT comes with both a keyboard and a version of Microsoft Office – Office 2013 Home & Student 2013 RT – which expand the potential corporate utility of the devices.

Third-party keyboards are available for iPads as are third-party versions of Office-compatible productivity suites but they represent more work for IT. A rumor says Microsoft is working on a client that will allow accessing Office from an iPad through Microsoft’s service Office 365.

Office on Surface RT has its limitations. It lacks Outlook but includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and the Surface RT version requires a business license in order to be used for work. Still, having it installed out of the box is a leg up and gives workers the opportunity to tap into the productivity suite. The keyboard is a big plus.

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When it comes to numbers of applications iPad has far more than Surface RT, and neither one has the number of business applications that support traditional Windows operating systems. Surface RT is a Windows operating system that can’t run traditional Windows apps except for the Office suite specifically crafted for the platform.

Instead, Surface RT has its own class of applications called Windows Store apps, mainly because they can only be bought from the Window Store. They are tailored for touch tablets and must be vetted by Microsoft before they get into the store’s inventory.

They can be developed using XAML, with code-behind in C++, C#, or Visual Basic, and Microsoft has a provision for sideloading custom business apps to Surface RT without submitting them first to Microsoft. Even so, that’s a lot of work to get apps natively on the devices.

Both iPads and Surfaces support virtual desktops, which goes a long way toward making traditional apps available on them. Hosted virtual desktops (HVD) can be costly, Gartner says in a report called “Bring Your Own Device: New Opportunities, New Challenges”. Its research found that “shifting to an HVD model increases the onetime costs per device by more than $600.” Plus proper licensing of iPads for business use is complicated, the report says.

Managing Surface RT is possible via Windows cloud-based management Intune and Exchange ActiveSync for messaging. IPad also supports Exchange ActiveSync. Third-party mobile device management platforms can configure and update iPads as well as monitor compliance with corporate policies. They can also wipe or lock lost and stolen machines. OS X server can do all this as well.

Surface RT comes with security features iPad doesn’t. These include both hardware-based secure boot that checks that the system hasn’t been tampered with and also trusted boot that fires up anti-malware before anything else. That way malware can’t disable the anti-malware before it gets the chance to do its job. The same hardware security module can act as a smartcard for authentication, and Surface RT has full disk encryption.

The iPad has disk encryption but lacks the secure boot features of Surface RT. Its secure boot chain is based on read-only memory and its hardware security module doesn’t do double duty as a smartcard.

NOTE: There is another version of Surface that runs on x86 processors and supports any application that Windows 7 supports. It’s not available until next year, but is actually a tablet-sized full Windows laptop with all the touch capabilities of Surface RT.

That device would beat iPad hands-down if it cost the same, but it is likely to cost hundreds of dollars more than Surface RT.


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Will fix first bugs in company’s newest browser, again address Windows 8 and Windows RT flaws

Microsoft today announced it will deliver seven security updates next week to patch 11 vulnerabilities, including the first that apply to Internet Explorer 10 (IE10), the company’s newest browser.

As it did last month, Microsoft will also patch Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Server 2012, its new desktop, tablet and server operating systems.

Five of the seven updates will be marked as “critical,” Microsoft’s highest threat ranking, while the remaining pair will be labeled “important,” the Redmond, Wash. developer said in an advance warning published today.

Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security, put the IE update atop his tentative to-do list. Others did, too, including Paul Henry, a researcher with Arizona-based Lumension.

In an email Thursday, Henry said that the bugs in IE9 and IE10 — the only versions directly affected — were “use-after-free” memory management vulnerabilities.

By the IE update’s critical label, it’s likely that the bug(s) can be exploited by hackers using “drive-by” attacks, those that execute as soon as an unsuspecting user surfs to a malicious or compromised website.

Although IE9 and IE10 — the latter is the latest in Microsoft’s browser line and so far has shipped in final form only for Windows 8, Windows RT and Server 2012 — will be patched, other still-supported editions will get fixes as well.

“Microsoft is making ‘defense-in-depth’ changes to the other browsers,” said Storms of IE6, IE7 and IE8.

Microsoft has infrequently issued code changes meant to beef up security of a product even though it’s not technically vulnerable to attack.

“The general idea is that the vulnerability is on a new platform, and that during its due diligence, Microsoft found the same [flawed] code in older platforms,” said Storms. “But because they couldn’t actually execute the vulnerability on those [older versions], they’re making changes just in case something in the future is found that can exploit the bug.”

This will be the second month running that Microsoft patches IE: In November, it quashed three critical bugs in IE9. At the time, Storms argued that Microsoft had probably also found one or more of those flaws in IE10, but had managed to fix them before it shipped the browser on Oct. 26.

Other updates will tackle one or more critical vulnerabilities in Windows — including one applicable to Windows 8 and Windows RT; at least one critical bug in Word 2003, 2007 and 2010 on Windows; and some critical flaws in Exchange 2007 and 2010.

That last caught Storms’ eye.

“Exchange is one of the most highly-critical business applications, and it’s not something you want to shut down, especially in December,” Storms said.

But he wasn’t ready to tell companies to pass on the Exchange update. “They may well release some easily-performed mitigations next week,” Storms said, referring to Microsoft’s habit of offering work-arounds to keep software secure until a patch can be applied. “We’ll have to wait and see. This one may have the typical risk-reward equation…. Is it worth the risk to patch or better to leave it alone?”

If companies apply the Exchange update and break their mail systems, especially during a very busy time of the year for retailers, it could be chaos.

Henry, who regularly talks with Microsoft after they’ve issued their advance notification, said that the Exchange update will address new vulnerabilities in the Outside In code libraries that Microsoft licenses from Oracle.

Exchange uses the libraries to display file attachments in a browser rather than to open them in a locally-stored application, like Microsoft Word. In the past, Outside In bugs have resided within the Exchange code base that parses those attachments.

Oracle patched two low-threat Outside In bugs in a massive Oct. 16 security update.

If Microsoft ships all seven of the planned updates — occasionally it holds one back at the last minute — the company will have issued 83 security bulletins in 2012, a 17% drop from 2011′s 100 updates, said Storms.

The individual patch count, however, will slip just 5%, with 196 in 2012 compared to 206 the year before.

Microsoft will release the seven updates at approximately 1 p.m. ET on Dec. 11.

 


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Is Windows 8 really a sitting duck for malware?

