Articles about Know Your PC

Windows 8.1 Update is the final nail in the coffin

Windows update grave

Windows 8.1 Update. Windows 8.1 Update 1. Windows Feature Pack. Windows 8.1 Service Pack 1. Call it what you will, the big update to Windows 8.1 is just around the corner and it promises much. Or at least it did. It was revealed yesterday that it was possible to get hold of the update ahead of schedule with a quick and simple registry edit -- or by downloading the necessary files from the numerous mirrors that quickly sprang up -- and it appears that this is final code; the RTM version that will hit Windows Update for the masses very soon. Was it worth the wait?

This update was Microsoft's chance to put things right, to win back people who hated Windows 8 and have failed to be won over by 8.1. I make no secret about having a love-hate relationship with Windows 8.x. There have been parts of Windows 8 -- particularly the Metro/modern side of things -- which I disliked from day one, but for the most part I have been able to just avoid using them. Microsoft has even acknowledged that people want to avoid the Start screen whenever possible, and has provided tips on how to do so.

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Windows XP home users should upgrade to Linux -- not Windows 8.1

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The Windows XP death clock is ticking away. While Microsoft has extended support for malware protection, do not be fooled -- XP will be officially unsupported on April 8. If Microsoft has its druthers, these XP users will upgrade to Windows 8 and maybe even buy a new computer.

However, there is a problem with this -- the Windows 8 UI is radically different from XP and people do not like change (especially people clinging to an operating system from 2001). Also, they may not need to buy a new computer, because their existing is probably fast enough... for Linux!

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Stop and restart apps properly in Windows 8.1

hand stop

To close an app in Windows 8 all you need to do is drag it to the bottom of the screen. In Windows 8.1, Microsoft made a small change. While you can still close the app in this way, removing it from view, this method doesn’t stop all of the processes associated with the app (Windows will, however, close the app properly, eventually, if you don’t use it after a while).

So in other words, if an app is misbehaving, dragging it down to the bottom of the screen and then relaunching it probably won’t fix the problems you’re experiencing. You could reboot, or use Task Manager to close it that way, but there’s an easier method.

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Dr Dre launches Beats Music to deliver the right tune at the right time

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What's that? Another music streaming service? Another one?! You could be forgiven for having this reaction to the news that Dr Dre's Beats Music is now available for iOS and Android; this is a market that is already rather saturated, and music lovers are not exactly short of options when it comes to picking a service to satiate their audio needs. So any new service vying for attention has to have something rather unique to offer if it is going to stand out from the competition.

Beats Music does have a unique selling point. It is a service that is about more than just streaming music, it aims to deliver the right music according to the time of day, what you are doing and where you are. Is this sort of stream tailoring enough to win over music fans? Only time will tell, but Beats Music certainly has a fight on its hands if it is to wrestle users away from the existing services that have been established for some time.

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Thilmera7 is a very configurable PC monitor

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Thilmera7 is a PC monitor which can help you track CPU and RAM usage, processes, threads, network traffic, hard drive activity, hardware temperatures and more, all in a free and portable desktop tool.

Launch the program and a tiny window appears with basic system details: free RAM, CPU usage, the number of processes/ threads/ handles, disk and network activity. This is presented in a horribly basic way, mostly text with a few feeble graphical touches, but it does at least give you some useful feedback on what your PC is doing.

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Run Windows 8 or 8.1 directly from a USB drive on any computer -- for free

Windows 2 go

The Enterprise edition of Windows 8.x has a feature called Windows To Go that lets you create a working version of Microsoft's tiled operating system on a USB memory stick. You can boot into this and be instantly up and running in the new OS from any computer. Which is great -- provided you have the Enterprise edition of the OS and a "certified" USB drive. If you only have the standard version of Windows 8.x then the option isn't available to you.

But there is a very easy way you can build a personalized and bootable copy of Windows 8 or 8.1 on a USB drive, for use anywhere. All you need is a USB 3.0 device with at least 13GB capacity (it will run on a USB 2.0 memory stick, but slowly), a copy of Windows 8.x (either an installation disc or an ISO -- you can get the Windows 8.1 ISO by following these instructions but you will need a Windows 8.1 key), and a free partitioning program. Here's what you need to do.

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Why I hope curved screens don't become the norm

TV television

One of the most memorable presentations given at CES this year saw Samsung showing off its latest curved screen TV. Sadly for the tech giant it was Michael Bay's on-stage brain fart that most people took away from the talk (if I can just leave you with the delightful image of taking away someone's fart with you...), but Samsung would much rather we concentrated on the display technology it was showcasing. It excited a great many people, and for some it is seen as the way ahead and something we could see a lot more off. I sincerely hope we don't, particularly on the desktop.

