Windows 8 means the era of overlapping windows is on the way out

Why is Windows 8 so bonkers? Imagine a parallel universe where the mouse was never invented and you have your answer.

Palo Alto

Windows, Icons, Menus, and Pointers (WIMP) is one of the oldest acronyms in computing (though predated by RTFM, which to some extent it was meant to make irrelevant). And it has guided operating system design since the first machine to use it – The Xerox Alto – came into being. It was this machine that Jobs and Apple apocryphally ripped off to create the Lisa and ultimately the Macintosh.

(We know this history, so I’m not going to labour it. However, the story is more subtle than that and features less larceny; here’s a good piece on the topic. Let us speak no more of it.)

What is clear is that the idea of pushing a mouse around on a desk and manipulating windows, hitting icons, and selecting from menus works. The market has pretty conclusively validated the principles of WIMP.

But you know what other idea that the market has successfully validated? The iPad proves that we don’t need WIMP anymore.

Fingers

When you only have fingers to work with, lots of the WIMP proposition doesn’t make sense. Moving windows around is fussy and difficult, not necessarily because of real estate, but because the “hit targets” that you’re dealing with are so small. With a mouse you can be really confident of hitting the “minimise” button. By contrast a finger is so big that smushing the general area of the minimise button might hit what the screen thinks is the “target”, or not. The solution then, as the iPad did, was to just get rid of overlapping windows.

If we look at Windows 8, Metro-style apps run full screen. There are no overlapping windows. There’s limited support for popup windows (eg, click on a button on the app bar and you might get a small window), but you rarely see dialogs. This, then, is where we can start to see the deprecation of WIMP in Windows: Windows 8 Metro-style has no windows.

Next up: icons. There are icons on the iPad, I accept, but a different interpretation is that icons really become “files”. This blog references Steve Jobs talking about deprecating the file system in iOS. Again, looking at market validation, people and businesses buy iPads even though iOS doesn’t have a user-visible file system. In every version of Windows since v1 there’s been a file system front and centre. In Windows 8 Metro-style, the file system is buried.

Menus? Gone. On the iPad some applications use toolbars to access things like menus, but there’s nothing like the ubiquitous menu bar in OS X. Likewise Windows 8 Metro-style apps don’t have a pull-down menuing system like Old Windows. What you have instead is the app bar, which is a reinvention of the toolbar, not the menubar.

Pointers? Well, obviously gone. But a subtle point here relates to why you can plug a keyboard into an iPad, but not a mouse. The expectation is that you will touch it, even if you’re sitting down at a desk to work.

So, if you’re one of those people who still doesn’t “get” the reimagining of Windows 8, just imagine that the guys in Palo Alto got it wrong, that every OS designer since then got it wrong, and that we’re only just starting to get it right now.

Why deprecating WIMP works

Well, we’re not quite getting it right, because ditching WIMP on PCs doesn’t work. And now you think I’m contradicting myself…

Defining a “post-PC device” is not an easy task. The way I think about it is that post-PC devices are the first class of computing devices that we use that are not about work. Up until this point we’ve always co-opted devices designed for use in work and bastardised them so that we can do non-work things on them such as posting Facebook updates or hilarious meme images on Tumblr.

Although manufacturers tweak devices to make them more palatable for domestic sale, the design of an HP desktop has a lot in common with an HP server sitting in a rack in a data centre somewhere. Think about things like the disk, the amount of empty space in it, connector standards, even the power buttons. True story: a friend of friend of mine use to have a Jaguar XJ220. That had the same door lock as a Ford Mondeo.

The one thing that we’ve dragged into our non-work computing life from the commercial PC market is the keyboard. For me, post-PC devices do not have keyboards. If you want to get semiotic on it, keyboards are a symbol of work. This is why most people are perfectly happy to take an iPad to bed but not a laptop. Or perhaps more precisely, it explains why spouses normally object less when their partners bring an iPad to bed than if they pull the same move with a laptop.

It’s also why a Surface doesn’t have a (proper) keyboard. The Surface’s quasi-keyboard exists solely to sell Office licenses and for no other reason.

Given the current capability in our supply chain, if you want to build a computing device without a keyboard it happens to look like a tablet. Not all tablets are post-PC devices though. The Nexus 7, launched last week, is a simple and basic media player, just like the Kindle Fire that it’s paying tribute to.

While we’re on the subject of the Nexus 7, can we please kill off this idea that post-PC devices are about consumption as opposed to creation? They’re not. A well-timed tweet during the X Factor final is just as creative as a sentence in a doctoral thesis. And who’s to say the next Banksy isn’t out there ready to smear social satire all over Tumblr via his iPad?

