It’s not immediately obvious why we need yet another Start Menu alternative, then. But Spencer (yes, that really is its name) does have one or two differences which help it stand out from the crowd.
Remember Unreal Tournament? Remember the hours (days?) you invested in it? Well, it's back! Or at least it will be soon… It's a game that we've heard nothing of for some time now, but Epic is wheeling out the classic title for a new airing. This time around, the gaming community is being called upon to contribute. In a post on the Unreal Engine Blog, Steve Polge says, "work on the future of Unreal Tournament begins today, and we're happy to announce that we're going to do this together, with you".
What does all of this mean? To cut to the chase, a new version of Unreal Tournament is, as of right now, being developed. Yippee! The UT community is a passionate one, and the new project is going to take full advantage of this. This is a collaborative project and the finished product will call upon the input of fans, Unreal Engine 4 developers, and Epic. If you fancy getting involved -- be it to contribute code, artwork, or just ideas -- you are free to do so.
Once a month I report on the desktop operating system market share using data from NetMarketShare. The changes in fortune between the different flavors of Windows is usually fairly minimal -- a percentage point gained here, a percentage point lost there. And usually the rise or fall is a lot less than one percent, although as a month is quite a small time scale to measure market share changes over, and we’re talking about millions and millions of Windows users, that’s to be expected.
I decided, out of curiosity, to take a look at what a year’s worth of market share variations would look like, using StatCounter’s Global Stats, and the results were less than thrilling, with the different operating systems showing very little change. In May 2013, Windows 7 had 56.27 percent. 12 months later it is on 55.03 percent. A drop of just 1.24 percent. Windows XP fell 6.73 percent, while Windows 8.x grew 8.16 percent. The pattern is clear -- Windows 8.x sales look to be coming from upgrades (mainly XP) but people are mostly sticking with their older operating systems. Open up the time scale however, and a more dramatic -- and damning -- picture emerges.
With business becoming more global and having remote offices in different locations, network performance is more than ever a key issue for administrators, especially when performing system updates.
System management specialist Adaptiva has launched a new version of its SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) tool OneSite, aimed at improving WAN performance and scalability as well as making the most of Windows 8 environments.
Microsoft announces fiscal third quarter earnings on Thursday -- reason for me to visit the site today in preparation. I saw what you see in the photo. Tagline: "Honestly, my new PC is exactly what I need at half the price I thought I'd pay". I find the company's months-old "Honestly" campaign to be refreshing in overall presentation and emphasized benefits. Value is big among them. (Colleague Wayne Williams disagrees, by the way.)
Honestly, what's missing: More promotion how great a value Surface is. The Windows RT model doesn't get loads of respect, but I increasingly think that it should. Surface 2 offers HD display, like the Pro model, setting the tablet apart from comparably-sized Androids or iPads selling for about the same price: $449, with 32GB of storage. Microsoft Store offers the refurbished original, granted with lower screen resolution, for $199. Bump memory to 64GB and pay $219. Keyboard cover is another $74.01. Honestly, wow.
With tablets becoming more common in the workplace, the problem with normal models is they're not robust enough to cope with the demands of utility workers and field service operatives.
I’ve been asked by a couple of people in the past week how to download the Windows 8.1 ISO file from Microsoft. Downloading the ISO file necessary to install the OS at a later date, or on another system, is very straightforward, although it’s far from obvious. I covered this six months ago, but things have changed and less trickery is involved now.
At the moment the provided ISO file doesn’t contain the recently released Update, so you’ll need to update Windows straight after installation has finished to guarantee you have the latest version.
Microsoft was in the headlines this week not for launching new products but for, finally, bringing an end to support for Windows XP. Yes, the now ancient and decrepit -- although still much loved and used -- operating system is no more. It will be interesting to see how long it manages to survive now it has been officially dropped -- some are suggesting that a move to Linux might be in order, or even a switch to Chromebook. But, of course, it hasn’t all been about XP. After the announcements at Build, Joe Belfiore revealed on Twitter that developers will be able to get their hands on Windows Phone 8.1 in the "first part of April".
There is also renewed interest in Windows 8.1 following the release of Update, and Microsoft published a guide to making the most of the new features and options. Will the operating system be viewed as fondly as XP in years to come? Only time will tell. Working in conjunction with Google, Microsoft also gave a new and improved YouTube experience to Xbox One owners.
It's difficult to deny Microsoft at least some of the limelight this week as the Build developer conference generated some interesting news. Bringing Windows version numbers in line with each other, Windows Phone 8.1 was finally revealed, complete with a notification center and Siri-like Cortana. The highly anticipated Windows 8.1 Update (which you may have heard something about) was official unveiled and given a launch date of April 8. Wayne, for one, liked what he saw.
Microsoft came over all open source, making the Roslyn compiler as well as WinJS freely available. Brian was pleased with the tech giant's latest moves, proclaiming Microsoft is now back. Build also gave us a sneaky glimpse of an upcoming, but as yet unnamed, version of Windows that features the return of the Start menu -- all of this chopping and changing is getting confusing. Maybe next on the list of things to do with Windows will be getting rid of those apps and features that should have been killed some time ago.
The office suite battle is really starting to heat up. Last week, Microsoft released Word, Excel and PowerPoint for the iPad, signaling a sea change in the company's focus. However, Google is still pushing forward with its attempt to sway users with its web apps. While both are good, no one can deny that Microsoft's offers more features.
With that said, more features does not always equate to better. In other words, if Google's offering meets a user's or business' needs, then it may be more cost effective. Quite frankly, too many features can be seen as noise when unused. One such company, the Glyndebourne opera house, switched from Microsoft to Google with great results.
Build 2014 has seen lots of revelations already -- a free version of Windows is on the cards, universal apps for different devices will make the lives of developers rather easier, and a raft of new Windows Phones are just around the corner -- but there is one that is particularly intriguing.
During the keynote speech today Microsoft also revealed something else. That it is changing its bloody mind yet again. The Start menu is going to make a return. Yep. The Start menu that was shunned is coming back.
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.
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.
A Pittsburgh teenager has worked out that the US government could slash millions from its costs by making a simple change to IT policy. Suvir Mirchandani's suggestion is laughably simple, but it is one that should hold water -- although I'll admit to not fully following through with the math to determine the precise levels of savings that could be achieved. Suvir proposes that a move away from the most commonly used fonts, such as Times New Roman, in favour of a lighter typeface such as Garamond could reduce the US government's printing costs by a colossal 24 percent.
There can be few printer owners who have not cursed the price of ink -- it is one of the costs of ownership that can creep up on the unsuspecting printer user. You might think that the paperless office was, if not here, well on its way to arriving. It's something that has been talked about for years now, and there has been a general move toward eliminating some paper versions of documents in favour of electronic copies. But there are still an unbelievable number of printed documents out there.
Defenestrating? Pretentious? Moi?! How could you?!
Don't get me wrong, I love Windows. A fanboy I am not -- I'll quite happily pick holes in Microsoft's operating system -- but for the most part I do love it. While I have a great deal of time for Windows, it doesn’t mean there isn't room for improvement. By this I don’t mean that Microsoft needs to bring back the Start menu or start copying features from OS X or Linux, rather that it's time to have spring cleaning. In just over a week, Windows XP will be consigned to the OS graveyard, but what about Windows 8.1? The latest version of Windows doesn't need to be killed, but there are lots of features that need to be put out of their misery.