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Apr 15
Microsoft updates its own Windows 8 apps

microsoft office entranceMicrosoft is pushing out updates to six of the Windows 8/Windows RT applications built by the Bing AppEx team, company officials announced on April 15.

Five of these app updates – Finance, News, Maps, Sports and Travel – are available today in the Windows Store. The Weather app updates will be “shipping over the course of the coming weeks,” according to company officials.

All six of these apps were built by the couple of hundred developers in the Bing AppEx (Application Experiences) team. AppEx primarily used HTML5 and JavaScipt to build these showcase apps. The AppEx deliverables are meant to visibly demonstrate to customers and other developers what what well-designed Windows 8 apps look like. (The AppEx team did not build the Windows Mail or SkyDrive apps – those were built by the Windows client team.)

Source: ZDNet

Jan 20
Windows 8 upgrade offer is ending on 31st January

Windows 8 ProWhen Microsoft announced last year a “limited time offer” for Windows 8 upgrade pricing, some thought or at least hoped that the heavily discounted price might be on offer indefinitely. However, Microsoft officials announced on 18th January that this will not be the case.

After 31st January, the £24.99 ($39.99 in the USA) upgrade price will end.

Starting on 1st February the Windows 8 upgrade will cost around £75 ($119.99 in the USA). The Windows 8 Pro upgrade will cost a staggering £126 ($199.99 in the USA). Microsoft may up these prices for its UK buyers. However, the cost may be slightly discounted by the likes of Amazon and Ebay.

Currently, Microsoft is charging £24.99 for an upgrade license to Windows 8 Pro from Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7.

Source: ZDNet

Nov 23
Windows 8 Shortcuts (2)

start 8Making your way around Windows 8 is sometimes like being placed in a thick fog, wondering which way to turn!

In a previous post I mentioned a few key combinations that can help to get you around Windows 8 as you go between the tiled interface and the traditional desktop.

Here are a few more key combinations that you will no doubt find very useful.

  • From the tiled layout the Windows key and D key will take you to the traditional Windows desktop.
  • Pressing the Windows and M keys minimizes everything that is showing on the traditional desktop.
  • Windows plus E key opens Explorer for quick access to folders.
  • Windows plus Tab key opens a list of currently running programs.
  • Windows plus Print Screen key takes a screenshot and saves it in a Screenshots folder within your Pictures folder.
  • Windows plus Q key opens a global search menu. Type what you’re looking for and where you would like to look.
  • Windows plus R key opens the Run command which is useful for quickly launching apps and other routines using a command prompt.
  • Windows plus X key opens the Quick Access Menu, exposing system functionality such as the Command Prompt, Disk Management, File Explorer, Run, and more. Alternately, you can right-click on the bottom right corner of the screen to spawn the Quick Access Menu.
  • Windows plus I key opens the settings menu, giving you quick access to the Control Panel, Personalization, and your Power button, among other features.

And finally to replace the Start Menu on the traditional desktop view try either Start 8 from Stardock (shown in the above image) or Classic Shell from sourceforge.net.

Nov 9
Start8 gives Windows 8 a Start Menu

Stardock Start 8 for Windows 8It did not take long for Stardock to come up with a solution for the missing Start Menu in Microsoft’s Windows 8. It’s called Start8.

They have in fact recreated the most used desktop feature billions of users depend on every day and packed it with additional functionality.

Start8 Lets You:

  • Search for Windows 8-style (Modern UI) apps
  • Pin desktop and Metro apps to the start menu
  • Use Jump List support Search for apps, settings and files
  • Boot directly to the Windows 8 desktop
  • Use one click access to shut down, devices, music, documents, and videos

Start8 works really well and eliminates the need to access the Windows 8 tiled desktop unless you want to. You can install a free 30 day trial of Start8 but it costs $4.99 to buy. Just see how much of a difference a Start Menu can make!

PS. If you don’t like ‘Start8′, try ‘Classic Shell‘. This has similar features and is free.

Oct 31
Windows 8 Shortcuts

windows 8Windows 8 (not the RT version) love it or hate it –  for those that inherit the tiled start screen as part of a new purchase and need to use applications for their work or gaming pleasure may find that the Start screen and its tiles more of a hindrance than a help.

To get around the new tiled layout and the traditional Desktop layout its a good idea to learn about the new shortcuts available in this new Windows Operating System.

Pressing the Windows and D keys will take you to the traditional Windows desktop, while Windows + B takes you from the new tiled interface to the currently active traditional desktop application. Finally, Windows + M loads the traditional Windows desktop from the start screen, and minimises all applications.

