Friday, January 25, 2013

Ten Enhancements to Give Surface Pro the Traction

Almost three months have passed by since Microsoft launched Surface tablet in the market. And as per the claims from the software tycoon, its enhanced version, the Surface Pro, was supposed to be released on Jan. 26, 2013. Although as per the latest news, the launch of Surface Pro is delayed a bit (Feb. 9 is now the launch date), I think it will be a good idea to see how Surface Pro is more enhanced than its junior. Oh! I forgot to add that I got a chance to look at Surface Pro at the recently ended CES 2013 at Las Vegas.

Operating System Is Pretty Fast
Should we start our walk with operating systems? As the name suggests, Surface RT has Windows RT OS that is built to run on ARM-based tablets and PCs. The OS works flawlessly with apps available in Windows store. Unfortunately Surface RT lacks the speed that we expect from modern-day tablets. The Pro in Surface Pro is nothing but Windows 8 Pro. Although the tile-based interface is very much central here as well, yet this tab can work like a regular desktop also from where you can access your older applications with ease. Usage of programs and apps available in the Windows Store is an easy task.  And obviously it is much speedier than its predecessor. 

Surface Pro has Better Productivity 
Let us now move further to the productivity part of both the devices. Windows 8 Surface RT tablet has 8 hours of battery life and arrives installed with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT. At the same time, you will find Surface Pro supporting full office experience as it runs Microsoft Outlook, Word, SharePoint Designer, PowerPoint, and more. 

A Better Choice in Application Part as Well 
Can I now take your attention to the application part in both gadgets? Well, let us first have a look at Windows RT. It includes Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview along with Windows Mail and Messaging services. Adding more charm are SkyDrive, Internet Explorer 10, Bing, Xbox Music, video, and games. You won’t regret selecting Surface Pro as all these applications are available in it as well. So, no worries on that part. Apart from that, Surface Pro also runs all programs that you currently run on Windows 7. That is something lovely to hear. 

No Need to Think Twice on Security
I think it is now time for me to introduce the security part of Surface Pro. Surface RT has several notable security features including device encryption to ensure that the data stored in it is intact and Windows Defender to keep an eye on online threats.  However, with Surface Pro security reaches the next level. The tablet has AppLocker and Group Policy to safeguard data inside. In addition, there is BitLocker to encrypt data in hard drive so that all your stuff is protected to the maximum.  Furthermore, Windows 8 Pro is equally compatible with third party security, management, and monitoring applications. Not to mention, the security features of Surface RT are also there. How’s that for a deal?

Connectivity is Important, Also the Battery
Always connected – as a punch line, it is music to ears. A big issue with Surface RT is that it is always connected; even while in standby mode. Of course, this ends up eating a lot of battery. Tell me frankly, haven’t you found it irritating. As if the company read your mind, Microsoft has modified this part in Surface Pro. The connectivity in this gadget goes off while hibernating, thereby preserving the battery. 

Screen Size is the Same but Resolution Is Better
Microsoft hasn't made any change to the screen size. It remains the same 10.6 inch. However the resolution in Surface Pro (1,920 x 1,080) is much better than Surface RT (1,366 x 768).  That is something I know that you love to hear.

Even the Basic Specs Are Better 
As now we have discussed the screen size, and the resolution of both Surface Pro and Surface RT, I guess it is time to move further to memory, and storage capacity of both tablets. Surface Pro has Intel Core i5 and has a storage capacity of 64 GB and a RAM of 4 GB. This is almost double than the memory and storage capacity of Surface RT. You already know that Surface RT has ARM processor, a storage capacity of 32 GB, and a memory of 2 GB. Finally, 720 mm webcam makes way for 1080 pixel camcorder.  

Minor Enhancements in Ports As Well
The stereo speakers, micro SDXC card slot, headset jack, and cover port available in Surface RT are available in Surface Pro as well. Yes, HD video out port is replaced with Mini DisplayPort and there are 2 USB 3.0 ports and 1 USB 2.0 ports in comparison to 1 full-size USB 3.0 in RT.  

