The Dangers of Turning Back the Clock – SMB Computing

windows-evo2Even as we try to embrace new technology, there is always comfort and stability in the familiar.  In our small offices, we probably still have Windows machines that run virtually every operating system from Windows 8 on back through to XP for some limited purposes machines.  I’m pretty sure we still have some Windows 3.X floppies lying around. Not that we have any drives that could read them.  Windows, we wish we knew how to quit ya’…

 

Anyway…

Microsoft Indroduces Chinese Version of XPMicrosoft has issued another warning to those of us still living in the past, to avoid being compromised by a new email vulnerability in Windows XP.  Maybe this is the final straw to drag us off this old platform for good (or at least until the next end-of-life event for the evolving Windows stable).  Who’s on deck to get knocked off next?  Vista, you out there?

 

 

Microsoft: SMBs are at dire risk opening email on Windows XP machines (via The Inquirer)

IN ITS ALMOST DAILY EFFORT to convince Windows XP die-hards to finally give up their old machines, Microsoft has posted a security advisory about all the terrible things that might happen after it switches off Windows XP support on 8 April. In a very…

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The Evolving Mobile Battle Rages On…

phonefightAs an  avid user of business technology, I try to keep abreast of the competition in mobile devices, but suffer from the dilemma that many other frustrated users do.  No one device seems to have it all covered in a way that let’s me settle on one mobile platform for communications and other business functions.  I’m not exactly on the sidelines of this epic battle among Android, IOS, Windows and others.  I’m stuck in the middle of it all.

My tether to Windows Mobile was recently undone by the lack of compelling upgrade options from my last generation Windows Mobile 7.5 device.  Unfortunately, it’s not been a clean break.  I settled on HTC’s One (Android) partially because I still couldn’t justify an iPhone as a serious replacement, but also on the hopes that the platform could give me the business seriousness of Windows with the depth of utilities and and apps in the iPhone environment.  Beware of being halfway into anything…

Just this morning I tried to receive and the upload some MS  Office docs on my Android phone to the Google drive of my child’s elementary school class.  Despite the “native” interaction you’d expect from Android and Google’s suite, I couldn’t save the .doc files to my 32GB android phone so I could then upload them to the Google drive.  The more I tried to work around the frustration, the more it became apparent that my hip new Android device seems to suffer from some of the same compatibility problems that Apple has in its closed, but wildly popular, environment.  My new phone can’t even support this simple (and widely used) document type.

tabletphone1Then it shouldn’t surprise you that I continue to carry at least 2 smartphones on most days, and up to 3 on others as I try to tap the particular strengths of each.  If my pockets look fat to you, it’s not because my wallet is overstuffed.  You probably have just seen me rolling with my 3 best (can’t-do-without-them) frenemies.  Stop me sometime, I’ll introduce you to the Bros – Sir 3GS, and the HTC twins (fraternal) – Mr. One and Mr. HD7.

Can somebody get me the Ph*** out of this mess???  With that I introduce you to Microsoft’s next volley in this battle…  That tablet’s going to look pretty silly when I hold it up to my ear to make a call.

*****

Reposted From Mobile News via ZDNET, By  

dell-venue-8-pro

Windows 8.1 gets a bad reputation as a tablet OS in spite of all the work Microsoft has put into it. While it’s true that it’s quite a stretch to build a platform that covers all possible computing forms, Windows 8.1 has some nice features that leaves Android behind.

Snap view

Microsoft wasn’t the first to develop a scheme allowing multiple apps to run and display at the same time, but it’s done it better than anyone. Snap view allows putting multiple apps onscreen and then adjusting each pane to the size that works best.

While Android doesn’t have this ability, Samsung has its multi-view which works in a similar fashion. It’s restricted to a few approved apps, though, and that is a big limiter compared to Windows 8.1. It’s only on a few Galaxy devices and not part of Android proper.

Samsung’s multi-view is better than Microsoft’s snap view in one area, and that’s the ability to rotate the screen to portrait and still use it. The Windows 8.1 snap view will only work in landscape, in fact it disables screen rotation when it’s active. That smacks of laziness of the developers of Windows and needs to be fixed.

The one restriction aside, snap view in Windows 8.1 is well implemented and it’s nice to find it ingrained in the OS.

Updates

Galaxy Note 8.0

Have a lengthy discussion about Android and it will eventually turn to the thorny subject of updates. Perhaps the lack of updates is a more accurate way to put it.

Updates to Android devices are at the whim of the device makers and carriers and there’s no guarantee that a given device will ever get that shiny new version of Android. If they do, it will likely be long after it’s available from Google.