Windows 8 is a split operating system – one that you can take to bed, and one that you can take to work. One on which you can put together a killer report for the board, and one where you can tweet while watching Hot Shots back in your dystopian Relaxation Pod.

Using a non-work OS at work

There are two ways to use a computer at work – you can either spent all day staring at it and hacking away, or you can do something else but happen to need a computer available to you from time to time. A lot of people who have jobs where they’re always in meetings or travelling, where most of the work they do is face-to-face, now find that they can just ditch a normal computer and use an iPad.

And it’s this part that Microsoft doesn’t like. In the enterprise, the value proposition of Windows gets nibbled by people who can get on just fine with a web browser, iPad email and Evernote. In the consumer space, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that unless you’re a student or a hobbyist, you don’t need a PC. Look forward 10 years and I believe virtually every home will have post-PC tablets for each family member – and zero PCs.

So the side of Windows 8 that’s based on Metro-style and doesn’t use WIMP fits perfectly into that future vision. You can use it in the boardroom for checking football results-slash-taking notes, and you can use it at home for all of the social networking-type tasks that you fancy. Where Windows 8 feels a bit wrong is if you use a computer all day, every day.

I don’t want to labour this point – I wrote a not particularly gentle article back in March about how the mismatch of Metro-style and Old Windows in Windows 8 doesn’t work.

I do want to revisit this though based on my experiences using Windows 8 over the past three months, and my thought is this: “What else could Microsoft have possibly done?” They can’t not get rid of WIMP, but they can’t keep WIMP either. Hence the tension between these two sides of the operating system. There’s no neat A-B route that takes Windows 7 over to a world where Windows isn’t required, at least not one where things don’t get even more confusing than they are now.

Conclusion

WIMP is dead. Long live touch.

If you’re confused about Windows 8, there’s one simple thing you can do. Remember that this is an operating system designed for a world where overlapping windows, menus, and pointers will become a niche activity in our world. Windows 8 becomes much less barking mad if you do that.

Capcom’s former Street Fighter expert Seth Killian joins Sony Santa Monica Studio

Sony Computer Entertainment has made another key acquisition today: fighting game expert, Street Fighter master, and former Capcom employee Seth Killian, who is now a member of the PlayStation family at the company’s Santa Monica Studio.

Killian will still be in the business of creating fighting games, as one of his first projects will be PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale, Sony and SuperBot Entertainment’s crossover brawler.

His role as lead designer at Sony Santa Monica Studio’s external development group will extend to more than fighting games, however. In addition to leading development on the God of War series, Sony’s Santa Monica Studio also works with smaller teams like thatgamecompany, Eat Sleep Play, and Q-Games to bring their titles to PlayStation systems.

Killian tells Polygon he’ll be working with multiple external teams, not just SuperBot.

“I’m happy that I get to start with a fighting game, but yes, my assignments already include other types of games as well,” Killian said via e-mail. “The External group works with Sony’s outside studios, like the cool kids from thatgamecompany (Flower, Journey), Giant Sparrow (The Unfinished Swan), and of course SuperBot Entertainment (PlayStation All-Stars) just to name a few. For my projects, I’ll be collaborating with the teams on the design and creative side, in planning and execution.”

Killian announced he was leaving Capcom in mid-June, having worked with the development teams responsible for Street Fighter 4, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken. Killian explained in an e-mail interview what brought him to Sony’s Santa Monica Studio after six years at Capcom.

“Sony Santa Monica has a great group of talent (including senior management made up mostly of women, which is unusual and awesome), and they work on some of the most interesting projects in gaming, with a range that runs from AAA to smaller, more personal games,” Killian said. “I think they’re the most progressive studio of their size anywhere in the world, which gives me a chance to work directly with a lot of my industry heroes.

“The studio is also infested with smart combat designers that speak my language and make me feel like less of a weirdo, so that was pretty exciting.”

All-stars

The opportunity to work with “the fighting game brain trust” developing PlayStation All-Stars, Killian says, was another reason he was attracted to the Santa Monica-based developer.

“I am intensely interested in balance,” Killian said, “but to do it right means taking time to try and understand not just a few characters, but the whole ecosystem of All-Stars, which takes some time. That said, the target is definitely to make it withstand and even shine under serious competitive pressure. It’s a fun game that you can just mash around in with friends, but the SuperBot team includes a lot of stone-cold fighting game killers who want to build something they enjoy too, and you only have to look around the office to find them all playing for fun and smiling.”

