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June, 2012

Google Chrome for iPad and iPhone review

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Google Chrome for iPad

It’s been a long wait for a valid alternative to Safari on the iPad and iPhone, but one finally arrived this week, and it’s a big one: Google Chrome. Now, before you get too excited, Google hasn’t been able to bring the full Chrome experience to iOS, for reasons we’ll go into later, but much of what has made Chrome so popular on the desktop is in place. Google’s approach is to create a unified experience across all devices, from your PC right down to your iPhone. (more…)

Apple Podcasts app for iPhone review

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Apple Podcasts for iOS

You may have missed it earlier this week, but without fanfare Apple has pushed out a new Podcasts app. You can find at the top of the App Store, as well as in the Podcasts section of iTunes.

There’s no doubt that the cluttered, frustrating podcast interface of the existing iTunes app reflects a time when podcasts weren’t such a big industry as they are today. A redesign has long been needed, and rather than doing that within iTunes – where the same old podcast section remains in place – Apple has opted to produce a standalone podcast app for those who want it. (more…)

Video podcast: Hands on with the Google Nexus 7

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Everyone’s talking about Google’s new tablet and the new Android 4.1 “Jellybean” OS – and today I had the chance to try it out for myself. Here’s a mini-podcast, with video clips and photos, in which I describe the hands-on experience.

Update: If you don’t have eight minutes to spare, you can browse the photos below the cut.

Windows 8’s “Windows To Go” feature: hands-on

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Windows To Go

This morning I’ve been playing with a Windows To Go system, as helpfully provided by Microsoft at yesterday’s TechEd event. In some ways it’s almost a disappointment: running off a 32GB Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate USB 3 drive it looks, feels and runs exactly like a local Windows 8 installation. All the hardware in our test laptop – an Asus N55S originally designed for Windows 7 – was picked up perfectly on first boot and subsequently remembered, giving us a slick startup time of under 20 seconds.

We haven’t had a chance to benchmark it fully, but when connected via a USB 3 port it feels perfectly responsive: Windows’ built-in benchmarks gave our system a respectable Windows Experience Index of 4.5, dragged down not by the primary hard disk – which received a score of 5.8 – but by our mediocre desktop graphics hardware. Microsoft doesn’t recommend using a USB 2 port, but we gave this a try and found the system was still perfectly usable, with a Primary Hard Disk performance rating of 4.7. (more…)

How to add a Shut Down button to Windows 8

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Shut Down

There are many good things about Windows 8, and there are many not so good things. People have bemoaned the loss of the Start menu, but in my opinion the biggest omission is one specific menu element: the Shut Down button. Having to open the settings Charm, then click the power button to finally get to the Shut Down option makes no sense. Thankfully, it’s very easy to turn back the clock.


Nokia’s been badly burned by Windows Phone 8

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Nokia Lumia handsets

Poor, poor Nokia. Already caught in a terrifying tailspin of falling sales and heavy financial losses, the company now faces the prospect of – once again – having nothing to sell but obsolete handsets for the next few months.

When Nokia leapt off its infamous “burning platform” and into the arms of Microsoft, it knew the fall would be unpleasant. After announcing its intention to move to Windows Phone in February 2011, it took nine months for Nokia’s first Windows Phone device to arrive, in the shape of the Lumia 800.

That gave the company three quarters of a year with nothing to sell but outdated handsets, running an operating system its own CEO had publicly derided as sub-standard. The consequences were all too apparent in Nokia’s first annual loss in living memory – and tens of thousands of job losses.


Is Microsoft’s Surface Pro waiting on Intel?

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

SurfaceClockOne of the curious things about Microsoft’s Surface announcement is the release timetable. The Windows RT model is expected to arrive at the same time as Windows 8; but the Surface for Windows 8 Pro, running real desktop Windows, isn’t due until three months after that, which probably means after Christmas.

Is this delay a deliberate tactical move to give Metro a boost? After all, early Surface adopters will now have no choice but to buy into the RT ecosystem. But if that were the intention it would have made much more sense not to announce the Surface Pro (as I shall call it) at all. It makes no sense to show off the flagship Windows 8 device and then voluntarily hold it back so as to miss the biggest shopping season of the year.

It seems more likely that the Surface Pro simply isn’t going to be ready in time for the Windows 8 launch. But why not? It surely can’t be a software delay – by that time the OS will be officially compatible with millions of desktop and laptop configurations worldwide. And since Microsoft has already announced confidently that the Surface RT will be ready to launch alongside the OS, it clearly has manufacturing capacity in hand. So what exactly is causing the hold-up?


Goodbye Actinic Desktop and thanks for all the sales

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012


Actinic has announced a change in name for its original Desktop product to Sellerdeck. Whilst most commentators are criticising the truly dreadful choice of name – which I’m told was due to the “lack of suitable free domain names”  - what is of greater interest to me as an Actinic watcher, reviewer and user of many years is that the company has been split between the online e-commerce offering (bought in from a French company Oxatis) which will be known as Actinic, and the original desktop offering now known as Sellerdeck.

Sellerdeck has a very old code base, some of the originators of which are no longer with the company. I have for some time suspected the reason that development has slowed to adding third-party add-ins is because maintenance of this code is becoming more and more difficult, particularly server-side.

I think it is fair to say that in the past Actinic has relied on its reseller and developer community to sell its products as a very competent online e-commerce solution to various companies. What is interesting is that there is no mention at all on the Actinic website now for reseller packages and it appears to be offering such packages itself.

So it seems that Actinic has decided to go it alone and in the future will have no need for the resellers, which is very bad news for those who have built a business selling solutions based on Actinic products, hence the title of this piece. I am waiting for a reply from Actinic about its position on resellers for its online product, but currently there isn’t one.

Surface is lovely, but not for people like me

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Microsoft Surface grey

Funny how things work out, isn’t it? Only a couple of days ago I was having a conversation with PC Pro doom-bringer-in-chief Barry Collins about Windows 8, which I may have passingly described as “a piece of utter [excrement]”.

It’s not like I haven’t given it a chance. I installed the Consumer Preview on my desktop machine, and since then I’ve been using it the way you’d use a badly put-together Ikea sofa. In doing so, I’ve reached two conclusions: Metro is lovely, but irrelevant to me – a stained-glass window in a car factory – while the traditional bit behind it performs like a naff beta of Windows 7.

But then Steve Ballmer knuckled his way onto stage the other night and introduced us to Surface, a tablet PC with a keyboard for a cover. Suddenly it all made sense. Surface explains Windows 8 in much the same way that a cup of tea explains a digestive biscuit. Windows 8 just doesn’t work properly without touch, and it was never meant to. Oh sure, you can get around it with a mouse, but then you can get around Tescos with a quad bike.


Under the hood of Intel’s blueprint for Ultrabooks

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Intel Ultrabook

Ultrabooks have dominated the laptop landscape since their arrival at the back end of 2011, but we’ve not yet seen any hardware from Intel – until now. It’s sent us its own blueprint for the Ultrabook and, unsurprisingly, it’s the first Ultrabook we’ve seen to include Ivy Bridge – Apple’s MacBook Air notwithstanding.

The chip in question is the Core i5-3427U, and it’s one of Intel’s lesser Ivy Bridge mobile parts: a 1.8GHz stock speed, an HD 4000 graphics core clocked at 350MHz rather than the 650MHz, and with less than half the cache of top-end mobile chips. The “U” at the end of its name is important, too, as it denotes a low-power chip – and its nominal and peak TDPs of 17W and 25W are both far lower than equivalent figures from more powerful Ivy Bridge processors. It’s also the same chip used in the latest MacBook Air refresh. (more…)






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