Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 1, 2012 - 09:11 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: webmail, outlook, microsoft, metro ui, hotmail, email
Hotmail, the latest iteration of Microsoft's web-based email service will soon be getting a user interface overhaul that takes many cues from the company's upcoming metro-ized Windows 8 operating system. In fact, it very closely resembles the new Mail client in Windows 8 as well as the new Outlook client in the Customer Preview of Office 2013 that I have been using for a a couple of weeks now.
Along with the (in my opinion, much needed) user interface updates comes yet another rebranding. Microsoft is ditching the "Hotmail" name in favor of the more professional-sounding "Outlook.com" webmail name. Now in public beta, users can switch over to the new Outlook.com webmail if they want, but it is not yet mandatory. Reportedly, all Hotmail users will eventually be moved over the new Outlook webmail once the service is in final stages of development. As Ars Technica points out, this is not Microsoft's first rebranding. In fact, it is somewhere around the fifth rebranding/iteration. Here's hoping that it is the last and that they manage to successfully brand the service–and do not tarnish the Outlook name.
I decided to take a look at the new Outlook.com interface for myself, and you can too. To switch over, log into your current Hotmail account, click on the "Options" link in the upper-right-hand side of the window and choose "Upgrade to Outlook.com."
The new interface is very flat, and much more simplified versus the old Hotmail. The current Hotmail UI leaves a lot to be desired. It has a rather large advertising panel on the right, rather unattractive scroll bars that do not really fit in with the design's color scheme, and links along the top for other Microsoft services and email functions (like reply, junk, and categories) that can be difficult to read and find. It is a rather dated design by today's standards, especially considering Microsoft's hard push for updated UIs on other platforms–hence the Outlook.com refresh.
As mentioned before, the Outlook.com webmail UI is very similar to the Metro Mail application that comes with Windows 8. It is broken into a four panel design. The folders and quick views links from Hotmail and the email header list is carried over and given a flat Metro design with stylized scroll bars and a folder list with a light gray background. The third panel serves as the reading pane and sits in between the email list and advertising panel–which thankfully moves to text-based ads only. The contents of your emails are displayed in this panel. It is not a fully responsive HTML design, but it does scale fairly well as the browser window is resized.
Along the top of the screen is a blue bar that holds links for email actions (reply, junk, delete, ect), an Outlook button, Messenger button, Settings button, and account settings (when clicking on your name in the upper-right). The white text on the blue background is much easier to read than the current Hotmail design thanks to the slightly larger text and the better contrast.
When hovering over the Outlook button, a small arrow appears. If you click on that arrow, you get a pop up menu with tiles much like Windows 8's Metro UI for Mail, People, Calendar, and SkyDrive. Unfortunately, the Calendar and SkyDrive links simply go to the respective web sites. And those web sites have not been updated with the new Outlook design.
The following screenshot shows the interface used for creating a new email. Again, you get a flat two panel design with a top navigation bar. On the left, you can add recipients from your contacts or by typing them in manually, while on the right you can use the text editor to add rich text and HTML or compose plain text emails.
Outlook.com has a new People tab as well, where you can manage contacts and chat using the built-in messenger client. It is the only other tile that has received a facelift, the calendar and SkyDrive pages are still using the old/current design. It forgoes the blue and white theme for an orange and white color scheme, but maintains the paneled design. On the left you have a list of contacts, and in the middle it lists details the selected contacts. The right-most panel does away with advertisement in favor of a web-based messaging client.
One nice new feature is further integration with the various social networks (if you are into that sort of thing, of course). You can now add contacts from your Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter profile(s). Further, the messenger client support talking with Windows Messenger, Facebook Chat, and Skype (coming in a future update) contacts.
In short, the new Microsoft webmail interface is a much welcomed update. Scrolling and navigation is noticeably smoother than the current Hotmail UI. Opening messages feels quicker as well. Opening the Messaging tab actually replaces the advertising panel completely, which is a nice touch. As mentioned above, the scroll bars are different. They appear to be a bit wider, and very much two dimensional, but the bars actually look much better than the current Hotmail design as they fit nicely into the aesthetic and color scheme.
The only (rather minor) issue is that, because of the larger text, I cannot, at a glance, check for new messages in the various folders I use. On the other hand, the text is easier to read and the scrolling is fast enough that it's only a minor thing. Further, despite the new Outlook.com name Microsoft's webmail does not support IMAP protocols. And being web-based, if your internet connection goes down you lose access to your email–there is no Google Gears support here.
