Tag Archives: Windows

Google sounds the bugle!

GOOGLE WAVE: The clash of the computer titans is on. Google has taken on Microsoft by announcing that it’s launching its own operating system — free of charge. The war between the two software giants is likely to change the world of the Internet forever

Alistair Fairweather

IF business is war then two of the world’s biggest companies have finally stopped skirmishing on their borders and brought out the heavy artillery. On July 7, Google fired the first shell by announcing that they will begin offering their own operating system in mid 2010.

Bling bling babyThe warhead — called Chrome OS  — is aimed straight at the heart of Microsoft who have built their entire business around operating systems since the 70s, first with MS DOS and then the globally-dominating Windows series.

But while Microsoft have always charged for their software, Google plan to give theirs away free of charge. What’s more, Google are starting from a completely fresh perspective — one with the potential to undermine Microsoft’s entire business model and loosen their foothold on the software market.

If the name “Chrome” sounds familiar, that’s because it’s also the name of Google’s web browser. And this isn’t just a case of lazy naming. By evolving Chrome into an operating system, Google are planning to turn the entire software world on its head and make browsing the centre of computing.

An Introduction to Google Wave
There is a full 1 hour 20min presentation on YouTube which Philc7753 has kindly and painstakingly edited down for our short attention spans  

Hang on, isn’t an operating system a lot more complicated that a browser? Doesn’t a browser need an operating system to, well, operate? That’s the whole genius of the plan. Google are betting that the centre of influence in computing is moving out of personal computers and into the massive computing power of the Internet, known as the “cloud”.

That means that in future, computers will be dumber and cheaper. They will rely on the enormous banks of computers that power the Internet to do much of their thinking for them.

This is already happening. One of the fastest growing sectors in computing is netbooks — smaller, cheaper, less powerful portable computers with speedy connections to the Internet that focus on tasks like e-mail and browsing the net.

The wave is coming...Currently, Microsoft is tussling with free operating systems such as Linux for ownership of this market, and Google wants its own share of the pie. So what? There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about a free operating system. They have been around for longer than Microsoft have been in existence, let alone Google. And some of them are backed by huge companies such as IBM and SAP.

Yet none of those other companies is as heavily invested in cloud computing as Google. And it’s cloud computing that poses the greatest risk to Microsoft’s dominance.

Microsoft’s bread and butter has always been its desktop applications —  programs such as Word, Outlook and PowerPoint. Operating systems are like plumbing — expensive but necessary — and Microsoft have lost money on them for years. This was justified because they knew that by owning the platform they would be able earn it all back on desktop applications.

Google Docs, on the other hand, is nearly as good as Microsoft’s Office but is free and requires no hard-drive space and much less power (and therefore can run on a cheaper computer). It’s a true “cloud” application  — its platform is the Internet.

So Google have, in effect, pulled Microsoft’s own trick on them but in reverse, and for free. And given how quickly Microsoft are losing market share in the browser market (it’s now just above 50%), they have real cause for concern. If Chrome OS takes off, Google will start to hurt more than Microsoft’s pride.

That’s still a big “if” though. For all their mistakes Microsoft are still the top dog of software. Despite the current media hyperbole about Chrome OS, Windows still commands 90% of the market share in operating systems. Even if Chrome lives up to the hype, it will still take years to get a foothold. Only one thing is certain about this battle — peace talks are unlikely to begin anytime soon.

We’re in for a long slog and I don’t think anyone can accurately predict a winner. What we can be sure of is that the conflict will change software (and the Internet) forever.

– Alistair Fairweather writes for The Witness
newspaper in Kwa-Zula Natal, South Africa

Lucky Number Seven?

REVIEW: A quick look at the all new Windows 7 operating system

Windows 7IF there is to be any war that is sustained longer than the Iraqi war, it will be the war on Microsoft.

There is a growing group of Windows users who would eagerly take up any opportunity to assassinate Bill Gates for all the pain and frustration that his Microsoft operating systems have caused. The numerous versions of Windows that currently exist attest to the fact that the operating system has never quite been perfected.

Windows Vista is one such version. What was expected to be the crème de la crème of all Windows operating systems — the one version to rule them all — it was met with countless bugs, system crashes, and several instances of users’ pulling out their own hair.

Vista is going down in Windows history as a failed project and we are entering into a new operating system era with the instalment of Windows 7. But we’re going to have to wait a little bit longer.

Windows 7 RC
Microsoft has launched the release candidate (RC) version of its forthcoming Windows 7 operating system. The RC version, which will be available as a free download until July, is the “next-to-final” release of the operating system that will likely replace Windows Vista on most desktops in the coming years.

According to mybroadband.co.za, there is much to like about Windows 7, just as there was much to dislike about Vista when it was first released. The initial impression offered by Windows 7 RC is that of a “lighter” operating system.

Among the complaints about Vista is that it does not work with some software designed for the previous operating system, Windows XP, and that it is it too much for netbooks or older computers to handle.