Why? There are lots of reasons that I am opposed to the idea of curved screens, particularly when used for TVs and monitors -- smartphones are slightly different, but I'm not too keen on that either. Curved screens are not really a brand spanking new technology; there have been curved cinema screens for a number of years now, and I can see the benefit of the curve in this setting. Used in a theater the curve eliminates the problem of trying to find a seat right in the center because it matters far less where you are in relation to the screen. Everyone gets an equally good view of the action. It is a democratizing technology. So why am I down on it?

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The most popular stories on BetaNews this past week -- December 22 - 28

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This hass been a much quieter week than usual with Christmas meaning that many companies have been on a virtual shutdown. But there has still been a bit of activity over the past seven days. We've reached the end of the year and the BetaNews team finds itself in a reflective mood. Mihaita was the first to pick his favourite tech products of the years, and Wayne wasn't far behind. Brian also got in on the action and Ian shared his thoughts as well. Bing also took a look back at the year, putting together a list of the top ten homepage images of 2013.

A delay at UPS meant that the delivery of many Christmas presents was held up, but if the delivery man did manage to make his way to your door in time to bring you a Surface 2, Brian has a guide to getting started. Alan was also on hand to help anyone who was the lucky recipient of a Kindle Fire HDX or a Google TV. Many people will have received, or bought themselves, a Windows 8.1 PC: Wayne had the info you need to get started.

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Santa brought you Windows 8.1? Here's what to do first

Windows 81

Windows 8.1 is a great operating system. So if you received it for Christmas, either as a boxed copy, or installed on a new PC or tablet, the first thing to do is not -- as some people will say -- swap it for Windows 7.

If you are going to be running the new OS on a tablet, or on a system with a touch screen, then it’s fine to use pretty much as is. If you’re using it on a desktop, or non-touch laptop however, there are some customizations worth performing to make it more suited to your needs.

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Shhh! The noise your computer makes could be used to decrypt your files

hard disk listening

It's probably not something you need worry about in relation to your personal files just yet, but according to a newly published paper (the snappily titled "RSA Key Extraction via Low-Bandwidth Acoustic Cryptanalysis") it appears that it is possible to extract 4096-bit RSA decryption keys by listening to the sounds made by a computer.

This might sound like the talk of someone paranoid, but it is actually more feasible than you might first think. And the paper has been penned by no less than Adi Shamir, the co-inventor of the RSA algorithm.

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Take control of your privacy in Windows 8.1

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Privacy has been a hot topic throughout 2013 and it’s always worth taking a little time to make sure you’re not accidentally sharing more information with the world than you might want to. Microsoft’s tiled operating system comes with some handy privacy controls baked in that you should definitely take a look at if you haven’t already.

This feature won’t stop the NSA spying on you, but it can prevent apps from accessing personal details like your name, photo, location and account info, and prevent them from using your PC or tablet's camera and microphone without your knowledge.

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Time is running out: How to upgrade from Windows 8.1 Preview

Windows 8 logo

The finished version of Windows 8.1 has been out for a couple of months now, but if you’re still using the free preview build, time is running out. Windows 8.1 Preview and Windows RT 8.1 Preview are both set to expire on January 15.

Upgrading from the preview to the final GA release is very easy, and there are a couple of ways of doing it.

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Should companies stick to their guns or give in to customer demands?

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The customer is always right, right? As a customer it is understandable that this old adage seems like something set in stone, but looked at from a company's point of view things are rather different. A large proportion of customers are in fact idiots. While it is reasonable to expect a company to listen to what its customers have to say, does this risk stifling innovation as customers demand that things be done a certain way?

Here on BetaNews we've had a little debate about whether Microsoft should reintroduce the Start menu. Despite the number of people calling for its return, Brian does not think it is a good idea saying that "the company should ignore these customers, even if they are the majority". I am of the opinion that it would be good to at least make it optional, particularly for enterprise customers.

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Troubleshoot tricky PC problems with SpyStudio

broken PC

In an ideal world, diagnosing software problems would be easy. If a program couldn’t find a vital DLL or Registry key then it would display a detailed error message, describing both the problem and solution, so you could get everything working again with the minimum of hassle.

The real world, of course, is very different: failing programs will generally crash, lock up, or display an error message which means almost nothing at all. Checking with the developer, or searching for your symptoms online may offer some clues. But if you’re getting nowhere, then SpyStudio 32-bit and 64-bit might be able to help you understand what’s going on.

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Get ready to upgrade -- DDR4 memory is on its way

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I recently upgraded my already fast PC, adding a large Kingston SSD, Intel Core i7 Processor, and new motherboard, and additionally boosted the amount of DDR3 RAM to 16GB. Unfortunately, my new super-speedy system could be out of date as soon as next month -- well the memory and motherboard elements of it at least.

Memory specialist Crucial has DDR4 listed on its website, along with a nifty infographic (embedded below) to tell you more about the next generation memory. According the information on the site, the faster RAM is coming out late in 2013, which means -- as we're running out of months -- it should be available some time in December.

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