Tweak Windows 8 With The Metro UI Tweaker Utility

Subject: General Tech | September 25, 2011 - 06:56 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, windows, Utility, ui, tweaker, microsoft, Metro, developer preview, beta

Are you trying out the Windows 8 Developer Preview that was released earlier this month and finding the new Windows Explorer Ribbon and Metro UI start menu frustrating? If so, Lee Whittington has just the tweaking utility for you!

A freeware tool developed for The Windows Club dubbed Metro UI Tweaker (for Windows 8) is the first third party tweaking tool for the upcoming operating system. It provides several tweaking options to make the transition to the Metro UI more palatable including the ability to completely disable (or enable) the Metro Start Menu and new Ribbon interface in Windows Explorer (which can also be easily hidden without the need for this tool via an icon in the corner). When disabling the Metro Start Menu and Ribbon, the Metro style Task Manager and new lock screen will also be disabled.

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Such sweeping changes are not the only tweaks possible, however. The Windows 8 utility also lets you add power options including sleep, restart, and full shutdown to the Metro interface (when clicking on your user name’s picture), as well as adding any application or file to the Metro Start Menu.

Now at version 1.0, the Metro UI Tweaker is available for download from here for those adventurous enough to use a beta tweaking tool on a beta operating system. How do you feel about the new Windows 8 interface? Will you be checking out this tool? Let us know in the comments.

Windows 8 Developer Preview Build Sees Public Release At BUILD Conference

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2011 - 01:04 PM |
Tagged: windows, windows 8, Metro, developer preview, microsoft

While some folks may be dissapointed that Microsoft's first public beta download was not released this week at their BUILD conference, we did get the next best thing; Microsoft released a developer preview build for 32 and 64 bit systems yesterday. The download page went live at 11 PM Eastern Time, and hosts three versions of the Windows 8 build available to the public-- despite the name an MSDN subscription is not required.  The download page does hint that MSDN subscribers are able to access additional downloads, however.

The three available downloads include a disk image (.iso) with developer tools, a 64 bit Windows 8 disk image, and a 32 bit Windows 8 disk image.  Of the three versions, the last two will be most applicable to the public and enthusiast users.

Windows 8 Start Screen.PNG

The Windows 8 Start screen

The Developer Preview with applications for software development work weighs in at a hefty 4.8 GB .iso and features a 64 bit copy of Windows 8, the Windows Metro SDK for applications, Microsoft's Visual Studio 11 Express, Microsoft's Expression Blend 5, and 28 Metro style applications.  Because of the hefty download, you will need a dual layer DVD or USB drive if you plan on installing it on bare metal (single layer DVDs need not apply, in other words).

The next largest download is the 64 bit Windows 8 Developer Preview build that drops the development software and features only the 64 bit Windows 8 operating system and Metro style applications.  This download weighs in at an easier to manage 3.6 GB .iso disk image.  The minimum system requirements for both 64 bit builds include a 1 GHz or faster x64 CPU, at least 2 GB of RAM, 20 GB of hard drive space for installation, a WDDM 1.0 supported DirectX 9 capable graphics card, and a touch screen to utilize the touch functions.

The final download is a 32 bit version of Windows 8 with Metro style apps suited for older computers with less than 4 GB of memory or lacking 64 bit capable hardware.  At 2.8 GB, this disk image is the smallest of the bunch.The Developer Preview.  The minimum system requirements for this build are a 1 GHz or faster x86 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of available hard drive space for installation, a DirectX 9 graphics card with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver support, and (I am embarrassed Microsoft believes this needs to be listed) a touch screen in order to take advantage of the touch screen functionality of the OS.

All three builds are of the English language variety and are available here for your downloading pleasure.  Note that if you do choose to install the Windows 8 download on bare metal, you will need to wipe out your current installations, and a clean reinstall of your old operating system will be required to restore your system; therefore it would be prudent to at the very least make sure everything important is backed up before attempting the installation.  For those less adventurous a free Virtualization program might be in order.  Keeping in mind that performance will impacted by running it as a virtual machine, Virtual Box seems to handle Windows 8 very well using the Windows 7 64 bit settings after allocating 4 GB of RAM and the maximum amount of video memory.  VM Ware and other paid solutions should also handle the operating system well enough for you to get an idea of Microsoft's vision for the operating system by using tweaked Windows 7 presets.

What features of the Windows 8 developer preview would you like to see tested out?  After you've had a chance to check the operating system out for yourselves, let us know what you think of Windows 8 in the comments!

Source: Microsoft

GPU-Z Releases Version 0.5.5 With Improved Support for AMD and Nvidia Graphics Cards

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2011 - 01:32 AM |
Tagged: gpu, hardware, Utility, windows, amd, Intel, nvidia

GPU-Z is a fine little Windows utility that, much like its CPU-Z brethren, can tell you all sorts of useful information about your graphics sub-system. The lightweight program does not require a restart, and weighs in at 922 KB. GPU-Z is distributed by TechPowerUp, and is now officially on it’s 0.5.5 version.