Right now these shortcuts are the only way to get around the newly styled interface but they still don’t give you the flexibility of the Start Button when accessing traditional applications such as Outlook 2010, PhotoShop CS5, iTunes, TweetDeck, an accounts package, CAD and other essential programs.

See a whole lot more Windows 8 shortcuts by checking out my new post – Windows 8 Shortcuts (2) – http://www.qbs-pchelp.co.uk/blog/2012/11/windows-8-shortcuts-2/

Oct 5
Windows 8 Multi-monitor Tips and Tricks

dual monitorsIf you want to get the most out of your Windows 8 installation when you’re at your work desk, or working on your PC at home, having multiple displays is a tremendous productivity aid. Putting your email, social chat, and Web browser on a secondary display while editing documents on the primary one amplifies your ability to get work done.

Although Windows 7 offers multiple display support, Windows 8 takes it to the next level. All you need to do is plug in a second display, then dive into your applications.

However it’s well worth taking a look at specific aspects of Windows 8‘s multi-display support.

Customize the Taskbar
Windows 8 now allows you to have individual taskbars on separate monitors. The default is to replicate pinned icons on all display taskbars. Two other options exist, which you access by right-clicking on the taskbar and selecting Properties. If you prefer the Windows 7 method, you can even set up the taskbar so that it shows up only on the primary monitor.

Keyboard Shortcuts
Windows 8 adds a pair of new keyboard shortcuts to manage Windows 8 style apps in multiple displays, as well as supporting the Windows 7 shortcuts used for multiple displays. The Windows (or Win) + arrow keys still snap windows to one side or another. Win + PageDn (or PageUp) swaps full-screen Windows 8 apps to different displays.

Inside Edge Detection
Windows 7 had limited support for edge detection in single-display mode. In the case of a multi-monitor display, edge detection treated the entire display surface as one monitor. So if you wanted to throw a window to the side of the screen to take up exactly half the display, that wouldn’t work if the edge was the “inside” of a two-display setup.

Windows 8 now supports edge detection at the edge of all displays. For example, if you hover over the left edge of the right display (the inside edge), you’ll still see the sidebar thumbnails of running applications. If you hover the icon on the upper right corner of the left display, you’ll see the Charms bar. Just remember to hover the mouse cursor for a second or two at inside edges or corners to activate the effect.

Note that shared corners or inside edge detection areas are only six pixels wide. You really need to be in that small area for edge detection to occur, as well as hovering the cursor for a few seconds.

Sep 28
Running Android apps on Windows 8

Windows 8Some Windows 8 laptops and PCs could end up running more Android apps than ones written for Microsoft’s software.

Gadgets built around chips made by AMD will come optimised to run the Android apps. A collaboration between AMD and software firm Bluestacks lets the devices run the 500,000 apps more usually found on Android phones.

By contrast, Microsoft reportedly only has a few thousand apps written specifically for next months Windows 8 launch.

The Android apps will be available on Windows 8 devices via AMD’s AppZone player. Inside this is code from Bluestacks that acts as a wrapper around the mobile phone programs so they can run on desktops, laptops and tablets.

AMD has made changes to the core code that runs its processors and graphics cards to ensure apps built for the small screens on mobile phones look good and run well on larger displays.

Source BBC Tech

Aug 30
Upgrading to Windows 8 will cost £24.99 in the UK

Windows 8 ProMicrosoft is set to charge UK consumers £24.99 to upgrade to the latest version of its Windows Operating System – Windows 8.

The company announced in July that users would be charged $39.99 to upgrade from any version of Windows to Windows 8 Pro. Yesterday it revealed the UK pricing for a downloaded update will be almost identical, avoiding fears that the firm would ‘rip off’ British consumers, as it has done in the past.

Microsoft is providing a UK English version of Windows 8 Pro, as well as special versions that don’t include Windows Media Player, to comply with the 2004 European Commission ruling.

Microsoft’s download store is registered in Germany, which applies VAT at a rate of 19% – 1% lower than the current UK rate.

The move comes just days after Microsoft revealed it has updated its corporate logo for the first time in 25 years as it prepares for the Windows 8 launch.

Source: Daily Mail Tech News

Aug 17
Faster booting with Windows 8

Windows 8 DesktopMicrosoft will require that new computers bearing the Windows 8 logo must use a new boot solution called Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), which will significantly improve the boot process and experience. It replaces the archaic Basic Input Output System (BIOS) that we’ve used for decades, in all the previous versions of Windows.

