Tag Archive for microsoft

Windows 8 Adventures: You are now leaving the Mac Zone….or are you?

You can download and install a 90 day trial of Windows 8 (the “RTM” version).

My recommendation? Do this is you have a spare, reasonably new computer around. Do not do this to a working system! You can…but when the 90 days are up, you have to either go back and reinstall Windows XP/Vista/7 all over again, or buy Windows 8 and….reinstall Windows 8 from scratch.

If you do put it on a system with Windows 7 (or the earlier beta test versions of Windows 8), it will bring your data and programs forward, as an install option, but that’s where it ends…at the 90 days from the install date day, hence my recommendation for not putting it on a working system.

Windows 8 somewhat leaves the windowed world brought to us, actually by Xerox, but functionally by Apple in the form of the MacOS with the graphical user interface and the “pointing device.”

In this way, it looks different, so you could think that Microsoft really has broken away from Apples “look and feel” and actually been innovative. Nope…for those who have used and iPad/iPod/iPhone…Microsoft really has only made their version of that interface: Not as colorful, and instead of “apps,” we now have “tiles,” meaning lots of rectangles.

So, at the end of the day, Microsoft is merely following the crowd into the tablet interface world, and like Apple, moving that small, closely held (to the person, I mean physically) touch interface look and fell back to the desktops. In the MacOS world, the trend is to incorporate more and more of the iOS features to their iMacs already. Again, Microsoft just following the crowd.

I saw a comment in Twitter yesterday regarding people complaining about the changes for the user’s view in Windows 8, and it was something like “This isn’t 1995 anymore!” Granted, it isn’t, but actually, they would have been more correct to use the date of 1984, but I digress.

I spent some time in the “tile” of Internet Explorer in Windows 8, which takes you to IE10 (the latest version for Windows 7 is IE9) and it is different. I have come to appreciate tabs in my browsers, first finding them in FireFox years ago, meaning I can have many things open and know where they are. In IE10, you have to move your cursor to the top of the screen and right click to get thumbnails of the open tabs, meaning not even a hint of what’s available is constantly displayed, as you do lengthy searches and reading on topics. You have to now keep going up and looking. Yes, the tabs are just like a set of file folders neatly arranged from the dead tree days, but…guess what? It’s a fast system.

I’ll keep working around on my 90 day trial and provide commentary, hopefully providing a smooth transition to the Windows 8 world, without you having to do so much homework.

For now, unless you have lots of time on your hands to poke around and figure out all those new buttons/features and other changes, stick with what you have. Right now, there won’t be too many people you can ask for help if you get lost/can’t find what you need, so my recommendation is don’t go there yet.

Windows 8, Microsoft Surface and a Big Touch Screen Monitor – I’m Living Bill Gate’s Dream!

Click the picture for a bigger version!

Well, maybe it’s Steve Ballmer’s dream now, but that’s in the details.

Microsoft announced the Surface two days ago. Yesterday, on my current build, I put the Windows 8 Consumer Preview operating system on an i5-2300 with 16GBs of RAM, attached to a Dell SX2201T touch screen (multi-point) monitor, which also has a microphone and a webcam built in to interface to the main tower with a USB cord.
So, what have I done? I basically built myself a non-portable, and maybe not as water/shock proof desktop Microsoft Surface.

I have my “tiles” (get used to talking about them instead of “apps,” and an ability to tap and run the different programs. I’ll admit, having had the Windows 8 on a netbook for about 6 months, my fingers can’t get to those discrete sensors in the extreme lower left and right of the screen to activate the Start Screen and the access to the Settings.

But….I don’t mind that much, as I can get the experience of having a desktop like many will be using in the fixed desk settings of business and large corporations, without the expense of a Microsoft Surface, which isn’t on the store shelves until about the time Windows 8 comes out, in the second half of the year….Hey! We’re almost there!

I will be installing the full set of applications I have been running on a Windows 7 Ultimate Q9650 *GB computer for the last two years, and see just how things compare.

More later on adventures in the almost future!

Microsoft Ends Windows XP Service Pack 2 support today

And what does this mean to the average small business computer user?

< a href="http://consumerist.com/2010/07/security-patching-for-xp-service-pack-2-ends-today.html">“Security Patching for XP Service Pack 2 Ends Today”.

