Wayne Williams

Want a second opinion on how badly Windows 8.x is doing?

second opinion

This year’s Build developer conference is set to get underway shortly, and Microsoft will, among other things, be introducing a major update for Windows 8.1 designed to make it more appealing to keyboard and mouse users.

Yesterday I reported on NetMarketShare’s breakdown of desktop operating system market share in March, which showed XP losing some ground, Windows 7 growing nicely, and Windows 8.x creeping upwards still, but very slowly. Today StatCounter releases its figures, and while the percentages are different, the overall picture remains just as gloomy for Microsoft’s tiled operating system.

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Happy 10th birthday Gmail -- Google's greatest ever April Fools' Day surprise


Whether you love or hate them, Google’s April Fools' Day announcements are something we’ve come to expect, and they’re usually pretty creative, even if they don’t fool many people. Some of this year’s pranks include Google+ Auto Awesome Photobombs with The Hoff, Gmail Shelfie and Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge.

Ten years ago though, Google made what was easily its greatest April Fools' announcement ever -- introducing the world to Gmail, a new free webmail service. Few people fell for it though, as the 1GB of free storage being offered was too fantastical. Hotmail, the market leading service at the time, gave its free users just 2MB and had a policy of ruthlessly deleting new messages once that limit was reached. If you wanted to increase the size of your inbox to 10MB you could, but at the cost of $19.95 a year. And here was a search engine promising 500 times as much storage, for free? Yeah, right. Nice try Google!

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Where are XP users moving to? Windows 7

Bucolic Green Hills

In a week Windows XP will reach its end of life. Microsoft has done its best to tell people they need to switch operating systems or face the consequences, but if the latest desktop OS share trend from NetMarketShare is anything to go by, Windows XP users really don’t seem too worried. In March, XP’s share dropped just 1.84 percent, from 29.53 percent to 27.69 percent. Hardly the signs of a mass exodus, although at least the share fell this month, unlike the previous two, when XP usage actually went up.

Microsoft has, naturally enough, pushed XP users towards upgrading to Windows 8.x, or "new Windows" as the tech giant likes to refer to it, but Windows 7, or "old Windows" proved yet again to be far the bigger draw.

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LaCie Fuel expands iPad capacity by 2TB


Whatever size tablet you opt for, there’s a good chance you’ll fill the available space in no time at all. Apps, photos, and HD movies all consume a sizable amount of space, forcing you to manage your storage wisely.

If you own an iPhone or iPad you can boost your device’s available capacity with an LaCie Fuel 2.5 inch wireless drive. The LaCie Fuel offers wireless streaming to up to five devices without an internet connection, and Airplay compatibility for mirroring content on a larger screen. It can also create its own Wi-Fi network and act as a hotspot when connected to the internet via Wi-Fi.

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Microsoft promises not to read user emails again


After repeatedly bashing Google for going through its user's personal messages in the whole "Don't Get Scroogled by Gmail" campaign, Microsoft went one step beyond automatically scanning messages for keywords in order to serve up adverts, which Google does, and actually read a user’s private email, which Google doesn’t (as far as we know anyway).

Microsoft felt its actions were justified -- it was trying to prove a blogger had leaked pre-release Windows builds -- but users were rightly concerned that Microsoft had shown it was willing and able to read their personal emails should it choose to. The statement the company issued in light of the concern over its practices was hardly reassuring, and suggested Microsoft would do it again should the need arise. Today, Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft, has posted a follow up blog that essentially says Microsoft made a mistake and will be making changes to ensure reading customer emails in this way won't happen again.

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Best iOS apps this week

little big adventure

Twelfth in a series. Microsoft rolled out Office for iPad this week, and it's excellent. Like Apple iWork, it's not a single app but rather three individual apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint (an updated OneNote is available too). You need an Office 365 subscription to get the most out of it, as without one you can only view documents.

Other featured apps this week include a modern remake of Little Big Adventure (a classic game from the nineties), a touch typing tutor, a drawing app for children, a sweeping and rather too addictive Game of Thrones RPG, a Captain America tie-in, and a group text messaging app.

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Windows' future is looking increasingly bleak


Analyst Gartner has just released its latest worldwide devices forecast, which shows, unsurprisingly, traditional PC shipments declining, and tablets, mobile phones, and ultramobiles (hybrid and clamshell) all growing. In total, device shipments are set to rise 6.9 percent, up from the 4.8 percent growth achieved last year.

There are few surprises in the report. Shipments of mobile phones, the most popular device type in the market, are expected to reach 1.9 billion units in 2014, a 4.9 percent increase from 2013. The worldwide tablet market is forecast to grow 38.6 percent in 2014, shipments of traditional PCs are forecast to total 276.7 million units in 2014 (a 6.6 percent decline from 2013), and ultramobiles are set to grow from 21.1 million in 2013 to 37.2 million this year. Gartner has also forecast shipments by operating systems, and while Windows still shows growth, overall it's far from happy times ahead for Microsoft.

