I can’t tell you how many times in the past months I have heard people say they want a Windows 7 computer rather than Windows 8 because they have ‘heard bad things about Windows 8′. When I ask them what exactly it is that they have heard that turns them off they tell me that Windows 8 is so different from Windows 7 that it is too hard to use. To me, that is utter rubbish, and I feel sorry for those people who have refused to get Windows 8 on their home machines because of things they have ‘heard’. Notice I say home machines, because Windows 8 for business is another matter due to support from third party software manufacturers for business software.
To me, the only big glaring issue for many people is the lack of a start button in Windows 8 desktop mode (and this can be very simply resolved by downloading one of the many mostly free software add-ons, personally I like Classic Shell **Note: I only install the Classic Start Menu and the Classic Shell Update, deselecting the Classic Explorer and Classic IE9 components), other than that, which as I said is a simple fix, using Windows 8 in Desktop mode is really no different than Windows 7, except that it is more secure, has better built in support for things like multiple monitors and iso files, and has some great new and improved features like a revamped and much more user friendly task manager and Windows explorer.
By choosing Windows 8 you can easily mimic the Windows 7 experience (with add-ons like Classic Shell you can even go directly to the Windows desktop and bypass the new start screen). Plus you do get the addition of the new start screen and new full screen apps like Netflix and great new Xbox live based games like Wordament which are available from the Windows App Store (there are thousands of app with many great ones for free, and more every day). Windows 8 also allows you to sign in to the computer using a Windows live id (Hotmail, Live.com, Outlook.com, MSN email), and when doing so, you can choose to carry your settings and things like internet history etc with you to other Windows 8 computers. When signing in with your Hotmail etc email address you also have direct access to your emails, calendar and Sky Drive (which is between 7-20 GB of free online storage for your documents, photos etc). If you don’t already have a Hotmail, Outlook, Live.com email, I highly suggest getting one and using it for your Windows 8 id, if anything just to get the free Skydrive storage and use of the online versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint.
I can’t see any downside for using Windows 8 on a home computer over Windows 7, and I can see many advantages such as ones I have outlined above.
The other thing about Windows 8 is its much improved touch interface for those computers with touchscreens. The touch on Windows 8 machines is much improved over previous versions of Windows, and using the new start menu and apps on a touch enabled computer brings a whole new experience to Windows. Many people who at first were hesitant about touchscreens on Windows 8 find that after a very short while, they use touch more and more as it is easier to do many things with touch rather than using a mouse or touchpad.
In the end, by spending a couple minutes downloading a free start menu replacement, and taking a few minutes to learn about the enhancements in Windows 8, I think the majority of people will be pleasantly surprised by their Windows 8 experience.
I currently use a Lenovo Yoga 13 convertible ultrabook as my main laptop/tablet and it is a great testament to what Windows 8 can do as it has both a tablet and laptop mode, incredible battery life, and amazingly responsive touchscreen, and can easily run any full Windows program. For home use I have a Lenovo A720 touchscreen all in one which is fantastic (see review here)
For Windows 8 questions and help with migration, upgrades and new computer setup – visit PensacolaComputers.com
With access to the final RTM version of Microsoft Windows 8, I just had to get a computer that would handle the wealth of new features. Although Windows 8 will not be available pre-installed on new hardware before October 26th of this year, I did a good bit of searching before I settled on the new A720 27″ IdeaCenter all-in-one computer. The A720 according to Lenovo is built for Windows 8, and includes full 10 point multi-touch (most current touchscreen all-in-ones have 2 point touch) which is amazing to see in action (try the piano app for one!). The A720 I got also has an intel third generation i5 processor, 6 GB of RAM, built in tv-tuner, Blue Ray, Bluetooth and HDMI in and out.
I figured I would try doing an upgrade to the pre-installed Windows 7 so that I would be able to take advantage of some of the pre-installed Lenovo apps as well as perhaps having an easier time with drivers etc. I am still not sure this was the best route to take as I did have to do a bit of tweaking to get everything to work. According to the Lenovo website, they recommend uninstalling most of the pre-installed applications, but I only uninstalled a few that I knew would have issues, such as the basically worthless Mcaffee security software.
The actual installation I will cover in a future post, but for the most part, it was quick and painless, and certainly a much quicker upgrade installation that previous versions of Windows I have done. Once I got the correct drivers updated and installed, I began to play around with the Windows 8 interface using the native touchscreen. While I had previously installed Windows 8 on a few machines, none of them had touch and I hadn’t been able to really see the wonders of a touchscreen with the Windows 8 interface.
