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

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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!

The new Nexus 7: A second shot at a good idea?

google-nexus-7-logoAs if the war for what device dominates the 7 inch mini tab form factor was not cruel enough, technology giants Google decided to play another entry with their new Nexus 7, which became available since yesterday, July 30th.

The new Nexus 7 features a raft of improvements over last years Nexus 7; even though they practically look almost the same. First to mention would be that unlike the former Nexus 7, this one comes with the latest update of the Android OS (Jelly Bean 4.3) which of a truth is not that big of a difference really except that you can now have separate customizable spaces, including personal homescreens, wallpapers, apps and storage; which is an appealing idea. So, those whose tablets usually get in the hands of others do not have much to worry about anymore when it comes to people tampering with stuff.  It features a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Processor with an Adreno 300 400Mhz, which in simpler terms means the tablet should run pretty fast. there is also 2GB of RAM, a 5MP rear facing camera, 1.2MP front facing camera, Bluetooth 4.0LE, Wireless charging and a new HDMI slim port. With all of that for just about $30 extra, it is sure that comparing sister Nexus devices would lead to some level of unfairness.

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Even though the 7 inch screens of both devices are typically same, the new Nexus 7 runs at 323 PPI which is ridiculously sharper than the previous one at 216PPI. This display is one key feature that holds the retina-less iPad mini to question (well, of course until apple decides to release an iPad mini with retina display).  Watching movies on the new Nexus 7 is quite commendable honestly; and your Android OS has never looked crispier on any other tablet. The speaker sound on the new Nexus 7 is also improved, and thanks to its thinner design, it even weighs lighter than the previous. With up to 9 hours of HD video playback and 10 hours of web browsing or e-reading, there’s plenty of juice to get you through the day. And very much unlike the iPad, The new Nexus’ slim and lightweight design makes playing games much less strenuous to the wrists.

A truth remains that the new Google Nexus 7 champions the small tablet market for the meantime. A downside to the device would be that there is no SD card slot but its cheaper price range and crispy sharp HD display would give anyone with an iPad mini a run for his money. Google’s second shot at the Nexus 7 isn’t very groundbreaking in terms of innovation but the price is very inviting to tablet newbies. If you owned the previous Nexus 7, then this is certainly a worthwhile upgrade.

iOS 7: A brand new look

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We don’t know if there is anyone like us out there but whenever we update iOS to a new firmware, We have always secretly wished for and ultimately been pissed at the lack an important feature that usually makes things seem new and exciting with software such as operating systems: A COMPLETE VISUAL MAKEOVER!!

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Microsoft Windows at one time used Windows 95 and then at the release of Windows XP, the new looking interface was a winner. Windows Aero was released with Windows Vista and has been a continued standard even with the newest Metro interface for Windows 8. It is true that functionality and stability are essential, uncompromisable qualities of good operating systems but nobody would complain if a good looking graphical user interface came along with it. Sure! Thanks to jailbreaking, Cydia allows us to make some color (and even complete) theme changes but something new had to come out some time from Apple at least some day-y-y-y! That being said, it’s not like Apple’s iOS actually looks ugly; but maintaining the same general outlook over more than 10 updates and over 5 versions would have to become more or less a tiring rhetoric, a trite expression or well… in plain English… rather boring.

Apple, finally releasing its beta version of iOS7 earlier this month for developers has finally showed us that their new update is none of that. Apple has finally worked at changing just about everything, but like the Windows 8 OS to which iOS 7 is now drawing comparisons, thanks to the bold colors and straight lines, it feels a little too much, too soon. But nevertheless, iOS 7 just for that, is welcome and iOS 7 would be released this fall. From previous experiences, beta versions of Apple software are bound to change a great deal before they get approved for consumer devices. So far so good though; iOS7 has been said to deliver pretty much what we already know about iOS and even more.