Killian says his duties won’t see him working directly on another Sony Santa Monica Studio project, God of War: Ascension, despite its competitive multiplayer fighting angle.

“I will be playing as much of the multiplayer as I can manage,” Killian said, “and whether I end up stealing from them, or maybe they’ll find an idea from me, either way my hope is that all the games become as strong as they can be.”

A longtime fighting game fan and evangelist, Killian joined Capcom in 2006 to consult and collaborate on the development of Street Fighter 4, the beginning of a revival of the then-struggling fighting game genre.

“My job at Capcom started weird and got progressively weirder,” Killian explained. “I was always supported with input into the games, but I realized at one point that of all the job titles I accrued over the years (when I left I was ‘Strategic Director, Community, Online, and Special Combat Advisor’), none of them even existed before they were given to me – they were making it up as they were going along, just like I was.

“Everybody was happy with what I was doing, but they also recognized that it didn’t fit into the organizational structure at all. Towards the end, I was working on the fighting games as well as titles outside the fighting genre, but also still working on explicitly community side things.”

Killian’s new gig at Santa Monica Studio will see him focus mainly on development, not marketing.

“At Sony, the lead game designer role is very much a full time job unto itself,” he says. “I’m not formally responsible for community outreach any longer (PlayStation and Santa Monica both have great teams for that), but fans have always been centrally important in my thinking and approach to pretty much everything, so those distinctions aren’t very important to me. I’ll talk to whoever is willing to listen, and listen to whoever has something worthwhile to tell me, whether they are other designers, smart fans, or tough critics.”

“That’s a dangerous time for the genre, because it risks collapsing under its own weight”

His departure from Capcom, Killian says, does not necessarily signal his departure from the fighting game community, a group of dedicated fans that he considers his “extended family.” After six years of focusing on Capcom’s suite of fighting games, sequels and iterations delivered worryingly too frequent for some, Killian remains upbeat about the future of the genre.

“I think it’s a very interesting time [for fighting games],” Killian says. “The market is crowded – not because there [are] so many fighters relative to other games, but because most fighters tend to require such a large time investment from their players. If the games are very hard to learn, but also need that time investment to shine, they have to compete with each other or even cannibalize their own player bases from previous installments. That fragments the player base across titles, and the fewer players playing any particular game mean that your skills (that investment) are less admired or valuable. That’s a dangerous time for the genre, because it risks collapsing under its own weight – if you’re the best at something nobody really plays, why bother?”

All-Stars is a real wild-card in my opinion, which is part of why I wanted to work on it,” Killian continues. “It ignores a lot of conventional thinking about fighters, both in terms of how you win (no lifebars, only supers kill, regular moves build super meter) and in terms of execution. There are some tricky styles of play, but none of the moves are hard to do at all (button, or button + direction), so you can get the basic elements very quickly and dive into strategy much faster than you could in a traditional fighter.

“Taking what people think of as a ‘fun’ or ‘party’ genre and sticking a bunch of extremely technical and smart players on the project has this amazing result – a game on very serious underpinnings with a zany fan-service wrapper. It ends up being something total noobs can have fun with while also rewarding smart players and clever mind reading. The noob won’t beat the good player, but the weirdest thing about All-Stars is that I have fun even when I’m getting owned. Usually when I get creamed in a fighter, I get kind of depressed, or feel helpless, or maybe even angry.

“In All-Stars, for some reason, I’m left smiling and curious, with the urge to play just *one* more game. Maybe it’s just PaRappa, but I think they’re really on to something.”

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan Sworn In To Office In Hawaii

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Wearing a Hawaiian shirt, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan took the oath of office on Monday in Honolulu.

Sullivan had a previously scheduled family vacation to Hawaii. The city calls for a mayor to be sworn in on July 1 or as soon thereafter as practical. He doesn’t return to Alaska until July 16.

He arranged to have a live video link established between Anchorage City Hall and a lawyer’s office in Honolulu.

An Anchorage judge administered the oath, and Sullivan repeated it in Hawaii. Once that was completed, he donned a lei and then signed forms that were notarized by the Honolulu attorney.

Sullivan signed off the broadcast by saying, “Aloha.”

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

City officials defended a planned long-distance swearing in Monday of Anchorage’s mayor, who is vacationing in Hawaii.

A live video link will be set up between Alaska’s largest city and an attorney’s office in Honolulu as Dan Sullivan takes the oath of office for his second term as mayor. A judge in Anchorage will administer the oath in the afternoon proceeding.