Written by admin
December 7th, 2012

A report claims so, but given Microsoft’s attempts to harden the OS, that seems dubious.

A new report released by the security firm Websense Security Labs claims Windows 8 will become one of the top three most-hacked platforms in 2013 because of its newness and Microsoft’s efforts to encourage development for the radical new platform.

Yeah, that didn’t make sense to me, either.

It took a chat with the folks at Websense to make, er, sense of what they were saying, but I do see their point. With a new operating system on the market that will hopefully gain significant ground and Microsoft attempting to woo developers like never before, there’s lots of potential for exploit.

“Microsoft’s efforts to produce an extremely developer friendly platform will be embraced by the cybercriminal community, and vulnerabilities will be exploited,” the company said in its 2013 Security Predictions. “If they deliver on their promise, the rate of threat growth on Microsoft mobile devices will be the highest.”

That’s a big “if.” Android, another platform Websense sees as a major target in 2013, is far more insecure. But in the case of Windows, there is, for lack of a better word, an installed base of malicious code and talent who know their way around Windows operating systems, and they are going to bring that to bear on Windows 8.

They will try to get around security systems that have been tightened up. Good luck with that. BitDefender recently ran tests on Windows 8 and found that a system with just Windows Defender, which is hardly a suitable security program, stopped 85% of the malware samples used in the tests.

The bad guys aren’t just about code; they understand how people write code and how malware works. So it’s not just malware samples, it’s accumulated and applied knowledge that they bring to Windows 8, says Websense. And given the common code between PC Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, malware could easily move across platforms.

The other two platforms that will be big targets in 2013 are also mobile operating systems: Android and iOS. According to the firm, Android will be targeted because of its open nature. Websense expects attack techniques used on the desktop platform to continue to migrate over to Google’s operating system.

iOS should be a lot more stable due to its closed nature. However, with the growing popularity of iOS devices in professional environments, IT should consider this a prime platform for targeted attacks, Websense said. And most malware that does exist for iOS targets jailbroken phones.

Websense made seven predictions for 2013, most of them centered around cybercriminals attacking mobile devices. You can find the entire report, in PDF format, here. Free registration is required to view it.

 


 

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Tutorial on Using Windows 8

Written by admin
November 29th, 2012

The first time I sat in front of the Windows 8 interface, I have to admit I was not thrilled; no Start button, I couldn’t find the control panel, things just weren’t what I was used to. That was over two years ago in the early adopter program for Windows 8, and now when I use Windows XP or Windows 7, I find it very inefficient to “have to click through so many menus” to find and do basic stuff.

The focus of this article is to share with you not simply how to make Windows 8 work like Windows XP/Windows 7 “the old way” (which I will go through and give you tips on how to find stuff and configure stuff to work the old way), but instead to really focus on how to do things better and more easily, effectively helping you shortcut the learning process that makes Windows 8 actually extremely easy and efficient to use.

First of all, some basic terminology and “old way” of finding things so that I can take you through Windows 8 in a way you have learned how to use Windows. As I’m sure you are aware, Windows 8 no longer has the “Start Button” at the bottom left of the screen. Instead, Microsoft has the “Windows 8 Style Menu” (that they formally called the Metro style menu, until Microsoft was informed Metro Style was copyrighted, so they’re just calling it the Windows 8 Style menu). This is the menu that Windows comes up with.

If you are in the middle of an application (browser, Word, or any other app) and you want to get back to the menu, on a tablet, you press the “Home” button (usually a physical button on the bottom middle of the tablet device) or from a keyboard system, you press the “Windows-key.”

The “start button” for the most part (the thing that gives you access to the Control Panel, shutdown/restart, etc) is called the “Charm” and it pops up on a touchscreen tablet when you swipe your thumb from right to left on the right side of the screen (basically swiping the charm menu out from the right edge and into your screen of view). On a keyboard system, the charm menu pops up when you move the move cursor all the way to the right bottom of the screen.

From the charm menu, you can click on the top most icon (“search”) and it shows you all of your applications installed (this would be similar to doing a Start/All Programs in Windows 7). You’ll see the search bar (circled in red) and on the left you can scroll through all of your apps.

When you search/find the app you want or simply just scroll through the apps off this Charm/Search view, you can right-click the application, and at the bottom of the screen you are given options to Pin to Start, which adds the app to your Windows 8 Style Menu (THIS is a good idea as it puts a shortcut on your main menu screen so that every time you press the Home button or press the Windows-key, your apps show up on the main menu). You can also Pin to Start things like Control Panel, Command Prompt, Run, etc. I usually Pin everything I usually use/access to the Start which makes it easy for me to just go back to the main Windows 8 style menu to launch my apps!

Note: You’ll also see when you right click an app, you can also Pin to Taskbar (this pins to the old Windows 7 style taskbar at the bottom of the “Desktop” screen). I used to Pin stuff to the Taskbar, but now that more and more apps are coming out with Windows 8 menu icons (like Office 2013, SkyDrive, Box.net, Real Player, etc), I no longer find myself working from the older Win7 “taskbar.” This is one of those crutches you can continue to use, or just move into the 21st Century and start using the native Windows 8 menu.

Note: You’ll also see when you right click an app, at the bottom of the screen you can choose to run the app as an Administrator, uninstall the app, find the file/application location. These are helpful “things” we used occasionally in Win7 in the past that you now have shortcuts to run.

Another option off the Charm Menu (when you move your mouse cursor to the bottom right, or swipe your thumb right to left off the right edge of a tablet) is the Settings options (the bottom-most option on the charm) when you click on Settings…

…this is where a LOT of common things are found, such as Control Panel…

…Power (where you choose to shutdown/restart the computer/device), Network (where you select the WiFi connection you want to connect to), Change PC Settings (where you can change other things that are not in the Control Panel like desktop background, the photo you associate to your logon…

…add printers, etc).

Basically click on this Settings place and you’ll get to a lot of things you may normally access for configuration.

Okay, so with the basics under your belt, here’s where you learn to be a Windows 8 person and not a WinXP/Win7 person trying to run Windows 8. Instead of moving your cursor to pop up the charm to then click on Search to then find your application, or instead of moving your cursor to pop up the charm to then click Settings to then go to the Control Panel…you would do one of two things. If you are on a Tablet (or a keyboard-based Win8 device), ADD all of your apps, control panel, etc. to your Windows 8 style menu. It’ll take you a couple minutes to right click and “Pin to Start” all of your apps and utilities, but once they are pinned, you will almost never have to go fiddle with the charm thing. You’ll just press the Home button (on a tablet) or press the Windows key (on a keyboard-based system) and from the menu, click/tap the app and you run the app. To “switch” to another app, press the Home button or press the Windows key and click/tap the other app you want to run. All apps stay in memory; you just “toggle” between apps by simply pressing the Home button or pressing the Windows key to get to your apps.

