Whatever your reasons for switching to Windows 8.1 -- be it finally upgrading from XP, or the arrival of a new PC at home or work -- you’ll find "New Windows" a slightly alien place at first. You can action various changes to make it more like the OS you’re used to (boot to desktop -- soon to be the default -- and switching to the All Apps view are great first moves), but if you want a proper Start button and menu, you’ll need third-party help. Fortunately there are plenty of great choices available, including some excellent free programs like Classic Shell and IObit StartMenu 8.
Seasoned Windows 8.x users might sneer at you for "going back to the old ways", but there’s no question that if you use a keyboard and mouse and have limited interest in the Modern UI, a "real" Start button and menu can do wonders for your productivity. Here are our top 14 recommendations -- free and paid.
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.
Google's Chromebooks are becoming synonymous with education. Schools are embracing them for the low cost and ease of use. It's hard to argue with that, but I am dubious that it is the best choice for students.
A Windows PC is still the best option for readying a student for the world of business. Outlook, Excel, Access -- these are the programs that a future successful person will learn. Today, Dell announces a new laptop that is focused on education and gives Chromebook a run for its money -- the Latitude 13 Education Series.
This is a personal account of the way I have noticed the technology markets changing over the years. It is not gospel, and you are welcome (encouraged, if you like) to disagree… It's not all that long ago that brand loyalty was a given; it was almost the default setting for many people. If you got into computing -- and it was something you "got into" rather than just having as part of your life -- you stuck loyally to whatever brand you chose at the start. We could go back to the 70s and look at the birth of personal computing, but as this is my personal account, we'll have to start in the 80s.
I did just manage to sneak into the 70s -- being born in 1979 puts me in the difficult-to-comprehend position of being 34 years old but having seen five decades -- but an interest in computing didn't emerge until some time in the late 80s. I remember there being several computing camps: BBC, Amstrad, Spectrum, Vic and Commodore to name a few. My decision was made for me at an early age when my dad decided to invest in a Commodore 16 Plus 4 (the Plus 4 referring to the fact that the OS featured four built-in applications including a spreadsheet tool, the absurd simplicity of which was not lost on me even at a young age).
It's a new month and so once again NetMarketShare reports desktop share for all of the major operating systems. What's interesting this month is all versions of Windows showed fairly minor changes. Whether dropping or gaining, the differences in share were minimal.
However, one inescapable truth is clear from the figures. While Windows 8.x might finally have shifted 200 million licenses, use of the OS has pretty much plateaued. In February, Windows 8's share declined from 6.62 percent to 6.38 percent, a drop of -0.24. Windows 8.1 increased shared from 3.94 percent to 4.30 percent, rising by 0.36. Combined, Windows 8.1 grew by just 0.12 percent.
There have been a lot of interesting announcements made at MWC this year, and HP is one of several companies making it clear that business users have not been forgotten. The new HP ProPad 600 has been unveiled alongside an upgraded HP ElitePad 1000 G2, and both have been designed with mobile computing in mind.
Both tablets run Windows 8.1 and the ElitePad 1000 G2 picks up where the HP ElitePad 900 G1 left off. The hardware is impressive enough, but there is a strong focus on battery life and portability.
Another week, another spate of security related news. In the latest of a recent run of high-profile hacks, Kickstarter announced that it had been hacked, and it was discovered that ASUS routers could be sharing files with more people than users intended. Google is looking to bolster online security with its latest acquisition -- audio-based authentication outfit SlickLogin, while Microsoft's latest partnership with DocuSign looks set to make digital signatures in Office simpler and more secure. If you were under the impression that app security was generally increasing, think again; a new study shows that an almost unbelievable 96 percent of applications have security issues.
Brian got his hands on the Lenovo Miix 2 and was reasonably impressed by what he saw. He also unboxed the much touted Nokia Lumia Icon and found it to be not dissimilar to the 928 -- no bad thing. Anyone looking for an entry-level 4G smartphone now has the Android-based Samsung Galaxy Core LTE to look forward to, complete with "Jelly Bean Plus".
To say Windows 8.x is a controversial operating system is an understatement. Heck, it is downright polarizing, causing a schism between users that love it and others that hate it. It has arguably set Microsoft back and potentially damaged both the Microsoft and Windows brands. This is both disappointing and sad as Microsoft is a story-booked American darling that has enjoyed years of success and domination.
I'll admit, while I loved Windows 8.1 at first, I soured on it once I noticed an impact in my productivity. Performing a balancing act between the classic UI and Modern one, is maddening. It was so distressing to me, that I actually turned my desktop into a Hackintosh. While Linux distributions are my go-to choice, I still have a need for some other software, such as Office, and OS X meets that need. But Windows 8.1 isn't all bad, it truly shines in one place -- tablets.