While the new interface is not enough to bring me away from using a desktop client (which funnily enough is Outlook 2013), it is vastly improved versus the current Hotmail website and is worth switching over to. For being a webmail client, it is a very smooth, and dare I say slick, experience.
More information on Outlook 2013 desktop client–which Outlook 2013 seems to take inspiration from design-wise– I mentioned can be found using the outlook and office 2013 tags. Stay tuned for more Outlook.com information as the beta progresses. What features would you like to see? (I'd like to see the new UI carried over to the SkyDrive site!) Once you have gotten a chance to try the new Outlook.com beta, let us know what you think of it in the comments below (no registration required).
Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2012 - 02:42 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: streaming media, nexus q, google io, google
Google’s Nexus Q was launched at this year’s Google I/O developer conference. The US-assembled streaming media
box sphere was given out to developers and journalists attending the event to play around with, with general consumer availability set for mid-July. The device is quite the feat of engineering, and packs some high-end hardware. Aside from being built in the US, a good portion of the $299 cost comes from the inclusion of a 25 watt amplifier that is reportedly of “audiophile quality.”
The hardware is all well and good, but the software component of the Nexus Q currently leaves a lot to be desired. It is heavily dependent on Google’s Play services. In fact, without hacking the device it can only play media streamed from Google Play’s cloud server.
As a result, many speculated (as did I) that, while an interesting bit of hardware, the lack of support for playing your other media would severely detract from its desirability. The multi-room functionality, group playlists, and amplifier are neat, but the Nexus Q would be worth much more if it could play back media from other sources–especially with a $299 asking price.
According to Wired, Google has taken the feedback to heart. It has announced that it is delaying the launch in order to add new functionality to the device. In an email to those that pre-ordered, the company stated that:
“In response, we have decided to postpone the consumer launch of Nexus Q while we work on making it even better.”
The company has pulled the pre-order option from the Google Play page, but those that have existing pre-orders will still be getting the device. Within the next few weeks, people that pre-ordered will be getting a Nexus Q–and here’s the best part–at no cost (I really wish I would have gone through with that pre-order now hehe). Google has decided to extend the Google Preview program to everyone that pre-ordered the device. As such, people will be getting free Nexus Q devices to play around with.
Unfortunately, Google has not stated exactly what new functionality they will be adding to the final Nexus Q devices. Also, there is no word on exactly when they will start to go on sale again.
As it is packing similar hardware to the Galaxy Nexus, it is capable of running the full Android OS and its related applications. It does seem likely that Google is working on adding the ability to run other Android applications besides the existing Play Music and Play Movies & TV apps. Considering Android already supports VLC, Spotify, Netflix, Remote Potato and other media applications, they would add considerable value to the Nexus Q should Google allow such apps to be installed.
Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2012 - 12:57 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: thermaltake, laser mouse, gaming mouse, fan mouse, black element cyclone edition
There has been quite a bit of mouse news this week. Jeremy posted some information on Corsair’s Vengeance mice, Microsoft announced new touch-sensitive mice, Razer launched its high-end Ouroboros gaming mouse, and now it is HSF and peripheral manufacturer Thermaltake’s turn. The company is launching a new Black Element Cyclone Edition under its eSports brand that should be available later this month.
Packing a laser and a 6,200dpi sensor, the Thermaltake Black Element Cyclone Edition resembles most gaming mice, with LED lighting, dedicated DPI buttons, side buttons, scroll wheel (also LED-lit), and left and right mouse buttons. The LED lights can be changed between one of five colors, and up to five individual 4.5 gram weights can be added to the base to adjust the weight–and feel–of the mouse. It further has 128kb of onboard memory storage for up to 45 macro keys in 5 game profiles.
All standard stuff there, as far as gaming mice go.
Where the Thermaltake mouse stands out is a micro USB port on the front right side of the mouse and its accompanying peripheral. A small fan attachment plugs into the mouse to cool your hand during long gaming sessions. The 30mm (30x30x10mm) fan sports a claimed 2.7 CFM at 6,000 RPM. According to the specifications, it is not very loud at 21.7 dB. For those that get sweaty palms during long work hours or gaming sessions, this looks like an interesting design. The fan is removable as well, making it portable and the mouse is suitable for use without the fan.
According to UK site Bit-Tech, the Thermaltake Cyclone Edition mouse will be available later this month for $80 in the US. Would you find the fan useful, or do you think it’s just a gimmick? You can find more photos and information on the mouse over at the Thermaltake
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Systems | July 31, 2012 - 08:35 PM | Scott Michaud
Eurogamer and Digital Foundry believe that a next-generation Xbox developer kit somehow got into the hands of an internet user looking to fence it for $10,000. If the rumors are true, a few interesting features are included in the kit: an Intel CPU and an NVIDIA graphics processor.