Note: On a keyboard system, you can still Alt-Tab between apps, so toggling between apps is really easy. No more Start/Programs to get to applications. No need to Charm/Settings/Control Panel to get to the Control Panel if you simply pinned the Control Panel onto your Windows 8 style main menu!

So what happens if you want to access an app that you did not pin to your menu? On a keyboard-based system, at the Windows 8 Menu, just start typing a few letters of the app or function you want to do, and the “search” starts working immediately. For example, at the Windows 8 menu, if I start typing the letters n-o-t-e-p, the search bar will appear in the upper right and it’ll zero in on the Notepad application on the left.

Assuming the app is highlighted on the left, just press the Enter key any time and it’ll launch that app, no key clicking, nothing extra. If it pops up several apps with n-o-t-e-p, then either keep typing to zero in on “the app” you want and press Enter to launch, or you can arrow around/tap-touch/click on the app name on the left side to select “the app” you want. Fiddle with this, but effectively this is a very quick way to launch apps that may not be on your Windows 8 menu (yet).

If I start typing w-o-r-d, if I have Microsoft Word on the system, it’ll show me Word, or e-x-c-e-l will give me the option of launching Excel. Or even things like p-r-i-n-t-e-r will pop up under Settings the option for me to “Add a Printer,” or n-e-t under search settings will show me options like “Connect to a Network.”

Between Pinning things to Start and simply typing a few letters of something, I can launch apps, run utils, add printers, and do things on a Win8 system FASTER than what I thought was super efficient in WinXP or Win7. This was the trick to making Windows 8 easy to use.

Now that you have the navigation thing figured out, go to the Windows Store and download “apps” for your most common things you do, so things like there are Box.com apps, Acrobat reader apps, Picture viewers, Real Media Player app, etc.

Note: When you are in the store looking for apps, as much as you can scroll through the “Popular” apps or “Top free” apps it shows you on screen, if you wanted to “search” for an app to download, it’s not intuitive how to search for an app. The way to search for an app is when you are in the Store, pull up the “charm” thing (move mouse to the bottom right, or on a tablet, swipe your right thumb right to left to have the “charm” menu on the right side pop out and then use the “search” function in the charm). So just as you “searched” your apps earlier in this blog to find stuff on your local computer, when you are in the Store app and do a search, it’ll now search for apps in the Store (ie: searching for Acrobat, or Box, or Alarm Clock, or USA Today or the like).

When you install the app, it shows up on your Windows 8 Style menu. Simply clicking the app launches the application. However, from your Windows 8 Style menu, you might want to move your most commonly used apps to the left side of your menu so they are visible to you more frequently when you pop up the Windows 8 menu. To move the app with a mouse/keyboard, just click and hold down the mouse button down and “drag” the app to the left. On a touch tablet, you touch the app with your finger and then slide the app “down” and then to the left. This took me a while to figure out as I logically tried to push the app with my finger and immediately drag to the left which would tend to just launch the app. The trick is to touch the app with your finger, drag down a bit, then to the left to move it around! Move any non-commonly used apps from the left side over to the right side so they are out of your way.

Many times apps take up two spaces on the menu. I hate that. I’d rather have all of my apps as the small 1-square wide icon. All you do is right-click the app icon and at the bottom it’ll show you “larger” or “smaller” to make the icon a different size. Some have this option to make small icons larger. Oddly, you cannot tag multiple icons and make them all “Smaller” at the same time, you have to right click and “make smaller” one by one. It takes a few seconds to do, but buys you back more real estate on your Windows 8 menu to get more apps 1 click away to run. (Note: if you have a touch tablet, some of these first time configurations are BEST off doing with a mouse. I would usually plug a USB mouse into my tablet and run through some of these basic right-click configuration things, or drag/drop icon things as it is a LOT faster with a mouse. Everything “can” be done with your finger on a touch screen; it’s just not as efficient if you have a lot to configure/setup).

When you are in a Windows 8 app, you likely find there are no application configuration options, settings, things you can do with the app that you have in Windows XP or Windows 7 apps might have found as Tools/Options, or Options/Settings. With Windows 8, apps typically DO have configuration settings, you just have to know how to find them. Here’s the trick, app settings are in the Charm/Settings on Windows 8. Launch and sit in the Windows 8 application, and then with a touch tablet, swipe your right thumb from right to left off the left edge of the tablet screen, and press Settings; with a keyboard system, move your mouse cursor to the bottom right to pull up the Charm menu, then click Settings. With the Charm/Settings exposed, you’ll see configuration settings for that app!

Also, when you are in a Windows 8 application, there are frequently more options when you “swipe down” from the top of the tablet, or “swipe up” from the bottom of the tablet screen (or on a keyboard-based system, you position your mouse cursor at the top of the screen where a bar appears, or you move the mouse cursor at the top of the screen and right-click). As an example, when I’m in the Internet Explorer in Windows 8 and want to have the Address Bar appear, or I want to switch between IE “tabs”, things like the below pop up and give you additional application options…

For applications on your Windows 8 menu, there’s also this thing called “Live Tile,” in which the icon changes screens, like the way the CNN news live tile shows you the latest news and flips through things, or the Photos “Live Tile” flips through your pictures. You can turn Live Tile off (again, right click the icon, choose to turn Live Tile on/off). I find it annoying to have the thing flip through stuff when I don’t remember what icon is what, but it’s really your call.

To flip through running apps, you can Alt-Tab from a keyboard-based system, or from either a mouse or touch tablet, move the cursor to the upper left hand corner and little tiles of the running apps show in the left margin of the screen. You can right-click and “close” any of those running apps. I used to close apps all the time as I’m old school and after running an app and don’t need it anymore, I close it. But after a while, I just leave the apps running. They don’t take up processing power and with 4-8GB of RAM in my systems these days I have plenty of memory. Every now and then I reboot my device/tablet/system but on occasion, and I will run my finger to the upper left and choose apps to close.

