Windows Cloud

Windows Cloud

There are rumours on the web suggesting Microsoft could be working on a web-only version called Windows Cloud. I will try and explain how that could work.

Windows Cloud

What is it?

An online version of Microsoft Windows OS, that would store most of the tools in the ‘Cloud”. It’s all just rumours at the moment, but the Russian blogger WZor who leaked the information has a good track record of Windows scoops, like the accurate screenshot of Windows 8.1 update.

How would Windows Cloud work?

Rumours have suggested Windows Cloud would be in two parts, one part would be stored on your PCs hard drive like normal and would contain all the data needed to boot your PC. The second part would be stored in the cloud, and hold your account details and settings.

Would it be similar to Chrome OS?

It sounds like it will be, Google’s Chrome OS only gives you a complete operating system when it is connected to the internet, it only gives you basic tools when you are not – a bit like Windows Starter, the striped down version of Microsoft’s Windows OS that started to appear on some notebooks. If Windows Cloud does come out, it would be aimed at people that use web services more than installing software on their computer. Any online version of Windows would in all properly work closely with Microsoft’s range of online Office tools: http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/online

Hasn’t Microsoft criticised Chrome OS?

In November last year Microsoft posted an online video that mocked the limited potential of the cromebook, which was part of their anti-Google campaign “Scroogled”. In the video the Pawn-shop owner examines the Chromebook and then goes on to say “When you’re not connected to the internet, it’s pretty much a brick”. Google should be flattered though as Microsoft would only attack something they consider a serious rival. Ironically In April Microsoft added Office Online apps to Google’s Chrome Web Store, which provided shortcuts to Microsoft’s apps for people using Chromebooks.

What does that tell us?

That Microsoft is keen to get more people to use their cloud services, no mater what device they have. In February Satya Nadella held his first press briefing as CEO, “Mobile-first, cloud-first world” (www.snipca.com/11929) in it he stressed how he wanted to make Windows available from virtually anywhere, because people are “not bound, to one device or one place anymore”.

So how accurate are the rumours?

It’s hard to say, but analysts have agreed Windows Cloud would make sense.
Editor Max Cooter at cloud-computing website Cloud Pro (www.cloudpro.co.uk) thinks Windows Cloud is “very likely” to appear, and that it will be “radical with some genuinely innovative features”. But he also goes on to say that it may not appear anytime soon: “Microsoft has a history of their products taking longer than expected to develop”. Other experts have pointed out Windows Cloud would be a sensible way to target the growing number of people that use their phones and tablets.

I would have to agree with these views. The top dogs at Microsoft have realised by adding web-based versions of Windows could be the key to the operating systems survival, But I don’t expect an announcement anytime soon.

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Microsoft has advised Windows users to uninstall some of their latest updates for Widows 7 and 8.1

Microsoft has advised Windows users to uninstall some of their latest updates for Widows 7 and 8.1

Blue Screen Of Death

Microsoft has advised Windows users to uninstall some of their latest updates for Widows 7 and 8.1; this was following hundreds of their customers complaining that their systems were repeatedly crashing after doing the updates.

The updates that went live on 12 of August were causing some PCs to show the following message ‘0x50 Stop’, or as it is commonly know ‘ The Blue Screen of Death’. There have also been some problems with fonts not being shown properly or being saved in the wrong location.

Most of the problems are caused by the update MS14-045, which was meant to be a routine security fix. Microsoft has now removed the update from their website and advised customers to uninstall the update as a precaution even if they have not had any problems yet.

Microsoft have removed a further three updates off there website. Microsoft have posted instructions for uninstalling the problem updates on their Support website, but they are not the easiest set of instructions to follow.

Microsoft has been criticised for not doing enough to highlight the problems when they were discovered. Instead of making an announcement, they just updated the FAQ section of their Security Bulletin and recommended uninstalling MS14-045.

Graham Cluley a security analyst praised Microsoft for offering advice, but said that users would have been happier if the bug “had been intercepted during the Microsoft testing process rather than being discovered once it was rolled out to users”

This is not the first time Microsoft have advised their users to uninstall misbehaving updates. In April 2013 Microsoft told windows 7 users to uninstall an update that crashed some PCs. While in October 2013 the company had to remove a Windows 8.1 RT update that crashed tablets.

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Windows 7 Mainstream supports to end in early 2015

Windows 7 Mainstream supports to end in early 2015

Microsoft have confirmed that on 13 January 2015 ‘Mainstream’ support will end for Windows 7, but will still continue to offer security updates for a further 5 years.