Windows device owners aren’t saddled with this update envy, as all updates are pushed to devices. A very few may not have the smoothest update experience, but at least they get the chance to grab new updates.

While it’s true that Android devices continue working just fine without each new OS update, they do miss getting some security updates that are part of these OS renewals.

Mobile experience improvement

Android has been out longer than Windows 8, and it seems that the user experience (UX) is roughly the same as it’s been for a long time. Sure there are minor improvements with each new version, but that’s about it.

The story is different when it comes to Windows 8. While there were some serious shortcomings in the original version of Windows 8, Microsoft stepped up to the plate and ironed them out with Windows 8.1.

That Windows 8.1 rolled out so fast is a testament to the new Microsoft. The improvements that are ingrained in Windows 8.1 are not minor. The advantage of snap view is due in large part to the 8.1 upgrade.

Rumors are already appearing about the upcoming Windows 9, which will no doubt be another major step forward as far as the UX is concerned.

Sharing

We’ve been taught since an early age that sharing is a good thing, and that certainly applies to information. The ability to send information from one app to another is very powerful on mobile devices.

Both Windows 8.1 and Android have the ability to share information between apps, but the Windows implementation seems to be more consistent. The Share feature is always available right there in the Charms menu, and many apps have it implemented well.

There are a few apps that don’t have the ability to share, Google’s Chrome comes to mind, but for the most part apps make it simple to do so.

A great example of sharing in Windows 8.1 was given to me by a friend. He’s able to take ink notes in Windows Journal on his tablet and share them to his Evernote cloud where all his other notes live.

Another good example is the ability to share web pages to the Windows 8.1 Reading List app. This saves information on the web to read later in the Reading List app designed specifically for that purpose.

Sharing information is not missing from Android, but it’s more useful in Windows 8.1 in this writer’s experience.

The evolution of Windows

Windows 8.1 isn’t for everyone but it’s coming along nicely. It’s not strictly a mobile OS but it’s evolving into a decent one. The advantages discussed here are not the only ones over Android, but they are big enough to make a difference.

Some may feel that the availability of Microsoft Office on Windows 8.1 is a big advantage over Android and wonder why it’s not on this short list. While the absence of Office on Android is a disadvantage over Windows for some, it’s not for the millions of current Android users and thus is not discussed here.

Android makes more sense for some mobile users as it’s a robust platform for tablets and phones. It’s now making its way onto the desktop, too. Those wanting a pure mobile UX can do well with Android.

Windows is a better mobile OS than some realize, and it would be a mistake to overlook it. Mobile devices of all types are now available with Windows 8.1, and that alone could be an advantage for some over Android.

See Related: 

Topics: MobilityAndroidLaptopsTabletsWindows 8

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long.

Surfacing: Can Microsoft Get Above Water in the Tablet Storm?

Surface Pro preview: Triple-play UI is its best innovation

Takeaway: As a hybrid tablet/laptop, Microsoft Surface Pro makes a bold pitch to reinvent the portable PC, but a few big caveats get in the way. Read TechRepublic’s product preview.

Photo credit: Microsoft

Over the past six months I’ve asked a lot of IT professionals, business folks, and technophiles what they think about Microsoft Surface. I asked them whether it could be the kind of work tablet they’d want to use, and whether they expect it to be more friendly to business and IT than the Apple iPad and Android tablets. The responses have been surprisingly optimistic. Very few people have been dismissive of Surface, even though it’s fighting from behind in the tablet race.

As I dug deeper with the people who were excited about the Surface, I quickly realized that most of them had very little interest in Surface RT — the less expensive, ARM-based version of Surface that can’t run traditional Windows apps. By far, the most interest — especially from IT pros and techies — was focused on Surface Pro, the Microsoft tablet running a full version of Windows 8 on an Intel processor.

As a result, I’ve been looking forward to taking one for a spin and reporting to the TechRepublic crowd on how it performs. With Surface Pro officially launching on Friday, I can report that I’ve been trying out a Surface Pro and I can share some of my early observations and conclusions.

As a frame of reference, I’ve also been using the Surface RT since its launch in October and I’ve been regularly using the Nexus 7, iPad, and iPad Mini in recent months. In the past I’ve been pretty skeptical about the usefulness of tablets for general computing. I think tablets have their place for specific tasks and functions and as companion devices, but I think most knowledge workers find that using a tablet as their primary system involves too many compromises.

Of course, Microsoft set out to change that with the Surface. Just in case you get distracted and don’t finish reading this post then I’ll give you my two quick takeaways on the Surface Pro: It feels like a much more complete version of Surface RT and I can say without hesitation that Surface Pro is capable of doing more than other tablet on the market.

