A Layman’s Guide To Understanding The Update Called Windows 8.1

Windows-8.1

There have been many reactions to Microsoft Windows 8 and most of them were unsatisfactory in several ways. With an obviously demoralized desktop market and struggling tablet sales, Microsoft has been tasked to come up with a solution to stay faithful to its numerous customers. Windows 8.1, Microsoft’s soon to be released update to the already existing Windows 8,  aims to be a clear improvement over Windows 8 in virtually all aspects. It also promises to be more robust than it’s predecessor. It is not another operating system.  But as you would soon see, Microsoft has come with a rather interesting solution to the mobile app hating Windows users. windows_81v2-590x327

Here are the some relevant changes you should take note in Windows 8.1:

1. The re-introduced Start button

Change seemed to be the central focus of Microsoft Windows 8 and as much as change is needed and inevitable in life, in technology, there is also the secondary debate of knowing what to change… and at which time. So when the native Windows Start button was gone, it was a startling surprise to many about the interface blunder and the question was whether it would be missed or not. Well, judging from the fact that the start button has been installed in Windows 8.1, should we guess it probably was?

In my opinion, it was a good thing that Microsoft reconsidered the start button. But better still, it came with a number of welcome additions which is centered around a more native “desktop-ish” experience of Windows 8. I am one of the many users who just found it rather annoying that Windows booted every time to the Metro interface while I just used the desktop mode. Anyways, you now have the option of booting to the desktop rather than the Windows 8 metro interface with the live tiles. Also, the start menu can send you to the Apps screen, which shows ALL of your installed desktop and Windows 8 apps, rather than that UI based start screen. Thumbs up for that!

2. Search everywhere

Well… what can I say? The search function in Windows has gotten broader. You can now search globally, or limit searches to files, system settings or media from the web. A global search combines your local search results with Bing results. Whether that is exciting or not only depends on you.

3. Live tile control

Remember how frustrating it was when you had a larger number of apps downloaded from Windows Store, and it ended up with you scrolling all over the place to find the app you were looking for on the metro interface? Windows 8.1 now offers a possible solution to organize your tiles by arranging them in groups. You can assign group names and re-size live tiles. I guess that makes life less stressful right?

4. Expanded Snap-in multitasking

The snap-in function of Windows 8 featured the ability to run two Windows Store apps simultaneously on the same screen by “snapping” one of them to the side to initiate a rather interesting split screen experience. You were allowed to only “snap-in” two apps, but Windows 8.1 allows 4 snap-ins. Keep it in mind though that snapping in 4 apps on the foreground drains battery life rather densely.

5. 10 now becomes 11

Sometimes, you cannot pull out the difference between a ten and eleven year old child (except for the age number) and with Internet Explorer, do not expect anything different. Although Internet Explorer 11 claims to have better stability ad faster browsing, it is most likely that it would still be the last browser you would ever open when you have sampled the likes of Firefox, Chrome and the others… or for some reason, you do not know any other browser but Internet Explorer.

6. Windows Store redesign

As if the slow paced, “developing” status of the Windows Store wasn’t an issue, it did not offer a good solution to prioritizing apps that mattered. It only featured an endless scroll of apps in small icons and some not very useful ratings and descriptions. Windows 8.1 has a redesigned Windows Store… but well… that’s pretty much just it apart from the little need for you to manually update apps to be sure you’re on the latest version.

7. Redesigned Settings App

The PC Settings facility in Windows 8.1 offers your system controls in a savvy, modern graphical interface. This matters to those who probably found the regular native Windows desktop Control Panel rather tiresome.

Windows 8.1 is pretty much nothing more than an update… not an upgrade. Microsoft hopes that Windows 8 won’t be around for long after Windows 8.1 comes out and that everyone using Windows 8 will upgrade, just as it hopes we’re all using automatic updates to keep our PCs up to date… lol!

Playing on a whole new field: Here is The Nvidia Shield

nvidia-shieldclod
When I encountered the idea of PC gaming coming to a gaming handheld, I thought about all of the possible problems that could come up. Hardware issues would be one and software and memory space could be another. PC games are known to pack more than a punch when it comes to power hardware requirements that affect even power management. How can a handheld possibly deliver exceptional graphical textures and control all of its features in the palm of my hand? Furthermore, not just any PC game – MY PC games – without being just another PlayStation or Nintendo based handheld.