The end of Mainstream support means Windows 7 will not get any more new features or tools. There will also be no further updates past Service Pack 1, which was released on 22nd February 2011.

As of January, Windows 7 enters into its ‘Extended’ support phase, only receiving free security updates, on 14th January 2020, Windows 7 will enter into their ‘end of support’ period, in which no more security updates will be released and Microsoft will not offer any online technical help.

Windows XP entered this critical phase back in April of this year, but Microsoft did release an emergency fix after it ended its support.

Microsoft has posted a list of support dates on their ‘Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet’. It states that Extended supports for Windows 8 will end by January 2023.

The end of Mainstream support has come relatively early in Windows 7 life cycle, only 5 years 7 months after it was launched.

Windows XP survived 7 and ½ years before Microsoft ended Mainstream support.
Microsoft has also confirmed Mainstream support for Office 2010 Service Pack 1 will end on 14th October 2014. See what other services are going to end soon.

End of Mainstream Support – what should you do?

Does this mean you should upgrade?

No not at all. The end of Mainstream support just means Windows 7 will stop receiving new features but will still continue to work fine. You just have to accept windows 7 will not get any better and will remain the same till you decide to upgrade (which you should do before January 2020).

If you want to upgrade what should you do?

That’s a good question, as recent rumours have hinted that Microsoft is ready to abandon Windows 8, so you might want to wait a few months to see if Microsoft announces Windows 9, if they don’t go with windows 8.1 or you could always try Linux.

Can you still buy PCs with Windows 7 on?

Yes you can but only till 31st October for Home versions of Windows 7. Microsoft has not said when manufactures will stop selling there PCs with Professional editions on.

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Guide to Windows 8.1

Guide to Windows 8.1

One look at Windows 8.1 and you can see it is very different to Microsoft’s previous operating systems. Here are just some of Windows 8.1 key features, improvements and additions.

Windows App Store

Windows 8 App Store

Windows 8 App Store

Windows 8.1 now comes with its own app store but that’s not really a massive surprise as Apple has had great success with is app store on there Mac’s and iOS devices. Microsoft’s store is an easy way to get free and paid-for software direct from the comfort of your armchair. It’s a good way to get free trials so you can try before you buy. Many Windows 8 apps are designed to be used with swiping gestures on a touchscreen but most will work well with a keyboard and mouse.

Microsoft Account Integration

You sign in to Windows 8.1 and Microsoft’s online cloud service using your Microsoft account. If you have several Window 8.1 devices, you can sync all your settings and preferences across all devices. You will also be able to sync themes, browser favourites, apps, files, folders, and contacts, which include Hotmail, Facebook contacts and people you follow on twitter.

Internet Explorer 11

Over the years Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has had its fair share of criticism, but with its new Internet Explore 11 which is a leaner, easy to use and much faster browser than its predecessors, Microsoft have now for the first time ever opted to use a ‘do not track’ feature and it will be enabled by default. This means websites that sign up to the system wont be able to show you targeted advertising or follow you on line activates.

Virus Protection

Good news for Windows 8.1 users as they are now protected right out of the box from viruses and malicious software. Windows 8.1 now combines the features of Windows Defender with those of Microsoft’s Security Essentials. It is still a lightweight solution, but Windows 8.1 compatible security products are becoming more available from third parties. To avoid antitrust issues Microsoft now disables Windows Defender if any other comparable security software is installed.

The Interface

Windows 8 Interface

Windows 8 Interface

The first thing you will notice once Windows 8.1 starts up is the new tiled interface. This is in a way the replacement for the old Start menu that has been around since 1995. Microsoft have adopted its tiled view from its Windows phones, the new interface features a series of ‘live’ tiles.  These tiles are designed for touch-screens, and they display live information such as news headlines, weather, stock market updates. The tiles work well on a touch screen but not so well with a mouse and keyboard, but its good news if you still use a mouse and keyboard as you can now set windows 8.1 to boot directly to desktop.

Traditional Desktop

Touchscreen friendly tiles largely dominate Windows 8 front end, but the old faithful windows interface is still present. If you still want to use a mouse and keyboard it’s certainly the best option as it has an almost identical file and menu system you are used to in windows of old. Microsoft have given the desktop visuals a much-needed polish.

OneDrive

One Drive

Microsofts One Drive

Microsoft’s Online storage has been around for a while now, the OneDrive app will let you access anything you have stored in your OneDrive account, giving you easy access to all of your files, photos etc.….  As is said earlier when you sign in to your Microsoft account it will sync all the setting in Windows 8.1 (this includes OneDrive). Microsoft is trying to make any Windows 8.1 computer ‘your computer” by signing in to one account.

