Windows 8.1 given first official outing, and yes, the Start button is back

Microsoft has given a first look at Windows 8.1, the free update to Windows 8 that it plans to deliver this autumn.

Though it will disappoint some, it should surprise few to learn that Windows 8.1 will not revert all the user interface changes made in Windows 8. Instead, 8.1 will be an incremental update that builds on the Windows 8 interface and its Metro design, but does not replace it.

Windows 8.1

As such, Windows 8.1 still has the Start screen. It is, however, a more customizable Start screen. There are new tile sizes: a double height tile, to allow apps to show more information, and a smaller tile size, to allow apps to be packed more tightly. There are more options for the Start screen background and colors, including animated backgrounds and the ability to use the same background as used on the desktop. This last change should make the Start screen feel a little less visually disconnected from the desktop world.

The Start screen is also more respectful of personalization. In Windows 8, newly-installed applications just dump their tile or icons on the Start screen. This undermined the personal nature of the screen; you’d have your own, neatly organized apps, but then you’d install a desktop program and it’d just spew a dozen icons all over the place. In Windows 8.1, new apps don’t get to automatically stick a tile on the Start screen. They’ll still show up in the all programs app view, and they’ll be highlighted as new, but the decision to pin them rests with the user.

That all programs view is also more flexible, with a variety of sorting and filtering options. Microsoft says that it will be possible to make “alternate screens” the default when you boot the system. The company mentions explicitly the ability to boot directly to all programs view, rather than the tile view, and it’s believed that it will also be possible to boot directly to the desktop.

Not content with putting Start buttons on mice (in addition to keyboards, tablets, and the charms bar), Microsoft is reinstating the taskbar Start button. Clicking it will bring up the Start screen.

Within Metro apps, the button will remain invisible; putting the mouse cursor near the bottom left of the screen will show the button, as it does in Windows 8, but the button itself has changed its appearance. In Windows 8, the button is a miniature thumbnail depiction of the Start screen. In 8.1, it will simply be the Windows logo.

Search is getting reworked to aggregate search results from multiple content sources, including files, apps, settings, and the Web, simultaneously.

Windows 8.1

Some of Windows 8′s obvious limitations are being lifted. In 8.1, Metro apps can be run on multiple monitors simultaneously. On any single monitor, more than two applications can be run simultaneously. Instead of Windows 8′s fixed split, where one application gets 320 pixels and the other application gets the rest, the division between apps will be variable. It’ll also be possible to have multiple windows from a single app so that, for example, two browser windows can be opened side-by-side.


The built-in applications will get a bunch of updates, and some new apps will be added. Microsoft gave a little information about what we can expect to see—fewer restrictions on the Photos app so it can open files from more places and perform light editing, a “completely redesigned” Music app to make it easier to play your own music (and, we hope, have less of the hard sell that the current app has), and built-in saving directly to and loading from SkyDrive, even when offline. The company says that it’ll provide more information on the new and updated apps later in the year.

Windows 8.1

Work is also being done on two of the “special” built-in apps: Settings and Internet Explorer. A major flaw with using Windows 8, especially on a tablet machine, is that many, many settings can only be found in the desktop Control Panel, forcing finger-based users onto a mouse-based interface. Microsoft claims that in 8.1, the Settings app will contain “all” of the settings on your device, including things like joining domains and changing the screen resolution.

Internet Explorer 11 will, of course, be faster, have better standards support, and include all the other things we expect new browsers to do. One of those features—not yet confirmed, but strongly hinted—is support for WebGL 3D graphics. The browser will also catch up to Chrome and Firefox in other regards, with tab sync across machines.

Overall, these sound like sensible changes. The new operating system will retain the same core elements as Windows 8 but assemble them in a way that’s more flexible, more personal, and fundamentally more useful. A beta of the new version will become available on June 26, coinciding with Microsoft’s developer conference, BUILD.

Windows 8.1 given first official outing, and yes, the Start button is back

Leaked OS for the BlackBerry Z10 (STL100-1)

Every time an OS leak appears it seems as though the BlackBerry Z10 owners with the STL100-1 variation get left out. Understandably, that’s a bit upsetting.

OS for the BlackBerry Z10

This time around though, there is joy to be had as OS is now available for download. It comes as a full auto-loader file, for simplicity sake, meaning there’s no difference in the methodology of installing this versus any other leak. Realistically, it’s been released in Romania but this is a packaged up version for all STL100-1 users. Continue reading

Gmail for Android, web to get tabbed inboxes to reduce clutter

Google has been working to reduce the clutter in our inboxes for some time and has just announced a sizeable update to Gmail, both on the web and on mobile, to further combat the problem.  The update brings tabbed inboxes to your Gmail that automatically divide the mail you receive into categories.

Gmail for Android

The default categories are:

  • Primary (this is the email you want to receive from friends and family)
  • Social (updates you receive from social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+)
  • Promotions (Offers from sites like Groupon or LivingSocial)
  • Updates (Receipts from places like Google Play and Amazon)

The new Gmail will support up to five tabs, and they are of course customizable. Google understands that not all of us will want every category that it has selected, so we can choose which ones to ignore. You can move messages between tabs to tell Google to place any mail from that sender into a certain tab from now on. You can also star messages, which will tell Google that is is an important message that should appear in the Primary tab.

The update will also be sent out to Gmail for Android “within the next few weeks”. The new Android app will support the tabs by placing tham in a left sidebar which you can swipe to in order to choose which inbox to view.

The new update looks nice and any way I can get to my important email faster I am all for. What do you all think of the upcoming update?

Source: Gmail Blog

Gmail for Android, web to get tabbed inboxes to reduce clutter

Good Guy Microsoft: Launches program to help fight botnets, secure the globe

Microsoft has been fighting off botnets and hackers for the last few years with Project MARS (Microsoft Active Response for Security). They have crippled major botnet networks including Waledac, Rustock, Kelihos, Zeus, Nitol, and Bamital.

