Articles about Review

First look: Windows Blue build 9364

windows blue start screen in red - Edited

When I was growing up one of my parents' favorite expressions was "do as I say, not as I do". The old adage likely rings true in this case as well. You see, as a rule I don't recommend downloading files from BitTorrent, as you are just as likely to get a virus as a legitimate program, movie or song. That applies to leaked files especially.

But, there are legitimate reasons for the sharing service -- upcoming artists share music, Linux shares distros, even producers have distributed movies in this way.

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Stardock ModernMix makes apps as usable as desktop programs on Windows 8 [Preview]


Windows apps that you run on Windows 8 are limited to the Start screen environment by default. Here you can run them in full screen, or attached to a side of the screen so that they use 1/3 or 2/3 of the screen. What you cannot do is run them in windowed mode on the desktop.

Attempts have been made in the past to bring that extra functionality to Windows 8 in the form of third-party applications. One of them, RetroUI Pro does so, but the implementation is fairly limited.

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Is Chromebook Pixel worth spending $1,299? [first-impressions review]

Chromebook Pixel dreamy

First in a series. Chromebook Pixel is an enigma. A misfit. Some critics call it a miscalculation -- that Google created a pretty kit that offers too little value for the high price. For sure, $1,299, or $1,449 for the model with LTE, is more than most people pay. According to NPD, the average selling price of laptops at US retail was $640 in January.

But some people do pay more. Apple laptops start at $999 and, according to NPD, the ASP was $1,419 last month. Unquestionably, I see Chromebook Pixel as priced against Macs, and after using Google's laptop see it targeted at the same professionals who value Apple notebooks. The question any potential buyer should ask: Is Pixel worth spending as much as Google asks? I will answer that question in several parts -- this initial review is first.

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Ubuntu Touch -- interesting concept that needs work [preview]

Ubuntu Touch homescreen split

The concept of Canonical taking a stab at the mobile market eludes me. Unless we want to split hairs, which I know will happen, Android already is the Linux ambassador across the globe, so why would the world need Ubuntu Touch? Furthermore, any new player starts out with a clean slate, which means many consumers will be skeptical at purchasing devices running the new operating system and therefore developer interest does not surpass a low threshold.

The PC market is not what it used to be a couple of years ago when people rushed out to buy new computers, rather than tablets or smartphones first. In some ways Canonical right now is Microsoft before Windows Phone and Windows 8 -- an important player further heading into obscurity down the road unless the boat steers in the right direction. Ubuntu Touch is supposed to give the world a breath of fresh air, the X factor that would sway enough people into switching from Android, iOS, Windows Phone or a feature phone, even.

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Spanning takes the crown for Google Apps backup services [review]

Cloud Computing

The competition in the Google Apps backup market is steadily ramping up, with more than a few contenders jumping in lately to have a piece of this newfound need. Just two months ago, I wrote about my (mostly) positive thoughts regarding Apps backup provider Backupify. But in order to do the competition justice, I decided to give the other popular alternative Spanning a run for the money.

Your choices don't stop at Spanning and Backupify, in case you're wondering. Google stepped into the backup arena with its first party Vault solution earlier last year, which takes the crown for being the  most integrated option (for apparent reasons.) Some of the junior vendors in this space also include CloudAlly and SysCloudSoft. These two latter providers try to edge out Spanning and Backupify with better pricing, but they are not yet as established so it is tough to judge them on cost comparison alone.

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Should you buy Microsoft Surface Pro?

Surface Pro

Microsoft's flagship tablet running Window 8 Pro goes on sale in Canada and the United States on February 9. The device is the most-important released to date running the operating system, for what it seeks to accomplish and means for Microsoft. Critics call Windows RT a failure (I disagree). Distribution is the problem, if any, and that's easily remedied.

