Mihaita Bamburic

Good-bye, Windows XP!

waving dog goodbye

As I try to start this article with a bang, I realize how difficult it is to describe exactly how I feel about Windows XP as it is being put out to pasture todayOn one hand the operating system is nearly 13 years old and long outdated, but on the other hand my early PC days are linked to it.

Around 2001, back when Microsoft introduced us to Windows XP, I was jumping back and forth between Windows 98 SE and Windows ME. I liked both, for different reasons. The former was fast and I had every driver that I needed for it. The latter felt more modern. (Well, anything felt more modern than Windows 98 to me, to be honest.) But after I had a taste of Windows XP, I never looked back. It looked like the future of PCs, and I simply could not resist the sight of that new UI.

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Qualcomm announces Snapdragon 810, 808 with 64-bit support in tow

Processor Circuits Circuitry

While Apple is the only major mobile device manufacturer to have a 64-bit processor inside its high-end smartphones and tablets (the A7 powering the latest iPhone and iPads), its rivals will be able to join the party thanks to Qualcomm's new top-of-the-line 64-bit processors.

The US chip maker has announced the Snapdragon 810 and Snapdragon 808, its first high-end mobile processors with 64-bit support. Both come with impressive specifications and features, joining the previously-announced Snapdragon 410, Snapdragon 610 and Snapdragon 615 in Qualcomm's 64-bit processor lineup.

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Sony's new full-frame A7S mirrorless camera can shoot in 4K

Sony A7S

Thanks to advancements in technology, over the past year we saw a significant number of new devices touting their 4K credentials. The now-standard 1080p is a thing of the past in product announcements, present in the specifications sheet as a second-tier option. Even smartphones can now record 4K video (a good example of which is the Samsung Galaxy Note 3), which is an astonishing feat.

The 4K format, used as a catchier moniker for 2160p, only represents a niche at this point, as it has yet to reach a mainstream level of adoption. The inhibitive cost of supporting devices, smart TVs especially, as well as the scarce availability of 4K content contribute to this. But, 4K has also received little attention from camera manufacturers, which have been slow to implement the richer format in their lineups. Sony is among the first to change this, as it just unveiled its 4K-ready A7S full-frame mirrorless offering.

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Windows Phone 8.1 developer release to arrive shortly

Windows Phone 8.1 Launch

Last week, at the yearly Build conference, Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8.1. It is the first major update for its smartphone operating system in nearly 18 months, so, naturally, many want to get their hands on the new release as soon as possible.

Microsoft, at launch, revealed that developers will get the chance to test Windows Phone 8.1, hinting at an availability date that precedes the release of new smartphones shipping with it. Seeing as the Windows Phone Store is still in need of improvement, the sooner the software giant delivers the goods the better. Luckily, developers (as well as early adopters, like myself) do not have to wait long to get Windows Phone 8.1 up and running on their smartphones.

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Here's a Samsung Galaxy S4 look-alike running Windows Phone 8

Samsung ATIV SE Windows Phone 8

Just like the ATIV S which came before it, the Samsung ATIV SE is a rehash of the South Korean maker's previous Android flagship, the Galaxy S4 in this case, running Windows Phone 8. Even though Windows Phone 8.1 was just announced, the company is sticking to the release dating back to 2012.

The ATIV SE, which is only available at Verizon at this stage, is likely to be Samsung's Windows Phone flagship for quite some time, if the ATIV S is of any indication (it was released nearly 18 months ago). Luckily, the hardware does not disappoint.

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How to create a bootable Windows 8.1 Update USB drive

shutterstock_158798891-600x400

Even though Windows 8.1 has been designed to work fine on touch-enabled devices as well as traditional PCs, many argued that Microsoft was still not doing enough to please those who are exclusively relying on a keyboard and mouse to navigate through the operating system. Luckily for them, Microsoft has listened to user feedback and introduced Windows 8.1 Update, during the latest Build conference.

Microsoft has revealed that Windows 8.1 Update -- well, the Update bit anyway -- will roll out to consumers starting April 8. The refreshed operating system as well as the individual update are already available though, to MSDN and TechNet subscribers. Here is how you can create a bootable Windows 8.1 Update USB drive.

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Yahoo touts more security improvements

Cloud Security Communications

Security has taken center-stage at Yahoo, as the company continues to roll out encryption for its cloud services and its site in an attempt to keep users and their personal information safe from prying eyes.

"Hundreds of Yahoos have been working around the clock over the last several months to provide a more secure experience for our users and we want to do even more moving forward", says Yahoo chief information security officer Alex Stamos. "Our goal is to encrypt our entire platform for all users at all time, by default. Our broader mission is to not only make Yahoo secure, but improve the security of the overall web ecosystem".

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Nokia unveils three new Lumia Windows Phone 8.1 smartphones

Nokia Lumia 930

Now that Windows Phone 8.1 is official, Finnish maker Nokia just announced three new Lumias rocking the new tiled smartphone operating system. The Lumia 930 acts as the company's new flagship, while the Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 are its low-end offerings.