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The new version adds support for a slew of AMD and Nvidia graphics cards, improved support for BIOS identification, and a new tab for a giveaway by graphics card vendor PowerColor. On the AMD front, the new version adds support for the companies line of A-Series APU graphics cores, AMD’s mobile cayman GPU “Blackcomb,” and various FirePro cards including the V8000, V3700, and 2460 (FireMV). On the Nvidia side of things, the new version adds support for the GeForce GT 530, GT 545, GT 560 Ti OEM, Quadro 400, Quadro 4000M, and Quadro 5000. Further, GPU-Z updated support for mobile versions of Nvidia cards, including the GeForce GT 305M, 410M, 520M, 520MX, 555M, and the GTX 580M.

The program further improves the BIOS readings of Nvidia cards as well as fixing a shader count detection bug on the Blackcomb mobile Cayman AMD parts. The ASUS MARS II GPU also receives support in version 0.5.5. PowerColor is holding a giveaway for a 6990 graphics card to a lucky winner. The new GPU-Z tab has all the relevant information as well as an entry form. Lastly, the program will now remember the last selected GPU selected from the drop down on multi-GPU systems.

The updated support is nice, and the lightweight program starts up just as fast as the previous versions. Do you use GPU-Z?  You can download the new version here.

Windows XP (Finally) Falls Below 50% of Windows' Market Share

Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2011 - 07:54 AM |
Tagged: windows, operating system, microsoft

Windows XP is almost old enough that revisionist historians can have a crack at it without anyone speaking out against it. That is, it would be if not for the large number of users still using the operating system at their home and work. The decade old operating system has only now fallen below 50% of Windows' market share. More specifically, the slip in market share occurred between June and July where it fell 0.63% to a total of 49.94%.

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The numbers are percentages of MS's total 87.66% market share.

In comparison, Windows Vista holds a much smaller 9.24% market share after dropping 0.28%. Microsoft’s most recent operating system, Windows 7; meanwhile, saw a gain of 0.74% to a total of 27.87% market share, which puts the new operating system well on its way to overtaking the XP juggernaut. Techspot has the full scoop on the market share situation, which you can read about here.

Are you still using Windows XP?

Source: Tech Spot

Microsoft May Be Dropping the Windows Branding In Future Operating Systems

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2011 - 10:14 AM |
Tagged: windows, microsoft, branding

Microsoft and their Windows brand have always been synonymous where it comes to Operating Systems. As someone who grew up with Windows 3.1, I have grown up seeing Microsoft through the proverbial Window(s). As such, Windows has been a brand that has always been around, and one that I assumed would always be around. In a surprise twist; however, This Is My Next reports that Microsoft may be dropping the Windows brand for their future operating systems after Windows 8.

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Look how far the MS OS logo has come.  What does the future hold?

Windows 8 is already incorporating tile elements of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and Xbox elements in the form of a re-branded Games For Windows Live service. It seems logical; therefore, that Microsoft would want to even further integrate their mobile, gaming, and computing platforms into one cohesive unit. This Is My Next reports that the future OS will present a single Operating System and UI features across all devices and platforms. They further quote Andy Lees in stating that the single ecosystem would facilitate consistency across all Microsoft powered platforms and “the goal isn’t just to share UI, but also core technologies like Internet Explorer.”

You can read more about the “Next Next” OS over at This Is My Next. What are your opinions on the proposed branding theme? Do you have any fold memories of the Windows brand?

SandyBridge graphics performance showdown; Linux versus Win7

Subject: Processors | July 13, 2011 - 05:27 PM |
Tagged: linux, windows, ostc, SBNA, sandybridge

In the first showdown that Phoronix tried, the Linux driver for Intel's HD3000 iGPU beat out the Win7 driver handily.  That win was due to the OSTC Linux engineers at Intel doing a bang up job on the Linux drivers, while the Windows team lagged behind a bit.  A few months have passed and the laggards on the Windows team have since released a major update to their drivers, necessitating Phoronix to repeat the test.  Unfortunately for them the Linux team has also released improvements, specifically "Sandy Bridge New Acceleration".  Can the Windows team retake the lead, or should you switch to OpenGL games on Linux? Read on to see.

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"The new benchmarks going out today on Phoronix are looking at the performance of Intel's Sandy Bridge graphics with the latest Microsoft Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux drivers. Not only are we using the very latest drivers, but there is also a separate Linux test run with SNA, the "Sandy Bridge New Acceleration" architecture enabled."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Source: Phoronix

Xbox.com: for all your PC Gaming needs

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 5, 2011 - 02:06 PM |
Tagged: windows, games

So I am a very avid supporter of PC gaming: I do not feel that I should pay license fees to a company to actively limit me. I feel that if people keep asking me whether HD-DVD or BluRay will win that there is no reason to have eight gaming platforms co-exist (more if you include Mac, iOS, Android, etc.). I feel that instead of relying on a cardboard coffin that will arrive in 1-2 business weeks, you or your friend should be allowed to fix your own hardware… or choose your own local small business computer store to deal with in person. I feel that it is much better to buy an extra GTX 560 every four years and have money left over for a meal than a multiplayer subscription pass that does not even let you run your own dedicated servers with admins (what cheaters? BAN!) So you can guess my reaction when I saw Microsoft roll Games for Windows Marketplace into Xbox.com.