With UEFI you’ll see a much faster boot time from pressing the power button to being in fully logged into Windows. The likely speed improvement could be around 8 seconds. This boost to log in speed, along with less need for restarts, can help increase productivity in the office and save IT personnel time when applying upgrades or installing software.

The safeguards built into UEFI can also help save the IT department time and resources over the long term. Secure Boot prevents unauthorized operating systems from loading, and Early Launch Anti-Malware (ELAM) protects against boot loader attacks. UEFI will also allow remote diagnostics and repair of computers within the Pre-OS environment. So instead of physically sending a technician to visit a PC experiencing boot issues, it might be possible to repair and restore the machine over a network.

Although many will enjoy the benefits of UEFI, there has been some controversy over the Secure Boot feature that Microsoft is requiring PC makers to turn on by default. At the moment it’s not totally clear, but Secure Boot may have to be manually disabled for those who want to install or dual boot to another OS such as Linux, adding an extra step to the process.

Aug 3
Microsoft drops ‘Metro’ name for Windows 8

Windows 8 DesktopA potential trademark dispute has forced Microsoft to drop the Metro name for the tile-based interface of Windows 8 and Windows Mobile.

Talks with an “important European partner” have brought about the change according to internal memos seen by the tech news site The Verge.

The partner is believed to be the German retail giant Metro AG.

Microsoft is currently working out what to call the interface and said the new name would be announced very soon.

The tiled interface has been called “Metro” ever since Microsoft started showing off its designs for the software. Elements of it have also been used on older products such as the Zune media player.

In documents sent out to developers and media months ago, Microsoft said Metro was the “code name for our design language”. It added that Metro was picked because the name was “modern and clean. It’s fast and in motion”.

Now documents sent out to developers are warning coders to avoid using the word when referring to the distinctive interface.

Souce: BBC Tech News

Jul 26
Recovery Options in Windows 8

Windows 8 Restore OptionsWindows 8 brings two new recovery options (Refresh and Reset) that could help save IT personnel and users’ time when a PC becomes infected or corrupt, or when they’re being readied for disposal or reuse.

Each of these recovery options can be initiated via the Metro-style Settings app within Windows, via the new boot Windows Recovery Environment (RE) menus, or even via booting from a Windows To Go USB drive.

Refresh keeps all the personal data, Metro-style apps, and important settings, and then re-installs Windows. According to Microsoft, this can all happen in less than 10 minutes regardless of how much personal data is backed up. While it doesn’t keep the traditional desktop applications, it saves a list of them in an HTML file (without the license keys, however) that will appear on the desktop.

If you create an image backup of your PC ahead of time, however, Refresh will restore your PC to that image. This would include any desktop applications that were installed at the time of imaging, and your most current personal data, Metro-style apps, and important settings would all be restored.

Reset removes all data and then re-installs Windows so the PC is in the same condition as when it was started the first time. According to Microsoft, this can take anywhere from less than 10 minutes if BitLocker encryption is enabled, to up to 25 minutes if it isn’t enabled.

The Regular option simply erases and formats the drive before reinstalling Windows, while the Thorough option writes random patterns to every sector of the drive to significantly reduce the chances of data being recovered.

Source: PC Advisor

Jul 10
Windows 8 to go on sale in October

Windows 8 DesktopWindows 8 will be “released to manufacturing” in the first week of August, and will move to “general availability” for everyone by the end of October, Microsoft has announced.

Speaking at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in the US, Tami Reller, the vice-president for Windows, gave the dates when the finished software would be sent out to companies so that they can test and include it on PCs – the “release to manufacture”, or “RTM” date – and the later date when people will be able to buy and download it directly from Microsoft.

Microsoft has already announced a scheme which mean that people who bought a PC running Windows 7 after 2 June will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 for just $15.

Windows 8 will automatically be included as the basic system on PCs that go on sale from late October, or possibly before. Microsoft will also offer a free cloud storage account using its SkyDrive system to every Windows 8 buyer.

Microsoft is also introducing a new system for buying third-party software, called “The Windows Store”, with Windows 8. That will only offer approved and checked software for sale.

Jul 5
Windows 8 upgrade plans

microsoftMicrosoft have said that upgrading a PC to Windows 8 is easier than you might think.

Allowed Upgrades

You will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic and Windows 7 Home Premium and maintain your existing Windows settings, personal files and applications.

If you want to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro you can do so from Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate and maintain your existing Windows settings, personal files and applications.

You can upgrade from Windows Vista (without SP1 installed) to Windows 8 but only personal files (meaning data only) will be maintained. However, if you upgrade from Windows Vista with SP1, your personal data and system settings will be maintained.

