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All posts tagged Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 Is A Great Operating System…

… and getting the best out of WIndows 8.1 is by no means rocket science, but it helps to have some direction.

As mentioned in a prior post on rules for selecting a new PC make your life easier and select a laptop that comes pre-installed with Windows 8.1 (or have the store you buy from do the upgrade for you). Why?

  • Windows 8.1 is a vast improvement on Windows 8 across the board.
  • A pre-installed Windows 8.1 PC is likely to be built with newer hardware and drivers that work with Windows 8.1 too.
  • Whilst I advocate embracing Windows Update this is one use case where less is better than more.

Touch: I’ve been getting touchy-feely with Windows 8.1 since I upgraded my Dell Inspiron (when it up and died on me) to the Asus touch enabled laptop I have now. I have scarcely touched a mouse since. In fact, my biggest problem is the laughter that ensues every time the Missus asks me to resolve a problem on her Windows 7 laptop, as she watches me poking the screen for a few seconds befuddled at its lack of response. Touch is habit forming in a good way.Windows 8.1 Smart Art Chart

A Couple of Free Tips Too..

A couple of tips that will make your life with Windows 8.1 much easier.

  1. Don’t ignore the New Windows Apps or Desktop. Keep in mind these might be lighter on the functionality but they are also less resource hungry which allows for even greater multitasking.
  2. Windows 8.1 Start Menu: one of your best friends is [Windows Key]+[X] or touch and long press on the Windows icon (bottom left on the System bar).
  3. Search for ANYTHING, yes that’s right anything: the easiest way to start an app / software or find anything else on your PC ranging from files or settings is to go to the New Windows Desktop and just type. Windows will detect your typing and open Search from the Charms Bar. (Alternatively you can swipe in from the right side of the screen to access the Charms bar.)

 

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The Warptest POV

Windows 8 has not been without its hiccups but Windows 8.1 is a productivity OS extraordinaire once you get to grips with it. This isn’t going to take long at all with a positive attitude, an open mind and tips like those here.

So far most of the naysayers I’ve experienced have limited if any time hands on with Windows 8.1 so kick their opinions to the curb and try it for yourself. I’m confident that you won’t be disappointed.

If you have any tips for Windows 8.1 feel free to share them in the comments and I’ll write a follow up crediting you your tips of course.

 

Microsoft Had A Few Surprises For Us Today

So no guest appearance by Cortana, no Surface Watch or Windows Frames glasses but instead there were several significant pieces of news.

The chances of an astounding unveil of Microsoft Wearables was slight and would have indicated a drastic change in all things Redmond. (sigh)

Microsoft - Surface Watch

What Actually Happened?

Joe Belfiore of Windows Phone fame presented an impressive list of things to look out for, including some market statistics showing Windows and Windows Phone in a favorable light.

So, what were the significant points and why?

  • Windows Phone 8.1 Confirmed including a slew of Enterprise features.
  • Windows Phone with Dual SIM support: this is certainly significant for the Enterprise user both the jet-setter and as a good solution for the BYOD crowd. Windows Phone will allow Live Tiles for both SIMs so users will be able to access and use their personal or work SIM from the same “desktop”.
  • Support for Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 and 400 series chipsets, with options that support all major cellular technologies
  • Relaxation of hardware requirements: until now OEMs were obligated to make handsets for Windows Phones with the 3 hardware buttons; making production a pricey business. With this change the cost of OEM Windows Phone production just dropped. De facto OEMs can use Android handsets for Windows Phones.
  • Microsoft announced 9 new OEM Windows Phone partnerships. It’s a fair assumption that these partnerships were sealed after much negotiation on the previous point.
  • No new devices were mentioned but just the announcement of Dual SIM (and new partners) means new devices are on the way.
  • (Windows 8.1 was mentioned but I think I’ll save that for another post.)

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The Warptest POV

The rumors of Windows Phone running Android Apps might have been as a result of some of the big Android players that Microsoft was courting in the OEM deal. Hopefully this drives a stake thru the heart of what can only be described as a desperation play.

What is clear from the press event is Microsoft is aggressively pursuing a greater market share of the Smartphone market in 2014 and the consumer is going to benefit from a variety of new devices.

Most significant was the absence of any mention of hot, big league apps turning up in the Windows Phone Store except Facebook Messenger. With Path, Waze and Instagram (beta) following Vine and others onto Windows Phone, which apps are left? Perhaps we will see Secret or Telegram join Windows Phone in 2014 but do these have the same added value as the aforementioned apps?

In reality, it’s not about any specific app for Windows Phone anymore. It’s about seeing these apps appear in the Windows Phone Store at the same time as their iOS and Android counterparts.