Sullivan’s spokeswoman Lindsey Whitt said the swearing-in ceremony coincided with a planned family vacation to Hawaii, where Sullivan’s wife has family. Whitt said she doesn’t know why the family trip was scheduled as it was, given the apparent conflict, only that the vacation window was tight.

 

“I’m not privy to the personal details of their family trip,” she said.

Whitt said the Anchorage city attorney found that the long-distance oath is in line with the law.

The Honolulu attorney will notarize Sullivan’s signature. But to “cover bases,” Sullivan will sign the oath again when he returns to Alaska, Whitt said.

The video swearing in gives the appearance to some that Sullivan is not taking the proceeding seriously, while supporters may not care one way or another Windows 7 key, said Carl Shepro, a political science professor emeritus at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Shepro, a longtime observer of Alaska politics, said some might see the far-away proceeding as taking voters for granted.

“I guess it’s not in good taste,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s illegal – I doubt that it is – but it isn’t something most other mayors or other officials would do.”

Anchorage Assembly member Chris Birch said he had no problem with the manner chosen. He said teleconferencing is a long-established practice in business and government in the modern world.

“I think it’s great,” he said.

This Week in Tablets: Google’s Android tablet is the Nexus 7

Sometimes, technology journalists report with passion, and some just report.

The latter was the case in the US this past Wednesday at Google’s I/O 2012 conference in downtown San Francisco when the company announced its mildly anticipated tablet, the Nexus 7.

You could hear the collective yawn from blocks away. Nothing particularly shiny or new here. A high-end, 7in tablet with a 1,280 x 800 pixel IPS panel. 1GB of system memory. Android 4.1 Jellybean. And so on.

The most striking feature was Nvidia’s GeForce ultra-low power 12-core graphics processor, which sounds great until you try to get your head around how it will be utilised. Then it sounds, well, okay-ish.

Ultimately, these are speeds and feeds, not passion points. CNN summed up Google’s announcement quite succinctly: “Google’s Nexus 7 tablet is iPad-like in its high-end hardware, Kindle-like in its size and price, but still Google-like (lacking) in its content offerings.

To be fair to Google, no one expected or even hoped for anything more. This is the low-end tablet market we’re talking about. It’s like Internet search. It’s not sexy, but low-end Android tablets are as essential to the ecosystem as the iPad.

For now, no one other operating system exists in this range. This is fairly consistent with Google’s fairly populist themes. I know one thing for sure: We’re not reaching 200 million tablet devices in consumers’ and businesses’ hands without Android.

Was the Nexus 7 even the point in the first place?

While neither many-core graphics processors nor blimps nor skydivers nor connected media devices could shine up the Nexus 7, Google did pull off the nerviest live demo I’ve ever seen, and I think the company did in fact accomplish its primary goal.

That goal was not generating oohs and aaahs for the Nexus 7. In dropping the Google Glass project onto the stage – a product that won’t even exist until 2014 – the company showed technology evangelists something we had literally never seen before, thereby reinforcing the company’s position as an innovator.

 

At the very least, Google clearly has the jump on just about every other company on the planet in the virtual goggles category.

(I admit that I originally wrote the above sentence with 100 per cent irony. I now admit that every time I re-read the above sentence, and then think about how many years of science fiction I’ve embraced with phones/phasers, tablets, and embedded heads-up displays, the less ridiculous it sounds. Take this as you will.)

It’s nice to have a monolithic search engine business to fall back on, that’s for sure. This is a good thing because, while I still believe Android tablets will sell in massive numbers, the Nexus 7 will not. Google will be fortunate if it sells 10 times the 6,000 tablets Google gave away to developers at I/O.

In the meantime, considerable scrutiny and speculation is swirling around Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which may be announced this month in the US, bickering with Google notwithstanding.

This week’s loser: Research in Motion

There’s really no way around it. RIM’s double-hit announcement that its crucial BlackBerry 10 release would be delayed until 2013, and that up to 5,000 layoffs might be pending will certainly spell the end of the company as we currently know it.

The runner-up for this week’s loser was Adobe, which announced that it is abandoning Flash on the Android platform starting August 15. It’s hard to believe, but it feels like Adobe’s flagship mobile tech is rapidly heading the way of Shockwave.

This week’s winner: Asus

The company was tapped to build out Google’s Nexus 7 tablet. A huge honour, and consistent with Asus’ previous reputation of building fine white-label products for electronics manufacturers. It’s nice to see the company get some recognition.