And what’s This Surface Pen?
Unlike RT, Surface Pro comes with a stylus which Microsoft calls Surface Pen. The pressure sensitive device has palm-rejection technology integrated and clips magnetically to the charging port.

Extra Bling with Touch Covers
Only for a particular period, if you like to spend a bit extra, touch covers will have special laser-etched patterns. The touch covers are good to own only if you have your own keyboard and mouse. Likewise, you can add that extra bling to your Pro for $129.99. 

Finally, a Few Dampeners
The more advanced; the more expensive. As Surface Pro is advanced than Surface RT in features, it comes at a higher price tag. When a RT tab hits the stand at a tag starting at $499, Pro will reach your hand at rates starting $899. I don’t think price factor will be a distracter as Surface Pro is pretty charming, both in appearance and the features it carries.

The battery life of Surface Pro, however, is a dampener. Even Microsoft has admitted that the Core processor has reduced the battery to half. It’s a big time setback for all geeks that love MS products. 

All said and done, though the time gap between both devices is just a little over three months, Microsoft has made adequate changes in Surface Pro to make it look more appealing and advanced than its sibling. In my view Surface Pro is the real thing whereas Surface RT was just a starter. Don’t rely on my words though! Wait for the deal day to come to figure out on your own. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Windows Phone 8 is Your Kid’s Playmate

Smartphones come with several superb features that are enough to captivate us, the users. Here we ‘users’ fall into the category of ‘adults’. Quite often, I have wondered why no smartphone maker has considered kids while launching their handset models. After all, they form the real ‘family’. (Probably smartphones are only meant for adults per se). Anyways, now I am happy.  Finally, Microsoft has heard my plea by introducing Kids Corner in Windows Phone 8, a special zone dedicated to, yes, the kids. And in my view, Kids Corner is a real blessing for anyone who has a little devil at home eagerly waiting for him to reach back. Here's how you set up the Kid's Corner in your phone.

Generally kids use a phone to keep themselves entertained. But most among us are hesitant to hand over anything pricey  let alone a smartphone, as we fear they may do naughty things with it. For instance, they may erase an important file in your phone that can lead to non-repairable damages, both personally and officially. Or sometimes they may send a message to your boss putting you in an embarrassing state. Now with Kids Corner in your Windows Phone 8, it is time to throw away all such fears.  Kids Corner is the app specially meant for your tiny ones where he can keep himself busy with games, music, and movies. It divides your phone into two - one for you and the other for your child. And don’t worry; your part is secure with a PIN. Here's how you do it.

Opening Kid's Corner on Windows Phone 8 is simple. You need to just swipe the finger from right to left. Now once you hand over the smartphone to your child, his access is restricted to only the apps available in Kids Corner. He can catch up with his favorite games, songs, or movies on the device, letting you continue with your job. Clicking quality snaps will help him bud his photographic skills; but only with your permission. You control what he does in Kids Corner by including only the apps you feel he needs.

It is a fact that not everyone wants Kid's Corner on their handset. So obviously Microsoft has disabled it by default on Windows Phone 8. And enabling the feature as you need is not a tough task at all. You can customize the tile as per the preference of your naughty little heart.  Adding more charm, your kid can change the wallpaper, theme color as well as the name that appears on the lock screen as he wishes. Now you got why Kids Corner is a perfect buddy for your child.

What I found interesting in Kids Corner is the unavailability of Internet Explorer Mobile. Making a call or creating a message is also impossible here. This restricts handset misuse to a large extent. In case you feel like closing the Kids Corner app, just press the device power button, and it is done. It is as simple as that. Unfortunately you can create just one Kids Corner locale on Windows Phone 8. It means if you have multiple kids, the Kids Corner needs to be shared among them.

