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
The holidays are upon us and once again I am often asked – what do I get when shopping for a new computer. First let me get the whole Apple vs PC issue out of the way – Unless you are an adult who is great with technology or already use a Mac, then stick with PC’s. Mac’s are not for business use (at least not in the corporate world – and many corporations do not allow Macs on their networks), they are NOT good for students (no one in the job market cares if an applicant has Mac skills, they want PC skills), and in terms of security, while it is true you have less of a chance of getting a virus on a Mac, they are NOT more secure (in fact they are often the first to fall to hackers, and some of the viruses that are out there for Macs are very nasty). Not that Macs are not well made machines (although their latest models are next to impossible to service easily or upgrade), but they are overpriced in terms of hardware (exactly the same hardware as you can get in a PC), and unless you already use one, relearning everything can be challenging especially if you use a PC at work and a Mac at home. I am sure there are those who will argue that they just love their Mac, and to each his own, but we do not recommend them for general and current PC users for a number of reasons including the ones outlined above.
With that out of the way – what to shop for when it comes to a computer? With Windows 8 being sold on almost all new retail computers (if you must have it, you can still get Windows 7 machines from big manufacturers like Dell and HP, but more on that later), the question is do I want Windows 8? (Yes) And what kind of hardware do I want? For the first question, there is really no reason to not go to Windows 8. The biggest complaint about Windows 8 that I have heard from some people is the new start screen and the lack of the Start button on the Desktop mode – if you hate the new Start screen and miss the old Start Button you can get a free download of Classic Shell that gives you the start button back as well as gives you the option to go directly to the desktop mode at startup, bypassing the new Start screen (there are also other free and paid for programs that do this as well). The nice thing about Windows 8 is you can use it almost exactly like Windows 7 after a few alterations such as installing Classic Shell, but you also have access to all the new features of Windows 8 including the fantastically quick boot times, the better security, and the better integration of features (such as native .iso image support, VHD support etc).
The new Start Menu has caused some consternation among old time Windows users, but it is actually pretty cool and the number of Apps are growing every day. Windows 8 is designed to be usable on all kinds of devices, but the Touch features have come a long way and now using Windows on a touch screen PC or a tablet PC is a much more satisfying experience (see our preview of the Lenovo A720 Touch Screen all-in-one). We have also been using Windows 8 on a new Lenovo Yoga 13 convertible laptop/tablet and the experience is awesome! There are quite a few great apps, including productivity apps, entertainment apps, and game apps (Wordament is one of our favs). The cool thing is that many of these apps are free and Microsoft has done a good job so far of keeping the garbage adware kind of apps out of the store.
As far as hardware for Windows 8 goes – if your budget is enough to go with a touchscreen (whether an all-in-one or laptop/tablet), I highly recommend it as the touch experience is very good. If not interested in touch, then make sure that you base your decision on a number of factors – what will you use the computer for? (no need to buy a gaming machine if you are going to be just surfing the internet and checking email – conversely, don’t buy a low end machine and expect to play today’s games on it). What is your budget? (remember, you usually get what you pay for, and sometimes paying a bit more can save you a world of disappointment). Do you need a home use machine or a business machine? (most all local retailers only stock home use machines, if you are buying for work or business, you are much better off going through a major manufacturer like Dell, Lenovo, or HP). Do you want a warranty, and what kind/length? (we never recommend getting a warranty from the store itself, most all computer manufacturers allow you to purchase a warranty directly from the manufacturer within a period of time after buying a computer from a store (usually 90 days, check with the manufacturer before you buy). Store warranties are basically useless as they usually require you to bring the computer to them, do not guarantee your data, and you have no idea how long it will be until you get it back – many manufacturers such as Dell, HP, and Lenovo offer in home warranty service. For business users we definitely recommend going directly through the business websites of the big manufactures as you will get better deals, support and warranties.
As for actual hardware recommendations – We personally recommend the intel core i processors (core i3, i5, and i7) as they are some of the best performing and are good with power usage (make sure to get the 3rd generation i series – denoted with 3000 series numbers as they are the newest). The intels core i series have proven themselves, and generally if you get them, the rest of the hardware will be better than some of the mix-and-match used with other processors. While AMD does make some good chips, and they are generally cheaper, the performance of their chips (as well as the lesser intel chips like the Pentiums, Celerons etc ) are all over the place and can be quite disappointing at times. Stick with the i3, i5, or i7 and you should be happy. If buying a laptop, make sure to check the screen resolution to ensure you are getting enough screen real estate – the resolution is just as important as the screen size itself. Also, if purchasing a laptop, if at all possible, try it out to see how you like the keyboard and how it fits your hands (the smaller laptops especially can cause some issue when typing because of the key placement).