Does that mean I’m ready to make Surface Pro my next laptop, or that I would recommend it as a viable PC alternative for business professionals? Not quite yet.

How’s the overall user experience?

I’m not going to get into all of the specs for the Surface Pro or compare its details to the Surface RT or the latest iPad. We’ll do all of that in the full review on ZDNet next week. Suffice it to say, the Surface Pro is far more powerful than its RT brother, and the iPad, and virtually all Android tablets. But, the tradeoff is an $899 base price and battery life that is much more like a laptop than a tablet. For now, let’s veer away from the numbers and feature lists and focus on user experience and how well this thing really works as a product.

The first thing I noticed as soon as I unboxed the Surface Pro is how thick and heavy it is (even thicker and heavier than the Surface RT). We’ve gotten pretty spoiled in this regard, especially by Apple and Samsung and what they’ve pulled off in slimming down their products. The weight and thickness of the Surface Pro is much closer to the 11-inch MacBook Air and most 11-inch Ultrabooks than to iPad and Android tablets. Otherwise, it looks and feels very sturdy and has the premium finish of a high-end product.

Both the Touch Cover and the Type Cover that I already had for the Surface RT snapped right into place and started working just as well on the Pro as they do on the RT. With the Surface Pro, I also tested Microsoft’sWedge Touch Mouse (right) since the Pro is a full-blown Windows 8 machine. I was glad I did. It’s a handy little mouse (I especially liked the one-finger touch scrolling) and like most Windows operating systems Windows 8 works best when you have quick access to a right-click button.

Once I logged into the Surface Pro with a Windows Live ID, I immediately got many of the settings, accounts, and files that I had already set up on Surface RT. The SkyDrive integration is the highlight of the services experience. It’s nearly as simple as Dropbox and has a lot more options.

Surface also attempts to do some social integration with Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and a few other services, but the experience is a mixed bag. There are some things that are nicely streamlined, like replying to Facebook comments and Twitter mentions from within the People Hub, but other things like the ways it mixes up social network streams and notifications is a bit awkward. I kept wanting to just see my raw Facebook and Twitter feeds (displayed in Windows 8’s minimalist text style), but couldn’t find an easy way to do that and so I gave up.

Once you dig in to do some work, that’s where Surface Pro really shines. There are native Windows 8 Metro apps for Evernote and Dropbox — two of the most popular consumer apps that business professionals love — and you have the whole library of standard Windows apps to draw from and install in Desktop Mode.

Metro apps are very visual and highly usable and I wish there were a lot more of them. If there were, I think it would make the Surface a much more attractive option for average workers. The ability to work with the large catalog of traditional Windows software helps soften the blow, but hardly any of that stuff works well in a multitouch interface. For that reason, I found myself relying pretty heavily on the Type Cover keyboard and the Wedge Touch Mouse for most of the time that I was using the Surface Pro.

That said, one of the most pleasant surprises was how effective it felt to move between the Type Cover/Wedge Mouse and the multitouch screen. There are some things that are faster and more effective with touch — like scrolling to a specific part of a page or flipping through images — and there are some things that are more efficient with keyboard and mouse — like long typing and right-clicking for options — and the Surface Pro was the first device that gave me the feeling that the future of business productivity will likely include both.

The digital pen for the Surface Pro also works beautifully. It’s the most accurate and precise digital pen that I’ve used. It can draw really thin lines and it draws on the screen precisely where it’s supposed to. I’ve never been a huge fan of pen computing, but this one gave me a sense that I could use this to annotate some stuff and do virtual whiteboarding that could actually be useful as part of my daily work.

That was my biggest lightbulb moment with the Surface — seeing how it combines a traditional mouse and keyboard experience with multitouch and pen computing in a way that works naturally and integrates the value of all three.

I have other thoughts and observations but I’ll sum up them up into a list of the kudos, caveats, and needs. Then, I’ll sum up my initial analysis about the Surface Pro.

Photo credit: Microsoft

Kudos

  • Threads the needle between touch, keyboard/mouse, and pen computing
  • Metro interface enhances usability and Metro apps continue to multiply
  • Desktop Mode offers full Windows 8 and its traditional app ecosystem
  • Type Cover, Wedge Touch Mouse, and the included digital pen are excellent accessories

Caveats

  • It’s a hybrid that doesn’t stand out as a tablet or laptop
  • Battery life is half of most tablets
  • Won’t sit in a lap
  • Not very useful in portrait mode
  • Microsoft Office is installed, but costs extra

Needs

  • A tiltable screen that can sit in multiple positions
  • A desktop and laptop docking solution
  • Digital pen should store in the casing
  • Integrated wireless broadband should be an option
Photo credit: Microsoft

Analysis

Surface Pro flirts with greatness, but its caveats could become show-stoppers for a lot of users.

