Microsoft's juggernaut Windows operating system powers on with the company preparing Windows 7's successor in Windows 8. The new operating system (OS) was first released for public consumption during the last BUILD conference in the form of a "Developer Preview." This release was mainly intended for software developers to start to get a feel for the OS and its new features, but many consumers and technology enthusiasts also took a peek at the OS to get an idea of where MS was going with its next OS.
Coinciding with Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2012, Microsoft released the next iteration of the in progress OS, and this time it is aimed at getting consumer feedback. The aptly named Consumer Preview build is now available for download by anyone interested.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview Desktop
The question many consumers and enthusiasts are likely asking; however, is what to do with the MS provided ISO, and what the safest and easiest method for testing the beta operating system is. One appropriate answer, and the method covered in this guide, is to use a virtual machine program to test the Windows 8 Consumer Preview inside a VM without needing to muck with or worry about effecting your existing system or settings. Installing to bare hardware will always be faster, but if you upgrade to Windows 8 CP from Windows 7, you will not be able to go back once the beta period is over. By installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview inside a virtual machine will allow you to test out the operating system in a secure environment, and if you have a recent machine with at least 4 GB of RAM, performance of the OS should be sufficient to get an idea of the new OS and whether you want to pursue a bare hardware full install.
I expect that many users are going to be curious about the new build as the Windows 8 OS has ignited several heated debates among enthusiasts concerning the direction Microsoft is going. The new Metro interface, removal of Start Menu, and the overhauled Windows logo are three of the major concerns users have raised, for example.
The specific program in question that we will be using is Oracle's VirtualBox software, which is a free VM host that is very easy to setup and use. Another alternative is VMWare, and the setup process will be very similar (though the exact steps and settings will differ slightly). This guide will show you how to go from the Windows 8 ISO to a fully functional installation inside a VirtualBox virtual machine. If you are familiar with setting up a new VirtualBox VM, you can safely skip those steps. I felt it prudent to go through the entire process; however, for those new to VirtualBox that wish to try out the new Microsoft OS.
Subject: Mobile | February 26, 2012 - 06:08 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: WP7, windows phone, smartphone, nokia, mobile, microsoft, marketshare
Last year Nokia and Microsoft announced a partner ship that would combine Nokia's hardware with Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system. Back then, the move by Nokia to abandon Maemo, MeeGo, and Symbian was not a popular one; however, it does seem to have worked out well for the company (despite some burned bridges).
According to a new report by Strategy Analytics, not only have Nokia Windows Phone 7 devices proved a popular choice, but the company has managed to propel itself to 33.1% marketshare; a number that makes Nokia the world's largest Windows Phone smartphone vendor in Q4 2011. Further, the company shipped just under 1 million units in Q4 2011 while the market as a whole saw 2.7 million units shipped. That is a significant jump from the previous quarter where Nokia did not ship any units and the market as a whole shipped only 2 million.
|Vendor Shipments (Millions) Q3'11||Vendor Shipments (Millions) Q4'11||Vendor Marketshare (%) Q3'11||Vendor Marketshare (%) Q4'11|
|Total||2 Million Units||2.7 Million Units||100%||100%|
While Nokia does not yet have majority share of the Windows Phone smartphone market all to themselves, they do have the most marketshare of any single vendor. The increased presence of Nokia helped the Windows Phone market as a whole see a total quarter over quarter growth of 36%, according to the report. Further, Director of Strategy Analytics Tom Kang noted that Nokia managed to snag most of it's marketshare from HTC who is also losing ground in the Android market to rival Samsung.
Neil Mawston, the Executive Director of Strategy Analytics determined that the Nokia Lumia WP7 smartphone series, and increased marketing and retail presence in Asian and European countries significantly helped Nokia grow it's marketshare.
Needless to say, Nokia management and shareholders are likely pleased by this turn of events. It will be interesting to see where Nokia is marketshare wise at the end of this year as their new Lumia series smarphones proliferate across the world. The full report is available here to Strategy Analytics clients.
Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2012 - 01:18 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, windows, OS, microsoft, logo
That fluttering window containing flag that would carry Microsoft into Operating System dominance on the, er, wind of success debuted with Windows 3.0 in 1990. As the years have passed, the company has made alterations and updates to keep the design modern. After 22 years of ingraining into people's minds that the flag logo is Windows, Microsoft may be ditching it in favor of a new minimalistic monochromatic affair. According to Chinese site cnBeta.com, Microsoft will roll out the new Windows logo with the launch of Windows 8. Allegedly, the new logo will be four turquoise panels with a shifted perspective and separated by interior white borders. The site claims that the evidence lies in a logo photo and a photograph of a physical "Windows" button on a tablet.
Personally, I think Microsoft would be crazy to change their logo, and especially insane to switch to this particular alleged new logo. Minimalist designs certainly have their place, but the colorful Windows logo that we are all used to has always done a good job of catching the eye (and four blue-green rectangles just don't do it for me). Not to mention that the company has had 22 years to burn into the minds of consumers that the logo is Windows, and it will be difficult for people to accept the new logo. There is definitely a certain amount of nostalgia and consumer confidence associated with the "old" logo, and it seems odd that Microsoft would be so cavalier to throw it away just to make their logo look better on the Metro desktop. Perhaps if they were changing direction and entering a different market or if they had a line of crappy products they would want a new logo, but that really does not seem to be the case. Here's hoping the photos are just fake. On the other hand, if Microsoft does end up taking out the start button it's not like people will be seeing the new logo anyway (heh).
What are your thoughts on the new logo? Am I off base in thinking that the current logo has a lot of "mindshare" built up and it would be crazy to just leave it behind?
Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2012 - 11:19 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, windows, start orb, start button, microsoft, crazy
Microsoft is continuing full steam ahead with Windows 8 development where they axe many of the familiar features of previous Windows iterations. According to a post over at The Verge, the latest feature to get removed is the start button of all things. In the "Consumer Preview" version of the upcoming operating system, users will be greeted with a desktop that shows application icons and the Super Bar, but no start button in sight.
Oddly enough, they are removing the Start button in favor of a small area in the lower left of the screen that, when hovered over with a mouse or swiped over on a touchscreen, a Windows 8 charm (small menu) will appear along with a thumbnail preview of the mode that will be switched to upon clicking the element. For example, when you are in the Metro Start Screen mode, hovering over this area would show a small preview of the full Windows desktop and vice versa.
I'm a bit confused by this move as it doesn't really add anything to the experience, and makes the start "button" hover area harder to hit and find. Tech support people are likely crying now, as it is difficult enough to get people to click on the start button much less have the patience to hover over an area or perform a swipe action in the lower left of the screen! Not to mention that the start button has been a signature of the Microsoft operating system since Windows 95. At least the Windows key (i hope) still works as expected, but it seems like a non sensical move. How do you guys feel about the change? Will you be keeping your relatives and/or employees on Windows 7 (heh)?
Subject: Mobile | January 27, 2012 - 03:48 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: portable, PC, microsoft, laptop, kinect
At CES 2012, Microsoft announced that they would be releasing a Kinect sensor and SDK (software development kit) for Windows. In that same vien, the company is now exploring the idea of integrating a Kinect sensor directly into laptop computers.
Not the actual prototype. Just a mock up I concocted.
The crew over at The Daily managed to get their hands on two such prototype laptops with integrated Kinect sensors. They state tha the two machines resemble Asus laptops that are running Windows 8; however, upon closer inspection, the laptops have removed the typical 1.3 megapixel webcam that is common in today's notebooks and have instead placed a Kinect sensor bar at the top of the display instead. They claim that a source within Microsoft has confirmed that the two laptops are indeed official prototypes.
Unfortunately, there aren't many details beyond that. Whether Microsoft will forge ahead with this idea and license out the Kinect technology to laptop makers or if the prototypes will go into some bunker somewhere and never see the light of day still remains a mystery. Currently at $250 (to end users, OEMs could likely cut a much better deal), it is not likely that we will see a proliferation of Kinect sensors into all manner of displays for notebooks, TVs, and desktops. If Microsoft could get the cost of the technology down far enough that manufacturers could justify adding it, it could definitely catch on. In the end, I don't think we'll be seeing Kinect powered computers any time soon, but in the future when the hardware is cheaper and there are Kinect for Windows applications readily available, it could happen. Would you like to see Kinect in your laptop (insert Xzibit meme here) or desktop monitor, and if so what would you like to do with it?