Gone are the heavy-handed and memory-demanding approaches of Vista in favour of a desktop that is clean and attractive without feeling bloated. In its place is a desktop that feels pared down with just the necessary controls in sight.

Some cool windows 7 concept art 

Performance
A central impression that Windows 7 offers is one of speed – lite-speed in comparison to Vista. Starting with the install, which needs just a handful of clicks and enough time for a cup of coffee, right through to a running desktop, Microsoft has succeeded in getting Windows 7 to feel really nimble.

Running on a desktop PC with 2GB of memory and a dual-core Intel processor running at 2,53GHz, Windows 7 is quick in responding to commands and loading applications.

One of the major drives behind Windows 7 has been to ensure that the operating system boots up and shuts down as fast as possible — something Microsoft has managed to get right. With the growing market for netbooks (ultra-portable laptops), modern operating systems are being designed to take advantage of new processors like Intel’s Atom and startup and shutdown within seconds. Windows 7 RC already boots a lot faster than Windows Vista and, depending on hardware, starts up in similar times as Windows XP.

Desktop appeal
The desktop is not noticeably different to the beta release version of Windows 7 and is still appealing to the eye. It borders on the “minimalist”, but still manages to add to the overall sharp impression.

The most obvious benefit of Windows 7 is the significant reduction in what could be called “interference”. Microsoft has been working on reducing the levels of interference for users by limiting the number of pop-ups and warning notices — a common occurrence in Vista.

This is all to do with the changes to “user account control”, which, instead of constantly popping up warnings of impending doom and danger, are slightly muted and less obtrusive. They’re still there, but definitely not with the same vigour as before.

Windows 7 is currently being tested on netbooks, which are increasingly popular, low-cost mobile computers designed essentially for accessing the Internet and running a few simple programs.

The taskbar in Windows 7 is a great deal better than the taskbar offered by Windows Vista or XP. However, it has a tendency to undermine itself with its own cleverness, something you’ll either love or hate.

For the uninitiated, the taskbar operates as a series of “flyouts”, which are smaller representations of open Windows. They’re pretty and functional, but could be just as effective without the flashy popup windows.

One complaint about the taskbar is that by default the open windows are all crammed together on the taskbar, which can make it messy if you have too many windows open. Fortunately the default settings can be tweaked to “group-open” windows — based on applications when a threshold number has been reached.

The president of Microsoft has made just as many promises as any other. Let’s hope this one sticks to his and that the war on Windows can finally end.

— Original article at: www.mybroadband.co.za

  • THE Windows 7 release candidate (7 RC)version can be downloaded for free until July this year and is available as both a 32-bit and a 64-bit version. The 32-bit version comes in at a little under 2,5GB, while the 64-bit version is a lot bigger at 3,2GB.
  • Interestingly, Microsoft has said that users who download Windows 7 RC will be able to run the software for free until June 2010 before being required to purchase a copy, which is a very long trial period given that Windows 7 Final is expected to be released later this year.
  • Windows 7 RC can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/download.aspx

Related article: Windows 7 beefs up multimedia

The world at your finger tips

REVIEW: The Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Stick

Monique Tyrer

ALTHOUGH I missed my monthly phone fix from Vodashop Midlands this month, the outlet provided something different to satisfy my techno cravings that was just as fun to review — the Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Stick.

Slightly longer than your average USB flash drive, this handy Internet stick gives you a mobile Internet connection via your phone’s sim-card for either your laptop or desktop computer, allowing you to work from anywhere through a speedy Internet connection.

The “plug and play” capabilities of this nifty device work on both Windows and Mac computers through three different network connections — HSDPA, 3G and GPRS. The light on the stick also flashes a different colour to let you know which signal you are connected to, although all the connections are faster on average than a normal dial-up.

The Vodafone Mobile Connect USB StickThe installation data is stored on the actual USB stick itself, so there is no need to worry about installing the software with a CD, which means you can take your Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Stick with you anywhere and install it on a number of computers — a truly mobile solution for business and pleasure on the go.

The installation process was painless, and within a few minutes, the stick was ready for use. The stick also doubles as a flash drive to store information, with an additional microSD card slot available that can hold cards of up to 4GB.

Once the programme was installed, Internet browsing was quick and painless, and viewing websites such as YouTube was no problem for this small, but powerful, device. Downloading information was also really fast, and I was impressed with how this broadband USB stick had no problem handling the data.

With the programmes that come with the device, I was able to send and receive smses from my laptop, as well as view information such as signal strength, length of connectivity and the volume of data being received or sent.

This is really handy to monitor your usage, as you are charged according to how much data you use.

Monique Tyrer writes for the Natal Witness newspaper and other publications in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Article supplied by Mall Talk.

Archived in Gadgets & Tech

Friday Easter Egg for Geeks

Here’s something quite cool. Open Microsoft Word and type “= rand(200,99)” (without the pull quotes) and hit Enter. What you should get are a bejillion lines of “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Pretty sweet hey? I thought so. Just a little something special to take with you.