It is usually Bill Gates who is heralded for his philanthropy, but according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, it is Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg who is currently the most generous. In another change from the norm, malware threats to OS X, Linux and Android have increased, showing it is not just Windows that is prone to attack. As if to prove this, Mac malware has been discovered that has been designed to steal Bitcoins from victims. Factor in all of Apple's devices and the company managed to sell more units than Windows PCs are sold, although this revelation caused quite some debate.
Twitter found itself in the headlines after the James Dean estate tried to gain control of a fan's James Dean-related account. Twitter has already spoken out about the shackles binding companies from being open about government data requests -- companies are practically falling over themselves to add their names to the list -- and Dropbox is in agreement. The European Commission has expressed a desire to wrestle some control of the internet from US hands voicing fears that too much influence was being exerted,
Plex, if you aren't familiar with it, comes in two parts. There's a server that you install on a, preferably, always-on computer. Then there are the end-user apps, which are available for multiple mobile devices and set-top boxes. The server is free, but the apps will set you back $5 (OK, $4.99 if you want to be technical).
However, now through tomorrow, Valentine's Day, the service is offering a discount to its potential customers. "Until Valentine’s Day, we’re offering all our mobile apps for 50% off: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 8. Not enough sale for you? We’re also offering 3 bonus months on a yearly Plex Pass bought with PayPal (that’s 15 months for the price of 12)", the company announces.
Very little has been said about sales figures for Windows 8 of late, but today Tami Reller, Microsoft's executive vice president of Marketing outed the most recent number of sales during a webcast. Reller revealed that 200 million Windows 8 licenses have now been sold. This is an impressive increase from the last sales figures of 100 million back in May 2013, but sales of the latest version of Microsoft's operating system remain slower than its predecessors.
The 200 million licenses do not include volume license sales, but the number does include sales to the public as well as those to OEMs. A doubling of sales in under a year is not to be sniffed at, but it will probably do little to calm the vocal groups keen to bash Windows 8's success. Ultimately the speed of sales is still a little slow. While more than 40 million licenses were sold in the month after Windows 8's release, this was not sustained.
Chromebooks may be increasing in popularity, particularly in business, but they still have a long way to go before they catch up with Windows-based laptops. One of the factors holding back Chromebook is, both obviously and ironically, Chrome OS. It is a perfectly capable operating system for anyone locked into the Google ecosystem, but it has one failing -- for many people, at least -- it will not run Windows applications. But all this is set to change thanks to a new venture between Google and VMware.
VWmare is a name long-associated with bringing one platform's apps to another using virtualization, and now it is pushing its DaaS platform (or VMware Horizon Desktop as a Service Platform for Service Providers to give it its full, unabridged title) as a way to bring Windows applications to Chromebook users. As this is something that will be available on a subscription basis, it is likely to appeal to businesses rather than individuals, but it does break down another obstacle for anyone with two minds about Chromebook.
On Sunday, Paul Thurrott asked (geez does this guy ever sleep) the question: "What the Heck is Happening to Windows?" The answer is hugely pertinent to the BetaNews reader community. Thurrott refers specially to Windows 8.1 development, and colleague Wayne Williams gives great overview of what to expect in Update 1, today.
The problem: What Windows is becoming, as Microsoft tries to satisfy its legacy customers while embracing future devices, particularly those using so-called NUIs, or new user interfaces, like touch and voice. Wayne smartly observes: "Maybe I’m just being overly negative here but with all the changes Microsoft has made along the way, Windows 8.x feels like it’s becoming a Frankenstein product stitched together with compromises".
The biggest news of the week has to be the appointment of Satya Nadella as CEO at Microsoft, which brought to an end weeks of speculation and rumor. Bill Gates also stepped down as chairman. A leaked version of Windows 8.1 Update 1 appeared online giving us all a sneak peek of what we can expect to see in the upcoming release -- including context menus on the Start screen, a new enterprise mode in Internet Explorer, and different ways of working with modern apps. Ahead of this big release, it was Windows XP that was showing growth rather than Microsoft's latest operating system.
In other Microsoft news, Xbox One's first big update was revealed to be coming up on 11 February. Sony announced that it was selling its VAIO business to enable it to focus its attention on mobile devices. Business and individuals who rely on 37signals' products found that the company was not only changing its name, but also dropping all of its services apart from Basecamp. There was another blow for Bitcoin as the online currency was effectively banned in Russia.
Sony is pulling out of the PC business and is selling the VAIO brand to Japanese investment fund Japan Industrial Partners (JIP). The announcement came after industry speculation about what might be happening in Sony's future after the company responded to rumors that it was in talks with Lenovo about a possible sale by saying that it was looking to "address various options for the PC business". No details about the fees involved have yet been revealed, but it is hoped that an agreement will be reached by the end of March.
Citing "drastic changes in the global PC industry", Sony's announcement came as the company revealed its financial results for Q3 2013. Analysis of the results showed that the "target of returning the TV and PC businesses to profitability will not be achieved within the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014", hence the need for reform. This means that Sony will now concentrate "its mobile product lineup on smartphones and tablets". An estimated 5,000 jobs will be lost.