If you have a higher budget, definitely check out the Lenovo a720 27″ all-in-one, and the Lenovo Yoga 13 ultrabook – we have really enjoyed ours!
As always Pensacola Computers is available for all of your PC needs including Windows 8 upgrades and new computer setups. Feel free to visit us on the web at http://pensacolacomputers.com and give us a call with any questions you may have – especially Before you buy a new PC – our general advice is always free!
Friday October 26th is a big day for Microsoft with the release of Windows 8. Windows 8 is a big departure for Microsoft and has a lot of big changes in both appearance and in underlying code. We have been working with Windows 8 throughout the development cycle and have been running the final version on a number of systems for the past couple of months ever since its release to manufacturing and partners. The biggest difference off the bat is the new start screen which replaces the start menu – this is going to be one of the hardest things for users to adapt to, but it is a great feature that offers many advantages, especially for touch enabled devices.
On Friday October 26th, most major retailers will begin selling new computers with Windows 8 pre-installed, and you will also be able to upgrade many older machines with a download from Microsoft’s website ($40 until January 31st 2013). If you have or do purchase a Windows 7 machine between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013 you can get upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $15 which is an excellent deal (*Note: only Windows 8 Pro with the media pack contains Windows Media Center which included codecs for DVD playing and an interface to watch TV if you have a compatible TV card).
Windows 8 is the first version of Windows that is truly designed for multiple device platforms and has a number of features which make using it on a touch enabled device much easier than on previous versions of Windows. Windows 8 comes in several different versions and it is important to understand the differences – especially between the standard/pro editions and the RT edition.
Windows RT is made especially for ARM based processors (the kind used in many smartphones and tablets), and while it shares some of the code and looks similar to the new start screen on the other versions of Windows 8, it does NOT run software that was designed for x86/x64 PC’s and previous versions of Windows. It does run Windows Apps, and comes with a somewhat stripped down version of Microsoft Office with Apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. (In our opinion, it will be better for many people to wait a bit and check out the Windows 8 Pro tablets that are coming out which will offer the full features of Windows and run legacy programs as well as new ones.
For a detailed explanation of the different Windows versions, see this blog post from Microsoft made earlier this year: http://blogs.windows.com/windows/b/bloggingwindows/archive/2012/04/16/announcing-the-windows-8-editions.aspx
Windows 8 is tightly integrated with Windows Live services which allow you to logon to Windows using your Windows Live ID (hotmail, live.com, outlook.com email address), and also gives you direct access to Windows Live services like your Skydrive files. Using a Windows Live account will also allow you to synch your settings between multiple Windows 8 devices which is pretty cool.
THE START BUTTON ON THE DESKTOP IS GONE! This is one of the most apparent and controversial changes in Windows 8 and will probably cause a bit of confusion among new users. Windows 8 offers both the new Start Menu screen as well as the old desktop mode, however the old desktop mode is missing the familiar Start button. (it is easy to jump to the start screen by mousing to screen corners, and there are also several third party vendors which have made start button replacements. Using the new start screen takes a bit of getting used to, but the live tiles are very cool and once you play around with it for a while you will find that it has some really cool features.
Touch Gestures are amazing! Windows 8 is optimized for touch gestures and support 10 touch points (yes you can play a piano app with both hands and use all 10 fingers!). Getting around Windows 8 with a touch enabled screen is a breeze as it uses swipe gestures to do many things like open the start screen and move between apps. (*Note: beware on buying older or clearance touchscreen computers as many of the older ones only come with 2 touch points and you will not be able to take advantage of all of the new touch features!)
We have been using a Lenovo A720 27″ all in one touch screen to test Windows 8 and must say that it is amazing! Swiping through apps and using the touch enabled programs is a breeze and it changes the way you can use your computer. We highly recommend going to a store like BestBuy (don’t listen to the salespeople there though!) and trying out some of the newe touch enabled systems before you buy.
Windows 8 has a number of features which improve both performance and security, and it comes with Internet Explorer 10 (2 versions, one on the start screen for full screen only browsing with limited add-on support and the second full featured version available from the desktop)
For Windows 8 support, and help with upgrades and new Windows 8 installs, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com . We provide computer service and repair in the Pensacola Florida area for small businesses and home users
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
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.
“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.