So the next time when you are on a journey, and your kid asks something similar to what is screened on the photo on the right, keep your tiny cub in good company with your Windows Phone 8. He will find himself lost in Kids Corner without troubling you a bit. Yes, trouble can arise at the time when you urgently need your phone, your little devil refuses to hand it back to you.  

Is Kids Corner just restricted for your little ones? Of course not! This app can be beneficial if a friend wants to play the new game you've downloaded on your phone. Just tweak the settings of Kids Corner accordingly and relax while the chap unwinds himself.

Check out the video underneath to decipher why exactly you need a phone with Kids Corner in it. As far as our recommendation goes; well, buy Windows Phone now. It's definitely worth the money.

Image by: Mattshomes

Monday, December 24, 2012

Windows 8: Security a Step Ahead

Last few weeks of so had been really exciting. Windows 8, the newest operating system from Microsoft debuted along with its mobile cousin, the Windows Phone 8. It was really a pleasure to bring to you its latest features. But amidst the hoopla surrounding the event, we forgot to cover up one really critical aspect of Windows 8, its security quotient.

No, we don’t mean to take anything away from the efforts of the engineers of Microsoft, but it’s a known fact that hackers and virus makers have always had real affinity to the Windows operating system. The software whale never kept blinds eye to this fact though. In fact each coming version of Windows had featured improved security and the efforts though slowly, were showing results. For instance, Windows 7 is indeed really secure; no wonder it’s still selling like hot cake in the market. And now it’s time for Windows 8, the most secure Windows-based OS till date.  So how far the Redmond-based company has gone in its attempt to ensure protection of data in Windows 8? As always, here are some of my findings.

First up is the enhanced avatar of Windows Defender. If your remember Windows 7 has a malware buster in the form of free-to-use Microsoft Security Essentials and a spyware in the form of Windows Defender. This very Defender is now a full-fledged security application in Windows 8.  It comes bundled at no extra cost. So the moment you upgrade to Windows 8, your PC is protected. So does that mean permanent vacation for antivirus vendors? Well, according to Microsoft it surely is the case. However other software vendors are obviously not a party to it.

Regardless of the antimalware application you use, Windows 8 loads it first up in the boot process through Early Launch Anti-Malware (ELAM).

Next is Secure Boot, which is meant to protect PCs from low-level exploits, rootkits, and bootloaders. It is a security process shared between Windows 8 and Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). Secure Boot does a simple thing; it requires all applications booting in the machine to have a valid digital certificate every time they load. 

Efficacy of such security features will be gauged in some time but the concept of having ELAM and Secure Boot work in tandem to impart fool-proof security is, as per security pundits, fundamentally sound.

Other notable security features in Windows 8 include a Smart Screen. Any file you intend to download via the Internet will first be screened through this Smart Screen before it gets a piece of your machine’s hard drive. With the inclusion of Picture passwords, even the passwords have also become trendy in Windows 8. Have a favorite pic of you and your family as the password, pin up three gestures and viola, you are all set. Finally, the AppContainer ensures that an app stays confined to a particular place and do not mingle with other apps. The AppContainer also filters apps and check if any dangerous infections exist in them before they get installed in your PC.

As you can comprehend by now, the software developers at Microsoft have truly done their bit to have the arsenal at place, so to speak. Only time will tell as to how effective will this arsenal be. We will surely keep an eye and will keep you posted.

Image by: Comedy_Nose 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Windows 8 Pro: It’s Professional This Time

As promised earlier, Windows 8 Pro will arrive in January 2013. Microsoft is pretty confident this time, thanks to the initial positive response its reimagined OS has got this time around. Though the gap between both Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro is just few months, Microsoft has done adequate changes in Windows 8 Pro to make it new, fresh, and more advanced than Windows 8. As the name ‘Pro’ suggests, Microsoft is targeting professionals this time. And what makes more alluring is that you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro at just $40. Unbelievable; isn't it? Yes, you are right in your assumption. My focus here today is Windows 8 Pro. 