There’s a lot of new stuff to love about iOS7. There is now a Control Center which gives you quick access to the controls and apps you have been using. With just a single upward swipe on the screen, the Control Center can also turn toggle Wi-Fi, adjust screen brightness and start a flashlight.

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The Multitasking app-switcher has also been completely revamped with new features. There is a new lock screen, a revisited notification Center, a super-charged Siri, a new, easily-accessed quick settings bar, and pretty much every app you can think of has been revamped and stripped down to its essence. There is the new AirDrop which allows near field communication between iOS devices around. Can somebody shout hallelujah to that? You can finally share photos, videos and contacts using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – but with iOS devices.

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At every level, iOS 7 is a slick revitalization, rejuvenation and resurrection of the core iOS experience. Even Safari gets a brand new look with a refreshed tab view and a unified search field. Safari can also suggest passwords for you but we sincerely wonder how much use that would be. The music and photo apps have also been revisited to make things more exciting and savvy. iOS 7 will not be compatible with iPhone 3gs as expected but will for the newer models inclusive of iPhone 4.

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For those who may have seen a link to download the beta version and cannot wait to have a go at Apple’s latest makeup session would have to be careful. This version of iOS 7 is intended only for installation on development devices registered with Apple’s Developer Program and attempting to install this version of iOS in an unauthorized manner could put your device in an unusable state, which could necessitate an out of warranty repair. And even though there are posts out there that mention a possibility of downgrading to iOS 6, on our opinion, we would recommend you DO NOT do the upgrade till the final version is released; unless you are a part of the Apple Developer Program.

A “smaller” Surface… for a “bigger” issue?

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Microsoft’s contribution to the personal computing market has, once again, risen our eyebrows… as well as a lot of other people… and maybe yours.

We are at a time when the personal computer industry faces a major setback. Sales figures for everyone has gone far lower than it used to be and thus, the ongoing battle for dominance for personal computer supremacy has become even more gruesome. It’s not so easy for consumers as well; there are so many different types of mobile phones, mobile computers, tablets and the very like out there each with their respective pros and cons. The general public does not have so much money to spend on any technology and make the wrong choice.

The tablet sector unlike before has a myriad of options on familiar mobile Operating Systems. Microsoft made its grand entry with its very own Surface RT which brought competitors alive to the new tablet oriented (and restricted) Windows 8 RT and the growing Microsoft App Store.  Following the Surface RT was the Surface Pro which was another bombshell Microsoft placed combining the native Windows 8 Professional with the appealing Surface design. And though these two entries from Microsoft come at pretty hefty price tags, sales figures indicate that people do not really mind having a tablet with Windows 8 on it.

The Wall Street Journal writes that Microsoft, looking to catch up to rivals in the tablet industry, could soon be putting out its own 7-inch tablet later this year stating that “making a small tablet wasn’t an original part of Microsoft’s strategy, but that the company is seeking to adapt to a changing market.” This is most likely as a response to the new 7 inch “mini tablet” wars currently spearheaded by Apple’s iPad mini, Google Nexus and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD.

It might take some time for computer manufacturers to come out of the very declined sales figures of the first quarter of this year. Possible questions to ask are: would a “mini-Surface” bring more positive changes that Microsoft (and pretty much every one else) needs? Would introducing a new tablet solve the already existing problem of declining sales?

All we can do is wait.

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.

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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.

128GB iPad is real!

2012-ipad2-gallery1-zoom If you have ever thought about or heard about a 128gb tablet? Well, one of that is now available and guess what? It’s an iPad!

Technology giants Apple have played their 128gb iPad 4 with retina display last week which did not have too much of a blast-off release like the iPhone 5 or the iPad mini but is sure to keep everyone, except a shopaholic I guess, thinking about a number of things for a while.

