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.
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.
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.
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.
As we approach the launch of Windows 8 later this year, XP users must be asking themselves three versions later, "Is it time to upgrade?"
The answer to that question is two-fold, first are you missing out on enhanced productivity and tools that have been made available in newer versions of Windows and second, will you be ready to face the world of malicious software two years from now when support for XP will cease to exist.
The latter, should be at the forefront of every business and end user relying on Windows XP to run their personal and business computers. Two years should be sufficient time for an organization to prepare applications and systems to accommodate Windows 7 or 8 when it is launched later this year.
However, regular users can wait longer for that upgrade due to less issues involved around the actual upgrade, but even at that stage, if you are running a computer designed for Windows XP, chances are you are probably better off upgrading your PC while you are at it.
So for those of you running Windows XP, mark your calendars, April 8 , 2014 is the last day that Microsoft will support the legacy operating system. If you need information about upgrading to Windows 7, make sure you checkout our upgrade section.
If you've been using the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 and tried to shut down your computer chances are you noticed that the Start Menu was gone.
Yes, Microsoft did get rid of the Start Menu it's not hidden somewhere, it is simply gone. In its stead you will find the tiles which represent all of the apps installed on your PC and the new Charm Bar.
The Charm Bar is where you will find the section of the Start Menu that dealt with the powering off options, some Control Panel options, sharing (new option) and most importantly the search option.
The intent here is to allow for a seamless touch experience, but what about all those computers running in corporate environments? Well, you still have the traditional Windows Explorer look and feel when using Explorer, but everything else, specifically those apps designed for the Metro UI will most likely find it difficult to reside in corporate environments where the mouse and keyboard dominate.
That is not to say corporate won't move towards the adoption of touch it just may take some time.
The question is, should Microsoft bring the Start Menu back? What do you think?
In a recent blog post, Microsoft detailed how they are going to bring the Windows Phone 7 platform to 60% more consumers. This is great news for developers on the platform looking to sell their apps to additional markets on the planet.
The aim of this goal is to include other price sensitive markets that would respond better to a lower priced Windows Phone 7 handset. In order for manufacturers to sell hardware at a lower price they will need to sacrifice components.
To remedy this and keep to Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 hardware guidelines, Microsoft has made a change to the minimum requirements that would drop the required memory on the device from 512MB to 256MB and allow for the use of more affordable processors.
I think it is great that Microsoft is trying to make their device available to a larger market, but I think that they will suffer for it because the experience will start to lag compared to the devices using Microsoft's original recommendations.
I thought Microsoft's goal was to create a a user experience that is the same across all devices, not fragment it. Apple has taught us that it works.
The whole reason we are going over the history of Windows Phone 7 and this example is that Microsoft is following the same approach with Windows 8 in that hardware manufacturers must meet a set of requirements for them to use the operating system in the tablet form factor.
I fear that pressure from OEMs looking to compete with Apple and Amazon's prices will force Microsoft to reduce hardware requirements for the benefit of cheaper components.
In the end I feel that moving in that direction will do more harm to the platform than help it. What are you thoughts? Do you think Microsoft should be strict with hardware requirements for Windows 8? Or should they allow OEM's to use the software as they wish a la Android? Share your thoughts below.
It's been a long time coming and it is finally here, the Windows 7 page on About.com Windows.
We've been working hard at adding Windows 7 content, specifically how-to guides to build up an entire page full of useful content that will help make it easier to learn and use Windows 7.
Here are some of the topics you will find on this page:
- Learn to Use Windows 7
- Installing Windows 7
- Securing Windows 7
- Be More Productive with Windows 7
- Maintain Windows 7
- Networking & the Internet
More topics will be added to include the use of Windows Live Essentials and other fun stuff you can do with Windows 7.
You will notice that we also combined the Windows XP and Windows Vista tabs to make room for the upcoming Windows 8 tab. The Windows 8 page will be ready before the official launch of Windows 8 to help you prepare for Windows 8 on your PC.
I'm looking for suggestions in building the Windows 8 page, what are you most interested in learning about the new operating system?
One of the things that I found in the latest Microsoft blog post regarding the system requirements for Windows 8 is that users who wish to run Metro-style apps will need a minimum screen resolution of 1024x768.
In addition, if you plan to use the snap feature you will need a minimum resolution of 1366x768. If you attempt to run a metro app in a resolution less than the recommendation, you will receive an error message.
The reason for this limitations stems from app scaling that occurs when different screen resolutions are used and to ensure that developers can build applications that scale to different resolutions.
So if you are used to running Windows at an 800x600 screen resolution or something less than 1024x768 you will have to change the screen resolution or upgrade your monitor in order to use Metro style applications.
If you don't care for Metro style applications and wish to use Windows 8, you will be able to use it at a minimum screen resolution of 800x600.
As most of the tech press expected, Microsoft announced the release of windows 8 Consumer Preview to the public. I've covered the expected release on the blog as well as have gone over some of the details regarding features and requirements for Windows 8.
If you're looking to give windows 8 a spin this is the version you want. It will give you a more stable experience and provide you with a glimpse of what to expect in Windows 8 when it is finally released later this year.
Make sure that your computer meets the minimum requirements and that you watch for some of the issues experienced by other users.
I'll be giving Consumer Preview a spin so check back soon for some updates. If you've given Consumer Preview a try, what do you think of it thus far?