Windows Reader

In older versions of Windows if you wanted to read a PDF you would have to download additional software like Adobe Reader. Windows 8.1 has its own built in PDF reader so there is no need to download additional software, it may only be a small thing but it’s a good example of how Microsoft is considering what people want and do on there computers. It seems Microsoft is taking it’s cue from Apple by making sure Windows 8.1 covers the most common and basic tasks right out of the box.

Integrated Social Networks

Windows 8.1 has taken its inspiration from smartphones and tablets as it can now be linked to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google, as well as Microsoft accounts. The People App puts together updates from these services; this will make it easy to follow updates. It will be very familiar to those using a windows phone. The People App will display the latest updates and let you post from your Twitter and Facebook accounts. All contacts information is combined, so that means if they have a Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn account they will all be added to their individual contact screen.

Charms

Windows 8 Charm Bar

Windows 8 Charm Bar

The Charms bar has a daft name, but it’s a very useful addition. To access it perform a quick outward swipe from the right-hand side of the screen. From top to bottom it includes search, share, start devices and settings, this makes it easy to gain access to some of Window’s most commonly used features, but some of the functions like search and share will be varied depending on what app you have open.

Touch

The new Windows 8.1 is all about touchscreen and gestures, as long as you are using a device that will support touch controls. The controls may take some time to get used to. Swiping around apps is intuitive, but accessing menus or preforming more complicated gestures will be a bit of a learning curve. Swiping from top to bottom, left to right will open up different options and extra features in apps; there is also a pinch to zoom witch most of us are all used to now. But if you don’t have a touchscreen and still use a keyboard and mouse they are also supported in Windows 8.1.

The Ribbon

Windows 8 Ribbions

Windows 8 Ribbions

The ribbon will be coming to file explorer in Windows 8.1. The previous tool bar found in recent editions of Microsoft Office will be making the leap to the main operating system and is included in file explorer that is used in the desktop of Windows 8. The new ribbon has a series of large buttons to help perform common tasks faster, so there are buttons for copy, paste, delete, rename and new folder. The ribbon will be split in five sections – File, Home, Share, View and Manage. If you did not like the ribbon in Office you are not going to like its appearance in Windows 8.1.

New Price

Its good news at last as Microsoft have decided to charge just £99.99 for Windows 8.1, and even better news if you all ready have windows 8 you can upgrade to 8.1 for free, There is also a special students price for windows 8.1 of £49.99. Previous Windows operating systems used to cost more than 4x that. Windows 8.1 is so cheap Microsoft won’t be selling a lot of Boxed copies as most people will upgrade or buy the software as a download. Microsoft are also hoping the new low price will tempt people to upgrade from the older version of there operating system to its new Windows 8.1

Windows RT

There is a lightweight version of Windows 8 that can be used on low-spec tablets. Windows RT is designed to run on tablets powered by ARM processors. It will come with Microsoft Office 2013 and uses the simple touchscreen interface. Windows RT is not available to buy but comes preinstalled on some tablets like Microsoft’s Surface.

Picture Passwords

We all struggle to remember passwords we have for all the various accounts and services we use. Windows 8 attempts to solve this by letting people log in using a picture. To use a picture password, go to the Settings app and select the relevant option.  Picture password will use a picture of your choosing from your photo collection, Circles, lines and taps can also be used to create a gesture-based password that’s easy to remember but hard to guess.

Fewer Restarts

The ‘Windows has installed updates and needs to restart’ is a familiar annoyance for most users of Microsoft’s operating systems. Restarting is essential for some major updates but it does not make it any less irritating when it interrupts or causes you to loose unsaved work. Windows 8 restarts are less frequent. Microsoft said it would combine restarts when updating into its security updates, so that’s only one restart a month.

Better Protection

Microsoft’s Smart-screen technology has been expanded and integrated into Windows 8.1 to help people work out what software they should or should not download. For it to work Microsoft collects information about everything you download in Windows 8, this information won’t be stored. This feature is enabled by default and will display a warning when you try and attempt to install untrusted or potentially dangerous software. It works by working out the reputation of the download – were it came from, results from anti-virus scans and the past instances of that piece of software being downloaded on other machines.

Best of the Rest

The blue screen of death was once a terrifying sight for users, but its had a facelift. It no longer shows the baffling combination of technobabble and error codes, in its place Windows 8.1 offers a sad-looking face with a notice saying something has gone wrong with your computers and needs to restart

Windows 8.1 no longer supports DVD playback as we rely less and less on discs. Microsoft used to include the codec for this in older versions of Windows but now users will have to get separate software to play a DVD.

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