With the wifi only version for $799 and the LTE version sold for $929, it is clear that this is the most expensive price on an iPad till date – maybe even for a tablet so far. Even though the 128gb solid state drive is quite appealing, there really isn’t too much else that we have not seen before. Barely a couple of months ago, the iPad 3rd generation (a.k.a the new iPad) was harshly replaced with a new iPad 4 with a chip twice as powerful as the earlier and the new “lightning” port. Between the transition from a 16gb iPad 3 till this new release has come another iPad, and even another type of iPad called the iPad mini. All in a space of about a quarter of a year.

Like was earlier mentioned, it’s really nothing else but the storage upgrade. The Apple AppStore actually does own an extremely large collection of applications to keep anyone’s Apple device busy; and maybe the space update would serve enterprises, educators and professionals who need space for capacity consuming content. However, with a price tag reaching close to a thousand Dollars, even Apple fanatics would have to admit that this might be… just maybe… a bit too much.

The prevailing thought would most likely be why you would spend all of that when you could get even better hardware and storage space with a laptop or a netbook. Speaking of Apple, the 11″ MacBook Air costs from $999 and it is no news how much power can be invested in a laptop considering that price tag. Is the extra cost really worth it for just extra storage?

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Actually, a 128gb iPad would serve useful for those who wished for more space on their 64gb iPad. I really wouldn’t mind one actually; and neither would you if given the option to buy. That is probably because of the exceptional quality Apple has raised over the years with their rather expensive (but actually nice) range of mobile tablets. Truly, there are other great tablets out there; but an iPad would always be an iPad… almost like in a class of its own.

A laptop?… or a tablet? The Nigerian ordeal

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Many of us reading this post are most likely to have asked, pondered and maybe dreamed about the question at least at one time or the other. Others were put on the spot with it and some lucky people didn’t really need to bother since someone else helped them out in making the silent, salient yet important choice between the two prevailing forms of mobile technology that has swept the whole world all too sudden.

Buying a Tablet or Laptop isn’t an easy choice. You need to be clear about your requirement in order to decide between them; except you have money to buy both which, from the Nigerian perspective, doesn’t seem to be a likely option in most cases. Surely there are extreme advantages of having both (I use both actually so I can tell) but nevertheless, it does make one wonder about the real decisions to make before you go ahead with either of the two. This post is aimed at helping even you to understand the main differences to consider as clearly as possible.

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Keyboard and input

The most obvious difference between a tablet and a laptop is the lack of a keyboard. Tablets rely solely on a touch interface on the screen for all input. This is fine when it involves mainly pointing, dragging or tapping to navigate around a program. It can also pass off to be a very savvy way of getting things done. Tablets give you full control of the screen, features and applications. By using your finger or a stylus, you can directly touch the screen to make gaming more interactive, and the hands-on approach provides a more tactile experience than a mouse for drawing and illustrating. The problems come in when you have to input text into a program when such as an email or document. Since they have no keyboard, users are required to type on virtual “touch” keyboards that have varying layouts and designs. Most people cannot type as quickly or as accurately on a virtual keyboard and this could pose as a really annoying experience. Users do have the option of adding an external Bluetooth keyboard to most tablets to make this more like a laptop but it adds costs and peripherals that must be taken with the tablet.

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Design and battery

The design of all the laptops is almost the same, that is, they have a “clamshell” design. There may be various colors, back panels and textures that are available, but… the basic design remains the same; very much unlike tablets. Aside from some hefty price tags, you must take special precautions in the care of your tablet; not like this does not apply to the laptop itself but as a tablet may have a durable body, the touchscreen display is exposed. If the touchscreen is damaged, your device could become useless. You can buy a case to protect the screen, but these are not included with the product and require a separate purchase. Compared to laptop computers, tablets are small and smart. Most tablets offer anywhere from a 7-inch to a 10-inch display screen and weigh less than 1 pound. You can store all your music, capture photos or videos, video chat and even read books on their built-in eReaders. Truly ideal for the on the go, take around personality.