A little PC perspective on console gaming news…
If the source and people who corroborate it are telling the truth: somehow Microsoft lost control of a single developer’s kit for their upcoming Xbox platform. Much like their Cupertino frenemies who lost an iPhone 4 in a bar which was taken and sold for $5000 to a tech blog, the current owner of the Durango devkit is looking for a buyer for a mere $10000. It is unlikely he found it on a bar stool.
One further level of irony, the Xbox 360 alpha devkit were repurposed Apple Mac Pros.
Image source: DaE as per its own in-image caption.
Alpha developer kits will change substantially externally but often do give clues to what to expect internally.
The first Xbox 360 software demonstrations were performed on slightly altered Apple Mac Pros. At that time, Apple was built on a foundation of PowerPC by IBM while the original Xbox ran Intel hardware. As it turned out, the Xbox 360 was based on the PowerPC architecture.
Huh, looks like a PC.
The leaked developer kit for the next Xbox is said to be running X86 hardware and an NVIDIA graphics processor. 8GB of RAM is said to be present on the leaked kit albeit that only suggests that the next Xbox will have less than 8GB of RAM. With as cheap as RAM is these days -- a great concern for PC gamers would be that Microsoft would load the console to the brim with memory and remove the main technical advantage of our platform. Our PCs will still have that advantage once our gamers stop being scared of 64-bit compatibility issues. As a side note, those specifications are fairly identical to the equally nebulous specs rumored for Valve’s Steam Box demo kit.
The big story is the return to x86 and NVIDIA.
AMD is not fully ruled out of the equation if they manage to provide Microsoft with a bid they cannot refuse. Of course practically speaking AMD only has an iceball’s chance in Hell of have a CPU presence in the upcoming Xbox – upgraded from snowball. More likely than not Intel will pick up the torch that IBM kept warm for them with their superior manufacturing.
PC gamers might want to pay close attention from this point on…
Contrast the switch for Xbox from PowerPC to X86 with the recent commentary from Gabe Newell and Rob Pardo of Blizzard. As Mike Capps has allured to – prior to the launch of Unreal Tournament 3 – Epic is concerned about the console mindset coming to the PC. It is entirely possible that Microsoft could be positioning the Xbox platform closer to the PC. Perhaps there are plans for cross-compatibility in exchange for closing the platform around certification and licensing fees?
Moving the Xbox platform closer to the PC in hardware specifications could renew their attempts to close the platform as has failed with their Games for Windows Live initiative. What makes the PC platform great is the lack of oversight about what can be created for it and the ridiculous time span for compatibility for what has been produced for it.
It might be no coincidence that the two companies who are complaining about Windows 8 are the two companies who design their games to be sold and supported for decades after launch.
And if the worst does happen, PC gaming has been a stable platform despite repetitive claims of its death – but could the user base be stable enough to handle a shift to Linux? I doubt that most would even understand the implications of proprietary platforms on art to even consider it. What about Adobe and the other software and hardware tool companies who have yet to even consider Linux as a viable platform?
The dark tunnel might have just gotten longer.
Subject: General Tech | July 31, 2012 - 04:54 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: razer ouroboros, razer, mouse, gaming mouse
Gaming peripheral company Razer recently released a new high-end gaming mouse called the Razer Ouroboros. Named after an ancient symbol of a serpent or dragon, the Ouroboros is by no means using outdated technology. For $129 USD or €129.99 in Europe, the Ouroboros offers up wired or wireless connectivity, and a 12 hour battery life in an ambidextrous design. Users can adjust the length of the mouse as well as the angle of the back arch. Additionally, the Ouroboros mouse comes with one of two side panels for each side (four total) that can be switched out to make it right or left handed.
The new Razer mouse comes from the company's Mamba pedigree. Specifically, it is packing an improved version of the 4G Dual Sensor technology that boasts up to 8,200dpi resolution. In the wireless mode, the Ouroboros features a 1ms response time and a claimed 1000 Hz polling rate. It is powered by a single AA battery that can provide up to 12 hours of use on a single charge for long gaming sessions (general desktop use and standby time should extend the battery life much more). The Ouroboros also includes LED lighting, left and right mouse buttons, a scroll wheel, and dedicated DPI switching buttons. The company's Synapse 2.0 software is also compatible with Razer's new mouse.