And a hidden thing in the bottom left corner of the screen is a “start”-type button thing that when right clicked will show you a list of common tasks like Event Viewer, Disk Management, Command Prompt, Task Manager, Control Panel, Windows Explorer, Run, etc. It’s sometimes helpful to use that, although these days with most stuff on my Windows 8 Menu or I just type a few letters, I don’t bother with these various other menu things, but just FYI…

Logging Out of a system is done by click on your name from the Windows 8 Style menu as shown in the Figure here:

To shutdown or restart the computer, you can navigate the menus (like Charm, Settings, Shutdown), or what I did was create a Windows 8 style menu “app” that I simply click that’ll shut down my computer. You effectively create a “shortcut” on the “desktop” and then you “Pin to Start.” That’ll add the shortcut to your Windows 8 menu. Here’s what it looks like:

1) From the Windows 8 menu, click Desktop to switch to the old Windows 7 style desktop
2) Right click on the desktop and choose New | Shortcut
3) When prompted for the Location of the item, enter in c:\windows\system32\shutdown.exe /p as shown below, then click Next

4) For the name of the Shortcut, type in something like Shutdown, then click Finish
5) Right click on the shortcut that is on your desktop and choose Pin to Start

You now have an icon on your Windows 8 menu that allows you to shutdown your system with a single click.

You can change the command syntax in #3 above to restart the computer by making that c:\windows\system32\shutdown.exe /r or /h at the end (instead of /r) will hibernate a system.

Oh, and one more thing – so once I tricked out my Windows 8 menu with all of the icons I wanted, how do I transfer my icons, menu items, etc. to other systems? Microsoft came out with this thing called the User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) that is the new generation of “roaming profiles.” However, unlike roaming profiles of the past where EVERYTHING was moved from system to system whether you wanted it or not (ie: registry settings, apps, icons, junk on your desktop, etc), with UE-V profiles, you can specifically just note to “roam” your Windows 8 menu. Microsoft did a case study on my organization’s experience with UE-V [link download].

More information on UE-V is available on the Microsoft site. UE-V isn’t free; it’s part of what Microsoft calls its Desktop Optmization Pack (MDOP) that includes a bunch of other tools like RemoteApp, App-V (application virtualization), VDI, etc. Any case, you might find your organization owns MDOP as part of the Software Assurance for Windows client licensing, and if so, explore UE-V where you can roam your Win8 menu from your desktop, to your laptop, to your tablet, to your VDI guest session, to your Remote Desktop (terminal server) guest session, etc.

Hopefully, this is a place to start. I REALLY fought the whole Windows 8 menu thing for a long time, even filed several “bug reports” during the early adopter program noting that the whole Windows 8 menu was a major “bug,” although with a bunch of these tips and tricks I’ve noted in this article, I think you’ll find this whole Windows 8 menu thing to actually be a LOT easier to use and definitely faster than having to fiddle through a bunch of menus.

Several other postings I’ve done on Windows Server 2012, Exchange 2013, Intune, System Center, etc. Just click the Next Article or Previous Article buttons on this blog post to get to other articles I’ve covered, or click here to see a listing of all of the various blog posts I’ve done over the years. Hopefully this information is helpful!


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More than 1,000 devices certified for Windows 8 starting at less than $300.

Windows 8, Microsoft’s bold new operating system, officially debuted this morning at a coming out party in New York City highlighted by a display of the wide variety of devices on which it can run – from PCs to tablets to hybrids to laptops to notebooks.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says Windows 8 embraces so many different devices that it redefines the PC by giving what had been considered limited or specialized devices the full functionality of traditional desktops with the addition of touchscreen support.

“Windows 8 shatters perceptions of what a PC now really is,” he says. “It pushes the limits of what a PC is.”

Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft’s Windows division, heralded the improved performance of Windows 8 devices over Windows 7 and touted the wide range of new hardware that will support it, starting at less than $300.

He says that vs. Windows 7, battery life is 13% longer and boot time is 36% faster – and that’s running it on a PC certified for Windows 7. With Windows 8 the improvements are even greater, he says.

While the operating system is designed for touch, Sinofsky says it works equally well on machines with keyboard and mouse, and any application that runs on a certified Windows 7 machine will also run on Windows 8.

Sinofsky also promoted so-called “modern” applications that are designed to take advantage of the touch user interface and that are available via the Windows Store, an online market that opens at the same time Windows 8 becomes available.

A separate version of Windows 8 called Windows RT runs only on ARM processors to promote battery life and to enable smaller, thinner, lighter devices, he says. These devices only support modern applications; traditional Windows 7-supported apps will not run.

The idea is that Windows RT will only run applications that have been approved by Microsoft and that are downloaded from the Windows Store. Microsoft also controls updates, with the idea that over time security and performance of the machines will remain high, he says.

While the Windows Store has thousands of modern applications ready to go, the inventory pales compared to the hundreds of thousands available for Apple iOS or Android devices. But Sinofsky claims there are more applications in the Windows Store than there were in any similar application store when it opened.

Microsoft staffers demonstrated a wide range of Windows 8 machines including desktops, all-in-ones, tablets, convertibles, hybrids, laptops and notebooks. One device from Asus that was highlighted at the press conference has a detachable keyboard that contains a separate battery that extends the life of the system to 18 hours. It’s also available with a 4G wireless service from AT&T.

MICROSOFT SURFACE
Microsoft mentioned its own Surface devices that compete with its partners’ machines, but downplayed their importance. One was pulled off a shelf holding a half dozen other devices built by Microsoft partners and demonstrated briefly in between descriptions of other portables.

Surface represents Microsoft’s foray into selling the accompanying hardware — a bold design of a thin tablet with an add-on tropical colored cover that doubles as a keyboard to turn the device into a notebook.

There are two major versions of Surface – Surface Pro and Surface RT. Surface Pro is based on x86 processors and carries the full Windows 8 operating system that can support traditional applications as well as modern applications designed specifically for Windows 8 and catering to its touch centricity.

Later during the launch press conference, demonstrations of machines made for Windows 8 showed how a touchpad on a laptop could be touched and swiped with the same gestures that would be used on a touchscreen, and Windows 8 would respond.


Windows 8 was also significant in the redesign of Office applications, the latest versions of which are optimized for touch, Sinofsky says.


 

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FAQ: The ins and out of Windows 8 pricing

Written by admin
October 15th, 2012

What’s it cost to whom and for what

Last week, Microsoft and its retail partners revealed a few more details about Windows 8 pricing, clarifying what the Redmond, Wash., developer has purposefully left muddy in the months leading up to its release next week.