You can also upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows XP with Service Pack 3 or higher but only personal files/data will be maintained.

There are a few upgrade paths that will not work

You won’t be able to upgrade or keep your Windows settings, files or applications if you are doing a cross-language installation (However, users will be able to keep personal files/data during a cross-language install by using Windows 8 Setup).

Microsoft will also not allow you to do a cross-architecture install – 32-bit to 64-bit. Even if you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7 you won’t be able to keep your existing Windows settings, personal files and applications or data. In fact you will not be allowed to upgrade this way.

Mar 6
Microsoft talks up Windows 8 business features

Windows 8 TilesMicrosoft has unveiled some of the enterprise capabilities of its new operating system, including a failsafe feature of the ‘Windows To Go’ USB stick installation, and integration between Windows 7 and Windows 8 applications.

The company demonstrated new features of the upcoming Operating System in a keynote speech at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, on Tuesday.

“With Windows 8 your experience will be faster, fluid and effortless and build on the great fundamentals of Windows 7,” Erwin Visser, a senior director for Windows, told the audience. “Windows 8 will fit right into your current Win 7 infrastructure, side by side.”

Visser gave details on the operating system’s Windows To Go technology, which lets enterprise customers burn an image of their Windows 8 operating system onto a USB drive. The drive can then be plugged into other devices, including computers running Windows 7. The technology has a failsafe security feature – if the USB key is removed, the person has 60 seconds to put it back in before the operating system is wiped.

“Windows 8 will change the face of computing and devices whether it be for consumers or enterprises” “It’s one of the most – if not the most – important [OS] that we’ve ever had the privilege of developing.”

Windows 8 sees Microsoft try to unify the appearance of its software across multiple devices, including Windows Phones, televisions and tablets.

Source: ZDNet

Mar 1
Windows 8 Consumer Preview

windows 8 logoMicrosoft has released Windows 8 Consumer Preview, a milestone on the way to the launch of its touch-friendly transformation of Windows.

Referring to the user interface, Windows president Steven Sinofsky called it the first generational change since Windows 95, when the now-familiar Start menu and taskbar was introduced, as he announced the new release to press in Barcelona.

Radical change is unavoidable if Windows is to compete effectively with Apple’s iPad or Android tablets, since Windows 7 is difficult and irritating to use on a touch-only device.

The challenge addressed by Microsoft in Windows 8 is how to remake Windows for tablets and eventually smartphones, while also maintaining compatibility and continuity with its vast legacy.

Source: The Guardian

Feb 23
HP readies Windows 8 products for year’s end

Windows 8Hewlett-Packard already has a line of products ready for the next version of Windows 8.

Hewlett-Packard’s CEO Meg Whitman said today, during the company’s earnings conference call, “We have a product line lined up in PSG (Personal Systems Group) on Windows on X86. We believe we’re going to be well-positioned for holiday on Windows 8 X86,” she said. X86 refers to the chip design that Intel and Advanced Micro Devices use.

Whitman made no mention of ARM, the other chip technology that Windows 8 will run on.

“The better Windows 8 is, the better off we are,” she said. “So, we’re rooting for a fantastic Windows 8 product that’s delivered on time that we can get to market before the holiday season.”

Source: ZDNet:

Jan 24
Microsoft shows off Windows 8 marketplace

Windows 8 StoreMicrosoft has given further details on how its app and games marketplace, called Windows Store, will work in the upcoming Windows 8 platform.

The tool is designed for downloading Windows 8 apps that use the Metro interface on tablets and PCs. Unlike Apple’s iTunes App Store, it does not handle mobile apps, as these are distributed for Microsoft OS-based handsets via the Windows Marketplace.

Windows Store, which is expected to arrive alongside the Windows 8 beta in late February, has been designed to put content in front of people rather than making them search for titles, according to Jonathan Wang, a program manager at Microsoft. “On the Store landing page, we will continually feature new and exciting content, changing frequently so that customers come to expect there’s always more to explore within the store. The landing page integrates featured content with navigational content — like categories and lists of featured apps,” Wang wrote in a blog post on Friday.

Source: ZDNet

Jan 17
Microsoft takes wraps off new Windows file system

server 8 and ReFSThe Resilient File System (ReFS) will make its first appearance as a storage system in Windows Server 8, after which it will evolve into a system for client storage, then ultimately for boot volumes.

On Monday, Microsoft used a post on its Building Windows 8 blog to lay out details on ReFS.