Clearly big things are happening for Windows Phone in 2014. I’ll be checking the Microsoft stock ticker, how about you?

Microsoft Have Had An Interesting Year:

2013 Has seen a variety of ups and downs for Microsoft but where is it taking us?

Microsoft Logo

Here are a few things we saw in 2013 from Redmond: –

  • Windows Phone demonstrated the sharpest adoption rate of smartphone platforms.
  • Microsoft buys Nokia.
  • Many of the major apps missing from Windows Phone decided to rectify this situation delivering Vine, Instagram, Waze to name a few.
  • A group of lawyers decided to offer a class action suit to shareholders based on misreported costs of Surface RT sales.
  • CEO Steve Ballmer announces his vision for One Microsoft.
  • CEO Steve Ballmer announces his retirement.
  • Microsoft delivers Windows 8.1 with stronger Bing integration, an astoundingly fast Internet Explorer 11 and the return of a Start Button.
  • Nokia delivers a variety of innovative devices including the game-changing Nokia Lumia 1020 with its 41 mega-pixel camera.
  • Nokia also gave us the 6″ Lumia 1520 Windows Phone with its dazzling 1080p HD display and the Lumia 2520 10.1″ 4G Windows 8.1 RT Tablet.
  • Microsoft delivered the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 whilst other Windows tablets began arriving from various OEMs.
  • Microsoft announced and launched the Xbox One and managed to clarify much of the confusion around the existing Xbox games.
  • Bing delivered a huge revamp and a rethinking of the concepts of discovery and context / relevancy of content.
  • Rumors began to arise regarding Project Cortana as Microsoft’s answer to Siri and more.
  • December gave us a 13 year high for Microsoft stock.
  • Office announced the much anticipated versions for iOS and Android including a separate One Note App.
  • Microsoft FUSE Research Labs boldly gave us full cross-platform mobile Apps for Socl after meshing it with some marvelous content creation apps and the KODU Game Creation Platform.
  • Developers received Visual Studio 2013 (and online) and the awesome TFS (Application Lifecycle Management suite) incorporated Git amongst other new features.

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Is It All Sunshine And Roses?

No it’s not. Steve Ballmer’s retirement was not seen as positive by everyone, meanwhile there was the aforementioned class action suit and no CEO replacement has been found yet. Microsoft can also be justifiably criticized for not iterating fast enough and continuing to miss opportunities but that said we saw a  greater willingness to listen to consumers and a strong desire to deliver improved products faster. Things are moving in the right direction.

 Steve Ballmer

As a Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 laptop user I have been testing the Windows Store and have discussed some of my early findings with other users. We are in concurrence that there is a need to fix several issues that detract from the Store (I will dedicate a post to this hopefully in January 2014 when I can tie all my research together).

Windows Store - Microsoft

The Warptest POV

With the anticipated Windows Phone 8.1 update and its expected foray into enterprise it is reasonable to expect that Windows Phone will continue to encroach into the market share of other platforms. With the end of life for Windows XP / Office 2003 and more OEM’s releasing a variety of Windows 8x tablets, touchscreen laptops and hybrid devices things are promising.

The biggest challenge Microsoft continues to face is evangelizing to Startups so that Windows Phone and Windows 8 are not the last platforms they develop their Apps for.

The huge strategic advantage they have is that in acquiring Nokia’s Mobile business, patents and mapping, Microsoft bought a company with a strong culture of building communities with phone developers and with experience creating the Ovi (Nokia App) Store and making it work well.

The big question is who will Microsoft’s next CEO be and how will they perceive and address the challenges facing the company whilst building on the momentum of 2013?

Personally, I have high expectations of Microsoft in 2014. How about you?

Windows 8.1

Now that all the hullabaloo has died down over the update from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 I thought it time to weigh in on my overall impressions and a couple of specifics.

As you know Windows 8.1 is the first major update of the OS and ground breaking at that for those with Windows 8; you simply open the Windows Store and run the update from there.

Windows 8.1 - StoreWindows 8.1 Instore UpgradeWindows 8.1 Instore Installing

The install was seamless and I optimized the download speed by running it hardwired to the router and not over WiFi.

Windows 8.1 gave us The Return of A Start Button, integrated search from the Search charm and a slew of improvements to include several Apps.

Was it Worth It?

In a nutshell… yes. As good as Windows 8 was, the UX is improved and performance seems to be too. Windows 8.1 is even better.

For all of you who enjoy the recurring jokes and memes about Internet Explorer online I have this to say,

Internet Explorer 11 is not your Dad’s IE.

