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Darien Graham-Smith

Office for iPad: key information

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Word for iPadMicrosoft CEO Satya Nadella, in his first appearance since taking over the top job, has confirmed that the company will shortly release a native version of its Office suite for the iPad, as well as updating Office for Mac. Some have called the decision a gamble for Microsoft, while others have seen it as a positive step. Here’s what you need to know. (more…)

Windows XP end of life: key information

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Windows Updates will be ending soon

Windows XP support will end on 8 April. After that date, Microsoft won’t provide any more updates. Yet many millions of people are still using the veteran OS: recent figures suggest that it’s still running on around 30% of PCs worldwide, many of them in businesses.

Understandably, there’s a lot of doubt and concern over what’s going to happen next. If you’re still running XP, here are the straightforward answers to the key questions.

(more…)

Windows 8.1 Update 1: hands-on preview

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

W81

A pre-release build of the latest update to Windows 8 has leaked online, giving us the opportunity to try it out ahead of its anticipated release in March or April.

This isn’t the “Threshold” update that’s been in the news lately: that’s not expected to arrive until next year. Threshold will reportedly bring major changes to the OS, including the return of the Start menu; it will probably be dubbed Windows 9, and could well be a paid-for upgrade.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 is expected to be a free download for all users, but it still represents a significant step forward for Windows. The leaked code is dated 14 January 2014, so there’s still time for a few more changes to be made before release, but what’s here is enough to give us a good idea of what the update will bring.

(more…)

Free alternatives to LogMeIn (updated)

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

LMI-Gone

This post was updated on 28/1 with additional content.

I’ve been using the free LogMeIn remote access service for several years now. I’ve never felt the need to pay for the commercial service, as mostly what I use it for is connecting to my home PC while I’m at work – or vice versa – and copying whatever files I need into Dropbox.

Now it’s been announced that the free service is being discontinued on 28 January – next week, in other words, meaning us free users don’t get a sunset period so much as an abrupt flicking off of the lights. As of next Wednesday, the service starts at $49 a year for two computers. As LogMeIn points out, this gets you not only basic remote access, but also “premium features like remote printing, file transfer and cloud data access, plus desktop and mobile apps to improve your experience.”

I don’t need any of that, however: for what I need, I’d be fine with one of the numerous lightweight VNC variants, or Windows’ built-in Remote Desktop Connection tool… if only they’d work through the Dennis Publishing firewall. Since they don’t, I’m left looking for a properly free alternative to LogMeIn that I can switch to next week. Here’s what I’ve found.

(more…)

Posted in: Software

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2014 in tech: our readers’ predictions

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Mugs

We’ve just taken delivery of a new batch of PC Pro mugs – aren’t they beautiful? – and to celebrate, we’ve been asking our followers on Twitter and Facebook to share their tech predictions for 2014, with ceramic prizes for our favourite ideas. Here are the winners:

“Cheaper and cheaper smartphones … Nicole to declare them “very hot” in the podcast.” @harryandrews
The judges say: “Based on the arrival of the Motorola Moto G and the Nexus 5 in recent months, it does indeed look like handset prices are going to be squeezed in the coming year. So far the effect seems to have been limited to Android, but it creates pressure on Apple and Nokia to follow suit. And it’s fair to say that Mr Andrews has got the measure of our news editor’s priorities.”
“Google jokingly names its new robot devision ‘Skynet.’ Google Skynet becomes self-aware 2.14am Eastern time, August 29th 2014.” — @dario006
‏The judges say: “Dario (no relation) suggested several Terminator-themed scenarios, but this one struck closest to home. Google ended 2013 owning a suspiciously large portfolio of robotics laboratories, including at least one with a military background – and the vast data banks it’s collected across its many services could indeed form something like a neural network. Worrying stuff.”
“There will be a boom in the use of MOOCs to supplement the learning process of students, allowing them to learn wherever, whenever.” — @RichyJT
The judges say: “As Richy suggests, we expect Massive Open Online Courses primarily to supplement, rather than replace, conventional learning methods. But let’s not underestimate their value to students who lack traditional school facilities, such as those in third-world countries. Online learning presents incredible opportunities for those who would otherwise have no way to reach their potential.”
“Healthcare is going to get personal. Expect more wearable devices and integration with patient records, supporting preventative care.” — @iam_lost 53s
The judges say: “This one might be optimistic: companies such as Intel have been talking about building healthcare functions into wearable devices for years, with very little visible effect so far. But with ‘smartwatches’ finally starting to appear on the market – albeit in rudimentary forms – it would be nice to think that 2014 could be the year personal healthcare technology finally takes off.”
If you’re one of the prize-winning tweeters, send us your contact details and we’ll pop a limited-edition PC Pro mug in the post for you. And if you didn’t win a mug, don’t despair: you can get one by simply taking out a new subscription to PC Pro.
Honourable mentions:
“Apple shares will drop and they’ll produce a new version of exactly the same product.” ‏— @dario006
“Hover boards – surely we’ve waited long enough now?”— @stewchambers
“Apple to sue Samsung for having an A in their name. Samsung’s defence: it’s lower case.” — @Relwots
“HTC to launch a new smartphone with a screen so large it will require a handbag.” — @Softfun
“A senior manager will use the term “cloud” and know what it means.” — @benb3342