The Ouroboros will be available some time in Q4 2012 for $129.99. Razer has set up a website for more information and photos of the new gaming mouse which you can find at razerzone.com/ouroboros. As a long-time user of the original (pre-dual sensor tech) Mamba, the new Ouroboros looks to be a promising gaming mouse. Just about the only feature it doesn't seem to have is adjustable weights, which always seemed like a neat feature to have.
Is it worth $129? It's hard to say without getting my hands on it in person, but it certainly looks good! What do you think?
Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2012 - 04:05 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: input, corsair, gaming mouse, keyboard, vengeance, cherry mx red, k60, k90, m60, m90
LAN OC have been busily working their way through Corsair's Vengeance series of gaming peripherals, both the line of keyboards and mice. They start off with the K60 and K90, both mechanical keyboards using Cherry MX Red switches and sporting customizable red rubber WASD buttons with a slant on them to make your fingers more comfortable for long nights of FPS action. Only the K90 sports a three rows of six programmable buttons on the left hand side for use in MMOs, the K60 is more regularly sized.
From there they move to the gaming mice, specifically the Vengeance M60 and M90 which bear many similarities. The software suite which accompanies both mice gives you impressive control over the button programming and sensitivity of the mice and goes further with tools such as one that lets you rate the performance of the surface you are mousing on. Read on to see the physical differences between these two mice.
"Every once in a while you find a company that is able to take a normal product that everyone has and change it in a way that makes everyone wonder why it was never done before. As much as it pains me to say this, Apple was one of those companies. In the pc components business there are a few as well, but the company that stands out the most to me would be Corsair. Every time corsair enters a new market, I find myself impressed with what they have to offer. Even though it seems like they are always jumping into random markets, they take their time and research what everyone has to offer and what people would really want to see. This week we are going to take a look at their new Vengeance lineup of mice and keyboards to see if they have done the same in these new markets. Today we are going to start with their new keyboards, let’s dig in and see what they are all about."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Corsair Vengeance K90 Gaming Keyboard Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- Corsair Vengeance M90 MMO Gaming Mouse Review @ Techgage
- Gigabyte Aivia Krypton Gaming Mouse @ techPowerUp
- Gigabyte Osmium mechanical keyboard @ Guru of 3D
- Manhattan Stealth Touch Mouse review: too much touch, too little action? @ Hardware.info
- Xebec Tech HTPC Mini Bluetooth Keyboard @ Kitguru
- Razer Taipan Gaming Mouse Review @ HardwareHeaven
- TT eSports White Ra Special Tactics Mousepad @ XSReviews
- Thrustmaster T500 RS Racing Wheel & Pedals + Ferrari F1 Wheel Attachment PS3/PC Review @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2012 - 01:07 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: fud, skype, microsoft, office 2013
It is highly unlikely that the reason many of Skype's Supernodes have been moved to the inside of Microsoft data centres is to allow them to record your Skype conversations. Consider instead the numerous guides on the net to disable the ability of Skype to co-opt your PC into being a temporary supernode. With many users opting out of that necessary piece of Skype's infrastructure it could possibly cause quality of service issues with Skype. As Microsoft is planning on bundling Skype in with the new version of Office, it makes sense that they want at least some supernodes of which they can guarantee a certainly level of QoS to their paying customers. As The Register points out, they need to find some way to recoup the expense of purchasing the company.
The patent that Microsoft holds to allow for the silent recording of transmissions between two computers, like VoIP, is of some concern but perhaps not as much as some other coverage would have you believe. The patent application was filed almost 2 years before the purchase of Skype; while it could certainly be used on Skype connections it seems unlikely that it was designed specifically with Skype in mind. Perhaps a more logical application of this patent would be to offer a way for business users to record conference calls natively and not need to rely on third party software to enable them to do so. Skype has offered up unencrypted recordings to law enforcement agencies in the past but only did so in special circumstances. It is likely to continue to do so for as long as the laws of the land consider that process to be legal but the likelihood of general recording of all Skype conversations is almost nil.
"Skype has issued a formal denial to reports that it has been allowing law enforcement to listen in on users' calls following a change in its system architecture.
