TWT Newsletter, Issue #068 – Happy New Year! CES 2013 roundup, Windows 8 problems
Welcome to our January 2013 TWT Newsletter. Another new year and as always in January we look forward to the exciting CES or consumer electronics show. This year however, Microsoft will not be present at the show, which gives the smaller players in the consumer electronics space a chance to show off some of their new technology. This year the show runs from the 8th to the 11th of January and we’ll have a round-up of the most exciting and relevant gadgets later in the newsletter.
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In this months issue:-
1) What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
2) Another year another CES!
3) Tip of the Month – Use the “Open With” option to change how files open on your PC
4) Free Utility of the Month – Macrium Reflect Free
5) Two months with Windows 8, the good, the bad and the dumbfounding
What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
One major article update for December saw our popular “Bare Metal Showdown” article updated once again. Bare metal backup software allows you to take a complete image of your computers hard drive. This image can then be restored to a new hard drive should your old one fail or simply when you are upgrading to a different hard drive. Find out which of the backup programs we tested came out on top this year by clicking this link.
Another year another CES!
Once again, January brings us the exciting Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. Of course, the show covers every type of consumer electronics device from entry level phones to gargantuan televisions. For the Windows user, this years show featured some interesting announcements from computer processor giant Intel, as well as some interesting new Windows 8 machines that start to take advantage of the touch-optimised tiles.
Although Microsoft did not have an official presence at the show this year, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer did make an appearance in a speech from Qualcomm, where he talked about Microsoft’s efforts to establish themselves in the mobile sector, a sector that is, of course, rapidly expanding. If you’ve not heard of Qualcomm before, they are a mobile chipset manufacturer that predominantly make chipsets for mobile phones.
At Intel’s press conference, Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of the Mobile and Communications Group and Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group at Intel, outlined their new processors and showed several tantalizing glimpses of new ultrabook PC’s. Intel’s message was clear, their new, lower power processors, including the next generation “Bay Trail” chip would run the kinds of slim line, ultraportable PC’s that consumers want, without the need for Windows RT. For those of you who might not be aware, Windows RT is a specially designed version of Windows 8 that runs on ultra-low power ARM processors, but sacrifices all backwards compatibility with standard Windows desktop applications, running only specially written software and tile software available from the Windows store. Intel also revealed several processors designed for mobile phones, though those phones will run Android rather than any kind of Windows. The “Lexington Atom” platform is designed to target the cheaper smartphone market.
PC gaming enthusiasts had little to get excited about following NVIDIA’s press conference. Instead of any new super powerful graphics cards, NVIDIA were excited to reveal a new gaming platform instead. Their curious looking Project SHIELD is yet another Android powered gaming device. With NVIDIA’s formidable Tegra 4 CPU inside, this bizarre looking device resembles an X-Box controller with a screen glued to the front of it. The device promises to play Android games as well as stream games from your PC, though it was clarified later that PC streaming would only work across your home network and not the internet. Why anyone would want to tie up a PC in their house in order to play a game on a small screen we’re not entirely sure. Gaming communities around the internet largely reacted with puzzled expressions. Pricing and availability for the unit are to be announced.
The rest of NVIDIA’s conference focused on their Tegra 4 mobile GPU and their cloud gaming platform GRID. NVIDIA GRID aims to make it easier for cloud gaming companies to share computing resources. Cloud gaming aims to deliver games across the internet, streamed from a data centre somewhere in the cloud. Perhaps in the future, all games will be delivered like this rather than run on your PC or games console. However, early attempts at this business model have proven less than successful and it seems highly unlikely that streaming game content across the internet will ever produce an experience comparable to playing games on a traditional PC or games console.
AMD, competitors to both Intel and NVIDIA also took to the stage for a press conference. AMD talked about what they call the “Surround Computing Era”, where devices work more smartly and more naturally together and with you. By more intelligently using existing technology like GPS, facial and voice recognition and behaviour analysis, AMD hopes our machine slaves will more accurately predict and pander to our every whim, lets just hope there’s no robot uprising.
AMD also unveiled its own line of mobile processors and graphics processors. Kabini, a new low power architecture, is aimed at mid to high end portable Windows 8 machines. Like NVIDIA, there were no new announcements of super powerful desktop GPU’s, but AMD did call the GPU market a “massive market opportunity that it fully intends to continue serving”. Overall there were no huge surprises in the AMD conference (no strange new games consoles for instance) but the company clearly remains committed to the PC market.