“Cheaper and cheaper smartphones … Nicole to declare them ‘very hot’ in the podcast.” — @harryandrews

The judges say: “Based on the arrival of the Motorola Moto G and the Nexus 5 in recent months, it does indeed look like handset prices are going to be squeezed in the coming year. So far the effect seems to have been limited to Android, but it creates pressure on Apple and Nokia to follow suit. And it’s fair to say that Mr Andrews has got the measure of our news editor’s priorities.

“Google jokingly names its new robot devision ‘Skynet.’ Google Skynet becomes self-aware 2.14am Eastern time, August 29th 2014.” — @dario006

‏The judges say: “Dario (no relation) suggested several Terminator-themed scenarios, but this one struck closest to home. Google ended 2013 owning a suspiciously large portfolio of robotics laboratories, including at least one with a military background – and the vast data banks it’s collected across its many services could indeed form something like a neural network. Worrying stuff.

“There will be a boom in the use of MOOCs to supplement the learning process of students, allowing them to learn wherever, whenever.” — @RichyJT

The judges say: “As Richy suggests, we expect Massive Open Online Courses primarily to supplement, rather than replace, conventional learning methods. But let’s not underestimate their value to students who lack traditional school facilities, such as those in third-world countries. Online learning presents incredible opportunities for those who would otherwise have no way to reach their potential.

“Healthcare is going to get personal. Expect more wearable devices and integration with patient records, supporting preventative care.” — @iam_lost 53s

The judges say: “This one might be optimistic: companies such as Intel have been talking about building healthcare functions into wearable devices for years, with very little visible effect so far. But with ‘smartwatches’ finally starting to appear on the market – albeit in rudimentary forms – it would be nice to think that 2014 could be the year personal healthcare technology finally takes off.

Apple will buy a major cloud provider to shore up its cloud offering. Someone will also buy Dropbox – Google or Microsoft.” — @fortyrunner

The judges say: “A sharp observation: cloud storage is a huge and growing business, and right now iCloud simply isn’t the equal of Google Drive or Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Dropbox, meanwhile, continues to outpace them all, something the ‘big three’ surely aren’t happy with. We can certainly picture a major player seeking to corner the market by assimilating Dropbox.

If you’re one of the prize-winning tweeters, send us your contact details and we’ll pop a limited-edition PC Pro mug in the post for you. And if you didn’t win a mug, don’t despair: you can get one by simply taking out a new subscription to PC Pro.

Honourable mentions:

  • “Apple shares will drop and they’ll produce a new version of exactly the same product.” ‏— @dario006
  • “Hover boards – surely we’ve waited long enough now?” — @stewchambers
  • “2014 to finally be the year of the desktop for Linux, XP users flood to open source.” — Danny Balman (via Facebook)
  • “Apple to sue Samsung for having an A in their name. Samsung’s defence: it’s lower case.” — @Relwots
  • “HTC to launch a new smartphone with a screen so large it will require a handbag.” — @Softfun
  • “I predict there will be a security scare re a hacked password server. Sorry, I meant certainty!” —  @AdamGashead
  • “It’ll be more cost effective to store data in a cloud-based service than to store it on site.” — @benb3342
  • “Blackberry will die… (runs to make sure this hasn’t happened yet… no…. hits send…)” — @ataccounting
  • “A senior manager will use the term “cloud” and know what it means.” — @benb3342

Posted in: Random

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How to remove SkyDrive from the Windows 8.1 Explorer

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

When it comes to lightweight laptops and compact tablets, space is often at a premium. For this reason, Microsoft has chosen to downplay local storage in favour of SkyDrive, and your libraries are no longer shown by default in the navigation pane in Explorer windows.