Windows 8 may come in fewer flavors than its predecessors, but pricing seems as confusing as ever, in large part because of Microsoft’s secrecy — this cycle it’s dribbled out information so slowly it’s driven some analysts half-crazy — with a dash also due to a record-setting discount for upgraders through the end of January.

We’ve tried to answer the most-pressing questions, filled in the blanks as best we could, and thrown up our hands when we had no more of a clue than you.

If Microsoft answers the open questions — it again declined to do so last Friday — we’ll be back with an updated FAQ.

Can I score a free copy of Windows 8? Yes, you can, but the OS is good for just 90 days.

The free trial of Windows 8 Pro RTM (release to manufacturing) can be downloaded from this Microsoft website. But when the 90 days are up, you have to replace the trial with a purchased copy or another operating system, and reinstall all applications, other software and files.

Sorry, I like OSes that stick around. What else do you have? How about $14.99? That’s the price of a Windows 8 Pro upgrade from Windows 7 for anyone who purchases a new PC between June 2, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2013.

To get the cut-rate upgrade, PC buyers must register at the Windows Upgrade Offer site.

Thanks, but that doesn’t work for me. How much for my best deal? For most Windows users, the $39.99 Windows 8 upgrade, which Microsoft will kick off Oct. 26 and offer through Jan. 31, 2013, will be the most economical.

First announced July 2, the upgrade — from XP, Vista or Windows 7 to Windows 8 Pro — will be available only as a download at that price. It’s unclear if Microsoft will open registrations or pre-orders for the download before Oct. 26, but it definitely will go live on Windows.com that Friday.

At Windows.com, look for something called “Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant,” a tool that checks your PC to ensure it will run the OS, takes your order, then kicks off the download and installation process.

I want something I can hold in my hands. How much for an upgrade on DVD? Microsoft will sell you one of those for Windows 8 Pro at the discounted price of $69.99.

From the hints on Newegg.com, one of the online retailers also selling the SKU, or “stock-keeping unit,” the price for a Windows 8 Pro upgrade on physical media will jump to $199.99 after Jan. 31, 2013.

In other words, just like the $39.99 online upgrade offer, you should strike quickly.

The $30 surcharge for a DVD may seem steep, but Microsoft has actually done a little bit better by customers than rival Apple: In 2011, Apple sold a USB drive with OS X 10.7, also known as Lion, for $39 more than the download price. Apple didn’t even bother to reprise the offer this year for Mountain Lion.

[Note: The Windows 8 Pro online upgrade lets you create a bootable installation DVD or USB drive, so unless you have a very slow Internet connection and want the media to save hours of dial-up agony, that's a less expensive way to get a DVD.]

I run Windows in a virtual machine (VM) on my Mac. What’s the damage? Looks like $99.99 for Windows 8, $139.99 for Windows 8 Pro, is the cheapest bet for now.

Those are Newegg.com’s pre-sale prices for what Microsoft is now calling “System Builder” — formerly known as “OEM” — an edition aimed at small-scale or homebrew PC makers, as well as users who want to run the OS in a virtual machine or in a dual-boot setup on a Mac or PC.

System Builder includes a license that allows for installation in a virtual environment, but offers one-time-use only. “We grant you the right to install [Windows 8] … as the operating system on a computer that you build for your personal use, or as an additional operating system running on a local virtual machine or a separate partition,” states the end-user license agreement (EULA) we’ve seen. “If you want to use the software on more than one virtual computer, you must obtain separate copies of the software and a separate license for each copy.”

I already run older Windows in several virtual machines. How much do I pay? For each VM you upgrade — up to a max of five per person — you pay $39.99 to migrate to Windows 8 Pro from XP, Vista or Windows 7 through Jan. 31, 2013.

You upgrade the VMs (or partitions, like a second boot partition on a PC, or Boot Camp on OS X) the same way someone upgrades a physical machine: by running the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant on Windows.com.

Any chance that the System Builder SKUs will fall in price after Oct. 26? We don’t think so.

The list prices for the Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional System Builder equivalents are $128 and $179, respectively, according to Amazon. Not surprisingly, Amazon’s prices are less: $92 and $128, or close to the Windows 8 System Builder prices on Newegg.

In other words, unless Microsoft drastically reduces the list price of System Builder, the numbers on Newegg are probably the discounted prices.

How much to upgrade a new Windows 8 system to Windows 8 Pro? $69.99 during the discount stretch.

Microsoft’s calling this the “Windows 8 Pro Pack;” It consists of an activation code that turns Windows 8 into Windows 8 Pro. The Pro Pack is analogous to the in-place upgrades the company touted as “Anytime Upgrades” for Windows 7.

Newegg said the Pro Pack’s $69.99 price was a $30 savings over the regular price of $99.99, with the latter presumably the upgrade’s eventual list price. If so, that’s a $10 increase over the Windows 7 Home Premium Anytime Upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, which costs $89.99.

It may be cheaper to buy the new PC with Windows 8 Pro already installed, if the option’s offered. Sony, for example, charges an additional $50 to bump up a pre-ordered Windows 8 notebook to Windows 8 Pro. (Dell, on the other hand, adds the same $70 as the price for the Windows 8 Pro Pack to juice a Windows 8 machine to Windows 8 Pro.)

What about Windows 8? What will it cost to upgrade to the consumer version, rather than Windows 8 Pro We don’t know because Microsoft’s not saying.

Among the blank spots in an imaginary Windows 8 pricing chart are those for the entry-level edition. So far, Microsoft’s only talked about upgrades to Windows 8 Pro.

The company may be waiting until Oct. 26 to divulge a price for a Windows 8 upgrade, or dawdling until early next year, after the discounted $39.99 Windows 8 Pro upgrade offer expires.

Or the omission may mean more. It’s possible that Microsoft won’t even bother to sell an upgrade to Windows 8, leaving that SKU to OEMs to pre-install on their least-expensive consumer PCs, and to the System Builder line.

Clues to that include: The silence surrounding Windows 8, the Oct. 26 availability of Windows 8 Pro Pack, and the absence of a multi-license SKU for Windows 8. Microsoft sold one dubbed “Family Pack” for $150 that was able to upgrade three PCs to Windows 7 Home Premium, but Microsoft’s said nothing of something similar for Windows 8.

