Thursday, April 30, 2015

Porting Apps to Win 10

A longtime concern about Windows Phone has been a shortage of apps in the Windows Store, but Microsoft on Wednesday took a big step to change things.

Developers of iOS and Android apps will be able to bring their apps and games to Windows 10,

Microsoft's next operating system that's designed to run on Windows Phone, laptops and other devices, the company announced at its Build developer conference. Windows 10 is expected sometime this summer, but phones running Windows 10 are not expected until later in 2015.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cleaning Up Windows

On April 8, Microsoft blessed us with an update to Windows 8.1 that made the touchy-feely OS more palatable to PC users.

Now that you've had about a week to play around with the update—which brings the taskbar to the modern UI, among other welcome additions—the next few days present a good time to clear up extra space on your hard drive by getting rid of some Windows Update files.

How much space you'll recover depends on whether you've ever run the Disk Clean-up utility, and the number of different Windows versions you've ever run on your PC.

In my case, I recovered a little less than 2GB. It's not much, but on a 3-year-old computer that's going to need a hard drive upgrade soon, I'll take all the extra space I can get.

While we'll focus on how to run a clean-up Windows 8.1, this basic utility is also available in Windows 7 and 8.

Let's start by right-clicking on the Start button in the lower left corner and selecting Control Panel in the context menu. Now, from the Control Panel's category view, select System and Security>Administrative Tools>Free up disk space.

In the next window that opens, which may take a few minutes, you'll see a summary of various files that can be deleted to free up extra space. But we also want to clean up the system files in addition to the usual temporary Internet files and error reports.

To do this, click on the Clean up system files button and wait for Disk Clean-up to recalculate how much space you can take back.

After a few more minutes, we should be back at the Disk Clean-up window. Scroll through the list of items that are safe to delete, paying special attention to any large file sizes. There will be a few that aren't checked off, but feel free to delete them if you don't need or want them on your system anymore.

Once you're done, click OK and then Delete Files in the pop-up window that opens. A few minutes later, the files will be wiped from your hard drive giving you a few extra gigabytes of storage space.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

MSFT Win 10 Downloader

Windows 10 will officially be rolled out this summer and Microsoft is doing the best it can do to ensure that each and every Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 user upgrades to Windows 10. With the official announcement of Windows 10, Microsoft said that all Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users will be getting the benefit of the free upgrade. Now Microsoft has released an update that will notify you to download Windows 10 when it’ll be available for download.

This update installs a “Windows 10 downloader” in your Windows machine. In Microsoft’s words: “enables additional capabilities for Windows Update notifications when new updates are available to the user.” This update KB3035583 will notify you when Windows 10 could be downloaded and a file named GWXUXWorker.EXE will download it for you.

After the update, a new folder named “GWX” is added to System 32. GWX contains a folder named “Download” and 9 other files. Out of the 4 executable files, there’s one named GWXUXWorker.EXE whose description reads “Download Windows 10.” So here you got your Windows 10 downloader in your system waiting for the Windows 10. I guess GWX stands for “Get Windows 10” where “X” could be 10 in Roman number system.

Monday, April 27, 2015

New Google Glass

Google may have pulled the plug on the Explorer edition of its Google Glass, but the company has been steadfast in insisting a new version of the controversial wearable computer will be coming out under the direction of Nest boss Tony Fadell. No one knows when exactly that will be, but one of Google's partners has indicated it might not be too far away. According to The Wall Street Journal, the CEO of Italian eyewear maker Luxottica said that the next generation of Glass would be out soon, and that the company was continuing the partnership announced last year to make Glass a bit more stylish than its first implementation was.

"In Google, there are some second thoughts on how to interpret version three [of Glass]," CEO Massimo Vian said in a shareholders meeting. "What you saw was version one. We're now working on version two, which is in preparation." We're not sure what Vian meant by his statement about "second thoughts" on a third version of Glass when the second model hasn't even been completed yet, but at least we know that Luxottica is still committed to helping Google figure out how to make Glass something people will want to wear. Luxottica is well-known for brands like Oakley and Ray-Ban — if the company can bring some of that style to Glass, people might be a bit more friendly to it the second time around.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

iOS is an Illness

Pharmaceutical advertising is almost as enjoyable as some of the diseases it makes up.

It's therefore difficult to mock something that is inherently funny in the first place.