“Along with Storage Spaces, ReFS forms the foundation of storage on Windows for the next decade or more,” Microsoft development manager Surendra Verma wrote. “We believe this significantly advances our state of the art for storage… we expect that we will see ReFS as the next massively deployed file system.”

The “staged evolution” of ReFS, beginning with its use as a file server, is the same approach Microsoft has taken with previous file systems.

According to Verma, ReFS has many of the same features and semantics as NTFS, which was introduced in 1993. These include “BitLocker encryption, access-control lists for security, USN journal, change notifications, symbolic links, junction points, mount points, reparse points, volume snapshots, file IDs and OpLocks”. If a file-access API can access an NTFS volume, it will be able to access data stored on ReFS. What has changed is the on-disk storage engine underneath the reused code.

The ReFS engine exclusively uses the so-called B+ tree structure to represent stored information. Verma indicated this will mean a simpler system, with the choice of structure designed to be as scalable as possible. When ReFS is used alongside mirrored Storage Spaces, corruptions will be “automatically and transparently fixed”, Verma added, noting that ReFS also had a ‘salvage’ feature for making sure that non-repairable corruption does not affect the availability of “good data”.

Responding to readers’ questions about the blogpost, Verma also stressed that Windows 7 users would be able to read ReFS-formatted partitions from a Windows 8 Server, either by using a new file system driver or by sharing a folder out from the server. “Note that support for NTFS is going to be present in Windows for the foreseeable future, so you should always be able to access all your NTFS data across versions without any problems,” he added.

Source: ZDNet

Jan 6
Windows 8 will have ‘one-click refresh’

windows 8 one click refreshWindows 8 will include a smartphone-style reset-to-factory-defaults function, along with a way to reinstall the Operating System without deleting certain apps and settings.

Microsoft said on Wednesday that the Windows 8 reset function would be useful for those decommissioning or recycling PCs, and the refresh function would help people whose PCs are “not working their best” but who do not want to have to back up all their data and reinstall from scratch.

“Today, there are many different approaches and tools to get a PC back to factory condition,” Microsoft program manager Desmond Lee wrote in a blog post, listing manufacturer-provided tools, third-party imaging products, Windows system image backup and a clean reinstallations. “While these tools all provide similar functionalities, they don’t provide a consistent experience from one PC or technique to another,” Lee said.

“As we began planning for Windows 8, we asked ourselves: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you could just push a button and everything is fixed?'” According to Lee’s post, the bootable Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) in Windows 8 will offer the option of erasing and formatting the Windows and personal data hard-drive partitions, and automatically installing a fresh copy of Windows. The PC will then restart with the newly cleansed system.

There will also be an option to “thoroughly” delete data while performing the factory reset. This option will “write random patterns to every sector of the drive, overwriting any existing data visible to the operating system”, Lee said, while conceding that well-resourced people could theoretically still recover data from the drive afterwards.

Source: ZDNet

Nov 23
Windows 8 setup

windows 8 logoMicrosoft has outlined how IT professionals will be able to set up Windows 8 using a flash drive, and has also claimed that the installation process will be much quicker than that for earlier versions of Windows.

Windows 8 will play down the need to type in the product key during installation. Those setting up the new version of the OS via the web delivery method will not have to type in the key at all, as it is ‘pre-keyed’ in the download file for the unique user.

However, IT professionals and other advanced users may want to install Windows 8 from a USB key while leaving the installation process unattended. In a blog post on Monday, Microsoft Setup and Deployment team member Christa St Pierre explained how this can be done:

When putting Windows 8 onto the flash drive, the user will be able to copy-and-paste the product key into an ‘unattend answer file’, which will itself need to be copied into the root of the USB stick. This will make it possible to leave the installation running without having to be there. Similarly, the user will be able to use the same file to pre-set the UI language and automatically configure the PC to boot multiple operating systems. “You could configure multiple boot options manually in the Advanced Setup GUI and BCD configuration, but why do that when you can script it? The unattend framework is very flexible and you can instruct Setup to format, create, or modify partitions on the PC’s disk(s),” St Pierre wrote.

St Pierre added that advanced setup from a USB drive was not supported in the Windows 8 developer preview build, but would be in the finalised version.

Another change can be found in the way Windows 8 will handle the transfer of preserved files from the old Operating System to the new. While previous Windows installation processes did this file-by-file, the Windows 8 process will move whole folders. There is just one transport folder, rather than the two needed for the Windows 7 upgrade, and Microsoft has also made various other tweaks to speed the process up. The result, St Pierre claimed, was that Microsoft had “virtually eliminated” the difference in upgrade times between a clean install and upgrades involving hundreds of thousands of preserved files.

Source: ZDNet

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