Subject: General Tech | January 26, 2012 - 01:34 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xbox 720, xbox, rumors, radeon hd 6670, next box, microsoft, gpu, gaming, console, amd
Microsoft's Xbox 360 is coming up on seven years old, and the company has sold more than 66 million units. Naturally, as graphics techniques and software has advanced, the aging hardware is starting to hold back game developers from implementing higher detail settings and larger maps with more players. Both developers and gamers are clamoring for the next Xbox to be released so that they can advance to the next stage of gaming. PCs are way ahead in the graphics quality race as the hardware has greatly advanced in the interim, and console gamers and game developers are starting to take notice and want for the features. Bring on the Next Box (or Xbox 720 or whatever it will eventually be called). With updated hardware, it should give console gamers some new (to them) shiny graphics to look at and smoother frame rates at the same quality settings we have now.
According to IGN, sources have confirmed that the next generation gaming console will have six times the processing power of the current generation Xbox 360. This increase in processing power is due in part to the updated graphics card that is akin to the AMD Radeon HD 6670 GPU, which while only a budget/HTPC card on the PC side of things, is a nice step up from the Xbox 360's ATI Xenos graphics chip.
The card will support 1080p, DirectX11, multiple display outputs, and 3D. Unfortunately, pricing for the upcoming gaming system was not revealed nor were any other details about the specific underlying hardware. If you are in the mood for more speculation on what might be inside the next Xbox, Tech Radar has compiled a list of the various gossip around the net about the console.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 12, 2012 - 04:40 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 8, microsoft, CES 2012, CES
It is no secret that Microsoft is not attending the next CES and they stated publicly that there will be minimal announcements relative to what we typically expect. While that is all true, Microsoft still has some news at the show to be indulged upon. Tim has already covered the upcoming release of Kinect to Windows for approximately the price of an entry-level 2GB RAM dual-core laptop; Microsoft had a piece of NVIDIA’s keynote to discuss Windows on ARM; and Microsoft showed a newer build of Windows 8. The Verge spent some time with a Microsoft representative and took video to show for it. Find out the future for the mice that are not just going to stick with Windows 7.
Tiled of feeling blue?
Personally, I am not the biggest mobile user in the world: the majority of what I use my laptop for is to install a new version of Ubuntu, and even then I often skip versions. My cellphone usage is pay-as-you-go with $100 dollars on my account per year and somewhere around $90 of that expires or rolls over to the next year. I am not against mobile computing; I am just never in a situation where I need to use it. Keep those points in mind while I discuss Windows 8.
I am going to ignore the ability to re-skin the start screen despite it being a much desired feature. The more important development from an examination standpoint is how Microsoft expects the mouse and keyboard will fill in with Windows 8. You are able to navigate through the Metro interface left and right using your scroll wheel or alternatively hold ctrl to zoom in and out with the scroll wheel. Also on display is the top-to-bottom swipe gesture to kill an application for touchscreen users. Check them out in action for yourself at The Verge.
PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2012 - 12:13 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: yahoo, search, microsoft, Internet
The Internet search market is a competitive space, as the more control over search a company has, the more money they can make from ad networks, analytic and tracking data, and having an influence over the development of the Internet. Google still remains handily in first place with a majority share of the search market. That's not anything surprising. Where competition heats up; however, is beneath Google where companies fight over the remaining 30% or so of the search market. Microsoft's Bing search engine is the latest major entrant to the market, and for the first time since it's launch it has surpassed Yahoo for the number 2 spot over the search market.
Microsoft Bings Yahoo. Also, transparency fail.
According to comScore, Bing and Microsoft's other websites reached 2.75 billion search requests in the United States during the month of December. This allowed Microsoft to slip past Yahoo, who's search engine fielded 2.65 billion requests. Microsoft now holds a 15.1 % share of US search traffic while Yahoo holds 14.5 %. To put those numbers in perspective, Google holds 65.9 % market share. This fight for a slice of the search market has come at a huge cost to Microsoft who's online division lost $7 billion USD in operating costs since June of 2008, according to CBS News.