This is a geometric improvement that leaves its competitors in the dust. It provided a robust browsing experience (mostly) coupled with speed that makes browsing the pleasure it should be. IE11 doesn’t seem to have the thirst for CPU / RAM that some if it’s greedy competitors do, nor does there seem to be the necessity for update du jour (you know who I mean).

The only two web applications I have seen issue with are Tweetdeck for the Web which occasionally needs recovery when returning to the App from another tab and the great social music App Serendip where a scripting bug prevents music videos from playing but only in one’s own music library. Obviously, I reported the bug on discovery and got a nice response from the team at Serendip.

IE11 is also available for Windows 7 (different language and 32/64 bit versions can be found here) and I give it a strong recommend.

Bugs Or Features? Workarounds Too.

  • After installing Windows 8.1 I was pleased (yes pleased) to discover the onboard WiFi card was not supported. This forced me to choose between waiting for a driver update (who knew when) or upgrading to a faster WiFi USB dongle. Obviously I opted for the latter and received a smoother, faster wireless internet connection in the process. Since then the issue has been resolved but I’m too happy with the Edimax USB dongle to test the fix.
  • Those who have used the Metro / New Windows UI Apps in Windows 8 will be familiar with minimize > right-click > close to exit the App. In Windows 8.1 the App does not close until you go to the Task Manager and terminate the App from there. These Apps do not have a noticeable footprint or performance impact but nonetheless this is a bug that needs fixing.
  • The User Libraries (Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, Downloads etc.) have an interesting bug; any folder containing media generates a Thumbs.db system file and by default these Libraries seem to be set to Read Only. The user cannot delete these folders but can delete their content, leaving a mess of empty folders.

There are several workarounds for this bug: –

  1. Select the folders from the Library and cut them (CTRL-X) then paste them (CTRL-V) in a non-Library folder e.g. C:/Temp. You can select and delete the folders from there and will receive the same warning about the folder containing Thumbs.db. In a non-Library folder you can select the checkbox in this dialog “Do this for all current items” and it will delete as expected.

Windows 8.1 Thumbs.db Delete Bug

  1. Using a ZIP tool like WinRAR select the empty folders in the Library and select the option to delete all folders after compression. Once they are save to the ZIP file they are successfully deleted and you can easily delete the ZIP file; goodbye empty folders.
  2. Unlocker is a neat app that allows you to select files or folders that Windows locks, preventing deletion and with a right-click you can unlock and delete them. The only restriction I’ve found is that I could only unlock one folder at a time.

The Warptest POV

To keep things in context these are the only bugs I’ve seen since I upgraded. By and large the Windows 8.1 experience is good and I am simply able to get on with my work without excessive tweaks or clicks.

The OS performs well and everyone I have shown Windows 8.1 gets it and even finds it intuitive. Microsoft made a huge effort to absorb the users’ comments from Windows 8 and continue to deliver a great UX.

For those who do need the extra help the boffins at Redmond provided the Help and Tips app with Windows 8.1, sadly not Ms Dewey or Cortana but let’s see what the near future brings us. This App will certainly get you up and running.

Windows 8.1 Help and Tips App

Windows 8.1 is here to stay and it’s impressive and easy to work with as long as you hit the power on button with an open mind. If you have only read negative reviews and are surprised by what you read here then get in touch for more details why the trolls are wrong about Windows 8.1

In the meanwhile I’ll report these bugs and see if they are known issues and or if there is an ETA for anticipated fixes.

3D Printing Is Hot, Hot, Hot…

You can hardly read any tech news these days without seeing a story on 3D Printing. Some of it controversial and some about the companies who are leading the field and acquiring competitors on the way.

3D Printing Search via Bing

Let Me Tell You A Story…

Last week I went on a sofa shopping expedition with my wife in Tel Aviv and while we were trawling around in the heat I noticed a storefront with some interesting tools in the window and a cast iron door.

My wife knows I’m always on the lookout for good tools and was willing to tolerate the brief diversion so we went in and were greeted with the mixed scents of cut metal and machine oil. The store was run by an elderly couple who watched my gleeful face as I saw brackets, nuts, bolts, washers and other sundry pieces and tools. In the back of the store I was amazed to see a large lathe working away under the attentions of an attentive craftsman.

Photo via Bing Image Search; thanks to http://www.ameri-tool.com

3D Priting Predecessor The Lathe

(To my eternal shame I didn’t think to photograph the store or lathe)

For those of you rapidly Googling / Binging the word “lathe” let me explain why this is the Holy Grail for any tool junkies. A lathe is a tool that can cut and form anything and allowed farms, factories and others to make their own replacement parts for anything limited only by: –

  • The size of the lathe
  • Access to the right raw materials (the right kind of steel or wood for the part)
  • Most importantly the skill of the lathe operator

About 20 years ago I was lucky enough to have some limited experience using a lathe and I chatted with these store owners about it. They were kind enough to invite me back anytime.