However, the libraries are still there, and can be easily restored to their former place: all you need to do is right-click in the pane and tick Show Libraries to restore the familiar dropdowns.
If you want to get rid of the SkyDrive dropdown, things are trickier. One way is to turn off the feature entirely by going to the PC Settings app, selecting the SkyDrive pane and disabling the “Save documents to SkyDrive by default” setting.
Annoyingly, there’s no officially supported way of hiding the dropdown from Explorer while keeping the service working, but it’s possible via a Registry hack. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t try this unless you’re comfortable making technical tweaks, and you should back up your Registry first, in case you make any mistakes.
If you’re willing to take the plunge, open regedit.exe (from the search interface or a command window) and navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{8E74D236-7F35-4720-B138-1FED0B85EA75}\ShellFolder. In order to edit the contents of this Registry location, you’ll need to take ownership of it – right-click on the ShellFolder icon, then select Permissions | Advanced | Change, enter your own username and click OK three times to close all the open requesters. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to edit a DWORD value called Attributes. By default, its value should be set to f08004d; to hide SkyDrive, simply modify this to f09004d and restart your PC. The dropdown will no longer show up from your Explorer windows, but you still will be able to access SkyDrive via your user profile folder in C:\Users.SkyDrive1

SkyDrive1

On lightweight laptops and compact tablets, space is often at a premium. For this reason, Microsoft has chosen to downplay local storage in Windows 8.1, in favour of SkyDrive. Your libraries are no longer shown by default in the navigation pane in Explorer windows.

The libraries are still there, however, and can be easily restored to their former place: all you need to do is right-click in the pane and tick Show Libraries to restore the familiar dropdowns.

If you want to get rid of the SkyDrive dropdown, things are trickier. One approach is to go to the PC Settings app, select the SkyDrive pane and disable the “Save documents to SkyDrive by default” setting. This turns the feature off entirely, however, which may not be what you want to do.

(more…)

Samsung Galaxy S4: how to double your battery life

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

DSC_1191I love my Samsung Galaxy S4, but I don’t love its battery life. Samsung advertises “up to eight hours” of active use, but when I’m sitting on the tube playing a game, and my phone is constantly searching for a mobile signal that isn’t there, I swear that battery meter ticks down by 1% a minute. Having paid for a premium smartphone, I hate feeling like I have to carefully ration my use of it.

I can’t blame Samsung. You won’t do much better with a Nexus 5 or an HTC One. There seems to be an industry-wide consensus that slimness is king. Your phone might run out of juice by sundown, but while it’s spending the evening conked out in your pocket, at least it won’t ruin the line of your trousers.

(more…)

Lenovo Yoga Tablet review: first look

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

DSC09372Under the jubilant “#betterway” hashtag, Lenovo has revealed its latest brainchild, the Yoga Tablet, in synchronised events in Los Angeles and Milan.

Running a lightly customised version of Android 4.2.2 and coming in 8in and 10in variants, the Yoga Tablet resembles nothing so much as an oversized Apple Magic Trackpad. Across most of the screen area it’s an exceptionally slim 3mm deep, but with a cylindrical protrusion of around 8mm bulging out along one edge.

(more…)

How to (unofficially) upgrade in place from Windows 8.1 Preview to final code

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Win8.1

Windows 8.1 is here at last, and all Windows 8 users can upgrade for free by visiting the Windows Store. Even users who are currently running the Preview code that was released in June can get the official update – something we’re very pleased to see, as it had been expected that they’d have to wipe their systems and perform a clean installation of the final code.

However, things aren’t quite as peachy as they may seem for Preview users. According to Microsoft’s own advice, if you installed the preview from the Windows Store, you’ll lose your applications when you move to the final code, and will have to reinstall them all. That’s a pain, and staying on the preview code isn’t a long-term option as it expires in January.

(more…)

Twitter for Android: how to stop unwanted alerts

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

TwitterNotifications

The official Twitter app on my Android phone has started popping up a new sort of notification. Every so often, it’s taken to buzzing and vibrating to advise me that some people I know have started to follow someone I don’t know.

Clearly, it’s an attempt to get me to “engage” more with Twitter – as if I don’t enough already – and it’s not a wholly brainless approach. It stands to reason that if my friends like a certain Twitter feed then there’s a fair chance I might like it too.

I really don’t appreciate the intrusion, however. And based on the comments I’ve seen popping up on my own feed it looks like I’m not alone. I won’t be surprised if Twitter ends up backtracking in short order – but in the meantime, it looks like we’ll just have to live with the unwanted interruptions, or uninstall the Twitter app entirely.

That’s what it looks like; but in fact it is possible to disable these unwanted notifications. Here’s how.

(more…)

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Posted in: Hardware

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