No prize for guessing that Windows 8 Pro has more advanced features than Windows 8. Otherwise why would they launch a new product? Let us begin our journey through Windows 8 Pro from Media Center. As the name suggests, it is an entertainment hub for users. A professional like you may require moving a lot. Those dull moments at airport lounge or hotel lobbies are things of past. With Media Center, you can listen to your latest favorite hits or catch up with television programs on travel. Wait, but this Media Center thingy was there is Windows Vista and 7 as well, so what’s new? Agreed, being a paid product in Windows 8 it’s free in its Pro version, at least for the time being though.

Next up is the BitLocker and BitLocker To Go features.  As someone who is required to travel quiet frequently, there are chances of your laptop getting misplaced or stolen. In case the laptop with sensitive information falls into the hands of any stranger, he can access to it and can take away all data inside. To safeguard the data in your stolen gadget, Microsoft had introduced BitLocker technology in Windows Vista Business edition. This feature was later extended in Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate editions and was called BitLocker To Go to protect data on portable storage devices such as USB thumb drives.  Now both BitLocker and BitLocker To Go features are available in Windows 8 Pro offering full-disk encryption. Only admin can turn the feature on and off, leaving no scope for a stranger to gain access into the data.  Oh! I can see you gasping in relief now.   Anyways, this doesn’t mean that you can forget your laptop next time while in train. 

Adding more charm, Windows 8 Pro has got Domain Join and Group Policy. On primary sight, these features may seem irrelevant to you. But for IT admins using Windows 8 Pro, Domain Join is essential as it lets them to access Active Directory where they can set PC management and security policies through the Group Policy feature. Active Directory is beneficial for IT professionals as it permits them to verify passwords and specify if the users are system administrators or normal users. It doesn’t seem to be too technical for you to grasp; or was it?  

This is Client Hyper-V feature.  You can use this attribute in the latest OS from Microsoft to create virtual machines. Yes, I know what you are going to say now. I agree that Hyper-V technology was present in previous versions as well. But here is a difference. Previously Hyper-V technology was available only in Windows Server editions. This time you can find it in the client version of Windows 8 Pro as well.

It is now time to lead your attention to Remote Desktop feature. Yes again, the remote desktop feature was available in prior Windows versions since Windows 7. But here, in Windows 8 Pro, it becomes more advanced. To explain further, in previous Windows version, while it was possible to get your PC accessed via a remote desktop feature, here in Windows 8 Pro, you are able to access the other person’s PC as well. This feature lets you access your office computer even while on a vacation hundreds of miles away.  What proof should I provide more to convince you that Windows 8 Pro is a professional-targeted OS. Cool!

So how do you find Windows 8 Pro? Aren't the attributes tempting enough to make you think about upgrading your existing Windows-based OS to Windows 8 Pro. If yes, then this is the right time to do that. Microsoft has lucrative offers in store for you. You just need to shell out $39.99. Yes, you heard it right buddy. However here is a small issue. You can upgrade only if the existing OS is Windows 7, or Windows Vista or Windows XP SP3. This irresistible offer is valid till January 31, 2013. So go for it now and here's how you can do it. And just in case you've recently purchased a new Windows 7-based PC, you can upgrade to Windows 8 at just $14.99. You need to provide the Windows 7 key however. 

Though there is no idea about what the prices will be after the prescribed date, it is expected to go up to $199.99. So tell me when you are planning to grab your copy?

Get the hands-on review for Windows 8 Pro in the video underneath:

Know about BitLocker in Windows 8 in the video here:

Image by: Fatich

Monday, December 17, 2012

Windows 8: Now Socializing is More Easy

What is life without friends? Oh God! It is really unimaginable. But unfortunately in this turbulent world of ours it is difficult to stay in touch with near and dear ones. However with Windows 8, at least connecting to buddies is a lot easier. In comes various apps to make our days more vibrant, iridescent, and joyous, and to upkeep relations.