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Underlined for your convenience.

Now do not get me wrong, I was never much a fan of Games for Windows to begin with. Microsoft’s attempt to rid the PC of the stability stereotype was to push certification for all content on Games for Windows Live which worked very well for Fallout: New Vegas on the Xbox 360. Ironically the PC version was much more stable just after launch because the patch was stuck in certification on Xbox during the busy holiday season (lols!) The biggest problem with forcing certification is that would include mods as well (video, 3:10) and that is not something mod developers could really afford. Halo 2 Vista was one such Games for Windows Live game whose mod tools were so neutered that the provided tutorial level was impossible to create because jump pads assets were not provided nor able to be created.

 

Still, it seems odd to me for Microsoft to push so feverishly to roll PC gaming into Xbox branding when other initiatives like Steam are already showing the entire industry how to do things mostly right. It is possible that at some point Microsoft could roll Direct(X)box back in to Windows and simply create a canon home theatre PC (if Valve does not eat that lunch too); but if their plan is to merge Windows into Xbox then they are completely missing the point of why we would rather play a PC game with an Xbox 360 controller: because we choose to.

Source: Microsoft

What an odd time to be a .NET programmer

Subject: General Tech | June 24, 2011 - 12:08 PM |
Tagged: .net, longhorn, microsoft, windows, winfx

Way back in the beginning of the 00's, before Win7 was Win7, Microsoft announced the development of a new OS that was named Longhorn.  This was an ambitious plan to move from the old Win32 programming interface to a newcomer called .NET which Microsoft had designed to be an alternative to both Win32 and VisualBasic.  There would still be backwards compatiblity with Win32 apps but no more extensions to the API would be created.  Of course as we know this project never saw the light of day and Win7 remained dependant on the two old, if familiar APIs.

As if that was not bad enough for those programmers who chose .NET for their specialty, a few weeks ago Microsoft gave them another kick when they announced the upcoming Windows 8 OS will utilize HTML5 and JavaScript, not .NET nor even the old pair that programmers are familiar with.  This was not well recieved by those who had spent significant time and money becoming adept programming .NET applications.

Now, in a move that is hard to judge if it is a mean trick or an honest attempt to placate the hoards of fuming .NET programmers, Microsoft has announced that Longhorn is not dead; it was just resting.  Windows 8 will ship with a pair of runtimes, .NET 4.5, and a C++ implemention which will be called WinRT and do everything Win32 could do and more and will work with the new user interface design tool they're calling DirectUI.  Even Silverlight is being integrated into the APIs, which means all that training in Microsoft programming may pay off in the end.  Drop by Ars Technica and decide if this is bull or not.

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"Early this month, Microsoft dropped something of a bombshell on Windows developers: the new Windows 8 touch-friendly immersive style would use a developer platform not based on .NET, which Microsoft has been championing for the past decade. Instead, it would use HTML5 and JavaScript. Since then, the company has refrained from making any further comment on the issue. In particular, the question that has many Windows developers particularly concerned—how can I make use of my existing skills and experience when developing these new applications?—remains unanswered; the company plans to reveal nothing until its BUILD conference in September."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

Don't you love it when Patch Tuesday hits double digits

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2011 - 11:47 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, patch tuesday, security, windows, internet explorer, silverlight

Tomorrow will see the arrival of 9 critical security patches and 7 recommended ones, covering Windows, IE, Silverlight and Office.  The critical patches all resolve remote code execution vulnerabilities, the recommended vary from the same type as well as privledge escalation and denial of  service vulnerabilities.  WinXP through Win7 as well as server OSes will all be affected so be warned that your Tuesday and Wednesday might not be very fun.  Follow the link from The Register to see Microsoft's pre-release document for yourself.

Adobe, obviously not wanting to seem lazy, is also pushing out a patch for both Reader and Acrobat.

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"Microsoft is preparing a bumper Patch Tuesday for next week, with 16 security bulletins that collectively address 34 vulnerabilities.

Nine of the bulletins earn the dread rating of critical, while the other seven grapple with flaws rated as important. All supported versions of Windows will need patching on 14 June along with various server-side software packages and applications, including the .NET framework and SQL Server. Internet Explorer, which is affected by two bulletins, will also need some fiddling under the bonnet."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Windows 8 to offer OS-on-a-thumb-drive portability

Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2011 - 10:14 AM |
Tagged: windows, windows 8

This is pretty cool news that has found its way out with the first leaked released of Microsoft's Windows 8 prototype: integrated into the OS is support for "portable workspaces" that will allow a user to take a 16GB or larger USB thumb drive and build a bootable environment to take with them on the go.

win8portable.jpg

Source: Winrumors