At The CES 2013, Visual computing technology giants Nvidia sought to answer that question with their PC dedicated handheld system called Nvidia Shield which, according to reports, would be available in The United States and Canada by the end of July this year after it was slated for earlier. But is it something indeed to look forward to ?

nvidia-shield

The Nvidia Shield will house a 5 inch, 720p (1280X720 @ 294ppi) multi-touch, retinal display touchscreen attached to a game controller. Honestly, it feels so much like an Xbox 360 controller (just bulkier) with an Nvidia home button and a few other design differences. The screen actually looks good till you place it side by side with a full 1080p screen though. So it should make you wonder why you would want this somewhere around your PC screen which could deliver much crispier images. Then again, having a wireless handheld that runs your PC games could prove convenient on specific occasions. It’s got Android too; so you can play tons of available games for Android from Google Play store which seems cool with the touchscreen and controller. 

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It will run the Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean mobile operating system with a custom 72-core Nvidia GeForce GPU, a 1.9GHz quad-core cortex A-15 CPU and 2Gb of RAM. So it’s clear that Nvidia did their best to pack a lot into the hardware. All of these translates to  beautiful graphics that should maintain snappy movements and lag-free gameplay for PC favorites such as Borderlands 2, Batman: Arkham City, Resident Evil 6, Metro: Last Light, Dishonored and others.

As at now, not just any game can be streamed to the Nvidia Shield. Only selected games on Steam, the online multiplayer communications platform can be played via PC streaming with 802.11n-2009 2X2 MIMO wireless connectivity. This aims to provide high-bandwidth and ultra-fast wireless for seamless game streaming so, the Nvidia Shields ability to stream games live from your PC is not the possible issue to contend with. The real issue is that there are PC system hardware requirements that must be met before the device can stream from the PC. Nvidia announced these requirements to be:

  • GPU: GeForce GTX 650 or higher desktop GPU (Notebook GPUs are not supported at this time)
  • CPU: Intel Core i3-2100 3.1GHz or AMD Athlon II X4 630 2.8GHz or higher
  • System Memory: 4GB or higher
  • Software: GeForce Experience application and latest GeForce drivers
  • OS: Windows 8 or Windows 7
  • Routers: 802.11a/g router (minimum). 802.11n dual band router (recommended). A list of recommended routers will be provided at launch.

Nvidia will use the H.264 encoder built into GeForce GTX 650 or higher GPU along with special streaming software integrated into an upcoming version of GeForce Experience to stream games from the PC to the gaming handheld over the user’s home Wi-Fi network with ultra-low latency. Gamers will now be able to use the Nvidia Shield as the controller and display for their favorite PC games as well as for Steam Big Picture; enabling gamers to get a GeForce GTX PC gaming experience anywhere in their home Wi-Fi network.

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Besides its wireless abilities, the Nvidia Shield will feature mini-HDMI output port, micro-USB 2.0, a MicroSD storage slot and a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack with microphone support. It will also have 16Gb internal flash memory, a 3-Axis gyroscope and accelerometer. It boasts of a rather good battery life lasting for about 20 hours  while streaming.

As a gaming handheld with such abilities, do not expect the game to come for cheap (it’s announced to be at $349) so low end PC users who have not yet met (and don’t exactly plan to meet) the PC system requirements would be buying an Android device with an Xbox lookalike controller for quite a lot of money. Surely, mobility does come with a price but playing the games only in one’s house or around it using a wifi connection is not really the idea of mobility to many. The Nvidia Shield is indeed a daring new entry on a new field and we are more than excited to see how this entry influences technology today.

A “dysfunctional” prank: Microsoft Office for iOS

MicrosoftOfficeLogo

This is really no joke. There is now a full blown Microsoft Office App for the iOS. The rumors have finally ended –  it exists. Now where do we go from here? Yes! As you probably guessed –  back to the apps you were using earlier to run your document creation / editing needs.

