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!

A “dysfunctional” prank: Microsoft Office for iOS

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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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Microsoft’s new Surface Pro remains on the surface!

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Some dreams come true! With the release of the Microsoft Surface RT, I can bet a a good number of people wished for that tablet to run the revolutionary Windows 8. “Definitely charming!” wouldn’t it? Well, the Surface Pro from Microsoft has come and even with its chin itching price tags – $899 for the 64GB and $999 for the 128GB version, the Microsoft Surface truly makes a demanding statement – that from the looks of it, may be worth it.

Preceding the new Surface Pro was a Surface RT which as at now seems to be more or less a preview to the good things to come. True, the design was something new and some of the hardware features were worth a good chat over a cup of tea; but so many things seemed absent and yes! The Surface Pro delivers all of those inner cravings you desired for it. Microsoft Windows fans and Windows 8 enthusiasts will certainly not mind putting down all more than a couple of bucks for it. The Surface Pro gives the complete Windows 8 experience which still is the most popular and most dynamic entry in the world of operating systems as of date. The Surface RT would pretty much be for those who would just prefer a windows like tablet experience without paying too much for things they would not probably use. Its not a bad idea if you look at it; after all, it comes along with the very excellent Office 2013.

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The new Surface Pro competes on par with its ultrabook rivals in a unique and most challenging manner. Compared to the earlier Surface RT, it is larger and to house some of its powerful hardware components, packs in a little more weight with a thicker form of its “VaporMg” magnesium composite casing. It comes with the basic expectations of a regular ultrabook: front and back 1.2 megapixel  cameras, a full size USB port, an intel Core i5 CPU, Intel HD Graphics, 4GB of RAM, solid state storage up to 128GB, expandable memory through a memory card reader, Bluetooth 4.0 technology and Wi-Fi 802.11a, b, g and n. It also comes with exciting features as a tablet such as a scratch resistant glass surface, 720p HD video recording with video calling abilities, accelerometer, gyroscope and compass sensors. Surface is indeed a delight to behold and touch.

Surface Pro Press 3-580-90

One issue people may have with the Surface Pro though is its kickstand, which only gives a single angular view. This does not tend to be a problem until you get into a place with heavy fluorescent lighting or worse, the sunny outdoors. You might spend some extra time adjusting to suit your convenient viewing. Furthermore, an honest truth is that it doesn’t do as well as the earlier Surface RT in terms of battery life but you should be able to get about 4 hours out of it or so. Nevertheless, Surface will do pretty well to impress newcomers and  even existing customers in the tablet purchase market.

Surface Pro comes along with a Wacom-made, pressure-sensitive stylus that is is a very welcome accompaniment. Surely you would enjoy touching around Windows 8 with it. It has a nice feel; especially when you are using applications such as Adobe Photoshop and the like. The touch and type covers remain as optional accessories and require a separate purchase to an already quite expensive pricing but of course, that completely depends on the customer in question.

In conclusion, the Microsoft Surface Pro is a stylish welcome addition to the world of portable and personal computing. There are a number of things to consider though but it works. It is fast, beautiful, the screen is gorgeous and… it runs Windows 8.