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Watch Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s Office for iPad announcement

Satya Nadella

At 10am PT, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is set to discuss the intersection of cloud and mobile at an event in San Francisco.

Although there’s no mention of it in the details we’ve seen, and no pre-briefings have been given, it’s widely expected that Office for iPad will be unveiled at the event. This will be a big move for Microsoft if it turns out to be the case, but unlike Apple's iWork suite for iPad, which is sold for a one-time fee (and provided free on new iPads), Microsoft will likely tie access into Office 365.

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Songza to deliver weather-driven music recommendations


Songza is an online music streaming service that attempts to predict what you're doing or feeling -- based on day, time, device type, location and past behavior -- and provide a curated playlist to suit. It offers playlists for a range of diverse activities such as waking up, working out, commuting, concentrating, unwinding, entertaining, and sleeping.

Today, the service adds a new trick -- providing music to match the current weather. Thanks to a new partnership with The Weather Company, parent to The Weather Channel, Songza will now attempt to use weather data to better predict the "context" or state of mind of the user.

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New malware uses Android smartphones to mine for digital currencies


Digital currencies can be purchased in their respective markets, or acquired through "mining", which can be done using any computer or smartphone and a special piece of software. Security firm Lookout has just released details on a new piece of malware called CoinKrypt that uses a botnet of Android smartphones to mine for currency.

Because mining is incredibly resource-intensive, the process can severely run down a phone’s battery, eat through a data plan by periodically downloading what is known as a block chain, or a copy of the currency transaction history, and potentially damage hardware by causing it to overheat and burn out.

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Overcome an alien invasion and get in shape at the same time with BattleSuit Runner Fitness

Battlesuit runner

As much as I enjoy running, I often need help and motivation to get started, and keep going, and Zombies, Run! has been my savior. I’ve mentioned the fitness app several times in the past, but if you’re not familiar, it’s a sort of interactive radio play, in which episodic stories unfold in-between tracks from your playlist as you run, transforming a real-world jog into a journey through the zombie apocalypse.

Season 3 of Zombies, Run! is out next month, but I’ve found a new running app to keep me occupied until then. BattleSuit Runner Fitness is available for both Android and iOS and is quite similar in that the missions unfold in-between your running songs, but in this game you’re DeltaSuit, an exosuit-wearing commando battling against an alien invasion.

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Microsoft makes source code for MS-DOS and Word for Windows publicly available for the first time


Microsoft has teamed up with the Computer History Museum (CHM) to make the original source code for two of its most historic programs publicly available for the first time. MS-DOS, the 1982 Disk Operating System for IBM-compatible personal computers, and Word for Windows, the 1990 Windows-based version of popular word processor.

“The museum has done an excellent job of curating some of the most significant historical software programs in computing history", Roy Levin, distinguished engineer and managing director, Microsoft Research says. “As part of this ongoing project, the museum will make available two of the most widely used software programs of the 1980’s, MS DOS 1.1 and 2.0 and Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1a, to help future generations of technologists better understand the roots of personal computing”.

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Watch HTC's new One unveiling live


HTC is set to show off its new One smartphone at 11 AM ET in NYC today, although thanks to various leaks, we already know a fair bit about it, including that it will have a larger 5-inch display, be powered by a 2.3GHz Snapdragon processor, and sport a brushed stainless finish. The company also accidentally revealed that the smartphone will be available in a Google Play edition.

We’ll obviously post all of the details regarding the new device as soon as it’s officially revealed, but if you want to follow the announcement as it happens, HTC is kindly live streaming the full event.

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Best iOS apps this week

star horizon

Eleventh in a series. Apple rolled out a cheaper 8GB version of its iPhone 5c this week (in selected territories) and also replaced the aging budget iPad 2 with the newer, 4th gen iPad with Retina Display. The replacement iPad, which is available everywhere, is priced the same as the iPad mini giving potential buyers an interesting purchasing dilemma.

Featured apps this week include one of the best looking games yet released for iOS, an app which claims to boost your fitness in just four minutes a day, one which will help you avoid people you don’t want to see, and a game which could help find a cure for cancer.

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Google makes Gmail HTTPS-only in a bid to thwart NSA snoopers


Gmail has always supported HTTPS, and even made the communications protocol the default option in 2010. Today Google announces it will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email.

"Today's change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail’s servers -- no matter if you're using public Wi-Fi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet", Nicolas Lidzborski, Gmail Security Engineering Lead says.

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