"Some media stories recently have suggested Skype may be acting improperly or based on ulterior motives against our users' interests. Nothing could be more contrary to the Skype philosophy," said Mark Gillett, Skype's chief development and operations officer in a blog post."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Gabe Newell calls Win8 a 'catastrophe,' wants Linux to thrive @ The Tech Report
- Chip and PIN keypads 'easily fooled' with counterfeit cards @ The Register
- Beginners Guides: Virtualized Windows 8 CP Installation with Oracle VirtualBox @ PCSTATS
- The Android Dilemma - An Open Platform Open to Piracy? @ Techgage
- Buffalo WHR-G300N V2 + WLI-UC-G450 @ Rbmods
- Mac OS X Mountain Lion @ The Inquirer
- Apple OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Review @ TechReviewSource
- Ebode IP Vision 38 Camera Review @ Madshrimps
- Win a Patriot Intel Extreme Masters Memory Kit @ Hi Tech Legion
Subject: General Tech | July 29, 2012 - 10:21 PM | Ryan Shrout
On Friday evening at the NVIDIA campus in Santa Clara, CA, the company hosted a Mechwarrior online event bringing a lot of the hardcore fans. The game's developer and publisher were on-hand to give new gamers some direction and to help organize the evenings tournaments and prizing.
NVIDIA provided pizza and beer for those gamers of legal limit and supplied a great environment with which to either watch or participate in the online battles of the upcoming Mechwarrior Online.
Of course there were tons of machines setup for getting some hands on time with the game and systems were shipped in from MAINGEAR, Geekbox, Shuttle and more.
I was able to stop by the event while I only got a short amount of play time in, the audience was certainly excited about the pending release next month.
Subject: General Tech | July 29, 2012 - 09:45 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: ROG, Republic of Gamers, asus
Over the weekend PC Perspective visited with ASUS for a stop on their Republic of Gamers tour, ROG @ Fry's Electronics. On hand at the event were ASUS, Patriot, Antec and NVIDIA to showcase some exciting new hardware, perform some demonstrations both inside and outside the store and of course, offer up tons of prizes and giveaways to the DIY enthusiasts.
Besides the $0.25 hot dogs and sodas (proceeds of which went to local community kids sports teams), I stopped by on Saturday to host a panel of Q&A with a rep from each of the individual companies involved.
After going through some introductions and gauging the knowledge of the audience (standing room only!) we took questions and raffled off some free hardware as well.
Overall I thought the event was a pretty good success and there was a great amount of participation from the local hardware enthusiasts. If you want to get involved in the market, get hands on with hardware you haven't seen yet and talk directly with the companies that affect your gaming experience, participating in events like this (and future ROG Experience Tour stops) is a fantastic way to do it!
Subject: General Tech | July 28, 2012 - 02:49 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: wireless display, wifi alliance, widi, tegra 3, nvidia, miracast
NVIDIA has announced its support for a new wireless display technology called Miracast. The creation of the Wi-Fi Alliance and its partners, Miracast is a wireless technology that allows direct connections (sans router) between a Wi-Fi enabled device and a Wi-Fi enabled television set. It is a much more open standard than the proprietary technologies like Intel’s WiDi. Devices will require certification much like other Wi-Fi routers and wireless adapters. The Miracast standard certification program is set to launch soon with the standard’s specifications published sometime in August. Any device manufacturer will be able to use the standard and go through certification, though whether or not we will see the high adoption rate that many are hoping for remains to be seen.
Interestingly, it looks as though NVIDIA is going to be one of the first adopters of the Miracast standard by integrating it into its Tegra 3-powered mobile devices. Using the Tegra 3 “4+1”-core System on a Chip, NVIDIA plans to use the chip to encode the audio and video information and pass it to the Wi-Fi stack where it is passed, via Wi-Fi, to the wireless display. The company wants you to be able to use its mobile tablets and smartphones as a controller to be able to play media and even games on the big screen. According to a recent blog post, NVIDIA is “actively working with our OEM partners and Miracast receiver vendors to bring this technology to market.” The company has further promised more specific updates once the Wi-Fi Alliance finalizes the specification.
Miracast sounds good, as an open wireless display standard, but it is going to face some stiff competition from proprietary technologies. Apple’s Air Play, AMD's Wireless Display, Intel’s WiDi, and software like Android Transporter are all currently in use, and it is unlikely that those companies will forego the invested technology for an open standard. Miracast can certainly still work as a standard for all other devices, but that raises some questions. Mainly, whether or not a number of alternative devices using Miracast will be a large enough interest to compel display makers to support it. Hence my surprise when NVIDIA pledged its support, as it has the potential to be a big player in helping Miracast succeed. I'll remain skeptically optimistic on this one, but I'm curious what you think. Do you think that it will be successful as a wireless display standard?
You can read more about Miracast in this whitepaper (PDF).