Still, RT badmouthing puts Pro perceptions in a bad spot. Microsoft's public relations team responded by getting devices out to reviewers and setting an embargo of 9 pm EST February 5. So four days before launch, a bunch of reviews exploded across the InterWebs around the same time. Younger reviewers from trendier tech tabloids tend to talk up Surface Pro while older fogies and those from more consumer pubs are more hesitant. I'm among the few old farts who get Surface and what Microsoft strives to achieve here. Then, again, I've covered the company for a long time.

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Surface Pro first-impressions review

Surface Pro

Surface Pro is magnificent. A classic. It's the Windows experience you longed for but were denied. The tablet is a reference design for what -- and what not -- Microsoft OEM partners should achieve. The device is the past and future, pure personal computer and post-PC. Simply put: Surface Pro is jack of all trades, both master of many, and (gulp) none. Capabilities astound, yet quirks abound. But even they are endearing, giving Windows 8 Pro personality and dimension.

For the past five days, I've had the privilege of using Surface Pro, which goes on sale February 9, as my primary PC. That's not enough time to fairly evaluate the tablet, which is why I write a first-impressions review. I'll add much more as my month with the device progresses. For now, I will share my early reactions, while offering context about Microsoft's objectives for the product and how well it achieves them. Unquestionably, Surface Pro isn't for everyone. But it could be for you.

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HTC Windows Phone 8X -- Purple madness [Review]

HTC Windows Phone 8X

The HTC Windows Phone 8X is a smartphone that you will either love or not want to touch even with a 10 foot pole. Part of the arguments for and against it stem from the operating system of choice, Microsoft's latest (and greatest) Windows Phone iteration. Sure, the device has good build quality and the software is fluid and responsive, but the app selection is currently lacking compared to rivals like Android and iOS. So where does one draw the line between success and failure?

I've been using the Windows Phone 8X for almost two weeks and the early impressions are still on the positive side. In my initial review I touched on a number of points that I found revealing for my brief time with it, but the real test is how the Windows Phone 8X fares over a longer period of time. My main and initial gripes concern the limited app selection and general usability issues of Windows Phone 8 when coming from the stock flavor of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The real question is this: Is it good enough?

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HTC Windows Phone 8X -- positive first impressions

HTC Windows Phone 8X

Before anyone labels me as an Android fanboy, let me tell you this -- I like Windows Phone 8, I like it a lot. Even though my smartphone of choice is the Google Galaxy Nexus running either of the two Jelly Bean iterations, Microsoft's mobile operating system has always appealed to me, especially the latest iteration which is by far the best of the bunch. I’ve always wanted to review Windows Phone 8, but there was one big problem -- I couldn't get a review unit for an in-depth look at it. So I did what PR folks were not expecting -- I bought an HTC Windows Phone 8X.

So why the Windows Phone 8X? There are not many devices running the new OS at the moment, but in my part of the world the selection is even more limited -- HTC is the only manufacturer that currently sells a Windows Phone 8 smartphone. The price is also very attractive at EUR479 which is marginally less than what the Samsung Galaxy S III goes for, for instance. By contrast the Nokia Lumia 920, which is not yet available locally through official channels, costs more than EUR700 at major retailers, a price difference that I cannot justify at all. So, as you can imagine, the Windows Phone 8X is my one and only choice.

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Comodo Internet Security Pro 2013 [Review]

comodo thumb

What do you really want from a security suite? Most companies appear to believe the answer is "as many features as possible", and so they’ll cram their products with as many vaguely security-related tools as possible, in the hope that the sheer weight of functionality might win you over.

Comodo Internet Security Pro 2013, however, takes a very different route. There’s no spam filter here. No parental controls, or backup tool. And it won’t add warning icons to your web page search results. Instead, the program concentrates very much on the core security basics: detecting and removing known malware immediately, while preventing even brand new threats from causing any damage.