Using touch on the Lenovo A720 is fluid and easy, and the Windows 8 charms menu seemed much easier to use with a flick of a finger. Pinching and zooming was also a thrill that most people are used to on their smartphones, but never get to use on their computers. I have found that there are many times that I just don’t want to use a keyboard now, especially when browsing the web. With the use of the touchscreen and the built in speech recognition that has been part of Windows since Vista, there are many things that I can now do without need of the keyboard, and for those times when I do need one, I can always use the on screen keyboard if needed.
This isn’t to say that I want to type a long article or document using the onscreen keyboard, and despite the much improved accuracy of speech recognition, the old school part of me does have the need to keyboard it when writing an article (perhaps it is part of the whole ‘process’ of writing), but the A720 with Windows 8 does have me using a keyboard much less. The new Start page (there is no more start button on the desktop, much to the dismay of many), is actually pretty cool with its live tabs and views that give you a quick insight into things like your email, news, weather, social media etc. I am not sure whether I can use it fully as a replacement of the start button, so I have made my own sort of workaround by writing a small script which copies my start menu items to a folder on the desktop every time I logon, then by adding desktop to the taskbar I have a working kind of start menu that gives me quick access to my programs as well as common folders etc.
Windows 8 is a wonder to behold in many ways, and while I think that most people will not see a huge difference between it and Windows 7 (except for the start menu issue), there are plenty of features that I really like including the new task manager which really has undergone a fantastic evolution, as well as the new and improved Windows Explorer which now features the Microsoft Office type bars instead of the old menu driven system.
Windows 8 is very quick to boot up, and pretty darn responsive in multi-tasking and web browsing, although I do find myself using the desktop browser pretty much exclusively due to the inability of the app browser to use plug-ins (although that feature may certainly save a lot of grief for those who click too much and get viruses malware often).
The Lenovo A720 is definitely a fine choice for the Windows 8 Experience, and I will follow up soon with posts on the installation/upgrade as well as some feature focuses.
Windows 8 comes out to the public on October 28th, but if you have purchased or will purchase a machine with Windows 7 on it between June 2 and January 31st 2013 you can qualify for the Windows 8 upgrade offer with which you can get upgraded to Windows 8 Professional for $14.99 here in the US
For questions about the upcoming Windows 8, or upgrade information for local Pensacola Florida businesses and home users, please visit: http://pensacolacomputers.com for contact information. We have been working with Windows 8 throughout the development cycle and can help you migrate, upgrade or start out fresh with Windows 8.
Once again it is hurricane season with an imminent threat looming over the gulf coast. It is time to prepare for the storm and this includes protecting our valuables including our data as best we can. One of the often overlooked things in the rush to evacuate or stay and ride out the storm (not advised if evacuations are recommended) is the protection of our technology, our computers and most importantly the data stored on them. Having a good backup plan is extremely important as today we often have irreplaceable and important data stored on our computers.
For both business and home users, it is recommended to have a two stage backup plan in force at all times, this includes an on-site removable backup device as well as online backup storage. Keeping a full backup of your computer on a removable hard drive is the best way to ensure a quick recovery in case of disaster as you can store an image of your entire computer on a backup drive. If you are running Windows Vista, Windows 7, or have Server 2008 (R2), there is a Windows Backup program that will make an entire image of your computer for you. If you are still running Windows XP, you can get a third party backup tool, such as Acronis to help you create a computer image backup. You should also have online backup, such as Carbonite, or IBackup as a second line of backup. Online backup will help give you piece of mind should anything happen to your on-site backup, but it is not recommended as your only backup due to the time involved in restoring everything (downloading an entire computer’s worth of data from the internet can take a very long time!).
The best case scenario in case of a hurricane is to take your computer with you, however this is not always practical, and in the case of businesses almost impossible. For businesses it is recommended to move or remove your servers if at all possible before the storm. For computers that must be left behind, it is recommended that both the power and ethernet cables be removed before a storm to prevent electrical shocks from entering the systems – this is true for all electronic devices as well! Also, if the systems are in an area that could possibly be effected by roof leakage or flooding it is recommended that if they cannot be removed, that they are set up off the floor and covered with a water barrier such as heavy plastic bag or tarp.
Having good backup plans as well as equipment protection plans in place is the best way to ensure the safety of your data, and when it comes to irreplacable data, multiple backups are always recommended.
