Microsoft's Universal Mobile Keyboard Is Coming Soon

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: windows, mobile, microsoft, keyboard, ios, Android

Let me share a story. There was a time, around the first Surface launch, that I worked in an electronics retail store (and the several years prior -- but I digress). At around that time, Microsoft was airing ads with people dancing around, clicking keyboards to the Surface tablet with its magnetic click or snap. One day, a customer came in looking for the keyboard from the TV spots for their iPad. I thought about it for a few seconds and realized how terrible Microsoft's branding actually was.

microsoft-mobile-keyboard-universal.jpg

Without already knowing the existence of their Windows 8 and RT tablets, which the ads were supposed to convey, it really did look like an accessory for an iPad.

Doing Microsoft's job for them, I explained the Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets along with its keyboard-cover accessories. Eventually, I told them that it was a Microsoft product for their own tablet brand and would not see an iPad release. The company felt threatened by these mobile, touch devices and was directly competing with them.

...

So Microsoft is announcing a keyboard for Windows, Android, and iOS. Sure, it is very different from the Type and Touch Covers; for instance, it does not attach to these devices magnetically. Microsoft has also been known to develop hardware, software, and services for competing platforms. While it is not unsurprising that Microsoft keyboards would work on competing devices, it does feel weird for their keyboard to have features that are specialized for these competing platforms.

There are three things interesting about this keyboard: it has a built-in stand, it has special keys for Android and iOS that are not present in Windows, and it has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 6 months. The peripheral pairs wirelessly with all of these devices through Bluetooth.

The Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard is coming soon for $79.95 (MSRP).

Source: Microsoft

Event on September 30th "For Windows and the Enterprise"

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2014 - 08:01 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 9, threshold

In two weeks, Microsoft will be holding an event to communicate where Windows is going. It is expected that a public technical preview will launch either at the show, or immediately thereafter. The invitation reads, "Join us to hear about what's next for Windows and the enterprise." This seems to mean that the next version of their desktop OS, probably called Windows 9, will have a strong focus on enterprise features. Contrast this with Windows 8, which I feel comfortable saying wanted to win consumers away from iOS and Android tablets.

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Image Credit: The Verge

Virtual desktops and the Start Menu's return were strong signs, too.

Pretty much the only announcement that they could make to get me excited would be sideloading for all versions (which would also remove developer certificate requirements for those apps). I know that it is seductive from a "gatekeeper against malware" point of view, but it decimates the whole reason for having a computer. The Windows Store requirements are just too terrible. No third-party browser engines? C'mon. Microsoft has expressed their continued support of these regulations at Build, but I can hope for a surprise. Seriously Microsoft, give users the option to install what they want, regardless of the API used.

Two weeks until we know. We might even have access by then.

Source: The Verge

Alleged Windows 9 Screenshots Leaked

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 07:38 PM |
Tagged: windows 9, windows, threshold, microsoft, leaked build, leak

Update: September 12th @ 12:08pm EDT

A short video has just leaked online. The screenshots cover more, but obviously as still images. It's a good idea to check out both.

Can you read German? Yes. No.

Computerbase.de (linked above in "yes") claims to have access to Windows 9 Technical Preview Build 9834. This should be close to the pre-release that is rumored to be public later this month (again, if rumors are accurate). It seems to be focused on desktop usage, as rumored, but still is uncomfortably close to Windows Store and its certification requirements.

microsoft-windows9-pre-release.jpg

Image Credit: Computerbase.de

There are some significant changes over previous versions, from virtual desktops to a nearly borderless window look and feel, seemingly be default (saving probably about 8-10 pixels per window in width and just as much eyesore). This makes me wonder how true borderless apps (RDIO, GitHub for Windows, and Blizzard's Battle.net Launcher are examples) will play with these new styles. One of the main glitches that I have with Windows 7 is when something kicks me out of Aero and most of the non-standard styled windows freak out in one way or another (Trillian and Firefox being the most obvious offenders).

Maybe, just maybe, we will be able to get our hands on it later this month or early next month.

MINIX Neo Z64 Is x86-64 and $129

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 3, 2014 - 04:23 PM |
Tagged: fanless, htpc, windows, Android

Because fanless and cheap PCs are awesome, MINIX is launching the Neo Z64. Priced at $129 USD, it will contain an Intel Atom Z3635F SoC with 2GB of DDR3L and 32GB of eMMC internal storage. The device will ship loaded with Android 4.4.4 (KitKat) but is compatible with Windows 8.1, if you have a license for it.

minix-neo-z64.jpg

Externally, the device features a microSD card slot (maximum size not specified), one 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, an IR receiver (with remote), and HDMI 1.4. Note that HDMI is the only audio outputs on this device, which could be tricky if you want to run it as something other than a home theater PC (if you do not have a USB sound card that is compatible with your chosen OS). Lastly, it also has 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless support.