It looked promising to us at first (to be honest). No one could help but wonder how Microsoft was planning to place the Office on the iPad. After all, the app would have to impress a lot more than the forefront document editing apps such as Google Drive, Documents-To-Go and Quickoffice as well as a host of others. With the numerous sync properties these apps have over cloud services, and various desktop experience offline features, we were hoping to have the Redmond software giants deliver something, maybe not above and beyond what we have seen, but something different anyway.

Well at least we did get something different. The problem of course, is what we got.

First and most important to mention is the fact that to use it, you need a paid Office 365 subscription. This is the “ah-hah!” light bulb moment: there had to be a catch about why Microsoft would go ahead to make Office available on “enemy territory.” Then again, that also tells you how serious Microsoft is about making bucks out of every single opportunity available. Now, before you Office 365 subscribers get on to get the app, you might also want to know that it is currently restricted to the United States (although there are ways around that), and annoyingly, there is not yet a version for the iPad.  In plain English, the app is designed for paid Office 360 users in The United States who have an iPhone. So don’t let the free Microsoft Office app on Apple Store fool you if you do not meet up to these requirements.

There are a number of things one would wonder about concerning this and we would leave you with one. The only thing Microsoft could possibly boast of, in our opinion, is that “Documents look like the originals, thanks to support for charts, animations, SmartArt graphics and shapes. When you make quick edits or add comments to a document, the formatting and content remain intact.” But free cloud based office apps like Google Drive already allow you to access and create documents, presentations and spreadsheets in Microsoft Office format. Even paid for offline apps such as Documents-To-Go and Quickoffice even have several cloud based service sync abilities with the likes of Evernote, Dropbox, SugarSync and others.

So um… why do we need this exactly?

8th Generation Console War: WII-U VS PS4 VS XBOX ONE

image from, gamingbolt.com
image from, gamingbolt.com

Sometime around a year ago we made our first post on an eight generation console, The WII-U. We rightfully predicted and tagged the 8th Generation, “Power-War”, based on the then, incredible specifications the WII-U spotted. It wasn’t long after the WII-U’s release that rumours about “Project Durango” and “Project Orbis” dev kits test PC requirements started surfacing .

Sony officially fed our curiosity with the technical specifications of the PS4 at the PlayStation meeting on 20th February, 2013, and Microsoft unveiled the curtains on the XBOX 360’s successor, called XBOX ONE 2 days ago (21-05-13).

Which of these consoles is actually the most powerful and innovative of the three?

WII-U VS PS4 VS XBOX ONE:

image from, mashable.com
image from, mashable.com

PS4 VS XBOX ONE VS WII-U

Processing Power:

The WII-U, whose processing power was considerably greater than that of the Nintendo WII, was a little impressive containing the IBM manufactured PowerPC 750-based tri-core processor called “Espresso“, it was ok, given how better than WII it was, it also features an AMD Radeon HD GPU code-named Latte.

Relative Rating (processing power): 7/10.

Given the popularity and wide adoption of SOC, so much monstrous computing and processing power was bundled into technologies released from mid-2012. The Rumoured Orbis game was first to wow us.

The PS4, spots an AMD manufactured, Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), hence allowing the single APU chip to contain the CPU, GPU, memory controller etc. The CPU is an octa-core (8 core) processor, based on AMD’s Jaguar Processor and it is of the X64-86 family, an inevitable and welcomed switch from the power-pc or the “not-X64-86” architecture based CPUs. Its AMD Radeon GPU can produce up to 1.84TFLOPS.

Relative Rating (processing power): 10/10

The XBOX ONE, which was announced 2 days ago, features an 8-core processor based on the X64-86 architecture (customary of the XBOXs), with an AMD GPU capable of providing up to 1.23 TFLOPS.

Relative Rating (processing power): 9.8/10

MEMORY

The WII-U, consist of 4 512 MB DDR3 memories (4 GB), with 1 GB reserved for its powerful operating system. It also comes with an internal storage (flash memory) capacity of either 8 GB or 32 GB (based on purchased model) but upgradable via USB hard-drives up to 2 TB or via SD cards (memory cards) of up to 32 GB.

