TWT Newsletter, Issue#052 – Our best resources for students and the latest Windows 8 updates
Welcome to our September 2011 TWT Newsletter. Another summer ends for most of us, once again the sunny days were few and far between for us here in the UK, we hope your summer was better! This month we have a roundup of the latest IT news, a roundup of our best articles for students and a brief update on the latest Windows 8 news, along with our usual tip of the month and free utility of the month too.
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In this months issue:-
1) What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
2) IT news round-up – Tough times in tablet town – Hewlett Packard to leave the hardware business
3) It’s back to school time again
4) Tip of the Month – A fat Taskbar shows more!
5) Free Utility of the Month – Easeus Todo Backup Free 3.0
6) Windows 8 update
What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
There were several updates in August. Firstly, we updated our Roboform tutorials for Roboform 7. Roboform has been a favourite password manager of ours for sometime now. If you are still using the same password on every site you log onto on the internet, there has never been a better time to switch to a password manager, so check out our updated Roboform tutorials here.
Also updated in August were our Outpost Firewall tutorials. Outpost Firewall has had another major revision and our new tutorials are now fully up to date with the latest version of this superb security product. To view these tutorials, click here.
You may have noticed some changes to our videos. We have partnered with a new streaming video specialist, Viddler. Our video content is being moved and upgraded to provide better streaming performance, less interruptions and improved compatibility on devices such as the Apple iPad. This transition will happen smoothly over the next month.
Last month also saw the launch of Windows 7 Superguide 2 and Windows 7 Gigaguide, both these products are, of course, still available. Click here to find out more.
IT news round-up – Tough times in tablet town – Hewlett Packard to leave the hardware business
After the excitement of Defcon (which we covered in last months newsletter), August saw a few other big IT stories break around the web. There were some dramatic developments in the world of PC hardware as one of the biggest and most widely known names in computers, Hewlett Packard, announced that they were intending to leave the hardware manufacturing business. As well as PC’s, Hewlett Packard also produce the HP Touchpad tablet PC, a competitor to the Apple iPad. The HP Touchpad will now also be discontinued, most stock has now been sold off at a third of the recommended retail price, although rumours persist that another, final production run is to take place. HP appears to want to focus on becoming a software and IT services company, rather than a hardware one.
These events led some of the more radical bloggers on the internet to question the future of the PC entirely, claiming that the “writing was on the wall” for desktop PC’s. Are we really going to live in a future with no PC’s? A future where we all use our smart-phones and tablets instead? We think that’s unlikely. No other platform offers the versatility or speed of a PC, either desktop or laptop. Microsoft seem to be working towards a converged future, where tablets, desktop PC’s and laptops/netbooks will all run Windows 8. Current Windows tablets are popular for business and commercial markets, where specially written applications are loaded onto powerful tablet PC’s such as those produced by Motion Computing, but for home users, the market is dominated by the Apple iPad. We love the power and flexibility of a desktop PC, but can that same flexibility work without ruining the ease of use that iPad owners are accustomed to? Time will tell, though personally we are very excited to see the first Windows 8 tablets in action. You can read more about Windows 8 in our latest Windows 8 roundup, later in the newsletter.
Meanwhile, Mozilla launched yet another update to its Firefox web browser. Continuing with their new practice of rapid developments and new version numbers, Firefox 6 was released on August the 16th to little fanfare. Expect to see Firefox 7 before the end of September (no, we are not kidding). Elsewhere in the world of web browsers, Internet Explorer 9 made headlines as it was declared the most malware resistant browser by independent security research firm NSS Labs. Long suffering IT technicians will remember Internet Explorer 6’s terrible track record with malware, so this is certainly something the IE team has worked hard on over the years.
As we move into the last few months of the year, inevitably we will have to start thinking about Christmas presents. If you are good at predicting lottery numbers, then Razer’s new ultra-powerful Blade laptop might top your Christmas list. The laptop sports a super fast Intel Core i7 processor and a Nvidia GeForce graphics processor, along with a dual-mode LCD keypad that can be customised by gaming software. This cutting edge machine will set you back a cool $2800. Great for games and we’re certain it runs your Word Processor very nicely too. For more information, visit this link.
It’s back to school time again
There’s always an element of sadness to writing another back to school article, since that means the summer is drawing to a close once more. Most students around the world will now be back in their classes, which means this is an excellent time to remind you all of the tutorials and resources that are ideal for students. No point daydreaming about the summer, there’s work to be done!
First of all, as we have said time and time again, it’s vital that you have a backup of your important data. If you lose an assignment you are working on, your school/college/university may not necessarily offer you an extension. Check out our backup solution for students here.
If you’re looking to slash your costs as a student, then using free software is a great way to do this. Replace the expensive Microsoft Office suite with the free OpenOffice.org software package. OpenOffice can open and save most Microsoft Office documents, meaning that even if your school/college uses Microsoft Office, you can still work on your documents at home and in the computer lab. If you need help adjusting to OpenOffice, check out our OpenOffice.org Writer Superguide.