It costs money to have teams of people, like fire fighters, employed for the “in case of emergency” situations. Yes, while they aren’t responding to the latest hacker attacks, they can be doing productive things with their product line, but consider Microsoft has two other fully functional PC operating systems they have to support as well: Vista and Windows 7.

Short translation: If your computer(s) is (are) running Windows XP, and you haven’t updated beyond Service Pack 2, then you are potentially at risk if the hackers figure out a new way to end around the security features of XP/SP2.

The good news? Make sure you’ve installed Service Pack 3. Microsoft will still have resources that keep that “vintage” of XP updated and patched for security holes.

In the long run, it’s notice to consider drafting your plan to upgrade your operating system software, and possibly your systems. I have been using Windows 7 on various machines for about a year now, the first installation on a very old computer, and I did it just to see if it worked…it did. Not that some of the others I’ve upgraded haven’t had a few issues with finding drivers, but it’s time. Besides, it runs fast like XP, yet is pretty like Vista!

If you need help laying out a plan and a budget for your business, contact me!

Tuesday Tech Tips

New acronym to absorb: “WUW” – Wear Ur World.



iPhone, iPhone 3G and 3GS
Image via Wikipedia

As technology allows components to get smaller, and more powerful, the “geeks” among us come up with ways to apply them to practical problems. In this case, it’s a project called “SixthSense.”

I have dabbled in voice recognition as far back as the Apple II+ days (that’s a long time ago. I didn’t even ask about the cost of the software, I just played with it at Apple World in Boston for as long as I could, in my first encounter. Now, voice systems at the other end of our phones “know’ our voices without us “training” them.

Move to the world of “gestures.” Even before the iPhone using mulittouch technology (reads two points and reacts based on relative movement between them), Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) had a set of gestures for things like add and delete characters and spaces, as you “typed” with your stylus.


Add to this the next small mix of current technology: Face tracking on your webcams. As you move, the digital controls have determined where your face is and automatically keep it centered with in it’s limits of digital or physical movement. That’s on your desk today. More sophisticated systems are being used for security purposes, too.

Now we do have the iPhone and may copycats, like the HTC Touch phone. Microsoft and other companies have demonstrated multi-touch of many more points and Apple has recently patented a multi-user/multi-touch system, that just knows the different sets of fingers and palms touching the display. Look for this type of technology to show up on your favorite high end restaurant’s table soon, with a direct interface to the kitchen and bar staff.

Now, I’ll get back to SixthSense, which requires a small projector and a camera, and a place to project on.  Basically, the projector becomes your display, and the camera sees what your hands are doing between you and the projected image.  Now the software takes over to allow the interpretation, in context, of the hand movements to provide a “Minority Report” like virtual reality display operated just by the motions of your hands in mid air.  Just think, that movie came out in 2002, and here we are, coming close to this being a common method of interacting with a digitally enhanced world.  Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

This project is designed to be part of a wearable computing system.  Other projects, such as the Microsoft Natal, are for use with a fixed system, in front of your installed display (TV/computer monitor).

This really isn’t far off, and while the videos show the interaction is a little bit jerky, and the componets, as small as they are, are still somewhat unwieldy, this is what “engineering models” look like, and then some other engineers get to work doing things like integrating projectors and cameras and mirrors into a designer set of glasses frames, so it’s actually useful and comfortable.

“Early adopters” will be the people who take a Dremel Tool to that fancy biking helmet, and won’t mind the wires running down the back of thier shirt’s to connet to the battery and computer package.  Trust me, you’ll be repulsed and attracted, simultaneously, to this person and want to know how you can do it too, but you’ll only buy in if they can guarantee you that there is no residual “helmet hair” when you remove your “device.” This prototype was put together for $350 in parts. Amazing!

Interested in the bigger story?  Watch this video of the man who conceived and made this work:  Pranav MistryTED.


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Walking in a Windows 7 Wonderland

Pulling together left over parts and a few Craig’s List purchases, I have a “box” now up and running on the Microsoft Windows 7 “Release Candidate 1.” I’m using the 64bit version of the operating system so I can take advantage of more memory for the computer to use while working.