Relative Rating (Memory): 7/10

The PS4, comes with a whooping 8 GB DDR5, 1 GB will be reserved for the operating system, leaving 7 GB! for games, Specifics about internal storage capacity and supported extension slots are still blurry but it’s internal hard-drive memory is expected to be very high.

Relative Rating (Memory): 10/10

The XBOX ONE, comes equipped with an 8 GB DDR3 RAM where 3 GB would be reserved for the operating system and some system applications.

Relative Rating (Memory): 9.4/10

CONTROLLER: WII-U Gamepad VS DualShock 4 VS XBOX ONE’s controller

After the features of the controllers of the previous generation, I’m sure we found ourselves asking the question, “after accelerometers and gyroscopes, what is next”? Could there be any new and important and innovative feature that can be introduced?

WII-U Gamepad:

www.theverge.com
http://www.theverge.com

Features a built-in touch-screen, (not multi-touch though but it’s need was justified), which can either extend the game presently being shown on the screen or may be used as a display replica or copy of the screen/TV, hence allowing games to be played directly through it (handheld TV),  it’s features and future prospects are huge. It has an in-built camera for video calls, in-built microphone for clearer video calling conversations or multiplayer conversations,  NFC support and all other expected sensors(accelerometer and gyroscope).

Note: key innovation, “an in-built touch screen that can replace the TV”

Relative Rating (controller innovation): 9/10.

 PS4’s DualShock 4:

Dualshock 4
Dualshock 4

There’s a big difference in look between the DualShock 4 and its predecessor because of the attached clickable two-point capacitative touch pad on the front of the controller, These will play a vital within the O.S and gameplay. New to the series are

  • A 3.5 mm TRS  stereo headset connector, for easy communication during multiplayer games (probably, video calling).
  • A dedicated share button for instantaneously sharing videos from game-play (super PES and FIFA goal videos)
  • An extension port.
  • Presence of light bars for status display and easy detection/identification by the PlayStation eye or switching of split screen position when players switch pads or position (cool)
  • Mono speaker, “yes, a speaker”. The sole purpose of the speaker is to provide unique ambient sounds, like bullets whooshing past characters ears or the sound created from waving swords therefore placing the user right in the middle of the game-play :

It also features the micro-usb connector and usual motion sensing via a 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope, which is now a common trend among controllers from the previous generation. The top of the analog has been modified to be concave, like that of the 360.

Relative Rating (controller innovation): 9/10 (should have been an 8 but the speaker is just so welcomed).

XBOX ONE Controller:

image from, mashable.com
image from, mashable.com

Very very similar to the previous controller, with notable changes in the D-PAD, which is now a four-way button, replacement of the start and back buttons. It’s most innovative introduction is the “Impulse Trigger”, meaning the trigger buttons will have it’s own rumble motors hence providing feedbacks (“Probably vibrates when a gun is being shot” :S).

Relative Rating (controller innovation): 8/10 (should have been a 7 but ideas regarding “Impulse triggers” have been flying around.).

 Summary:

Processing Power:  The XBOX ONE and PS4 are close in strength both vividly edging out the WII-U with their insane specifications. Overall the PS4 is slightly more powerful than the XBOX ONE in terms of graphic power, but little is still known about the clock-speeds of the processors.

TIE (PS4 and XBOX ONE).

Memory: All three system contains insane amount of RAMs, but the PS4 and XBOX ONE really outsmarts the WII-U in these department. But the PS4 aslo slightly defeats  the 360 based on available RAM for game and the usage of DDR5.

WINNER, PS4

Controllers: All three controllers are very cool, especially the WII-U gamepad and Dualshock 4, but the WII-U gamepad happens to be the most feature packed of the three.

TIE (WII-U gamepad and Dualshock 4).

Overall: PS4 wins both XBOX ONE and WII-U based on paper-specifications, but how this will pan out in the market and among game developers of video games, is presently unknown.