This is still a significant price premium over some other devices, like a Roku, but could be useful for some. The lack of any SteamOS mention is a bit disconcerting, given that the free OS could be applied to turn the device into an In-Home Streaming target (or host of simple, Linux-compatible games, like Super Meat Boy). Hopefully, future products will consider Valve's home theater platform.

The MINIX Neo Z64 will be available in October for $129.

Source: FanlessTech

The mysterious September Windows release

Subject: General Tech | August 26, 2014 - 11:10 AM |
Tagged: windows, microsoft, threshold, win9

Something new will be announced by Microsoft in September but no one seems to know exactly what Threshold is.  It could be a work in progress version of Windows 9: The Button's Return, but then again it could be something completely different.  The rumours and speculation are rampant, as the current 982X build carries the name "Windows Technical Preview", similar to what Win8 was labelled before release but not specific enough to discourage enthusiasts from theorizing that it could be something else.  Also adding to the fuel is a new feature in Windows Update which will allow in place upgrades of your build of Windows, perhaps similar to the Windows Vista to 7 upgrade which caused much confusion.  You can follow the links from Slashdot to get your fill of the current guesses or wait until September 30th when Microsoft finally spills the beans.

windows-9-threshold.jpg

"Nobody seems to know for sure whether 'Threshold' and 'Windows 9' will be one and the same or separate operating systems, reports Woody Leonhard in his roundup of insights on Microsoft's forthcoming OS plans, expected September 30. 'Many people think the terms are synonymous, but longtime Chinese leaker Faikee continues to maintain that they are two separate products, possibly headed in different directions.

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

Run Windows on Intel's Galileo

Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2014 - 09:35 AM |
Tagged: galileo, Intel, windows, SoC

Intel's first generation low powered SoC which goes by the name of Galileo and is powered by a 400MHz Quark X1000 is now capable of running Windows with the help of the latest firmware update.  Therefore if you are familiar enough with their tweaked Arduino IDE you should be able to build a testbed for low powered machines that will be running Windows.  You will want to have some time on hand, loading Windows to the microSD card can take up to two hours and those used to SSDs will be less than impressed with the boot times.  For developers this is not an issue and well worth the wait as it gives them a brand new tool to work with.  Pop by The Register for the full details of the firmware upgrade and installation process.

galileo_1.jpg

"Windows fans can run their OS of choice on Intel’s counter to Raspberry Pi, courtesy of an Intel firmware update."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Incoming patches for all IE versions

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2014 - 09:27 AM |
Tagged: internet explorer, windows, microsoft

We have another IE flaw, one which applies to IE6 though IE11 and officially all versions of Windows since Vista; unofficially it will also effect the non-supported legacy OS versions as well.  This particular issue is not a memory overflow but instead is what is referred to as use-after-free which does make it somewhat harder to craft a webpage to take advantage of.  Corporate users of the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit should make sure their users are up to date while the rest of us who are using IE should consider Protected Mode or upping your Security to high.  Pop by The Register for a link to the full description of the vulnerability.

Internet_Explorer_7_Logo.png

"The flaw means the browser “may corrupt memory in a way that could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user within Internet Explorer"."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

BUILD 2014: Windows Sideloading Changes Announced

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | April 7, 2014 - 10:11 PM |
Tagged: BUILD 2014, microsoft, windows, winRT

A few days ago, I reported on the news from BUILD 2014 that Windows would see the return of the Start Menu and windowed apps. These features, which are not included with today's Windows 8.1 Update 1, will come in a later version. While I found these interface changes interesting, I reiterated that the user interface was not my concern: Windows Store certification was. I did leave room for a little hope, however, because Microsoft scheduled an announcement of changes. It was focused on enterprise customers, so I did not hold my breath.

And some things did change... but not enough for the non-enterprise user.

tiles2.jpg

Microsoft is still hanging on to the curation of apps, except for "domain-joined" x86 Enterprise and x86 Pro PCs; RT devices and "not domain-joined" computers will only allow sideloaded apps with a key. This certificate (key) is not free for everyone. Of course, this does not have anything to do with native x86 applications. Thankfully, the prospect of WinRT APIs eventually replacing Win32, completely, seems less likely now. It could still be possible if Windows Store has a major surge in popularity but, as it stands right now, Microsoft seems to be spending less effort containing x86 for an eventual lobotomy.