The product brilliantly weaves mouse and keyboard with multitouch and pen computing in ways that feel very effective and useful. When you compare it to other tablets, there’s simply a lot more you can do with Surface Pro because of its triple-play interface and its ability to run the full version of Windows 8 in desktop mode.

The problem with Surface Pro is that it’s trying to bridge the gap between two products, a laptop and tablet, and it doesn’t quite stand out enough at either function. It’s lacking a little bit as a tablet and it’s lacking a little bit as laptop, so you have to make too many compromises on both sides.

What makes tablets like the iPad and its top competitors useful is their ease-of-use, portability, battery life, and big catalog of third party tablet apps. Surface Pro fails most of those criteria. Its dual personalities of Metro and Desktop Mode are powerful but complicated. It’s nearly as heavy as three iPads. Its 4-5 hour battery life means it won’t ever make it through a full day without a charge. And, while Surface Pro has all of the native Windows apps, it doesn’t have many touch-friendly tablet apps. Even if the Windows 8 tablet platform becomes a developer favorite, it will likely take a couple years to get a critical mass of productive tablet apps.

So, what about thinking of the Surface Pro as more of a laptop replacement? After all, under-the-hood it’s more like a MacBook Air or an Ultrabook than a tablet. That’s how I spent most of my time with the Surface Pro thinking about it. However, from that perspective, it’s a laptop that won’t sit in your lap properly (the kickstand tips over). The trackpad on the Type Cover is nice for a tablet but doesn’t match the spacious trackpads on the MacBook Air or the best Ultrabooks. And, even some Ultrabooks now offer mobile broadband and much longer battery life than the 4-5 hours you get with Surface Pro.

I can’t help thinking that if you want most of the benefits of the triple-play UI and full Windows 8 in Surface Pro then you’d be better off with a product like the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, which has 10 hours of battery life, mobile broadband, an integrated pen, and laptop and desktop docks. The hardware isn’t quite as polished, the screen isn’t quite as impressive, and the accessories aren’t quite as slick, but it starts at $679 and overcomes several of the Surface Pro’s shortcomings.

The Surface Pro is one of the most ambitious products I’ve reviewed. It’s trying to do a lot — ultimately, a little bit too much. But, even if it doesn’t sell well, I expect that Surface Pro is going to be remembered as the product that showed us how keyboard/mouse, multitouch, and pen computing can work together in smart and useful ways. And, either Microsoft will fill the gaps in version 2.0 or other products will run with the triple-play UI.

Get IT Tips, news, and reviews delivered directly to your inbox by subscribing to TechRepublic’s free newsletters.

About Jason Hiner

Jason Hiner is the Editor in Chief of TechRepublic. He writes about the products, people, and ideas that are revolutionizing business with technology.

And Now For Something Completely Different – Windows 8…

The Road To Windows 8

Windows 8 Is Completely Different From Windows 7!

Courtesy of BruceB Consulting

On October 25, Microsoft will formally unveil Windows 8, followed closely by a separate presentation of Windows Phone 8 on October 29. Windows 8 computers, notebooks, tablets and hybrid devices will go on sale on October 26, and Windows Phone 8 phones will go on sale through all carriers in early November.

Taken together, the releases represent the most significant change in business and consumer technology since Windows XP arrived eleven years ago. Apple’s mobile devices have changed the world for consumers but Microsoft’s vision is broader and might even have a greater impact in the long run.

Microsoft is engaged in remaking itself on a scale that is rarely attempted by large companies. If it succeeds it will maintain its place on a playing field that increasingly appeared to be limited to Apple and Google and perhaps Amazon. We will be using computers running Windows for many years but the shift to handheld devices is profound and Microsoft was in danger of being left out of it. This is the bet-the-company attempt to avoid turning into IBM, successful and rich but no longer important to anyone outside of enterprises. (And make no mistake – Microsoft’s attempt at a makeover might fail, brought down by poor execution and torrential criticism, and send it down that road, not irrelevant but increasingly ignored.)

Over the next few weeks I will be writing extensively about Windows 8. I’ve been using it exclusively on my computers for months and I have some ideas of what it will take for you to understand it, how I can help make it easier for you to get started, and who should ignore it and stick with Windows 7. I’ll have tips and tricks for you to file away for the day when you get your first Windows 8 computer. I’ll give you some advice about whether to upgrade your computer. I’ll give you some perspective on why you’ll see so many reports by people who just hate it with a white-hot fury. (Or so they’ll say. There might be some other agendas at work.)