If the sans-Windows 8 alternative is what Microsoft chooses, it will be even more important for upgraders to move before Jan. 31, 2013, when the $39.99 Windows 8 Pro upgrade expires.

Minus a Windows 8 upgrade option, the choices would narrow to a $199.99 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro, or one of the System Builders, which don’t provide support from Microsoft. Neither sounds very attractive.

What if I hate Windows 8? How much will it cost me to get Windows 7 back? Depends.

If it’s an old PC you’ve upgraded to Windows 8 Pro, it should cost you nothing except a lot of time. You’ll need to reinstall the previous OS from your media — which is why it’s a good idea to make sure you have it before you try Windows 8 — and all your applications, as well as restore your files and other data from a backup.

But if you bought a new PC with the new OS already installed, you may need to pony up. Only Windows 8 Pro comes with “downgrade” rights, and then only to Windows 7 Professional, so you’ll need media for the latter to use the license that came with the machine.

If you don’t have that media, or have Windows 8 on the PC, you’ll have to fork over for a new Windows 7 license. Your best bet: A System Builder-like “OEM” Windows 7 license. As we said earlier, Amazon sells that for $92 for Windows 7 Home Premium, $128 for Windows 7 Professional. On Newegg, the prices are $99.99 and $139.99, respectively.

 

 

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Developers: Up with iOS, down with HTML5

Written by admin
September 27th, 2012

A survey of developers shows that their interest is in iOS, while Android and Windows 8 get mixed reviews

A just-released survey of more than 5,000 developers put another massive dent in in HTML5′s reputation as a development platform for mobile apps, locking in its reputation as one of the most overhyped technologies in years. Apple, though, still shines in the hearts of developers. Android? Not so much.

In the most recent quarterly survey of its own developer base, mobile application development platform vendor Appcelerator found widespread dissatisfaction with nearly every key feature of HTML5. (IDC conducted the actual survey.) Developers dissed the user experience, performance, monetization, fragmentation, distribution control, timeliness of new updates, and security. That covers pretty much the whole HTML5 app gamut.

[ Go deep into HTML5 programming in InfoWorld's "HTML5 Megaguide Deep Dive" PDF how-to report. | Then understand the issues surrounding HTML5 today in InfoWorld's HTML5 Deep Dive PDF strategy report. ]
 

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It’s worth remembering that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said that his biggest mistake to date was betting so heavily on HTML5, and so he’s moving the company to native code. Whether that’s really a blow to open standards isn’t yet clear. But given the enormous gravitational pull of Facebook, there’s no doubt that the move blew a huge hole in the future of HTML5. (My colleague Andrew Oliver has a very different view, saying Facebook blew it by not hiring enough top-notch developers.)

The only HTML5 features that earned a thumbs-up were cross-development capabilities and immediate updates, liked by a few points more than 80 percent of the respondents.

Michael King, Appcelerator’s head of developer relations, says there is a future for HTML5, but it will be with a limited class of applications. Things like forms and other apps with a low degree of interaction are appropriate, he says, but not immersive and interactive apps. They demand a native environment to have the performance, look and feel, and easy access to native features.

Apple, yes; Android and Windows 8, maybe
Apple maintained its dominance at the top of developers’ lists for mobile app development this quarter, with 85 percent of developers very interested in building apps for iOS smartphones and 83 percent similarly focused on iPad apps.

The survey was conducted in August, weeks before iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 were launched, so developers were unaware of the Apple Maps app fiasco. At the time of the survey, the iOS features developers said they were most looking forward to using were Apple Maps (37 percent) and enhanced Siri (22 percent). Despite the Apple Maps problem, “the massive numbers of applications that interface with or use Google Maps, such as Yelp and Facebook, will now rapidly migrate to Apple’s new mapping function, leaving Google a much smaller audience for Google-sponsored ads and Google information,” King says.

Android, though, did not fare well. Developer interest as measured by the survey has declined for three of the last four quarters. It appears that just under 66 percent of developers are very interested in developing for the Android tablet platform, and 76 percent for the Android smartphone platform. Google’s inability to curtail Android’s massive fragmentation, even with “Ice Cream Sandwich,” has forced developers to focus on the iPad as the leading tablet platform and on the iPhone first for smartphone apps,” King says.

Speed Testing Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion

Written by admin
September 24th, 2012

Speed Testing Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion
The two latest and greatest desktop operating systems are now ready to go head-to-head against each other in performance tests.

Windows 8 has reached its “release to manufacturing” (RTM) state, and Apple’s Mac OS X Mountain Lion has been out for a few months, so now’s the time to pit the two new operating systems’ performance against each other. Even though each OS is in its final state, there are still a few caveats: the tests were run on an Apple laptop, since it’s not feasible to install Mountain Lion on anything but Apple hardware. This means that Apple gets the advantage of tuning the OS precisely to the hardware configuration. Windows, by comparison, must run on a huge array of different hardware combinations from many vendors.

I tested by installing 64-bit Windows 8 RTM on a 13-inch MacBook Pro (a 2012 2.9GHz Core i7 with 8GB RAM) using Boot Camp. The setup process was pretty smooth, though I’d imagine that not all the Windows hardware drivers were perfectly tuned for the MacBook. Nevertheless, the system was snappy and responsive running Windows 8. And as you’ll see in the results below, the emerging OS can hold its head high on several measures of performance.

Mac OS X Mountain Lion Windows 8 RTM
Startup (seconds, lower is better) 26.9 19.6
Shutdown (seconds, lower is better) 5.5 11.9
CD Ripping in iTunes (min:sec – lower is better) 3:42 3:47
Geekbench 2.2 64-bit score (higher is better) 8706 10068
Geekbench 2.2 32-bit score (higher is better) 7918 7549
SunSpider in Firefox 15 (ms, lower is better) 167 158
SunSpider in Safari/IE10 156 105
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 in Firefox 15 (ms, lower is better) 2510 2301
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 in Safari/IE10 (ms, lower is better) 2427 4352
Psychedelic Browsing in Firefox (RPM, higher is better) 1062 5709
Psychedelic Browsing in Safari/IE10 (RPM, higher is better) 3645 7224
Large file folder copy (seconds, smaller is better) 23.2 26.6
*Green cells denote the winner.

Startup and Shutdown
One of the most important gauges of speed in a computer is how long it takes to start up and be ready. This is probably one of the main reasons the iPad is so successful—it’s just there and ready to go, no need to wait for a boot process, usually. Not quite as critical, but nevertheless important is the time it takes the computer to shut down. I tested start by timing from the click of the disk boot choice to a functional home screen, with no wait spinner spinning.