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First look: Redbox Instant by Verizon

redbox instant free tiral

Are you looking for competition to Netflix and Amazon Prime? By now you have likely heard that Redbox has teamed with Verizon to provide just that. The kiosks, which can be found almost everywhere these days, are quite popular with a number of people, but running out to a store, especially in bad weather, is not overly user-friendly. When the snow is flying, it is so much nicer to get the movie you want without leaving your couch.

Redbox has been testing its new Instant service in private beta for a couple of months now. If you want to try and get into the program then head over to Redbox Instant and request a code, but be aware that the wait can be long. In fact, with the service expected in early 2013 you may just be better holding off.

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Hooray for Hollywood, or Lost in Translation? Movie-making with the Nikon D600

Vienna with D600

There has been a great deal of enthusiasm about making indie movies on Digital SLRs (and even some television -- Joe Wilcox of this parish reminds me that an episode of “House” was filmed on a Canon 5D, as was one of the BBC’s “Wallander” episodes). There are two main reasons for this enthusiastic adoption -- firstly, both camera body and lenses are incredibly low-cost compared to a conventional digital TV or movie camcorder, and secondly, they have full-frame (35mm size) sensors to give that shallow depth of field “film-look”.

While I’ve followed all this with interest, I’ve never personally been fully convinced.

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Backupify is a reliable cost-effective cloud backup solution for Google Apps [review]

Cloud Computing

While the cloud generally provides for better reliability than on-premise systems, having a solid backup plan is still a universal necessity. Cloud solutions like Google Apps and Office 365 have nearly eliminated the notion of data loss due to technological failure. The systems and processes in place that govern the storage of your important data with players like Google and Microsoft are rock solid. We can fault providers for service downtime any day of the week; but you'll be hard pressed to read about cases where they actually lost your data.

The biggest issue with data loss on cloud platforms lies within the acute problem of human error. We aren't perfect and will likely always be dealing with data loss stemming from incorrect clicks, mistaken deletion, and other similar circumstances. For this very reason, even with its inherent safety nets, the cloud needs a fallback of its own.

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Google Nexus 10 first-impressions review

nexus 10 YouTube

A month has passed since I started using Nexus 10, Google's first 10.1-inch tablet, which Samsung manufactures. iPad is reason for the delay writing this review. I bought the first three generation models and sold each within two months. The appeal didn't last, in part because of the user interface's long-term limited utility. So Nexus 10 faced resistance before I opened the box and for another, compelling reason: I was (and still am) hugely satisfied with sibling Nexus 7, which form factor and feel in the hand hugely appeal. After a month of testing, just to make sure, I don't plan on selling the larger tablet; its immediate fate won't be that of iPad 1, 2 or 3.

I definitely recommend Nexus 10 to anyone considering a tablet this year in the $400-$500 range. Nexus 7 ($200-$300) is a better option for the budget conscious -- or even Kindle Fire HD ($300-$600). I don't recommend iPad 4 or mini. They cost too much ($329-$829) for the benefits, and iOS has fallen behind Google and Microsoft operating systems. My experience with Surface RT is limited, but the tablet makes a great first impression such that it's worth considering -- and easily over Apple's larger tablet.

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Google Maps for iPhone -- now that’s how you do it, Apple [review]

Google Maps

Soon after Apple replaced Google’s aging but accurate mapping solution with its own brand new, but woefully inaccurate alternative, I -- like many disgruntled iOS 6 upgraders -- switched to using the web-version of Google Maps (I briefly toyed with Nokia Here, but it’s not yet as good). The workaround was fine, but I only ever viewed it as a temporary stopgap while awaiting the triumphant return of Google Maps to the App Store, something that finally happened a couple of days ago.

Google Maps shot to the top of the free charts with indecent haste, further embarrassing Apple in the process, as users scrambled to install it. I installed it too, naturally, but held off on reviewing it immediately, as I wanted to make sure my happiness at its arrival wasn’t going to cloud my judgment. And the good news is, having now had plenty of time to play around with it, it’s great. Not perfect, but pretty damn close.

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