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Windows 8.1 Update: an abject surrender

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Windows 8.1 Update

Microsoft has become the Manchester United of the technology industry. After dominating for much of the 1990s and 2000s, it’s now suffering a crisis of confidence, crippled with uncertainty when it steps out on to the pitch. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Windows 8.1 Update, or Windows Compromise Edition – Wince for short.

In an effort to appease the Windows 8 haters, Microsoft is backpedalling furiously. You don’t like the Start screen? We’ll just hide that out of the way and pretend it never existed (on laptops and desktops, at least). You want the Start button back? You can have that next time. At this rate, we’re going to have rolling hills in the desktop background, IE6 set as the default browser, and a free trial of AOL waiting on the desktop of Windows 8.2.

(more…)

No such thing as a free app… so pay up if you want quality

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Adobe Lightroom for iPadTwo weeks after Microsoft unveiled Office for iPad, Adobe has today launched Lightroom for iOS 7. While the two releases do quite different things, they follow the same “gotcha” business model: unless you subscribe to the companies’ premium services (Office 365 for Microsoft, Creative Cloud for Adobe), they’re limited to viewing rather than editing.

Indeed, Adobe goes one step further, explicitly saying that Lightroom for iPad is purely for subscribers to its services. (more…)

Time to outlaw crapware-laden installers

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Windows UI

Years ago, various regulators tore strips and billions of pounds from Microsoft for bundling applications with its operating system. Today, Windows software is plagued with a far more serious bundling problem that nobody seems to want to do anything about: bundling crapware.

Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to download any kind of free software without the installer trying to sneak some other piece of junk on to your system. Installers have become almost a puzzle game within themselves, in which the user tries to figure out the consequences of pressing a button.

(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…)

AmIRunningXP.com: not as daft as it sounds

Friday, March 14th, 2014

AMIrunningXP

A cap doffed in the direction of The Register for spotting this website: AmIRunningXP.com.

The reporter used a WHOIS lookup to discover that the website was actually registered by Kristina Libby, a member of Microsoft’s PR team.

Although The Reg concludes that the website is “a little tongue-in-cheek humour”, I wouldn’t be so sure.

(more…)

Hour of Code: five steps to learn how to code

Friday, February 28th, 2014

ClassroomNext week sees the Hour of Code concept arrive in British schools. Imported from across the Atlantic, the Hour of Code aims to show children “how fun coding is in just one hour”, so that Britain has a future generation capable of programming more than the timer on a microwave oven.

Whilst the ukcode.org website claims that more than a million students in the UK have already tried the Hour of Code, some (perhaps, most) schools will inevitably be unprepared, so here’s how parents, teachers or indeed anyone can get started in programming.

(more…)

Apple’s OSes set to surpass Windows

Friday, February 14th, 2014

If anyone doubts how substantially Apple and the mobile revolution (or whatever you want to call it) have changed technology, here’s a chart for you, nicked from analyst Benedict Evans:

BenedictChart

This shows sales of all Apple iOS and OS X devices — iPads, iPods, iPhones and Macs — versus sales of PCs running Windows (the orange line), and versus Windows PCs and Windows Phone handsets combined (the blue line).

(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…)

Windows 9: what changes would you make to Windows 8?

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Windows81

Windows 8 has been much criticised — with a lot of the complaining coming from our podcast. While some of the grievances levelled at the OS, such as the focus on Metro at the expense of desktop users, are fair, suggestions that Windows 8 is the new Vista may be taking it a bit too far.

Microsoft has made a few improvements in Windows 8.1, with more planned for its next update, and Windows 9 is widely expected to be discussed at Build in April — and to arrive as early as next year, as Microsoft hopes to ditch the 8 brand and get a fresh start. (So maybe it is the new Vista, then?)

(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…)

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