For shutdown, I started the timer at the moment of hitting the Shut Down choice, and stopped it when the laptop’s fans went silent. I went through iterations for each, throwing out the high and low results and averaging the remaining five. The surprise here is that Windows 8 starts up significantly faster on a MacBook than OS X Mountain Lion does, though the latter shuts down in half the time of Windows 8. But note that hitting the power button puts Windows 8 into sleep mode, which happens pretty much instantly.

iTunes Ripping Test
A popular app used in both OSes is Apple’s iTunes, and I used this to measure how long ripping a CD (Buena Vista Social Club, to be exact) took in each OS. This test didn’t show much difference between the two OSes, with Lion coming in a scant 5 seconds quicker. It took Windows 8 3:47 to rip the 60-minute disc to 256Kbps M4A tracks, while Lion took 3:42. This one is pretty much a wash, though OS X gets a tiny advantage.

 

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Synthetic Benchmark: Geekbench
Geekbench 2.3, from Primate Labs, is a cross-platform benchmark that runs a series of geeky tests like prime number, Mandelbrot, blowfish encryption, text compression, image sharpen and blur, and memory stream test. The subtests comprise both single- and multithreaded applications. The results are normalized so that a score of 1,000 is the score a Power Mac G5 1.6GHz, so a higher number is better.

I ran both the 32-bit and 64-bit tests in Geekbench three times and took the average for each OS. Though it’s mostly designed to test hardware, it can at least show us whether the OS is getting in the way of accessing the hardware quickly. The result for this benchmark surprised me, with Windows 8 in 64-bit mode taking the crown, delivering a score of 10068 compared with Mountain Lion’s 8706. In the 32-bit version of the test Mac OS S Mountain Lion was actually a bit faster, with a score of 7918 compared with 7549 for Windows 8.

Web Benchmarks
To test with a few popular Web browser benchmarks, I installed Mozilla Firefox on both operating systems so that the browser engine would be less likely to determine the results. But since a case could be made for using the OS’s native browser, I ran the benchmarks in Safari on OS X Mountain Lion and Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8, too.

The SunSpider JavaScript benchmark is a heavily used measure of a browser’s JavaScript performance, put out by the WebKit organization, which, by the way, makes the rendering engine for Apple’s Safari. Results on this test was comparable with all setups, hovering in the high 150s—with one big exception: It was significantly faster on Internet Explorer under Windows 8, which consistently delivered results closer to 100 milliseconds.

Mozilla’s Kraken 1.1 is another JavaScript benchmark, which the open-source browser maker says represents a more realistic workload. Both OSes were close when running Firefox, with a slight advantage to Windows 8. But when running the native browsers, Windows 8′s IE10 fell far behind Mountain Lion’s Safari 6.

A final browser benchmark, Psychedelic Browsing, from Microsoft’s IE Testdrive site, is designed to test graphics hardware acceleration of Web content. Microsoft has done a ton of work on this acceleration technology, and it shows in the results, using both Firefox and the native browsers.

Mac OS X Mountain Lion Windows 8 RTM
Startup (seconds, lower is better) 26.9 19.6
Shutdown (seconds, lower is better) 5.5 11.9
CD Ripping in iTunes (min:sec – lower is better) 3:42 3:47
Geekbench 2.2 64-bit score (higher is better) 8706 10068
Geekbench 2.2 32-bit score (higher is better) 7918 7549
SunSpider in Firefox 15 (ms, lower is better) 167 158
SunSpider in Safari/IE10 156 105
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 in Firefox 15 (ms, lower is better) 2510 2301
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 in Safari/IE10 (ms, lower is better) 2427 4352
Psychedelic Browsing in Firefox (RPM, higher is better) 1062 5709
Psychedelic Browsing in Safari/IE10 (RPM, higher is better) 3645 7224
Large file folder copy (seconds, smaller is better) 23.2 26.6
*Green cells denote the winner.

File Copy Test

For this one, I took a folder containing 20 files weighing in at 636MB, and simply timed how long it took to copy it from a fast USB thumb drive (a 16GB Corsair Flash Voyager GT) to the MacBook running Windows 8 and then Mountain Lion. As when I compared Windows 7 with Windows 8, the operation took a few seconds longer in Windows 8. A Microsoft representative explained to me that this is because “in Windows 8, each file transfer is scanned to ensure there is no malicious code, which takes a little longer but is a better and safer experience for users.”

Windows 8 vs. Mountain Lion
This is hardly an exhaustive comparison of every kind of performance measurement you could want to compare operating systems. And indeed with (in most cases) different software running on each, it’s hard to make direct, apples-to-apples comparisons. But the results do show that, say what you like about features and interface, Windows 8 can hold its head high next to Apple’s newest desktop operating system when it comes to performance. In particular, I was impressed with how quickly Windows 8 started up on my test MacBook, and with its remarkably faster Geekbench (64-bit) and SunSpider (in IE10) performances. And anecdotally, Windows 8 feels snappy. Speed is one thing you won’t have to worry about with Microsoft’s next big operating system.
 

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Mountain Lion, as you’d expect, doesn’t feel like any kind of slouch running on a Core i7 MacBook, either. And you could argue that you’d expect the rich environment of OS X to require more processing than the primary-color simple interface of Windows 8. This is especially true for startup, which has to load more of the rich OS’s features. Mountain Lion’s shutdown time is half that of Windows 8 running on the same machine, and on an independent JavaScript benchmark, Mozilla Kraken, its Safari browser beats Windows 8′s IE10. Finally, Mountain Lion’s faster file-transfer time will be magnified for truly large amounts of data, too.

For more Mountain Lion and Windows 8 comparisons, read Windows 8 vs. OS X Mountain Lion: Feature by Feature, and for deep dives into the operating systems’ features, read our review of Mountain Lion and hands on with Windows 8.

Attack Surface Analyzer can identify multiple classes of weaknesses introduced by newly installed programs

IDG News Service – Microsoft has released Attack Surface Analyzer 1.0, a free tool that can help system administrators, IT security professionals or software developers understand how newly installed applications can affect the security of a Windows OS.

The tool scans for classes of known security weaknesses that can be introduced by the files, registry keys, services, Microsoft ActiveX controls and other parameters created or changed by new applications.