Tablets are designed for efficiency because of the low power requirements of their hardware components. In fact, the majority of the interior of a tablet is taken up by the battery. In comparison, laptops use more powerful hardware. The battery component of the laptop is a far smaller percentage of the laptops internal components. Thus, even with the higher capacity battery of laptops, they do not run as long as a tablet. Many of the tablets right now can run up to ten hours of web usage before require a charge. The average laptop would only run for roughly three to four hours with a few systems able to stretch it out to eight hours but that still less than a tablet. This means that tablets can achieve all day usage which few laptops can achieve.

Storage

In order to keep their size and costs down, tablets have had to rely on the new and pretty much more reliable solid state storage memory as a means to store programs and data. While these have the potential for faster access and low power usage, they have one major disadvantage in the amount of files they can store at the moment. Most tablets come with configurations that allow between 16 and 64 gigabytes of storage. By comparison, most laptops still use traditional but more fragile hard drives that hold far much more data. Extremely affordable netbooks still have 160 gigabytes of storage which allows for ten times the amount of data as the most affordable tablets. This won’t always be the case though as some laptops have moved to solid state drives as well and may have as little as 64GB of space. However, we can predict that solid state drives will be the future of storage computing which, if you ask me, could wipe off the ever exasperating hard disk problem laptops today face.

Power

Since most tablets are based on extremely low powered processors, they will generally fall behind a laptop when it comes to computing tasks. Of course, a lot of this will depend on how the tablet or laptop is being used. For tasks like email, web browsing, playing video or audio, both platforms will typically work just as well as neither requires much performance. Things get more complicated once you start doing more demanding tasks. For the most part, multitasking or graphics performance is typically better suited with a laptop but not in all cases.

Even though it is possible for a tablet version of a certain software to have similar functions as its desktop version, it is expected that the desktop version would have more capabilities. But again, while traveling, if you are having some sort of work to be done, then tablets are a decent choice as most tablets have sync properties that help us to access our files from anywhere across the world.

The software that runs on a laptop or tablet can be vastly different in terms of capabilities. Assume that a tablet is running Windows 7 for example.  It can theoretically run the same software as a laptop but will likely be slower or have less features of a sort of the other.  Major tablet platforms available right now are Android, iOS, Blackberry and the new Microsoft Windows 8 RT which require applications specific to their operating systems. There are tons of programs available for each of these and many will do most of the basic tasks that a laptop can do. The problem however, is the lack of the input devices and hardware performance limitations mean that some more advanced features supplied by corresponding laptop class programs may have to be dropped in order to fit into the tablet environment.

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Data Security

Concerning malware and other security threats, tablets are claimed to be safer when compared to laptops. This statement is very arguable. Most security threats are as a result of Windows operating System and not the form factor. Laptops that are loaded with Linux or Mac, are considerably secure and claimed to be free from malware attacks. On the other side, tablets are not so free from security threats as many assume. Currently, malware apps are uploaded on the Apple store and even Google Play Store. An example was the debated “Find & Call” app which was supposed to offer the service of  aggregating and simplifying contacts but simply harvested data from users’ address books and uploaded information to the developer’s server which was used to spam users with SMS messages. The number of security breaches for tablets have become a concern that are as horrid as that for desktop/laptop based operating systems; especially with the concept of “jailbreaking” devices which allow third party applications to be installed on tablets.

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External Devices

Tablets these days, are coming with USB ports or OTG (On-The-Go) cables which means they are steadily rising to be on par with laptops as regards external storage devices. Many tablets even now have Bluetooth enabled joypads and accessories which allow a laptop like experience with your tablet. But the question is if you are willing to spend even more money for that after spending so much already acquiring the tablet.

If you’re trying to decide between a laptop and a tablet, it all depends upon you and your needs. If you are planning to carry your computer for extended periods of time, especially to do light based tasks such as watching movies, picture slides and listening to music, the lighter tablet may be ideal for you. Writing out what features you must have in your device is a very good approach to making the right investment. Compare and contrast different products to see which ones have the specifications you are looking for. Only by figuring out your needs will you discover which type of computing device you prefer.