However, HTC -- slightly renowned for its occasionally bizarre advertising -- isn't easily deterred from adding to its repertoire.

So it has revealed an oeuvre that is positively brimming with what some might call humor, others might call lack of humor and still others might call startlingly tasteless spittle aimed at other phone manufacturers and especially those suffering from depression.

Friday, April 24, 2015

New Version of Zorin OS

We received an email from Zorin OS today. Here's what they said:

Version 10 (based on Ubuntu 15.04) will be released during this summer.

New Pentax K-3 II

Ricoh Imaging has just announced the Pentax K-3 II, the latest flagship DSLR that will be replacing the K-3 in the Pentax APS-C lineup.  Just when we thought the Pentax full frame would be the next high-end body, Pentax engineers have brought us a little treat that contains some of the latest tech from their R&D department.

The key addition to the K-3 II is a Pixel Shift Resolution System that promises to dramatically improve the image quality of photos of still subjects (i.e. landscapes) when the camera is mounted on a tripod.  This super resolution system works by microscopically moving the sensor around across a series of four exposures so that complete color data is captured by each pixel.  The net result should be an image with lower noise, more detail, more accurate colors, and significantly lower risk of artifacts such as moire.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Windows 10 Roadmap

What was already an open secret has now been confirmed (apparently accidentally) by one of Microsoft's partners in the PC supply chain. Thanks to offhand remarks from AMD's president and CEO Lisa Su, we now know that Microsoft is planning to launch Windows 10 at the end of July.

But what will actually happen when the appointed date rolls around? That poses some interesting logistical questions for Microsoft.

The Windows 10 upgrade program is going to be one of the largest software delivery projects in history. Microsoft is offering full, free upgrades for every PC currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 Service Pack 1 (excluding those running Enterprise editions, which don't qualify for the free upgrade).

That means a 2GB+ upgrade package downloaded to each PC.

So just how big is the eligible Windows 10 upgrade base? It is certainly measured in the hundreds of millions, representing PCs running Windows in dozens of languages, all over the world.

Apple's been doing this for a few years with OS X, but on a much smaller scale, measured in the low tens of millions for each new release. Microsoft's upgrade program for Windows 8.1 was probably larger than that but still only a small fraction of the worldwide PC installed base.
There's actually a road map hidden in plain sight, included with a recent optional update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. An XML file installed with that update contains important clues about a program called GWX: Get Windows 10.

KB3035583 describes itself innocuously enough: "This update enables additional capabilities for Windows Update notifications when new updates are available to the user. It applies to a computer that is running Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1)."

That's it. No, seriously, that's the entire description. But the KB article does go on to describe the files included with this update, most of them containing the acronym GWX.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Another Apple Flop

Apple's recent patch to fix a serious privilege escalation vulnerability in OS X Yosemite can be easily circumvented, a security researcher said.

Labeled "Rootpipe" by its finder, Emil Kvarnhammar of Swedish security company TrueSec, the bug could let attackers gain full access to a targeted Mac without having to know the administrative account's password -- dubbed "root access" -- making it a breeze to silently install malware on the machine. Kvarnhammer disclosed the flaw last fall.

Apple pushed a patch for Rootpipe to Yosemite -- but not older editions of OS X -- on April 8 as part of the 10.10.3 update.

But the patch didn't close the hole, alleged Patrick Wardle, director of research at Menlo Park, Calif.-based Synack, a security startup that markets a vulnerability testing framework.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

May ePub

The May issue of our monthly ePub was emailed to all of our subscribers this morning. As usual, it contains some excellent articles and reviews.

If you’d like to subscribe please let us know and we’ll add your email to our distribution list.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Windows 10 Update

Testers running Windows 10’s preview must keep the OS relatively up to date or face a bricked PC that won’t boot.

The first three builds of Windows 10 Technical Preview—9841, 9860 and 9879, all released in 2014—will refuse to boot at the end of April, according to a message posted by a Microsoft support engineer on the company’s discussion forum.

Personal computers running the three 2014 builds have been displaying warnings of the impending expiration for the last two weeks. Starting Wednesday, the PCs have been rebooting every three hours, another hint from Microsoft to update.

“Approximately 2 weeks after the license expires, the build will no longer boot at all,” said a support engineer identified only as “RajithR” in a message dated April 10. That step is to start April 30.