It can identify executable files, directories, registry keys, or processes with weak access control lists (ACLs). It can also flag processes that don’t mark memory regions as non-executable (NX), which could result in the bypassing of the Data Execution Prevention (DEP) Windows security feature. The tool also identifies services with fast restart times that could be attacked to bypass address space layout randomization (ASLR), as well as changes to the Windows Firewall rules or Internet Explorer security policies.

 

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These and many other weaknesses that the tool identifies can facilitate various types of attacks, including some that could allow attackers to gain control of the system, execute malicious code or gain access to sensitive data.

The tool is already being used by internal product groups at Microsoft and a public beta version has been available to download since January 2011. The 1.0 stable version released on Thursday contains significant performance enhancements and bug fixes.

“Through improvements in the code, we were able to reduce the number of false positives and improve Graphic User Interface performance,” the Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) team said in a blog post. “This release also includes in-depth documentation and guidance to improve ease of use.”

The tool has 32-bit and 62-bit versions and supports Windows Vista and newer versions of Microsoft’s OS, including Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 that hit the RTM (release to manufacturing) milestone on Tuesday.

Attack Surface Analyzer 1.0 is not compatible with the beta version of the tool, so existing users need to perform new “clean” system and post-application-installation scans — known as the baseline and product scans respectively.

Attack Surface Analyzer requires .NET Framework 4 or higher present on the system in order to compare and analyze scan results. However, performing the actual scans can be done from the command line interface without .NET Framework.

Microsoft announces new hardware for Windows 8

Written by admin
July 30th, 2012

The new mice and keyboard will be released around the time of the Windows 8 launch

Microsoft on Monday announced new keyboards and mice optimized for tablets and laptops running the Windows 8 operating system.

The new devices are lighter and more mobile, and will work with tablets running the latest versions of Windows 8 and RT, which are due for release on Oct. 26. The new mice and keyboards are wireless and connect to devices using Bluetooth, cutting the dependence on USB ports.

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Microsoft’s new mice and keyboard will be released around the time of the Windows 8 launch, Microsoft said in a statement. The company will release its Surface tablet with Windows at around the same time.

The $79.95 Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard is a full-size keyboard designed for tablet users, and has specific hot keys for Windows 8 that provide quick access to search, system settings and the Metro user-interface in the Windows 8 OS. It uses Bluetooth to communicate and comes with a cover that when used turns off the keyboard to increase battery life. The cover can be used as a tablet stand, as well.

The $49.95 Microsoft Sculpt Mobile Keyboard, has a six-degree curve, much like Microsoft’s ergonomic keyboards. The keyboard has many of the specific Windows 8 hotkeys, and offers 10 months of battery life on active usage.

Earlier this year, Microsoft’s Hardware division announced that the Touch Mouse would get updated to include new touch functionality specifically designed for Windows 8, including support new gestures that will help make navigating easier.

The Microsoft Sculpt Touch Mouse, also priced at $49.95, has a four-way touch scroll strip, which makes it easier to navigate through the Windows 8 start screen. By swiping the finger on the panel, users can easily navigate through multiple panels on the Start screen. The mouse also enables easier navigation through documents. Similarly, the $79.95 Microsoft Touch Mouse incorporates finger swipes and movements to navigate screens, switch applications or zoom in and out.

The $69.95 Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse can shut down when a tablet goes into sleep mode, extending the battery life of the mouse. It is smaller than a traditional mouse, and is designed for mobile use as it can fit into a pocket and work on any surface. The device provides “four-way” touch scrolling, Microsoft said.

The new accessories will work with devices based on Intel processors, and also with Windows RT devices based on ARM processors. The new keyboards and mice are also compatible with Windows 7, Vista and Mac OS, though some advanced features may not work, according to Microsoft.

TechEd conference finds Microsoft pitching hard on Windows 8, cloud OS

ORLANDO, Fla. — Microsoft wants its customers to know two things: that Windows 8 is ready for the enterprise and that it has products and services for creating flexible hybrid cloud environments — a cloud OS.

Those are the two big messages the company pushed at its TechEd North America 2012 conference here, where some parts of those ideas resonated with customers, but others were met with skepticism.

“Move development to the cloud? That’s a pretty good idea,” said Andre Beaupre, president of Groupe ABI, a data center consultancy in Montreal. He was embracing Microsoft’s spin that Windows Server 2012 plus its upgraded cloud offering, Azure, equals a cloud operating system that can boost capacity on the fly as needed for developers.

Microsoft also says its cloud OS can front-end applications while keeping data those apps use safe at corporate sites, and that it supports moving entire virtual servers — including Linux servers — in and out of Azure.

MORE FROM TECHED: Windows Server 2012 isn’t available yet, but it’s powering Bing

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TEST YOURSELF: The Windows 8 Quiz

As for Windows 8 being ready, its radical shift toward touch and Metro-style, graphics-heavy apps had customers at the conference wondering whether the end users they serve will see enough value to climb the learning curve for the new OS. “I don’t know how it’s going to be accepted,” said Steve Williamson, a sys/ops manager at Santa Fe College in Gainsville, Fla., with about 22,500 students, faculty and staff. “I’ll probably wait in it until I get some internal push for it.”

Microsoft trumpeted its two big pushes at 90-minute keynotes attended by most of the 8,600 customers the company says attended its annual conference, which was celebrating its 20th year.

The cloud OS framework is built around Windows Server 2012 and Azure, both of which have significant new features.

The OS analogy goes like this: Operating systems manage hardware and are the platform on which applications run. A cloud OS, then, manages the hardware at the scale of a data center and provides the varying platforms on which applications run.

Microsoft is saying Windows Server can manage the physical resources, including pulling them together from a pool of whatever resources are available – in traditional data centers, private clouds and public clouds.

Server 2012 is much more powerful, said Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft’s server and tools business. The server, due out later this year, sports up to 320 logical processors per server and 4TB of memory, and up to 64 virtual processors and 1TB of memory per virtual machine. These big numbers, plus the fact that the final preliminary version of Server 2012 is powering the production network for the Bing search engine, indicate a significant upgrade to and stability of the platform, he said.

As for Azure, it recently added support for virtual machines — including some flavors of Linux — making Azure an infrastructure-as-a-service provider, not just a platform-as-a-service provider. This ability to shift entire virtual machines in and out of the cloud under the control of Windows Server 2012 is one upside of cloud OS, Nadella said.