The Lumia 930 is the natural successor to the Lumia 920 and Lumia 925, strongly resembling the Verizon-exclusive Lumia 929 in both specifications and appearance. The Lumia 635 is the successor to the Lumia 625, with the Lumia 630 introducing dual-SIM support into the mix, a first for the platform.

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Meet Windows Phone 8.1

Windows Phone 8.1 Launch

Today, at the Build conference in San Francisco, Microsoft takes the wraps off Windows Phone 8.1, the first major update for its smartphone operating system since late-October 2012. The much-awaited release should finally give the software giant's competitor a clear advantage in the race against main rivals Android and iOS, that dominate the smartphone market from afar.

Microsoft has thrown a lot of features at Windows Phone 8.1, some of which we had been expecting to arrive with Windows Phone 8. A lot is riding on this release, as the platform is at a critical stage now. Its market share fails to top 4 percent due to low consumer adoption, Microsoft is set to become the largest Windows Phone vendor, manufacturers have shown little interest in it as they focus their efforts on Android instead, and the competition is more fierce than ever. Windows Phone 8.1 is the release which sets the tone for the platform in 2014, and, naturally, our expectations are high.

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BlackBerry and T-Mobile part ways

Breakup Smartphones

It is unusual for a smartphone manufacturer to announce it no longer wants to have its devices available at a major mobile operator's stores. Yet this is what the troubled BlackBerry has done.

BlackBerry revealed that it will not renew its agreement with US mobile operator T-Mobile once the license expires later this month, following the controversy triggered by the latter's attempt to move BlackBerry customers to other brands. This decision will effectively put an end to new sales of BlackBerrys at T-Mobile, come April 25.

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Bill Gates loves his new iPhone 5s, can now beat Bono at Candy Crush

Bill Gates

Bill Gates just took a bite out of a forbidden fruit. Microsoft's founder has been seen using an iPhone 5s while departing for a philanthropic endeavour, despite his role at the software giant and having a no-Apple-device-allowed policy in his family.

Gates's kids were taken by surprise, after asking to use iPhones since 2007 and being told "No", but said they understand and support his choice as Apple's smartphone "is pretty cool". Gates' decision to buy an iPhone 5s, in white with, naturally, a (Product) Red case, was fueled by Bono's taunts, as U2's lead singer repeatedly teased Gates for not being able to beat him at Candy Crush.

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Motorola matters once again in Europe

Motorola Moto G

Before Motorola brought the Moto G and Moto X to Europe, the company's presence on the old continent was lackluster at best when it came to smartphones. The best consumers could get, and only in a small number of markets, was the dated Razr HD that seemed to be aimed solely at the brand's fans and keeping the Motorola name alive. The maker had thrown in the towel, trailing behind the likes of Apple and Samsung.

The Moto G and, later, the Moto X have put Motorola back on the smartphone map. "Motorola was nowhere in Europe before the Moto G launched in November last year, but the new model has since boosted the manufacturer to 6 percent of British sales", says Kantar Wordpanel ComTech strategic insight director Dominic Sunnebo. "It highlights the speed at which a quality budget phone can disrupt a market".

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Beware of third-party Google-branded Windows Phone apps

Beware

The official launch of major Google apps on Windows Phone would qualify as the biggest news of the week, next to the release of Office for iPads. Such an event seems highly unlikely, as the search giant is focusing its mobile development efforts on the more popular platforms, namely Android and iOS.

Imagine my surprise when, only moments earlier, in group chat my colleague Alan Buckingham mentions these five Google apps, that seem legit at first glance: Hangouts, Voice, Maps, Search and Google+. They are now available in the US Windows Phone Store. Did the search giant just have a change of heart? The answer appears to be negative, as, first-off, Google does not sell such apps for $1.99 a pop, it makes them available for free. But, what is so special about them anyway? It is not like these are the only third-party Google apps in Store.

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Office Mobile free on Android, iPhone is a clever bait

Bait Sea Hook Fishing

Microsoft made Office Mobile available for free since launch, on both Android and iOS. But, in order to take advantage of its features, users had to tie the app to an Office 365 subscription. So it was free, but not void of additional costs.

Yesterday, Microsoft launched Office for iPad and announced a subscription is now no longer necessary to get the best out of Office Mobile, which was just updated on both platforms to reflect this decision. While this only applies to home users -- which means a subscription is still needed for non-personal (commercial) use -- it is certainly a welcome change. But, it also means Windows Phone just lost one of its most important advantages over its main rivals.

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Microsoft Azure opens its cloud doors in China

Cloud

After announcing the upcoming rebranding of Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure, the software giant has revealed its cloud platform is now broadly available in China. 21Vianet is responsible for the operation in the local Asian market.

"This significant milestone makes us the first global company to make onshore public cloud services available to customers in China", says Microsoft corporate vice president of Cloud & Enterprise Marketing Takeshi Numoto. Microsoft Azure has been available to local customers since June 6, last year, but only as a public preview.

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