To know more about these consoles, read our articles on them by following the following links:

Laughing last, laughing best: Here comes the Xbox One

Xbox-One-logo

Today, Microsoft tears down all of the rumors of the next generation Xbox console called “Xbox One.” It features a brilliant glossy hardware finish that is sleek and catchy. It is geared to take what you love and make it even better.

The ideals of the next generation console is to light up the bare essentials of television and entertainment which are simplicity, instant response and complete immersion. The Xbox One does not fail to produce world class software innovation and interactive applications to make the overall user experience pleasant. Very unlike Sony, Microsoft has gone all the way to blur the lines between a gaming console and a media center and created the all in one box for all of your living room magical needs.

 

xbox one
It is amazing; you talk to the Xbox One to turn it on and control all of its applications with integrated voice commands. Imagine switching between television and game in a second just by saying: “Xbox, play game” or “Xbox, watch television.” The new Kinect is bundled with every Xbox One which gives a new dimension to motion capturing technology and even conference calls on Skype with its 1080p HD Camera. From the start, your Xbox One remembers everything you did last and well, you can snap applications just like on Windows 8 on the Xbox One with full motion based or voice commands! It is stated that it would NOT require an internet connection to function. Seeing is believing right?

It packs quite a handful on the tech specs. 8GB RAM, 8 Core CPU power, 500GB Hard Disk and Blu-ray drive. It also has an 802.11n wireless device with Wi-Fi Direct, USB 3.0 ports and HDMI out.  Microsoft’s Marc Whitten stated clearly that “Variable power states” ensure a “practically silent” operation. The console is engineered to last “well into the future,” which, of course, is an obvious reference to the company’s engineering struggles with the Xbox 360.

Imagine a console with 3 operating systems. One for your gaming on Xbox, a windows kernel and a specific operating system that covers instantaneous switching between multiple running applications. With the newly designed Xbox controller and Xbox Smart Glass technology, users can choose various ways to control their console to provide a truly complete user experience.

Microsoft has partnered with Electronic Arts for new and exclusive innovations to their ongoing sport series, The NFL for custom sporting integration and is planning to host about 15 new exclusive titles for the Xbox One on release later this year. A new, most impressive Call Of Duty is also to be released so we can be sure that it would kick off to a good start.

So there we have it for now on the new Xbox. Rest easy till E3 later on in a couple of weeks.

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PlayStation 4: When great development leads to greater questions

PS outlook

February 20 2013 was a day like no other in the world of technology; and though its prime significance was centered around building the necessary expectations to usher in another great day in the world of technology, the day did spark off well… some other great things.

Video game consoles are nothing like they used to be. Gone are the days where you bought a console for the sake of gaming. “Buy the game, then the cartridge or CD, insert, power on and play” is old news. Video game consoles have taken on several tasks that give even the non-gamer good reasons to get one. With the fact that they also provide hours of great gaming entertainment for both the kids and the adult minded, owning a video game console has finally become a set standard for modern homes. On February 20 2013, the PlayStation 4 was officially announced with Sony, giving presentations of several good things to come concerning various breakthroughs in video entertainment technology.

The PlayStation 4 was billed to be released by late 2013 so, it would be quite a long wait for many. The wait might be worth it though; Sony’s fourth console entry to the PlayStation brand packs more than a punch in making sure “nothing is between you and the game.” It boasts of an 8 core Accelerated Processing Unit, 8GB GDDR5 RAM and 1.8 teraflops of processing prowess of which, even if you have no idea of what these mean, you just have a hunch that it must be powerful enough to deliver what you are expecting.

Not 16x9 PS4 camera 1-580-100

PlayStation-Controller-Touch-Pad

Coming along is the PlayStation 4 eye which is a newly developed camera system that utilizes two high-sensitivity cameras equipped with wide-angle lenses and 85-degree diagonal angle views. There are also lots of comments about the new PlayStation 4 DualShock controller which comes with an “Option” button that replaces the traditional Start and Select buttons, a three axis gyroscope and touch panel. Will the DualShock 3 be compatible for the PlayStation 4? The answer is most likely a big no.