The draconian measures have a purpose: They insure that testers and Microsoft do not waste time filing and reviewing bugs that have already been fixed. Apple didn’t use such tactics when it publicly previewed OS X in 2014, but the Cupertino, Calif. company’s beta had a much shorter lifespan than Microsoft’s, which will have run almost a year by the time Windows 10 launches.
When Microsoft launched the Windows 10 preview last fall, it told potential testers that the first build would expire April 15, but pointed out that more would follow.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

No iWatches in iStore.... Yet

There will be no Apple Watches available to buy as walk-out purchases in-store from next Friday and throughout May, Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts has told staff in a memo seen by The Telegraph.

Customers instead will be prompted by staff to order their Watch of choice online in order to receive it faster, a decision Ms Ahrendts said had "not been easy".

The Apple Watch, first announced last September, comes in three versions; Sport, standard Apple Watch and the luxury Edition, starting from £299, £479 and £8,000 respectively.

The range arrived in Apple retail stores and high-end fashion outlets including London's Selfridges and Dover Street Market on April 10. Ms Ahrendts confirmed that April 24 is the date customers will begin to receive their pre-ordered Watches, and that she would share further details around in-store availability in the future.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Google Handwriting App

Google has a new Android app designed to capture your on-screen penmanship.

The app, called Google Handwriting Input, is designed to allow users to "write" on a smartphone or tablet touchscreen. It automatically interprets letters and transforms them into standard digital text. The feature works with or without a stylus -- so go ahead and use your fingers -- and can interpret 82 languages. Developed by the company's research team, Handwriting Input can identify both cursive and print handwriting, and accepts emojis.

"Using handwriting as an input method can allow for natural and intuitive input method for text entry which complements typing and speech input methods," Google's Research team wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

Google's handwriting app has company. Microsoft's Windows versions over the years have featured handwriting recognition on tablet PCs. Indeed, the feature has been used in the corporate world for many years where employees can turn to tablet PCs to quickly take notes or fill out forms.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New MacBook is a Nightmare

Apple's new 12-in. MacBook is a "repair nightmare," as tough on do-it-yourselfers as 2012's first Retina-equipped MacBook Pro, according to iFixit.

"The internals are unnecessarily complex; it's a minefield of pentalobe and tri-wing screws, fragile cables snaked around essential components, and a solidly-glued-down multi-cell battery," iFixit reported on its blog Wednesday. "Tack on the non-upgradeability, and the Retina MacBook is a repair nightmare."

San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based iFixit -- one of the Web's best-known electronics repair firms -- awards repairability scores between 1 and 10 to devices after pulling them apart. It gave the MacBook a "1," the same slapped on the first MacBook Pro with a high-resolution display nearly three years ago. At that time, iFixit said the Retina MacBook Pro was the "least-repairable laptop we've taken apart."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New E-Fun Tablets

E FUN, the fifth largest tablet supplier in the U.S.*, announces the availability of its first Android 2-in-1, the Nextbook Ares 11, an 11.6" tablet with detachable keyboard. Larger than a tablet yet smaller than a laptop, this versatile 2-in-1 combines the best of both devices. Those looking for entertainment will love its portability and multitude of apps, while it's ease of use will prove convenient for work. The Nextbook Ares 11 is available now at Walmart stores nationwide and for $197.                                                    
Featuring a detachable backlit keyboard, the Nextbook Ares 11 is an affordable solution for students, professionals and casual users. It features:
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with Google Play
  • Detachable backlit keyboard with two standard 2.0 USB ports
  • 1366 x 768 IPS capacitive touch screen
  • Quad-Core Intel® AtomTM Z3735F Processor (X86, 1.8GHz)
  • 1GB DDR3L system memory
  • 64GB onboard storage memory, microSD supports up to 64GB additional
  • Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • 2.0 megapixel front and rear cameras
  • miniHDMI, microUSB, and microSD ports
  • 9000mAh internal rechargeable battery
Unlike tablets, the Ares 11 comes with a full-sized, detachable keyboard, perfect for getting work done no matter where life takes you. For those more interested in entertainment, the Ares 11 is great for watching movies and TV shows through VUDU or Flixster, playing games from the Google Play store with its 3-axis G-sensor, or reading an eBook from the preloaded Barnes and Noble NOOK for Android app.
The 11.6" screen and 16:9 aspect ration means these entertainment options are all available in high definition. For the ultimate experience, these great features can be enjoyed on the big screen with the Ares 11's built in miniHDMI port, allowing users to mirror the device directly onto any compatible TV.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Samsung Smartphone Sales

Samsung Electronics said Monday it Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are hot-sellers at home and abroad.