For questions regarding backup systems and backup plans, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com
Microsoft’s Windows 8 has already been released to manufacturers and developers and is scheduled to be released to the general public and for sale on new computers as of October 26th. Windows 8 brings a wealth of new features and better security to the PC as well as tablets. Optimized for touch screens, Windows 8 is a pretty big departure from previous versions of Windows and make take some getting used to. We have been using Windows 8 throughout it’s development cycle and have been playing with the final release version now for over a week and it is impressive.
Starting with the new Start Screen (there is no more start button), Windows 8 brings us live tiles and apps that provide a live link to web content in a full screen app. We were really impressed with some of the start up apps such as Weather, which brings together a wealth of information in an easy to browse format. Also included in Windows 8 are 2 versions of Internet Explorer 10, a full screen one that runs from the app screen (but does not include support for plug-ins) and the normal desktop mode. We found that while the full screen app version does provide both excellent speed and rendering, the lack of plug-in support made us switch to the desktop version quite frequently – this will of course depend upon your own personal browsing habits, but we tend to use quite a few sites that require plug-ins on a regular basis.
Under the hood there have been quite a lot of changes to optimize the Windows experience, both from a performance and a security standpoint. Gone is the resource hogging Windows Aero (which provided the cool transparent windows borders, but also taxed the system), and Windows now sports many updated features including a new Windows Explorer and a much improved task manager. Windows also comes with much better default security and privacy features that offer a much higher level of protection than previously.
Coming in the following weeks will be providing a wealth of info on the new Windows 8 including some galleries and specific hardware review.
For any questions on the upcoming Windows 8, including information on Windows 8 installation and Windows 8 upgrades, please visit http://pensacolacomputers.com
There is a virus/malware computer scam going around that we have seen already on a number of computers here in Pensacola, FL called the FBI MoneyPak Rasomware aka the Reveton Trojan. This little nasty locks up your computer and programs and tells you that you are guilty of either download illegal copywrited material or porn and that you could be fined and or go to jail. It then tells you that your computer is locked until you follow the instructions and pay $100 or $200 dollars via MoneyPak. The page that is show with the warning may also have the ability to activate your webcam which scares people even more into thinking this is legit – it is NOT legit!!!
The warning also tells you your ISP, which is easy enough to do from any webpage, which is what the warning actually is.
Thankfully, the guys over at bleepingcomputer.com have a guide to help remove this particular nasty – http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/virus-removal/remove-fbi-monkeypak-ransomware - just be careful in doing so as using any of these tools can cause issues if not used properly. If you have any questions, or prefer to have someone else help you remove this, head over to http://pensacolacomputers.com and give us a call.
Microsoft is now offering an excellent deal for anyone who purchases a new PC with Windows 7 on it between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013. Basically the offer is: Buy a Windows 7 PC and get Windows 8 Pro for $ 14.99. This is good for any computer purchased new that has Windows 7 Basic, Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate.
After purchasing a new PC you will need to register it at: https://windowsupgradeoffer.com/ and when Windows 8 is released you will recieve an email with a promotion code and insturction for purchasing and downloading the software (the promotion code will allow you to purchase one copy at the promotional price). You can opt to receive a installation DVD for an additional price, but the downloadable version can be used to create your own installation media on a DVD or USB device.
Another cool thing about this offer is that you do not have to install the upgrade on the new computer, you can install it on any one computer that has a valid copy of Windows XP (SP3), Windows Vista, or Windows 7 currently installed. This upgrade offer also includes 90 days of no-charge support from Microsoft that begins once Windows 8 is installed and activated.
Windows 8 is going to be a big change in many areas, and will bring a new level of computing to a wide array of hardware including tablets, touch screen PC’s as well as traditional desktops and laptops. With the new Windows Metro Apps, Microsoft’s aim is to make it easier to find and connect with the information and people you care most about.
At Pensacola Computers, we have been actively involved in testing Windows 8 since the early stages of development and will be available to help local small business and home users in upgrading or learning about Windows 8. For Pensacola computer service and repair, classes, networking, troubleshooting or just general computer questions, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com today. Our advice is always free, so call on us with any questions about your PC.
I am often asked by people if they think they have to get a new computer or can their new one last a bit longer? This is often more of a personal choice unless the old computer is dead or near death. Personally I believe that technology should work for you, and that you should not have to wait on your computer any more than absolutely neccessary. However, just running out and buying a new computer can be a somewhat daunting task – what kind of computer? how much memory? how big of a hard drive?, what kind of graphics? All of these answers will of course depend on your own needs, but there are certainly things you can do to narrow down the choices.
