Thursday May 16, 2013
Keep your eyes open in the coming months as Microsoft has announced it plans to release a preview of Windows Blue in June. The trial, which offers a look at a major overhaul to Windows 8's user interface and settings, will be offered free to anyone with a valid copy of Windows 8.
While the official trial won't be released until mid-summer, an unfinished build was recently leaked online giving fast torrenters a sneak peak. While the leaked version was by no means complete, it did showcase a number of exciting features such as split-screen app snapping, enhances customization of the start screen, better PC Settings options, a new version of Internet Explorer and better SkyDrive integration. There were even a few new apps included.
While the new features on display in the leaked build are cause for excitement, rumors of as-yet-unseen features are creating most of the buzz. Rumor has it that Microsoft is toying with the idea of including a straight to desktop feature that would allow users to bypass the Start screen on boot up. A potential return of the Start button has also been discussed, though the button would lead to the same Start screen, the old Start menu will not be coming back.
This new 8.1 build of Windows marks the beginning of a new release cycle for Microsoft products. Rather than offering an entirely new operating system every four or five years, Microsoft plans to offer smaller upgrades yearly, which is more along the lines of its competitors.
Are you excited about Windows Blue? What features to do you hope to see included? Let us know in the comments below.
Image above used with permission from Microsoft.
Thursday May 16, 2013
A few months back I was asked to help a family friend whose computer had been compromised by a rather interesting bit of malware. Whenever he logged in to Windows a full-screen prompt would appear that locked out the operating system. It stated that he'd been caught engaging in illegal activities by the FBI and that he'd have to pay up or he'd be prosecuted. It even snapped a shot of the man using his webcam and displayed it on the popup to lend credence to the ridiculous claim.
Of course, the FBI would never use such a tactic to punish offenders. This was obvious to the man in question, so he called me for a cleanup instead of paying any money. Unfortunately, others may not be so clear-headed when confronted with such an official looking warning message. To anyone misguided enough to input their financial information, this simple virus could have resulted in identity theft and a loss of hard-earned dollars and cents.
While it's important to be smart about responding to random requests for money popping up on your computer, it makes a lot more sense to keep them from appearing in the first place. Make sure that if you connect to the Internet you have security software in place to prevent infections. You'll need a good firewall and a solid antivirus with up to date definitions. You'll also want to ensure that you choose an antivirus that offers real-time protection such as the Windows Defender application bundled with Windows 8.
There are plenty options out there for security software, many of which are free. Protect yourself now so you don't have to clean up a mess later.
Have you come across any interesting viruses on your computer? Share your horror stories in the comments below.
The image above is in the public domain.
Thursday May 16, 2013
Were you disappointed when you tried out the bundled apps Mail, Calendar and People included with Windows 8? I sure was. My initial delight at finding a built-in email client faded fast when I got a chance to try it out.
I found it to be very simple to set up and use but it lacked a lot of the basic features that I'd expect to be in any mail client. There was no way to customize the interface, no way to create folders to sort email from within the app and there was no way to filter SPAM. It didn't even provide support for POP email accounts.
The update, released in late March, provided new features for Mail, People and Calendar, though Mail received the most attention by far. While you still can't sync a POP3 account, you now have the ability to create folders, filter SPAM and filter by unread to see only messages you've yet to open. Why these features weren't included from the start I can only guess, but their addition, along with a few other new features make Mail a much more viable option for users seeking a simple client to manage their messages.
If you're disappointed in the Mail app's poor showing, make sure to head out to the Windows store to download the update. You might be glad you did.
How do you feel about Windows 8 built-in apps? Do you have any features you wish Microsoft had added in this overhaul? Let us know in the comments.
Image used with permission from Microsoft.
Sunday April 29, 2012
Last week Microsoft announced the expansion of it's SkyDrive service (think DropBox with an extra 23GB) to devices beyond Windows PCs and Macs. Users can now experience a Dropbox-like service on iPads, iPhones and of course Windows Phone 7 devices.
The service is free and includes 25GB for users that have a Hotmail account. Those users who sign up today will get 7GB of data free. Like iCloud, Dropbox and Box.net you have the option to upgrade storage based on your needs.
Plans for SkyDrive start at $10/year for an additional 20GB to $50/year for 100GB. Not bad considering that Dropbox will set you back $200 for 100GB for essentially the same service.
You can download SkyDrive for the following devices: Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7. Of course the key driver for Microsoft is having a cloud storage service that Windows 8 can leverage when it is released later this year. I think it is a better and opposite strategy that Apple took with iCloud and Lion last year.
I personally see the benefit compared to iCloud offered by Apple. You get the storage and the ability to edit Microsoft Office files online, for free. What do you think about SkyDrive? Will you switch from Dropbox or a similar service?
Learn more about SkyDrive by visiting the official Microsoft website.