Further, the article suggests that Microsoft and Yahoo will now continue to draft and pass each other for the next few years. More information can be found at the article linked above. Have you used Bing, and will it ever have the oomph to take on Google? I personally use Google for the majority of the time but Bing is an okay backup. The image searching is fairly good. I predict that a Bing powered Windows search box (offer internet results from bing in Explorer if no files matching keywords are found, for example) would be interesting and help Microsoft to maintain a search market presence, but don't let the EU find out. What are your thoughts on Microsoft taking second place? Will they be able to maintain their position?
Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2012 - 11:18 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xbox, windows, voice, software, PC, microsoft, kinect, gestures
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that on February 1st, the new Kinect sensor for Windows would become available for purchase. In addition to the new Kinect for Windows sensor hardware, Microsoft is releasing an official SDk or Software Development Kit. Having the SDK installed on a Windows operating system will be required in order to use Kinect software applications. Currently, there are no (Microsoft official) consumer applications using Kinect; however, official hardware and an official SDK will surely spur software development.
Microsoft is confident that the launch of the SDK and specially tuned hardware will spur development of software. According to MSNBC, the company is working with over 200 companies to develop software applications for Windows using Kinect. Microsoft's partners include Toyota, Mattel, American Express, and United Health Group. These corporate partners seem to indicate that initial Kinect applications will be designed for consumers to use in a business setting, say on a sales floor of car dealerships, at hospitals, or point of sale devices (maybe American Express is planning a "card swipe" application where holding the card up to the Kinect can be used to purchase items. Software for consumers to use at home is also likely in the pipeline and users will see them in the future.
Due to the Microsoft Kinect for Windows sensor not being subsidized by Xbox 360 games and accessories, the PC version is $100 more than the Xbox 360 version, and will retail for $250 USD. Amazon currently has the device (for pre-order) here for a whole penny less at $249.99.
PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Processors | January 11, 2012 - 06:21 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows, processor, microsoft, cpu, bulldozer, amd
Let us take a little break from the CES news with a load of bull -- a download of Bulldozer. If you have an eerie sense of being in this situation before then you may in fact have a bad memory as it did in fact happen and it was only about a month ago. Microsoft released an update in mid-December to optimize their operating systems for AMD Bulldozer technology; that patch disappeared without any listed reason. As of today, we have access to both the patch as well as most of the reason for the delay in the first place.
You know: part of me wants to see a Bulldozer go 100MPH, and another part of me fears greatly.
The first order of business is to explain to those who have an AMD FX series, Opteron 4200 series, and/or an Opteron 6200 series processor how to increase their potential performance: KB 2646060 and KB 2645594 each contain a patch which will optimize Windows to the Bulldozer architecture for most users when both are applied.
It turns out that Microsoft pulled the Bulldozer update last month when discussions with AMD revealed that the patch would not provide the promised performance increases for most users. The problem specifically centers on the Core Parking feature within Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: after the hotfix in December was applied, Core Parking would still interfere with Bulldozer’s design by attempting to save power and sleep cores that were unused without understanding that Bulldozer cores are not typical cores. With Core Parking disabled for Bulldozer-based CPUs either through this hotfix or by changing your performance profiles to “High Performance” from the often default “Balanced” you would allow Bulldozer to run as it actually desires to run. According to how these bulletins are worded, should you have been on “High Performance” profile back in December before the hotfix was pulled you would have experienced what should only have been available starting today.
These performance increases are not for every application, however. AMD has stated that applications which are more sparsely multithreaded would benefit most from the update.
Workloads that are moderately threaded have the potential for uplift. This could include virtualization, database, or transactional environments that are “bursty” – a mixture of light and heavy transactions, or legacy applications that are by nature not very threaded. The more heavily threaded the application, the less the likely the uplift.
My intuition knowing this as well as the Core Parking issue is that once Windows finally wakes the Bulldozer core, your experience is maximal with the December patch; applications which only temporarily become multithreaded either do not wake the proper portions of the processor or wake the processor in time to be of maximum benefit.
It appears as if the removal of the hotfix last month was simply because AMD believed that while the patch was effective, it would not be correctly applied to the vast majority of customers without a second hotfix and thus give the appearance of little to no real benefits.