There is an urban myth that this is a bug with Word for Windows. A variation of this myth is that Microsoft programmers left it as an ‘Easter Egg’. Some scheme that programmers often leave code in programs, partly to amuse, partly to test, but mainly because most programmers are geeks and game players.

Yet the truth of the matter is that = rand(200,99) is simply a function included by design to demonstrate the maximum parameters of sentences and paragraphs. If you are intellectually gifted, you may have realised that the first number refers to the paragraphs, while the second number refers to the sentences.

Example: = rand (1,5)
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

You can type in any numbers between the brackets or simply type = rand() to get the same effect. = rand() is a well known random function hand for statistics and is used for simulating card games such as blackjack. My spidey senses are telling me that “rand” is somehow short for “random.”

Finally today, the reason why the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is used is because it contains every letter in the English alphabet. You might recall having to write this sentence a lot in your early school-going days during English lessons. In programming it is used to test different fonts and see how letters with tails appear.

Don’t say you didn’t learn anything today!
Happy Friday.

PS: Another Urban Myth is that Excel 1.0 had a complete version of Doom. To find it you had to go through a mind numbing sequence of keystrokes. Cynics say that Microsoft Executables are so large because they are full of this extra Easter Egg code.

Your digital life in your pocket

REVIEW: The OQO 02 ultra-portable PC

Windows Vista seems to be what all the ‘cool’ geeks are investing in nowadays; however, the hefty hardware requirements that the operating system demands is a bit of a problem for the less successful geeky entrepreneurs.

Yet their remains hope fellow geeks! The fully Windows Vista-compatible ultra-portable PC has been released as the ultimate solution for those who find that a smart phone simply isn’t enough while a lap-top over-caters for one’s needs.

“Fast,” “intuitive,” “helpful,” and “sexy” are not terms often associated with Windows devices, but technology reviewers argue that the ultra-portable PC mimics many of the functions of a full PC, via an advanced touch-screen interface, which they are describing as “potentially revolutionary”.

The OQO 02, as one of the newest ultra-portable PCs, belongs to a new generation of miniaturised Windows computers that can run the same software as Windows desktops and laptops but are designed to be used from the couch, conference room, or from an airplane seat.

OQO engineers are even prophesising that 2008 is the year when US computer buyers will turn to ‘ultramobile PCs’ as a practical alternative to beefier desktop and laptop computers.

It’s not size that counts, but how you use it
The new OQO 02 is a mere 14 centimeters wide, 8 centimeters high, and 3 centimeters thick, making it small enough to fit in your jacket pocket or purse.

It comes with a 1.5-gigahertz processor, an 800-by-480-pixel touch screen, a slide-out keyboard, and three kinds of wireless connectivity. It is able to run standard Windows programs from the Firefox browser to Adobe Photoshop.

With regards to connection speeds, it may not be as fast as a home DSL or cable Internet connection, but is much faster than previous generations of cellular data networks.

The OQO 02

Target market
Manufacturers of OQO devices have focused sales on the professional user rather than the bored teenager, and have already attracted business customers who need small PCs for field inspections and similar mobile activities.

As a mobile journalist, Bob Rosin – marketing vice president of OQO, put the practicality of the ultra-portable PC into context, saying:

“If you’re a mobile professional, you need to be connected to the Web and access applications as part of your daily life – so your computer needs to be small enough and light enough that you’re willing to take it with you when you leave your desk.”

Unique features / characteristics
But what makes the OQO 02 special when compared to older ultra-mobile PCs? Well for many the most appealing thought is having the power of a full Windows PC in the palm of their hand. That aside, some manufacturers are working on simplifying onscreen interfaces so that users can get more things done with fewer gestures and clicks.

Users also have the ability to zoom in on an area of detail and to scroll vertically or horizontally with the brush of a finger along the screen, eliminating the need for a mechanical thumbwheel found on many PDAs.

Similar devices have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and are operated solely via a touch screen. However, these have not been marketed as office appliances, but rather as entertainment devices enabling users to browse the Web and access videos, music, and photos.

Is it all too good to be true?
The OQO 02 is not without its flaws. Battery life is an issue, which totals a miniscule 4 hours worth, which reviewers argue is not long enough to keep a businessperson busy for the duration of a transcontinental flight. Another issue is the small screen and keyboard, which is a problem for people with poor eye-sight and large thumbs.

Currently ultra-portable PCs such as the OQO 02 are seeing poor sales (going from anywhere between R7000 to R14 000), but manufacturers feel that the product will take off once they become more general-purpose devices. Being able to browse the web while simultaneously controlling the TV and stereo system from the couch, for example, appears to be where the major marketing potential lies.

Links
Just for fun: A portable portal into another world?
Related Info: Your life at the touch of your finger
Read full review: Smaller Is Better, Say Makers of Ultraportable PCs