Sales of the new smartphones are expected to gain additional momentum given strong global demand.

Samsung is expected to breach the 10 million sales mark just 26 days after their global launch on April 10, faster than previous models, sources said.

"The two new phones are drawing impressive responses. Samsung aims to ship 10 million S6s and S6 Edges in 26 days after the devices' global launch. That target is achievable," said a source.

The target is on top of 20 million pre-orders it has received globally for the two phones.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Android Updates

It usually takes months for mobile devices to get Android updates, but Intel and Google want to slash the wait time.

Tablets and smartphones made as part of a new Intel mobile-device development program will be able to receive new Android versions and features in two weeks via over-the-air upgrades.

Intel's program, called Reference Design for Android, provides a blueprint for device makers to build tablets, smartphones and phablets with a consistent set of components and system images. The hardware consistency will make updating Android in mobile devices much easier.

The quick delivery of updates will keep mobile devices fresh and "always available with the latest capabilities in Android," said Doug Fisher, senior vice president and general manager for the Software and Services Group at Intel.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Computer on a Stick

It look a little longer than expected, but Intel’s Compute Stick PC is up for pre-order through some online stores.

The stick-sized computer is available from Newegg with Windows 8.1 on board. If you’re the type that always spells “Microsoft” with a dollar sign, Newegg is also selling the Linux version for $110. Liliputing reports that it comes with Ubuntu 14.04. The price for the Linux Compute Stick was supposed to be $89, but we’ve yet to see it anywhere for that cheap.

Regardless of operating system, the Compute Stick comes with an Intel Atom quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. It plugs directly into a monitor or TV via HDMI, and is powered through a Micro USB jack on the side of the stick. There’s also a full-sized USB port, and Bluetooth 4.0 for connecting a mouse and keyboard.

Intel originally planned to ship the Compute Stick in March, but Newegg is listing a release date of April 24 for both models. A similar dongle with BeeLink branding is already available, but from more obscure retailers.

Friday, April 10, 2015

New Chromebooks

A new generation of low-cost Chromebooks is on the way, running the Intel Braswell chips that are expected to debut later this week.

The new Braswell chips include new Celeron and Pentium processors, which will support both Chrome OS and Windows, said sources familiar with Intel's product plans. More details on Braswell will be shared at the Intel Developer Forum in Shenzhen this week.

New Chromebooks running Braswell are expected in the coming months from top PC makers, as well as from low-cost manufacturers China who might bring the price point down to less than $200. Braswell will also appear in low-cost Windows laptops, desktops and tablets.

Intel first announced the Braswell chips a year ago, but shipments were delayed due to problems with the company's 14-nanometer manufacturing process.

Chromebooks, favored by some who do most of their computing on the Internet, are powered by a range of Intel or ARM processors. Most Chromebooks priced starting at $200 to $300 have aging Celeron processors based on the Bay Trail architecture, which Braswell will replace. The fastest and most expensive Chromebooks such as Google's Chromebook Pixel have Intel's Core chip, which packs more horsepower than Celeron or Pentium processors.

The new Celeron and Pentium chips could also be Intel's answer to last week's release of sub-$200 ARM-based Chromebooks from Haier, HiSense and Asustek. Chromebook shipments are rising in a flat PC market, and have become a new battleground for Intel and ARM, who also compete in servers and mobile devices.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The iFruit Watch

It's almost time.

Apple Watch pre-orders begin at midnight tonight, Pacific time (that's 3 a.m. ET Friday), with the Watch arriving in stores and from the delivery man on April 24.

It also means that on Monday morning, April 27, a lot of early adopters -- having spent the weekend figuring out how their new wearable works -- will stroll into the office without waiting for approval from IT.

The good news: Given Apple's history and the fact that it kick-started the BYOD movement with the iPhone and iPad, embracing the Apple Watch shouldn't be a big deal. Sure, early reviewers complained this week that it can be confusing and sluggish -- even as they acknowledged that it represents a paradigm shift in how people relate to technology.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

HDMI Computers

It look a little longer than expected, but Intel’s Compute Stick PC is up for pre-order through some online stores.