System specs:
Pentium D 3.4Ghz processor, ECS PX1 Socket 775 motherboard, 4GBs of Kingston DDR2 PC6400 RAM, 2 x 74GB Western Digital “Raptor” (10K RPM) hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration, a DVDRW all in an ANTEC Sonata II Case. Video is and XFX 8800GTX with 768M or DDR3 RAM on board.

Pretty healthy box….

Note: On night 1, I had a single 1GB stick of DDR2 PC6400 RAM, with known errors, but I went ahead and used it because I was impatient.

Impressions: Loads fast, runs fast, faster than my Quad core 3.6Ghz Pentium Extreme with 4GBs of RAM and WinXP Professional, which also has a RAID 0 hard drive set up, but has an ATI 4870X2 graphics card with 2GBs of DDR5 video RAM on board.

The install went smoothly, once I got a floppy (yes, a floppy) made with the RAID drives for the motherboard. I could have used a USB drive to handle the extra requirement to load those drivers, but I went the tried and true route, since I had a USB 3.5″ floppy drive sitting nearby, and a boatload of brand new 3.5″ floppies from a friend recently moving (if you need one for a rainy day, or to show your kids how tough we had it back in the day, I’ll provide one (you come get it) for free!). If I hadn’t been putting my two drives in the system to act like one, then this wouldn’t have been an issue, so don’t sweat it if you’re building a system with a single boot drive.

There were some updates to do (and there had been almost daily), and the system alerted me and quickly had them in. I began my “routine” of installing my normal use programs so I can get a feel for the difference in performance. All routine, except one of my favorite Free! tools to keep my system safe, PCTools Firewall is oly written to support a 32 bit operating system, so I was on the hunt. A quick search got me to the Komodo free firewall and it’s working fine.

Side note: The interesting thing was I was able to get the system loaded up on the 1G of RAM and things went well,, until…I began adding more utilities, that would constantly run on top of the operating system, such as the firewall and anti-virus/anti-spyware applications. The computer would work…then freeze. I grabbed a single stick of DDR2 PC5300, which was only 512MBs and tried it. It worked OK, and I was actually surprised it ran. It was locking up when I tried to start programs, but they said the minimum as 1GB of memory for Win7…

The 4GBs got installed on Saturday afternoon and I installed a game that drives the system hard (on the ones I use now), both on the CPU and the graphics. I put the options for the display near the top of the capabilities and everything ran fine. I have a “widgets” (like the ones that came out for Vista) that shows the use of the CPU and the memory. I was’t hitting the top end of either while the game was running.

I should have some video/graphics and sound editing programs loaded later this week, so I can see how those compare to my current machines.

You can’t download copies of Win7 from Microsoft now, but you can get the key. I do have the files to make the DVD to do the install, but you’ll have to go to Microsoft and get a key of your own (they are free). You can also pre-order Windows 7 right now for an upgrade or full product (for a new system install) right now. Release date is scheduled for Oct 22nd.

I have previously placed an upgrade on a friend’s system, that had XP Home on it. The upgrade was as smooth as my new install and she’s been usiing Windows 7 for several months now…longer than I have! It’s running just fine on an eMachine with a single core 1.6Ghz processor and 2GBs of RAM.

I believe Microsoft has recovered from the issues of Vista. I hope so…

If you’re holding off on buying that new system, waiting until after 10/22, you don’t have to. You’ll get the ability to upgrade from the operating system installed when Win7 comes out.

Put down the mouse and step away from your computer – SLOWLY!

This is way too good to wait until next Tuesday. You used to use a pencil the size of a horse’s leg. Then you got a pen, then a “keyboard” *1st on a typewriter, then on a computer), and along came the mouse (“pointing device”). It took a bit to transition, didn’t it? Now, many use the keyboard little, as most applications are pretty much driven by the “pointing device.”

Ok, now, take a deep breath and see what’s in the not so distant future for “interfacing” with your computer. From Microsoft, the Natal:

Update 7/15/2009: And, see some applications already in the works using this technology:

Update 7/16/2009: It’s not just planned for the XBox, either…Microsoft already is planning on a PC “takeover,” too.

Update 7/17/2009: And…after a camera/mic that figures this all out…mind control isn’t as far off as you may think. So simple a simian can do it. Think Bill Gates can?