Over the next few days we’ll start with a view of Windows 8 from 36,000 feet, the very big picture.

There will be two articles aimed specifically at people using computers in very small businesses: one demonstrating that Windows 8 is exactly the same as Windows 7, the other showing that Windows 8 is completely different than Windows 7. Both articles will be right.


Windows 8 Start Screen

Let’s see if I can answer your first question before we get to any of the details.

Should you buy Windows 8 the minute it comes out?

No.

Okay, is that clear? Stand down. Nobody should be getting worked up blindly. This is a time for paying attention. By the time it arrives, you’ll know if you’re the kind of person who is excited enough to step up right away.

Now let’s look at the nuances, because I said “no” mostly to make you feel better. Actually it’s possible that some of you should be lined up outside the (virtual) stores on October 26.

Computers

When you buy a computer after October 26, you will likely have a choice between Windows 8 and Windows 7. Some (but not all) of you should choose Windows 8. Many businesses, especially enterprises, will choose Windows 7 for continuity and compatibility. A fair number of people will skip Windows 8 completely. In any case, most desktop computer users will use Windows 8 in a way that emphasizes its similarity to Windows 7.

Notebooks

There will be dozens of new notebooks and hybrids on the market in November with new features – redesigned keyboards and touchscreens and innovative form factors. If you’re in the market for a notebook, wait until November.

There are compelling improvements in Windows 8 for notebooks – some of you may want to replace an existing notebook sooner rather than later to take advantage of Windows 8 as well as the hardware changes that have made notebooks lighter, thinner and faster with longer battery life.

Nonetheless, just as with desktops, many people will want Windows 7 on their new notebooks for familiarity.

Tablets

Microsoft will be selling the Surface tablet, similar in size and concept to an iPad. Lenovo and other manufacturers will have similar tablets – ten inch screens, light, long battery life.

The Windows 8 tablets deserve special attention! They are designed for touch, just like an iPad, but almost all of them will include a lightweight keyboard, making them better suited for doing real work. All of the Windows 8 tablets will have a desktop that resembles the Windows 7 desktop slightly modified for touch, and they will either include Microsoft Office or they will be capable of running Office programs.

Phones

Windows Phone 8 phones will be available from all the carriers starting in November. They will have the same interface as Windows 8 on computers and tablets, an interface that works particularly well on a small device.

If you get a Windows 8 tablet or phone, you will be much more interested in getting a Windows 8 desktop or notebook, because your experience will flow from one to the other seamlessly. The interface, your documents, your Internet favorites, your wallpaper and so much more will be the same on all your devices. Microsoft is creating a walled garden to rival Apple and Google and your experience will be better if you stay within the garden.

Technology is arriving at a dizzying pace. You’re feeling overwhelmed. Clear your mind, take a few deep breaths, and follow along with me as we start down the road that leads to Windows 8. You’ll arrive relaxed and in a better position to make some informed decisions about how it affects you.

Quick PC Performance Tip of the Day!

Why use TV commercial ads to make your PC faster?

After using your PC for a while, you may notice that it seems to take longer and longer to start up. This can be extremely annoying, especially if all you want to do is turn on your PC for a quick peek at your bank account or check email.  So, something that may take a minute to do, will now take 10 minutes because your PC has to load up all of those programs at startup.

Here’s a quick tip on how you minimize those start-up times to get them closer to being acceptable.

1. For XP: Click Start -> Click Run -> Type msconfig -> Press EnterFor Vista\7: Click Windows button ->In the search area, Type msconfig -> Press Enter

2. You will notice the System Configuration Utility pop-up.

3. Click on the Startup tab

4. This lists every program that starts up with Windows

5. Very carefully sort through the list. Some of it may not make sense. For example in XP: Apple‘s Quicktime program is actually called “qttask“. To disable this program from starting up, uncheck the box beside “qttask” -> Click Apply -> Restart the computer.

To see a better description of each file, expand the width of the “Command” column, up near the Startup tab. I recommend only unchecking one item at a time, to make sure that nothing goes wrong during the next restart.  Please be extra careful with this, as some of these files are necessary for either Windows to work correctly or maybe even your corporate software.  Also, look for items that are blank or have no description as they may be signs of a virus, adware or spyware. Disable them first and restart to see if your PC’s performance increases.

It’s quick. It’s simple.  It’s less hassle than responding to a 2 a.m. informercial!

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