The stick-sized computer is available from Newegg with Windows 8.1 on board. If you’re the type that always spells “Microsoft” with a dollar sign, Newegg is also selling the Linux version for $110. Liliputing reports that it comes with Ubuntu 14.04. The price for the Linux Compute Stick was supposed to be $89, but we’ve yet to see it anywhere for that cheap.

Regardless of operating system, the Compute Stick comes with an Intel Atom quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. It plugs directly into a monitor or TV via HDMI, and is powered through a Micro USB jack on the side of the stick. There’s also a full-sized USB port, and Bluetooth 4.0 for connecting a mouse and keyboard.

Intel originally planned to ship the Compute Stick in March, but Newegg is listing a release date of April 24 for both models. A similar dongle with BeeLink branding is already available, but from more obscure retailers.

Why this matters: We’ve seen an explosion of miniature computers lately—including a new Raspberry Pi with promised Windows 10 support—but the Compute Stick promises to be the smallest of the bunch. Still, Intel has been talking about this thing since last November, so you’d be forgiven for writing it off as vaporware by now. While the Compute Stick hasn’t quite crossed over to “actual product” territory just yet, it sounds like we’ll be able to put it through its paces soon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Open Source Windows???

The impossible is actually possible at Microsoft, one of the company's engineers claims.

Speaking at the open-source-focused ChefCon this week, Microsoft engineer and Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich said something unheard of: "it's definitely possible" that Windows could eventually go open source.

"It's a new Microsoft," Russinovich said, according to Wired, which was in attendance at the event.

In the world of operating systems, there are two main types: closed source and open source. Closed operating systems include Windows and Apple's OS X and they're categorized as such because the code that's used to drive the software is not made available to the public. Open source, on other hand, means the technology community has access to all the underlying code that drives a piece of software, allowing coders to tinker with it, modify it and ultimately create unique distributions of the operating system. The chief open-source OS on the desktop side is Linux.

Monday, April 6, 2015

WinXp is Still Alive

Windows XP continues its descent among desktop operating systems, though it's far from dead and buried.

Looking at the overall Web traffic for desktop operating systems across the globe, Net Applications gave XP a 16.9 percent share for the month of March, a hefty drop from the 19.1 percent recorded in February.

Though XP's grip on the market continues to loosen, it remains the No. 2 most-used operating system based on Net Application's Web stats, beating Windows 8 and 8.1 and their collective share of 14 percent. Windows 8.1 took the third spot with a 10.5 percent share, leaving Windows 8 in fifth place with just 3.5 percent.

Windows 7 holds the top spot, with a share of 58 percent.

The enduring hold of the 13-year-old Windows XP on PC users underscores the challenges Microsoft has faced as it tries to move ahead with new versions of its flagship operating system, which the company says has more than 1.5 billion users around the world. The staying power has even proven resistant to Microsoft's end of support for XP a year ago, which put an end to bug fixes and and other patches, leaving users more vulnerable to security threats.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

New MSFT Surface

Microsoft has announced the Surface 3, a new entry in its not-a-tablet-it's-a-notebook line, pitching the smaller device as a "more compact and efficient package" than the Surface Pro 3.

The Redmond, Wash. company today began taking pre-orders for the Surface 3; the Wi-Fi-only models will go on sale May 5. Devices that include built-in connectivity to mobile data networks will ship in late June.

The Surface 3 -- successor to the Surface 2, before that the doomed Surface RT -- is also priced lower than its larger Pro sibling: $499 to start for a model with 64GB of on-board storage space and 2GB of RAM, $599 for the configuration that doubles both of those numbers. The $499 was the same price as the low-end 32GB Surface RT in October 2012.

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 begins at $799, and climbs to a top-tier price of $1,949.

Those prices, however, are sans a $130 keyboard, mandatory to make any Surface laptop-like. "It's a mistake not to bundle a keyboard," said Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research, last week in an interview. He doubled down on that today, again criticizing Microsoft for selling the keyboard separately.

The low-end Surface 3 with an accompanying Surface 3 Type Cover runs $629. By comparison, a 64GB iPad with a third-party keyboard costs about $700.