A number of issues come up whenever you give a closer thought on the anticipated Sony pacesetter. One of these would be backward compatibility. Some people would not find it very palatable spending money on great PlayStation 3 games just to spend even more for PlayStation 4 games which also come on blu-ray discs. A single console that could run pre-owned games would be extremely user cost effective. Having acquired Gaikai, a cloud based service, Sony plans to render older PlayStation games and stream them to the PS4. Cloud based services play a very integral part of the PlayStation 4 concerning games and this could mean that without a good internet connection, you may not even have access to the games you may have bought on the online store. Worse still, you may end up paying again for a game you already own since you can only play older games through the cloud service. Is that really okay?

Whether or not the PlayStation 4 would support blu-ray movies on 4K ultra high HD is still being rumored but having that would certainly do well to promote other offline functions of the console. The relationship between the still young-in-the-market PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 is unclear as well – if this remains, and no relationship is established, PS Vita owners might be headed for a level of heartbreak. The PlayStation 4 is estimated to cost about $400 – $600 which seems decent enough for its abilities.

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PS4-GUI_02-27

One other thought that comes to mind is what the future of console gaming would be. The PlayStation 4’s active social media integration involves a SHARE button on the DualShock 4 controller that allows the player to cycle through the last several minutes of gameplay to select a clip appropriate for online sharing. Videos can be uploaded directly from the console, either to websites or other PSN users. Players also have the chance to access their PlayStation online account using a PlayStation app available on the iOS AppStore and Google PlayStore. This App, is also mentioned to even support games as a second screen on compatible tablets and phones.

With all these features, it is sure that Sony has done a rather impressive job in presenting a working entry to this current technology demanding age. But whether it would be the next big thing in gaming compared to its rivals is another question for another post.

Available homebrew hacking puts a green light on PS Vita

PSPVita

The PS Vita is not as flexible as the older PSP by Sony. This is not an uncommon argument. Not-so-many yet expensive games and a custom memory card type are just some of the letdowns that comes with having a PS Vita. It does have it’s good sides though, but honestly, anyone with a PSP would have a bit more to do on the overall. It doesn’t take that much time for anyone to realize that the PS Vita does have the potential of playing older PSP games and those custom applications that made the PSP a one-of-a-kind love affair. Could it be possible to just have my old PSP games to run on the PS Vita?

For a variety of people who are having a PS Vita and you just cannot do much with it, you don’t have to get dissatisfied just yet as there are now a myriad of available hacks. The height of PS Vita hacking has already been here for a while and as you may have already guessed, you can actually run homebrew on your PS Vita.

Just in case this homebrew thing seems to be a new term to you when it comes to Sony’s handheld and gaming in general, here is a simple way to put it: video game homebrew is a term gamers use to describe the installation or fixing of any software on usually hardware restricted devices. In other words, it’s when someone installs a software that the hardware manufacturer didn’t, and probably wouldn’t put there. These consumer installed programs are usually used to perform user-desired tasks which includes playing user-developed games and software, and hacks that allow game dumping on memory cards like in the case of Sony’s PSP series. However, it is worthy to mention that although it is common practice, hacking your device is liable to void your warranty and could alter the normal functionality of your device. So please consider so before you embark on the great “adventure.”

PS-Vita-White

The PS Vita first was first hacked successfully using an exploit on Gameloft’s UNO. It was probably the greatest new year gift for anyone who had guessed that it was very possible to play your PSP games on the PS Vita. It is not a bad idea; many had been fed up with the big and bulky PSP-1000 of which most models came up with analog stick issues. The PSP-2000 and 3000 were much lighter than the 1000 but the analog issues still continued nevertheless even though on fewer models.

But the bad news is that Sony quickly reacted to this exploit hack by removing the game from the online store and patching up the kernel exploits with firmware 2.05. Hence, only those who did get a copy of UNO could use the exploit and hack their PS Vitas and till this day, although several hackers have posted possibilities of new exploits for Sony’s new firmware, nothing official has been released.

So, if you have a PS Vita with a firmware lower than 2.05 and you can get a hold of Gameloft’s UNO somehow, here is a good place for you to start if you are interested in hacking. Others would just have to wait however; and be sure that we would let you know as soon as any is released 🙂