If it does happen, it would be a concern for a variety of reasons:

  1. Governments, foreign or domestic, who pressure Microsoft to ban encryption software.

  2. Internet Explorer's Trident would have no competition to adopt new web standards.

  3. Cannot create an app for just a friend or family member (unless it's a web app in IE).

  4. When you build censorship, the crazies will come with demands to abuse it.

So I am still concerned about the future of Windows. I am still not willing to believe that Microsoft will support x86-exclusive applications until the end of time. If that happens, and sideloading is not publicly available, and web standards are forced into stagnation by a lack of alternative web browsers, then I can see bad times ahead. I will not really feel comfortable until a definitive pledge to allow users to control what can go on their device, even if Microsoft (or people with some form of authority over them) dislikes it, is made.

But I know that many disagree with me. What are your thoughts? Comment away!

Source: ZDNet

Build 2014: Microsoft Presents New Start Menu

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | April 2, 2014 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: BUILD 2014, microsoft, windows, start menu

Microsoft had numerous announcements during their Build 2014 opening keynote, which makes sense as they needed to fill the three hours that they assigned for it. In this post, I will focus on the upcoming changes to the Windows desktop experience. Two, albeit related, features were highlighted: the ability to run Modern Apps in a desktop window, and the corresponding return of the Start Menu.

I must say, the way that they grafted Start Screen tiles on the Start Menu is pretty slick. The Start Menu, since Windows Vista, has felt awkward with its split between recently used applications and common shortcuts in a breakout on the right with an expanded "All Programs" submenu handle on the bottom. It is functional, and it works perfectly fine, but something just felt weird about it. This looks a lot cleaner, in my opinion, especially since its width is variable according to how many applications are pinned.

Of course, my major complaint with Windows 8.x has nothing to do with the interface. There has not been any discussion around sideloading applications to get around Windows Store certification requirements. This is a major concern for browser vendors and should be one for many others, from hobbyists who might want to share their creations with one or two friends or family members, rather than everyone in an entire Windows Store region, or citizens of countries whose governments might pressure Microsoft to ban encryption or security applications.

That said, there is a session tomorrow called "Deploying and Managing Enterprise Apps", discussing changes app sideloading in Windows 8.1. Enterprise users are already allowed sideloading certificates from Microsoft. Maybe it will be expanded? I am not holding my breath.

Keep an eye out, because there should be a lot of news over the next couple of days.

Source: ZDNet

Mozilla Dumps "Metro" Version of Firefox

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | March 16, 2014 - 12:27 AM |
Tagged: windows, mozilla, microsoft, Metro

If you use the Firefox browser on a PC, you are probably using its "Desktop" application. They also had a version for "Modern" Windows 8.x that could be used from the Start Screen. You probably did not use it because fewer than 1000 people per day did. This is more than four orders of magnitude smaller than the number of users for Desktop's pre-release builds.

Yup, less than one-thousandth.

22-mozilla-2.jpg

Jonathan Nightingale, VP of Firefox, stated that Mozilla would not be willing to release the product without committing to its future development and support. There was not enough interest to take on that burden and it was not forecast to have a big uptake in adoption, either.

From what we can see, it's pretty flat.

The code will continue to exist in the organization's Mercurial repository. If "Modern" Windows gets a massive influx of interest, they could return to what they had. It should also be noted that there never was a version of Firefox for Windows RT. Microsoft will not allow third-party rendering engines as a part of their Windows Store certification requirements (everything must be based on Trident, the core of Internet Explorer). That said, this is also true of iOS and Firefox Junior exists with these limitations. It's not truly Firefox, little more than a re-skinned Safari (as permitted by Apple), but it exists. I have heard talks about Firefox Junior for Windows RT, Internet Explorer reskinned by Mozilla, but not to any detail. The organization is very attached to its own technology because, if whoever made the engine does not support new features or lags in JavaScript performance, the re-skins have nothing to leverage it.

Paul Thurrott of WinSupersite does not blame Mozilla for killing "Metro" Firefox. He acknowledges that they gave it a shot and did not see enough pre-release interest to warrant a product. He places some of the blame on Microsoft for the limitations it places on browsers (especially on Windows RT). In my opinion, this is just a symptom of the larger problem of Windows post-7. Hopefully, Microsoft can correct these problems and do so in a way that benefits their users (and society as a whole).

Source: Mozilla