Frankly it had been a long time since I had thought about learning to use a lathe or that very special combination of smells.

As we were driving home later it occurred to me that as the prevalence of the lathe and skilled operators waned in the late 20th Century consumers became more and more used to planned obsolescence and the idea that if an appliance broke it was often cheaper to replace the appliance than the worn out / broken part.

The environmental impact and cost to the consumer kept increasing. Just go down to any recycling center and look for the rows of appliances.

The Warptest POV

Along come companies like industry leader, Stratasys
and the 3D Printer is effectively the 21st Century inheritor of the lathe.

3D Printing by Stratasys 13D Printing by Statasys 2

Pictures of 3D Printers with thanks to Stratasys

What’s more you know a technology has truly arrived when it’s featured in TVs, The Big Bang Theory:

It seems that we have gone full circle with 3D Printing where the same constraints apply except for that of a skilled operator. With Windows 8.1 including support for 3D Printing the technology has gone mainstream and the next time something breaks you may not need to call a repairman, just print up the replacement part yourself.

Are you ready for an end to planned obsolescence thanks to 3D Printing?

windows8.1 preview

Windows 8.1 Has Landed…

At least the preview version for now. Everything I’ve seen second hand leads me to believe that Microsoft have improved on the excellent Windows 8 tenfold.

So for now, I’ve garnished screenshots, reviews and videos online to get an idea of what Windows 8.1 delivers.

The Delivery

Windows 8.1 delivers a preview of what we can expect. If precedent is anything to go by we will still see some changes in the Release version. That said Windows 8.1 is expected to be available via the Store to download as an update to the existing OS; if you have Windows 8/RT you should be able to get this free.

So what else?

  • Start button: this is not the classical Start Button of Windows days of old but delivers a solution to those who simply couldn’t get their head around the missing button.
  • An improved, better Store
  • In store / In App monetization improvements. I’ve stated in a post on Windows Phone that a big key to success or failure is enticing developers to invest in the OS and the same is true here.
  • Single search: results from the web, on the PC and Apps
  • More popular Apps delivered or in the pipeline e.g. improved Twitter and an official Facebook App is coming
  • New Bing (based) Apps: with the announcement that Bing is a platform, APIs and all come new Apps e.g. Bing Food & Drink, Bing Health & Fitness and updated Bing Maps. Hit the link and read about how Food & Drink is designed for kitchen use and looks to be an outstanding, killer app.

 

  • Internet Explorer 11 preview: given the incredible experience using IE10 I’m excited to see how Microsoft have improved on an already great UX
  • Support for multiple device sizes, types and resolutions
  • Support for 3D Printing: having built in support for 3D Printing is a huge inroad into one of the hottest technologies. Plug and play drivers makes this accessible to everyone and means that if you 3D Print Windows 8.1 is your OS of choice out of the box! (Microsoft may have just stolen the whole marketshare on Personal Computer to 3D Printing with this.)
  • All this and more.

H8ters

I started using this word recently to refer to those online whose overwhelming dislike for Microsoft and especially Windows 8 is so pervasive that they just can’t help themselves. Case in point today many self-proclaimed “pro” tech bloggers who are clearly H8ters had such little integrity or self-restraint that they began slamming Windows 8.1 before they had even seen it.

In an age of multi-boot PCs, tablets that run Android and Windows and Macs that can run Windows as a VM the consumer no longer has to pick one platform and commit whole-heartedly to it. This may be the biggest progress we have seen in the personal computing arena in the last few years and it makes redundant the simplistic and frankly immature OS Trolling we have come to expect from certain quarters.

“Hi I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” is dead.

Today the mantra is “Hi I’m a Mac and a PC too” or “Hi I’m an Android and a PC too”

With thanks to Youtube user Lukepuuk

The Warptest POV

Microsoft have evolved and put the age of Vista behind them. Redmond has learnt from past experiences and if Windows 8.1 and Xbox One show us nothing else, it’s that they are capable of responding to constructive consumer criticism and improving products and limitations to answer those needs. This behavior could herald a golden age of Redmond Renaissance.

The H8ters aren’t going to change their tune but hopefully the consumers who were fearful of making the leap to Windows 8 as the countdown on Windows XP ticks away will feel more confident and join the Windows 8 revolution.

My advice to consumers is don’t rely on the H8ters but get out to the stores and go hands-on for yourself, especially on the touch enabled devices. Most of these are still going to be Windows 8 but Windows 8.1 is coming. So are you ready and willing?