If you are moving up to higher education, it’s vital that you get your research material organised. Unlike at school, college/university lecturers will expect you to research and discover material independently. What’s more, universities and colleges are getting better at spotting plagiarism, so you must always quote your sources, whether they are from books, periodicals or from the web. Organise your web research material with the excellent Diigo bookmarking and research tool. Click here to find out more and to view our tutorials.
Finally, we are all starting to wake up to the benefits of cloud computing for storage in particular. If you are still transporting your essays to and from classes on a USB stick, you may want to consider a service like Dropbox. Dropbox stores all your important documents online, meaning you can work on that essay at home, at the computer lab or anywhere you have an internet connection. Check out our Dropbox tutorials here.
Making the most of your computer can improve your grades and make the academic year go much smoother, so be sure to take the time to review the tips and tutorials we have linked to here. From all the team here, we wish you the very best with your studies!
Tip of the Month – A fat Taskbar shows more!
This ia a classic tip that is still relevant to all versions of Windows. Even though Microsoft tidied up the Taskbar on Windows 7, this tip can still be useful for heavy multi-taskers (and of course for anyone still on Vista or XP). If you have a lovely big monitor and plenty of space on your desktop, you might want to make your Taskbar (the area at the bottom of your screen, with the Start button on it) a little wider. When you do this, not only do you get more room to see your notification area icons and the windows you have open, but the clock also displays the day and date too. To expand your Taskbar, right click on the Taskbar and make sure “Lock the Taskbar” is not ticked/checked. Then simply hover your mouse over the top of the Taskbar until it turns into the two arrows pointing up and down. Now click and drag your Taskbar out until it is roughly twice the size it used to be (you can go bigger if you like, but this size is normally adequate for most people). Once you have done this, right click on the Taskbar again and choose “Lock the Taskbar” to prevent you from accidentally resizing it or moving it again.
Free Utility of the Month – EaseUS Todo Backup Free 3.0
We’ve mentioned EaseUS excellent free backup software before on the site. There aren’t many packages available for free that can create a complete backup of a hard drive and even restore that image to a different computer. In our last Backup Software test, EaseUS performed admirably, being only marginally outperformed by commercial software alternatives.
If your new PC never came with an operating system restore DVD, then you should definitely use a program like EaseUS Todo Backup to create a rescue image of your hard drive. Check out EaseUS Todo Backup free by visiting this link.
Windows 8 update
More big Windows 8 news this month and plenty of controversy. Early screen-shots of the new operating system showed that Microsoft were at least considering putting the ribbon interface onto Windows Explorer. The ribbon interface was first introduced in Office 2007. It was done to replace the existing menu interface with the theory that users could find items more quickly if they were available at a glance. The ribbon met with a mixed reception, with many users praising Microsoft’s innovation, but many others finding the new interface cluttered and distracting and difficult to adjust to.
Microsoft is clearly staying tied to the ribbon however. In a huge blog post, Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows Division at Microsoft, revealed the new, somewhat controversial, ribbon interface for Windows Explorer with a 3000 word posting that went into the history of Windows Explorer and the justifications for the decisions. You may have seen the picture of the new interface already, for those of you who have not, click this link to have a peek.
This revelation certainly ruffled a few feathers around the IT communities on the internet. The reception to the new Ribbon seems to have been largely negative. Although many users have adapted to the Ribbon in Office (and, dare we say, even come to enjoy using it), the layout of the Windows Explorer Ribbon is visually quite cluttered compared with Word or Excel or even Windows 7 paint. Although Microsoft backed up their decision with plenty of research, it’s hard to get away from the feeling that the new Explorer ribbon is simply too cluttered. We’ll leave you to make your own minds up. Microsoft also said that the new Windows Explorer would be highly customisable, and that the Ribbon could be minimised away, so perhaps with a little effort the program can be tailored to suit anyone.
Microsoft say that “Windows 8-based PC is really a new kind of device, one that scales from touch-only small screens through to large screens, with or without a keyboard and mouse” which certainly means mastering the new Ribbon interface is not intended for everyone. Indeed, many users will never need Windows Explorer. You can also expect to see an ‘app store’ in Windows 8, as well as a new version of Internet Explorer. New games functionality and an improved version of Games for Windows Live, which integrates with both Xbox and games on Windows Phone 7 platforms, is also promised.
In other exciting news (at least for geeks) Microsoft announced that the pre-release version of Windows 8 will be launched in the coming months. Meaning that, almost certainly, IT pro’s around the world will be able to get hold of a beta (early test version) of the new operating system soon. When that happens, we’ll be sure to install Windows 8 to one or more of our lab PC’s and bring you some screen-shots and thoughts on the new OS.
That rounds off our newsletter for September. We’d like to take this opportunity once again to send a huge thank you to all our readers for your support. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th October 2011 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7! We hope that you found this newsletter informative and useful. If you did not then please let us know why, you can contact us by visiting this page or by leaving us feedback in our forum. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy. Until next month, keep checking Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!