You can now pre-order Windows 8.1

The next generation of Microsoft’s operating system is now less than a month away — Windows 8.1 will be officially released on October 18th, though some customers can get it now thanks to TechNet and MSDN. While most people will have wait for release day, you can at least prepare now.

Today Microsoft has opened up pre-orders for the perceived fix to Windows 8. The new OS, which returns the Start button (well, sort of), will retail for $119.99, while the Pro version will set customers back $199.99.

windows-8-1-start

Those with an existing Windows 8 license will receive a free upgrade upon release. The upgrade adds a Start button (though not a menu), new search and sharing features, Skype for Metro and tighter SkyDrive integration. Other changes are less noticeable — for instance in Explorer you will find that “Computer” is now “This PC”.

If you can’t wait to get your copy then head over to the Microsft Store a place your order now and you should receive the product on day of release.

Windows 8 Mini-Review

Microsoft Windows 8If you are thinking about upgrading to Windows 8 from Windows 7, my suggestion would be to stop thinking about it and save your money for something else. Cheap as the upgrade is, the user interface is terrible.

It’s like Microsoft have taken the new user interface (previously known as Metro) and smashed into the traditional desktop interface, with the interface layers competing for the user’s attention. Some components have gone completely – the Start button – and other components are hidden in unintuitive places: how do I shutdown the PC? Charms slide in from the right – even the name gives no clear idea as to what charms do. The new front page pops up in the bottom left. The desktop appears sometimes. Apps are windowed or full-screen but you can’t get from one to the other. It’s truly awful.

Before anyone accuses me of being an old dog resistant to new tricks, I have bought every single previous version of Ms DOS and (consumer) Windows as it came out, (with the exception of Windows ME). Not this time, though. I’m sticking with Windows 7.

I like the Windows Phone 7 / 8 user interface and it’s great on a phone or tablet but on a desktop or a laptop with a mouse, it’s a disaster. Here’s my prediction….Windows 8 will be to Windows 7 what Vista was to XP. That’s how bad it is.

Sorry, Microsoft, but you’ve got this really badly wrong.

HP Releases Open webOS Version 1.0

When HP purchased Palm for their webOS technology there was a lot of controversy with many people wondering what HP was thinking, while others calling it a great deal.  The former turned out to be right as HP proceeded to release a webOS-based tablet and then pull it off of the market almost immediately, even selling off the remaining devices at fire sale prices.  But now the hardware maker has unveiled a new open source version of the operating system called Open webOS.

Open webOS 1.0 comes with all of the core apps built in, and the Enyo 2.0 framework has hooks that developers can use to deploy the software on a wide variety of platforms. To illustrate this, Steve Winston, HP’s chief webOS architect, shows webOS running on an HP Touchsmart PC in a new video (posted below).

The new release still lacks support for Bluetooth, multimedia playback, and advanced network management.  That leaves it severely crippled at this point, but HP has promised that all of this will come in a future release.  If you care to try it out then I would certainly recommend only running it in an emulator at this point.

Source: Open webOS

Mozilla Shows Off First Picture of Firefox OS

Perhaps it wasn’t really an official release, but Mozilla developer Rob Hawkes has tweeted a picture of the new Firefox OS running on a mobile phone.  It’s not much of a leak and it really doesn’t show off the new operating system, but it is enough, for now, to serve as notice that another contender is on their way to the mobile market.

The OS is pictured running on a Samsung Galaxy S II, which is traditionally seen running Android, but apparently this was the device of choice for much of the development for the Boot to Gecko-based OS.  The Firefox OS will actually be optimized for lower end devices, making it a competitor for entry-level smartphones like the Lumia 610.

Mozilla doesn’t plan to get Firefox OS to market until 2013, and it will launch first in Brazil, so U.S. users have quite a while to wait for handsets.  It also remains to be seen if the operating system can even compete with what has become the big three – iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.  It’s possible that, with Symbian and Blackberry falling out of favor, there will be room for another mobile OS, but we will find out for sure over the next year or two.

firefox-os

Samsung Reveals New Chromebook and Chromebox

The Google Chrome operating system has been available for almost a year with lots of updates to the OS, but very little traction in the market.  Google made it prominent by giving away thousands of CR-48 laptops, but when the final version was released there were only two hardware makers on board – Samsung and Acer.  Sadly that hasn’t changed since the release, and it didn’t change at CES , but there was some Chrome OS news there.

Samsung announced two new additions to the Chrome world – one is a new notebook, but the other is the first Chrome desktop computer, or “Chromebox”.  The Series 5 notebook has been updated to include 2 GB of RAM (which it already had – not sure if the RAM type changed), a 16 GB SSD (it previously had a 16 GB Serial ATA), and a slightly faster CPU.  Meanwhile, the Chromebox is considered a Series 3 product, and it comes with six USB ports, a DVI port, 2 Display Link ports, an ethernet jack, and is currently running Chrome 17.0.963.15.  It’s also rumored to have a dual-core processor under the hood, along with 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB SSD.  The video below gives a good idea of what both new products look like.

Video Source: BetaNews

Do Frequent Phone O/S Updates Make Sense?

I’ve had my HTC Evo for a couple of months or more at this point. When I first turned it on, there was an update waiting. The update installed. So far, so good.

Over the next few weeks I heard there was another update available, but it turned out there was a problem with the update. It took HTC and Sprint about a week or more to fix the problem update, but since the Evo was still in very short supply, I chose not to update it right away. What if there was a problem with the update and it bricked the phone? How would I get an immediate replacement? Better to wait.

A few days ago, Sprint and HTC started releasing the “Froyo” or “Frozen Yogurt” Android 2.2 update for the Evo. I decided it was time to take the plunge and accept the update.

There were two updates. The first one downloaded and installed, and then the second. No problems.

Now I’m asking myself, did the upgrade to Android 2.2 live up to all the hype? Android 2.2 on the Evo might be a little bit more snappy, but it’s hard to tell since the Evo already had excellent performance with the version of Android it shipped with. There are a few changes here and there that improve usability, some of them somewhat worthwhile, but was it really worth the trouble? The phone was a great device before the update. It’s a great device after the update.

Are updates to existing smartphones enough reason for consumers to get really excited over? As I see it, if lots of new basic usability and reliability can be added with a particular update, then it’s likely worthwhile. Smartphones are still evolving devices.

It seems to me that the job of adding new functionality to smartphones falls primarily to apps, and not necessarily the operating system itself. The operating system should be a stable, functional platform that offers basic functionality and services to those apps.

Once smartphone operating system design begins to mature however, the danger of updating and changing things just for the sake of change is always a potential risk. Also keep in mind that on average people replace cell phones about every 18 months, which is a much more frequent replacement cycle than desktop and laptop computers.

In the realm of desktop computer software, Microsoft Office is a great example of mature software design. There are only so many things word processing software can do. Microsoft Word and Excel both had good design and usability for me starting way back with Office 95. With subsequent releases, Microsoft seemed to sometimes arbitrarily change things just for the sake of change, which is a huge usability mistake. Computer software design is not the same as car styling design.

Knoppix Linux: 30 Minutes to Being Free of Windows

I upgraded one of my network file servers, yesterday. I replaced a hard disk that was setting off occasional error notices, and, while while I was at it, I replaced the current operating system (Mandrake Community 10.1) with Knoppix 3.7. Knoppix is the Linux distribution that I use in class to demonstrate how simple Linux is to use, because Knoppix is a fully-functional operating system with common applications that can boot from a single CD. So, with the bootable CD, I can quickly convert any computer to Linux without the risk of deleting any existing files from the Windows operating system.

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