First up are the Mail and Calendar apps that I am sure will allure you the most. Let me begin with the Mail app here. You may have several e-mail accounts; say with Google, Yahoo!, Rediff or your office mail. Now, instead of accessing these accounts separately, how about accessing them from one central location? That’s what this mail apps does; it gives you centralized access to all your email accounts. You can even reply back to mails and they will go via your original account only. Doesn't it make your mail presence lot simpler?  

So, how to work with this app? Well, for that you need a Microsoft account. Now what’s that? Well, most of you already have one especially if you are a regular user of Hotmail, Xbox Live or Messenger. The same e-mail address and password you use to access any of these accounts can be used as your Microsoft account. It’s as simple as that. However, if you don’t have such account yet, you can sign up like a breeze here. 

Now coming to Calendar app, it is a joint for all your schedules. Are you one of the kinds who like to have that special assistant to remind you of special dates such as your marriage anniversary, a holiday, or an important official meeting? Is yes, then the Calendar app is the right choice for you, as with this you can keep a track of all dates and times that matter you the most. You can also color the app tile as per your choice to make it easy to detect. And one more thing, personal dates will not overlap with professional meetings.

So what more can we do with Windows 8. Sending and checking e-mails, or arranging personal events is fine, but we cannot title the post something like ‘now socializing is more easy and blah blah just because it has certain apps that can yield central access. There is much more that Windows 8 has in store for us; a convenient way to share photos for instance. In comes the Share Charm, an integrated space to share photos, update statuses, email photos, and what not. Moreover it comes with anywhere access; that is you can post a snap of your recent vacation in both Facebook and Flickr without actually halting your work. 

Along with snaps, you can even share links of different websites via separate social networking sites without actually signing into multiple accounts. It’s hard to believe; right?  Just try with the link to the page you are currently reading. At least my blog will reach your friends. Cool! That was just a joke buddy.

Another area in Windows 8 where you will find ample scope to socialize with your pals is the People app. Specifically designed to target the young generation you will find wide range of options here to share your feelings and snaps with the chums of your choice. It even lets you to filter the friends in the contact list, making it easy to search for them.

Let us now come to Skype, the platform that lets you to talk with anyone in the world for free. Windows 8 is an ideal platform for you to make a call on Skype. If it is already there in your computer, you can directly use it. Otherwise you can download Skype for free from the Windows Store. Same is the case with Internet Messenger. You can chat with your friends via IM on Windows 8 without even logging into it. 

Windows 8 is an ideal choice for everyone who longs to be in company of their dear ones. It has several attributes that makes your social life vibrant. So do not lament next time that you got no time to spare for your buddies. Go; grab your copy of Windows 8 right now or wait for its pro version till January next year. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

People Hub: The Buddy Joint in Windows Phone

Being in touch with near and dear ones can make life more cool and soothe. Keeping pace with advancements in technology, since last few years or so folks worldwide (especially the youth) have really utilized the power of the Internet to economically and effectively reach out to the ones that matter the most to them. They message, chat, share snaps, upload videos, play online games and engage in all fun and frolic on the move with their mobile smartphones, tablets and the likes. Well aware of the pulse of the young breed, Microsoft first introduced People Hub in Windows Phone 7.5, and now kind of relaunched it in a new avatar in Windows Phone 8. As a matter of fact Microsoft has taken extra care to ensure that any user of Windows Phone 8 should fell in love with its People Hub. So what makes People Hub so special? Let’s take a trip through this enthralling Windows Phone 8 app.

More than an address book, so to speak, Windows Phone 8 is a joint where you meet friends, communicate with them, or share photographs clicked on joyous moments. It’s really fun and handy. The together panel has two features – Groups and Rooms. The Group feature lets you add up people and categorize them as you wish. So browsing the names to contact them is made easier here. Oh C’mon! Don’t say that this feature was available in previous version of Windows Phone as well. Alright; then let’s dive into Rooms, an improved version of Groups.