Before you decide to take the plunge, you should look at whether your old computer just needs a good computer service and repair. Sometimes, cleaning out the operating system, or reinstalling Windows can revitalize a lagging system, at other time you may be able to add some RAM memory to increase the capabilities and give your computer a bit longer lifespan. Often, people have accumulated many unneeded programs on their computers which may be slowing it down. In addition, spyware, malware, and adware can be hampering your system. Either of these problems can normally be fixed fairly easily with a bit of time and patience.
You might also be holding on to an old Windows XP machine because you are comfortable with it – while XP was a great a pretty stable operating system, it is going on 11 year old now and is just not capable of keeping up with today’s technology on many levels. If you are still using XP, it is definitley time to plan the upgrade – most XP machines (if they were made for XP) will not easily run a later version of Windows due to lack of hardware drivers, so attempting to upgrade these systems is generally not advised.
Windows 8 is due out later this year, and if Microsoft and the manufacturers run the upgrade process as the have in the past, sometimes the best thing to do is wait until they (hopefully) announce the free upgrade of Windows 7 systems bought after a certain date, and then scoop up one of the Windows 7 systems that comes with a free upgrade to Windows 8 (hopefully at a discount as manufacturers often want to clear their inventory before a new version of Windows arrives). Of course if you want the latest and greatest in hardware, waiting until the first (or second) wave of Windows 8 systems might be a good idea.
Windows 8 is going to bring a lot of changes, and some people may not want to take the initial time to learn something new – for those people, I recommend waiting a bit to see exactely what other people say about upgrading. You can test out Windows 8 by downloading the free consumer preview here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/consumer-preview
On today’s internet, you can never be too careful about what you view or download. A good antivirus is essential for anyone using the internet for more than the most basic of tasks, but there are many options available, and they are not equal in the quality or degree of protection they provide.
Two of the most popular Antivirus software’s are Norton’s antivirus and Mcaffee, unfortunately, due to their popularity and the fact that they are pre-installed as trial versions on so many computers, these are often the first two Antivirus software’s that virus writers work to disable and this greatly reduces their effectiveness. While there are quite a few advanced security suites that are fee based, the comprehensive solutions too often bombard the user with constant pop-ups asking what to do, and for most people these become such an annoyance that they either just click on them to get them out of the way, or disable them, which defeats the purpose of having those features in the first place. Generally for most users, a free version of one of the current Antivirus software’s will provide adequate protection with minimal annoyance.
A good choice, and one that comes without costly subscriptions, is Avast Free Antivirus [http://www.avast.com/en-us/index]. Avast is a very old brand, originating in 1988 as a tiny program designed by two Czechoslovakian university students to remove the then-common Vienna virus. Today, it is a major competitor in the antivirus market, with over 150 million users. The latest iteration of the software has three versions (Free, Pro, and Internet Security) [http://www.avast.com/en-us/free-antivirus-download]. The Pro and Internet Security versions come with some additional features, such as spam blocking and an integrated firewall, but for the majority of users, the free version provides enough security.
The most basic component of Avast (and any antivirus) is the ability to scan your computer for malware and then to remove any that is found. In this field, Avast can hold its own with other similar products. What makes Avast great, however, is the inclusion of so many extra features. First, there’s an entire suite of real-time scanners, checking websites, network connections, emails, and even scripts running in the background. If any signs of malware or suspicious behaviors are found, Avast will alert you and provide options to terminate the connection or process before damage can be done. Also included is “sandbox mode”, which isolates programs from accessing any important system files until you approve them as safe. Avast also makes use of cloud streaming technology. It uses this technology both to stream updates to your computer and to keep a database of programs. When a program is run, Avast checks against the cloud database to see what the reputation of the program is. If the program has been marked as dangerous or is unknown to Avast, it will warn you and offer to run the program in sandbox mode until you decide whether to risk it.
For our Pensacola area readers, if your computer does become infected with a virus, there are a few posts here you might want to read such as “Pensacola – Why do I keep getting viruses and malware on my computer?, and “Pensacola Computers Presents – How to Use System Restore in XP”
Alas, if you cannot get past a nasty virus, please visit http://pensacolacomputers.com where you can find information to help you or contact info for immediate computer service and repair.