Today, Microsoft plans to take their fight for web justice to the next level using their own cloud resources. The newly designed Windows Azure-based Cyber Threat Intelligence Program (C-TIP) allows computer emergency response teams to respond in near real time. TJ Campana, director of security in Microsoft’s Digital Crime Unit, stated that:

“(C-TIP) will allow organizations to have better situational awareness of cyber threats, and more quickly and efficiently notify people of potential security issues with their computers.”

Last Friday, Microsoft’s Orlando Ayala joined the Secretary of State of Telecommunications and Information Society of Spain to announce an agreement for the Spanish CERT, to become one of the first organizations to hook up with the company’s C-TIP service. The new technology will allow ISPs and CERTs to receive updated threat data every 30 seconds; the data will alert the organizations of any infected computers in their network or domain.

This doesn’t mark the first time Microsoft has reached out to share security information with the global community. The latest project from the technology conglomerate is the evolution of its original Cyber Threat Intelligence program, which was developed three years ago. The old program had sent regular emails to participating ISPs and CERTs with security and threat intelligence. What makes Microsoft’s latest contribution to community so special, is its 30 second update rate and larger cloud based scale.

Microsoft states that it is excited to continue working with the security community in its “proactive fight against cybercrime”. For more information on the project, you can visit Microsoft’s Security and Defense blog here.

With Microsoft looking over the entire globe’s security condition, are they our new protector or is this the beginning of the long anticipated Skynet – you decide.

Sources: Microsoft on the Issues

Good Guy Microsoft: Launches program to help fight botnets, secure the globe

WWDC may not be entirely hardware-free after all

WWDC 2013CEO Tim Cook hinted pretty strongly on the company’s most recent earnings calls that there would be no major new products until the fall. While that would seem to rule out a new iPhone or iPad introduction before then, we could see some new hardware earlier in the year after all: in the form of a new or updated Mac at WWDC next month. That likelihood was raised Wednesday morning in a post by a very in-the-know Apple fan and blogger, Jim Dalrymple.

He offers no source or evidence as to why he expects this, but readers of Dalrymple know that he tends to get his information from knowledgeable folks within Apple, even if he doesn’t attribute it.

The big question then is what kind of new Macs will we see? Will it be refreshed MacBooks with new Intel Haswell processors? The timing seems right — Intel is set to release these new chips in early June. The iMac just got a major redesign late last year, so that seems an unlikely candidate for a refresh. There’s also an outside chance Apple might continue adding its super-high-def display to more Macs, and offer a MacBook Air with Retina display. However, it might be a stretch for Apple to be able to fit one of these screens in the Air while maintaining its thin-and-light reputation.

Another possibility: Perhaps WWDC will be the big reveal for the “really great” thing Cook promised last summer that Apple has been working on for Mac Pro fans. He told a customer in an email in summer 2012 that the timetable for that was later in 2013.

WWDC may not be entirely hardware-free after all

Specs suggest Samsung Galaxy S 4 Mini won’t be a petite powerhouse

Galaxy S4 MiniAlthough the Samsung Galaxy S 4 is one of the hottest selling Android phones currently, its size is just too much for some hands to take. So it makes perfect sense for Samsung to create a smaller version dubbed the “mini”. The company did the same with it’s Galaxy S 3 last year. It’s likely Samsung will introduce a Galaxy S 4 Mini at a planned June event in London, but we now have a good idea of what to expect.

Once again, mobile device benchmarking applications provide the details: All About Samsung, a German enthusiast blog, caught sight of the likely Galaxy S 4 Mini specifications on Wednesday. If you were expecting the same phone in a smaller version, plan to be surprised because Samsung has cut back in some areas as compared to its flagship Galaxy S 4.

Instead of using Samsung’s latest Exynos silicon, the tested Galaxy S 4 Mini uses a dual-core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S400 chip and Adreno 305 graphics. In comparison, the Galaxy S 4 uses a higher-end 1.9 GHz quad-core Snapdragon S600 processor. And although the benchmarks don’t indicate it, I wouldn’t expect the Mini to offer all of the same gesture functions found in its big brother, based on that chipset: The required screen digitizer would also add to the cost.

The Mini also looks to sacrifice display resolution — in a big way. I would have expected a drop from 1920 x 1080 to 1280 x 720 resolution, but the tested Mini uses an older qHD res of 960 x 540. Still, on an expected 4.3-inch display, that works out to a relatively crisp 240 pixels per inch.

The benchmarks also indicate an 8 megapixel rear camera, 2.1 megapixel front camera, what looks to be 1.5 GB of memory and Android 4.2.2 installed. If the benchmarks are correct — and we should know in a few weeks — the slightly smaller Galaxy S 4 Mini is less of a petite powerhouse and more of a mid-range phone that would fit in the $149 with contract price band.

But it could be perfect for folks like my wife: She pulled the SIM out of her iPhone 4S last week — she’s due for an upgrade — and popped it in the Galaxy S 4. Overall, she liked the phone, but said she couldn’t use it because it felt too big in her hands. Perhaps a Galaxy S 4 Mini would be the perfect fit?

Specs suggest Samsung Galaxy S 4 Mini won’t be a petite powerhouse

Xbox One will be region-locked

The Xbox One will be region-locked, meaning all software must match the region of the console itself, Microsoft confirmed to Digital Trends. This means a US Xbox One won’t be able to play games imported from Europe or Japan, for example.

XBox 360“Similar to the movie and music industry, games must meet country-specific regulatory guidelines before they are cleared for sale,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “We will continue to work with our partners to follow these guidelines with Xbox One.” Continue reading