Just like a real life room, the one in Windows Phone 8 allows families and friends communicate and share without letting the rest of the world know about it. Some noteworthy aspects of a Room are:

  • You are the Room creator: Remember, as you create a Room, the right to invite and delete a member lies with you. Every post in the Room will be viewed by all members. And in case you want to limit the audience, a better way is SMS, or e-mail.
  • Share photos, videos, locations and calendar: In a Room, you are free to share photos, videos, locations, and calendar with every member. As every member can view a posted photo, it is better to avoid those snaps that need to be kept hidden.
  • Send messages to keep in loop: You can send message to all your friends to keep everyone in loop. A birthday party invitation or if you are going on a trip, for instance.
  • Create as many Rooms as you want: You are free to create as many Rooms as you need. The calendars of the Rooms won’t get mixed up and can be edited and shared by members. Shared calendars are useful for family get together, outings, and parties.
  • Change the Room background:You can give the room a fresh appearance by changing the background quite frequently. Every member can see the Room and can comment on its look.
What is more interesting about People Hub in Windows Phone 8 is the facility to filter your contact list. The Hub may have your personal friends, colleagues from work place, or people you have met through different social networking sites. By filtering them, it becomes easy for you to view the contacts that you communicate to frequently. And in case you don’t use a name or feel like blocking one, People Hub lets you do that as well.

People Hub also gives you the facility to hide updates from one or more of your social networking sites. This is helpful when too much of messages, tweets, or posts annoy you. Now you know why I like this feature the most. And in case you have special affinity with a person or a group and need to keep a track on updates and messages that person or group posts come to People Hub. All you need to do is to pin a contact or a group to the Start.

Are you someone who loves to be in company of your buddies, but gets less time for that? Well don't worry as People Hub no doubt is meant for you. So own a Windows Phone 8 device to make your life more vibrant, chirpy, and joyous.

Watch the video underneath to have a hands-on experience with People Hub.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

From Windows Phone 7.5 to 8: The Distance in Between

What made Windows Phone 7.5 catchy during its debut was the Tile feature. In Mango, the users were able to pin anything on the home screen so that they could easily access it whenever required. And what if the same feature gets a facelift? Microsoft has done the same. It has taken the Tile feature to the next level in Windows Phone 8.  Here you can resize the tiles into different categories as small, medium and large, depending upon their importance. Speaking about the browser, Steve Ballmer’s team has upgraded IE9 in Windows 7.5 to IE10 in Phone 8. As a result, the webpages can be searched at a faster rate. Apart from that it also helps in better utilization of resources.

A big drawback of the Skype feature in Windows Phone 7.5 was that it required separate app for video calling. This problem is almost solved in Windows Phone 8. Here, you can use Skype to make calls over 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi. It other words you can make any kind of call; all you need is an Internet connection. Another noticeable change is in People Hub. Room feature is the addition here that allows you to access and edit shared data. All you have to do is to accept the invitation to join the room. And once you’ve done so you can access and share all stored information in the room whether it’s from the calendar, the to-do-list or the photo album.

Are you bothered when your kid fiddles with your phone? If yes, then give him restricted access with Kids Corner. A new kid on the block, so to speak, as it was missing in Mango, it permits your kid to access only those features you want him to play with. And to make your kid comfortable in Kids Corner, put all apps and games he loves to use there.

Another appealing feature added in Windows Phone 8 is Wallet App that lets you make payments over smartphone.
After rushing through the added advanced attributes in Windows Phone 8, you may long to migrate to the same from the existing Mango device. But the bad news is that it is not possible as a number of Windows 8 applications require upgraded hardware. However here is something that can cheer you up. Microsoft is bringing out Windows Phone 7.8, an update you can comfortably migrate to. Though there is no word from Microsoft on the exact launch date, it is expected to reach your hands by early 2013. So be prepared to go for the update, its surely worth it.