Popular PC manufacturer Lenovo had some exciting looking new PC’s that took advantage of Windows 8. Most eye catching was their 27″ tablet PC, the Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon. No, that’s not a typo, we did say 27 inch tablet, or as Lenovo calls it a “table” PC. While this machine isn’t exactly going to be comfortable for reading your e-books, it certainly looks fun in Lenovo’s promotional video, which you can view here. Though if your children aren’t quite so perfectly angelic as the two little girls who steal the machine in the video, we can picture you being somewhat less enthusiastic to allow sticky fingers and clumsy small hands over an expensive piece of consumer electronics (Lenovo said the machine will start at $1,699, better hope the kids don’t drop it stealing it from your desk). The gadget lover in us can’t help but get a little excited at the prospect of a ‘table’ PC and no doubt we’ll be seeing furniture with PC’s like this built in more and more in the future.
If 27 inches isn’t big enough, Lenovo also demonstrated a machine called Gamma a whopping 39 inch table PC that “illustrates the outstanding multi-user experiences such a large screen can provide and is indicative of Lenovo’s future direction in tablet PC computing.” Don’t expect to be able to buy this one any time soon however, as it was simply a prototype.
Fans of more traditional PC’s fear not, as the company also unveiled it’s Erazer X700 gaming PC. A fiercely angular looking tower with blue lighting, the system has easy overclocking options, single or dual graphics cards and the very latest super powerful Intel desktop CPU’s. Find out more about the PC by visiting this link.
Also notable from Lenovo was its ThinkPad Helix and the IdeaPad Yoga 11S, two convertible tablet PC’s that aim to take advantage of Windows 8’s hybrid operating system design. The ThinkPad Helix has the ability to fold the screen right back over the keyboard, converting the machine from laptop to tablet. The smaller IdeaPad Yoga 11S doesn’t quite fold down as neatly, but is much smaller than the Helix. The Yoga 11S is a new version of an existing tablet PC, this time featuring the full version of Windows 8, rather than the more limited Windows RT.
Lenovo’s PC lineup was particularly strong this year and proof positive that we live in anything but a Post PC age. They weren’t the only company showing innovative PC designs either. Well respected PC, laptop and motherboard manufacturer Asus showed off their unique hybrid Windows 8 PC/Android tablet. The Asus Transformer AiO features an 18.4 inch touch screen which can be removed from a docking cradle on the front of the PC and instantly converted into a tablet. When close enough to the base station, users will be able to enjoy a full-blown Windows 8 experience. Should you decide to leave the house, the tablet can then convert to running Android instead, allowing you to work and play on the road. An interesting concept certainly, but will it appeal outside a small niche of consumers? Asus also had several more convertible laptops/tables on show, you can read more about them by visiting this link.
CES is a huge show and we couldn’t hope to cover every possible piece of relevant news that came from the show floor. As our newsletter goes out this year, the show is still ongoing so keep an eye on your favourite tech news site if you want to find out more. It’s always fun to mention some of the more eye catching or simply downright esoteric products and here are just a few that caught our eye.
Always running out of space on your USB stick? How about a whopping 1 terrabyte (1024 gigabyte) drive? Somehow, memory and storage experts Kingston have managed to do just that in a drive the size of your thumb. No pricing has been announced for the drive, but a drive half the size will set you back an eye watering $1,750.00. Better get saving up.
Fed up of pesky baths or showers cutting you off from the internet? Sony might just have the solution. The new Waterproof Xperia Z handset can be submerged in water for up to half an hour, meaning you can tweet and text safely while in the bath. According to the BBC, this kind of technology is already common in Japan. “If you want to sit in the bath and watch an HD movie this is the device for you,” Sony Mobile executive Steve Walker told the BBC. Let’s hope we don’t all get too wrinkly.
There were smart ovens and freezers at CES2013, but what about smart cutlery? If you’re used to wolfing your food down and want to nibble slower, the Hapifork will monitor your eating habits and give a gentle buzz if you’re eating too quickly. After you’re done chowing down, the superfork even uploads data to your PC or smartphone to help keep track of your eating habits. Future revisions will also feature your mothers voice telling you to take your elbows off the table and not talk with your mouth full.
While there weren’t too many shocks or surprises this year at CES, it’s clear that the PC market is still very much buoyant. While mobile and other devices have changed the market, clearly there’s still a huge market for PC style devices and with new and more innovative, multi use PC designs starting to emerge, maybe the controversial new Windows 8 tiles won’t seem quite as out of place in the future, when we’re all cleaning sticky fingerprints from our 27″ tablet PCs.