“The cloud” is something of a buzzword these days: there’s lots of talk about it, but not everyone knows what it means. Windows Live SkyDrive [http://explore.live.com/skydrive] is a cloud-based document storage service, and what that means is that it can keep your documents safe from damage or getting lost, allow you to copy those documents to any computer at any time, and enable you to share documents via email or collaborative editing. The cloud component refers to where these documents are stored; rather than keeping them on your computer, they are in a password-protected portion of the Microsoft servers, completely isolated from the various threats that go along with everyday internet usage.
SkyDrive is integrated directly with the latest version of Microsoft Office (Office 2010). What this means for the user is that files typed up in Office programs, like Word and Excel, can be saved directly to SkyDrive [http://explore.live.com/skydrive-get-started?T1=t2], saving you the hassle of uploading them yourself. In addition, new Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote documents can be created directly within SkyDrive, and the use of Office Web Apps allows said documents to be edited directly. The Web Apps also allow for collaborative editing [http://explore.live.com/skydrive-share-photos-files?T1=t4], so multiple people can work simultaneously on the same document without the clutter of multiple copies or edit merging.
Another use for SkyDrive is photo sharing [http://explore.live.com/skydrive-get-started?T1=t4]. Whereas normally sending photos in an email would require attaching them individually, and thus being subject to attachment size limits and inbox clutter, SkyDrive can be used to store entire albums of photos and then simply linked to in the email. The recipient can then browse and download photos from the SkyDrive at their leisure. At the same time, permissions can be set on the SkyDrive so as to keep some documents private while others are available to anyone.
While SkyDrive is currently somewhat of a standalone product, it will be much more heavily integrated in Windows 8 [http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/02/20/connecting-your-apps_2c00_-files_2c00_-pcs-and-devices-to-the-cloud-with-skydrive-and-windows-8.aspx]. An app under the new Metro interface will allow SkyDrive files to be easily accessed and browsed outside of a browser, as well as making said files and the SkyDrive itself available from any other app. This is built-in alongside the open and save functions, so any app that can access files can access cloud storage through SkyDrive.
One of the greatest thing about Skydrive is the price – Skydrive is Free! 25GB of storage for your files for free! Skydrive apps are available for Windows Phone and iOS and there are currently a number of thrid part Android apps as well as the new OneNote for Android app just released from Microsoft that lets you access your notes on Skydrive from an Android phone.
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview was opened to the public this week, a pre-release version of the full Windows 8 operating system, bringing with it a bounty of new features. The most drastic change, a new user interface designed for ease-of-use on touch-screen systems (especially tablets) is obvious, but that’s been a known factor since the Developer Preview back in September. The new interface is certainly different, though it may be awkward for those who have grown used to the typical taskbar-and-start-menu of previous Windows versions. Tiles take the place of folders and files, making for a sleeker but blockier interface, and customizing the layout of tiles on the screen is possible, though not a focus.
Another new feature is the Windows Store, which (like the Apple Store and Android Market found on modern mobile devices) allows for the distribution of programs in “app” format. Apps take up the entire screen while running, rather than existing in windows like programs in previous versions of Windows, and in many cases integrate gesture-based behaviors for things like scrolling or switching between views. The departure from the traditional interface of buttons is somewhat jarring, but has potential to be used in interesting ways.
Also similar to mobile devices is the new corner functionality, where simply scrolling the cursor over the corners of the screen produces different effects. Clicking in the bottom-left corner switches to the start screen, which allows access to apps much like the old Start Menu allowed access to programs. The upper-left corner allows for quick switching between open apps, while the right edge of the screen is home to the Charms menu, similar in function to the buttons on Android phones. The Charms menu includes the Start screen, the search function, settings for the computer itself and for individual apps, and quick access to content sharing and device management features.
A separate, but equally important component of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is the latest version of the Internet Explorer browser: Internet Explorer 10. As with the operating system, IE10 has been redesigned with touch-based controls and more space on the screen is devoted to the websites being browsed as opposed to toolbars and menus. Browser speed and security have also been improved since IE9, resulting in an all-around better experience. Also on the internet front, Windows 8 contains integrated cloud networking compatibility for Hotmail and SkyDrive, allowing files and messages to be retrieved from any Windows 8 device.
The Consumer Preview should not be confused as being the “final” version of Windows 8. It is stable, but not nearly finished, and certainly isn’t ready to replace Windows 7 as the primary operating system used by home or business users. All the same, those who don’t mind troubleshooting and updating frequently, and who have an extra system that they don’t mind taking a risk on, should give it a spin.
You can download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview at this link: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/download. Any problems can be brought up on the Microsoft Answers forums at http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_8.