Tip of the Month – Use the “Open With” option to change how files open on your PC
If you bought a Windows 8 desktop or laptop computer this holiday season then you may have been tearing your hair out every time you click a picture or music file. In Windows 8, rather than opening on the desktop, media files will open with touch-optimised, keyboard and mouse unfriendly tile applications by default. Windows 8 ships with desktop apps for viewing your media files and if you’re not using a touch screen, you will probably want to switch to using the more desktop friendly alternatives. Even if you’re not using Windows 8, you can still use this same technique to change what happens when you double click on a program.
To change how any type of file opens when you double click on it, simply right click on the file and choose “Open With”, then choose “Choose default program…”. Windows will then give you a list of programs that can handle that type of file. If you are using Windows 8 on a traditional desktop/laptop setup, you should choose “Windows Media Player” for video and music files and “Windows Photo Viewer” for picture files. You can of course choose any program so if you have a third party application that you like to use for this purpose, you can choose that instead. .
Free Utility of the Month – Macrium Reflect Free
Last month we rounded up the best disk imaging software and while doing our roundup we discovered that the popular disk imaging/bare metal recovery package EaseUS Todo Backup was no longer free. Fear not however, as those very kind people at Macrium offer an excellent free disk backup package called Macrium Reflect Free.
Macrium Reflect Free allows you to take a complete image or snapshot of your hard drive. This image can be stored on a backup drive and used to recover your PC in the event of a hard drive failure or if you need to reinstall your operating system for any reason. The free version even includes the facility to create a recovery CD/DVD, allowing you to restore a hard drive backup even if your operating system won’t boot. Check out this excellent free tool by using this link
Two months with Windows 8, the good, the bad and the dumbfounding
Windows 8 launched on October 30th, 2012 and this means that we’ve now had two months with the new operating system. While there are several new features we like, it’s clear that there are a few backward steps too, and we’re not talking about the new tile or ‘modern’ UI (that can easily be ignored for the most part if not needed).
Firstly, what features are we loving? On our desktops and laptops, the improved start-up times are fantastic. On the desktop in particular, the new multi-monitor support, which allows each monitor to have its own taskbar is a firm favourite. After initially seeming confusing, the new Windows Explorer (now called File Explorer) has really grown on us too.
Sadly it’s not all great news. After two months of working with Windows 8 we’ve uncovered a couple of really strange omissions and changes that make working with the operating system more difficult in some circumstances. We really hope that Microsoft will address these issues in a service pack or update as they can seriously affect the usability of Windows 8 in many cases.
Firstly, the new improved Task Manager was one of the features that we initially really liked. However, it seems to be lacking an important feature that we took for granted in the old one. When running Task Manager on Windows 7, there’s a button labelled “Show processes from all users”. By clicking this button, a user account control window will appear, letting you re-launch Task Manager as an administrator. Crucially, this button appears to be missing in the Windows 8 Task Manager. This isn’t a problem for users running administrator accounts, but it does become a problem for any user who is running a standard account. Although we didn’t have any issues managing programs and tasks on a standard user account, the Windows 8 Task Manager now also controls startup applications. Without the option to re-launch Task Manager as an administrator, we were not able to change startup programs for any user who didn’t have an administrators account. Running Task Manager as administrator from the Start screen didn’t solve the problem either and simply gave us a blank list of startup programs.
The workaround for this problem is to use a more advanced startup management tool. Autoruns from Windows Sysinternals works perfectly with standard user accounts and detects more types of startup programs. You can download it here.
Secondly and much more confusingly, Microsoft have made it much more difficult to access the early startup options in Windows 8. Although Windows 8 comes with several great new features for repairing malfunctioning systems, the early startup options (accessed by pressing the F8 key) have been removed. The early startup options allowed users to launch various troubleshooting tools for Windows including safe mode, a special diagnostic mode that ran with the absolute bare minimum of drivers and startup applications. Often, following a failed driver installation or rogue startup program, safe mode could be used to disable the offending update and restore functionality to the PC. In Windows 8, the only way to access safe mode is to access the advanced startup options while Windows is running, not very helpful at all if Windows will not start. Making it so difficult to access such a commonly used and still useful diagnostic mode is quite baffling. We can only assume this was done in order to shave a few more milliseconds off the startup times. There is a workaround which involves using your rescue media or Windows installation DVD that we are currently investigating and will post on the site in the near future.
Overall would we still recommend Windows 8? Probably, we’ll still stick by what we said in our November newsletter. Windows 8 isn’t such a compelling upgrade to Windows 7, but XP users in particular might want to take the plunge.
That’s the end of our January newsletter. On behalf of everyone here at Top-Windows-Tutorials, I’d like to thank you all for your continuing support and wish you all a happy new year. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th February 2013 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8! 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 throughout 2013.