On the horizon

Microsoft has a lot more questions to answer on the Surface tablet front, such as:

  • How much will it cost?
  • How much will it cost Microsoft to manufacture?
  • Will third-parties still release Windows 8 tablets of their own?
  • What’s the pricing model of Office on Win8 tablets?

I’m expecting that, starting this coming week, we’ll begin to see answers. In the meantime, one final thought on the Surface tablet and the continued concerns that Microsoft will pay for abandoning its partners: What other OS are PC manufacturers going to install onto their systems?

With speculation running wild that HP decided to kill its Windows RT tablet because of Microsoft’s Surface announcement, it’s hard to imagine the short-term impact of Microsoft going solo on Win8 tablets being anything but good. Let’s face it: The company is going to sell double the Windows 8 tablets that all the PC manufacturers in the world could possibly have sold, combined, in 2012.

Microsoft manager hints that there may be more to Windows Phone 7.8 than the start screen

WPCentral reports that Senior Product Manager and Windows Phone team member Larry Lieberman has been cagey about what Windows Phone 7.8 contains, and has suggested that there may be more to it than simply the WP8 start screen.

In a talk at the  TechEd 2012 on Windows Phone App and Game development he was asked:

Will Windows Phone 7.8 get new features as well that you can access as a developer?

and responded:

Maybe. We haven’t announced it yet.  All we’ve announced is the new Start screen at this point. Sorry, nothing new to announce. You’re asking me stuff I can’t answer.

The presentation is available on Channel 9 and the comment occurs towards the end of the presentation.

WPCentral suggests that Microsoft have not fully decided what features to bring to Windows Phone 7.8 yet, and one wonders if the  31,500 votes on their user voice site asking for more features are weighing on their mind.

Supreme Court Obamacare ruling may accelerate e-health spending

The Supreme Court upheld the requirement in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that individuals buy health insurance and may have accelerated the industry’s massive investment in information technology.

To be sure, the Supreme Court’s ruling wasn’t going to derail the move to electronic health records and medical software implementations. What may have changed, however, is the pacing of these deployments.

Why? Capital spending typically likes government and regulatory certainty. The Supreme Court just gave one sixth of the U.S. economy a lot of clarity.

Meanwhile, that clarity points to additional information system strain. The big parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions and a mandate to buy insurance—start in 2014.

According to the Wall Street Journal, 30 million new people will hit the insurance rolls somewhere. In addition, state exchanges will need to be built. All of those exchanges will require systems, hardware and software.

Also: ZDNet Health | Smart Planet’s Rethinking Healthcare

Between state, federal and healthcare companies a lot of IT spending will be needed in advance of the complete ACA rollout.

Neal Patterson, CEO of Cerner, a leading health IT company, was asked May 18 about how the Supreme Court ruling would affect profits.

He said:

The environment of healthcare — so we live in healthcare and we live in an information technology. So if something fundamentally changes in either one of those two spheres,
it’s going to impact us.

So they are basically — the Supreme Court is basically going to adjudicate the question of is it in the province of a federal government to mandate a commercial activity.

So we are going to be fine either way. That will not just ripple through us. It does change the landscape one way or the other and the whole health reform legislation that I got tagged to indirectly. That whole legislation has the possibility of shaping the landscape of healthcare.

As an entrepreneur, you kind of like change because change creates new requirements, creates more clarity — a lot of times something like that will be what I would call a trigger event in a marketplace and so it goes off and then the market then changes and if you can anticipate and see that change you’re ahead.

In other words, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the ACA could be a trigger event for more IT investment. That reality isn’t lost on big tech vendors. IBM, Dell, Cisco, HP and a host of others are chasing health IT dollars.

Dell’s chief medical officer, Andrew Litt, M.D, said he expects new models on reimbursement to emerge and IT will be critical to cutting costs. Naturally, Dell—along with ever other e-health player—wants to help the healthcare industry with IT.

There has already been a surge in e-health spending courtesy of the American Relief and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA), which allocated $30 billion to health IT investment. That stimulus was aimed at everything from electronic health records to telemedicine to security tools. The Supreme Court may have just green lighted another wave of health IT spending.

60 tweaks and hacks for Windows 7, Vista or XP: Windows tweaking tips 21-40

21. Invert selection

To select the majority of files in a folder, it’s quicker to highlight the ones you don’t want by holding down [Ctrl] to make the multiple selection. Now choose Edit > Invert selection.

22. Explorer menu bar

The menu bar in Windows Explorer is hidden by default in Vista and Windows 7 Serial Key. If you need to use it, browse to the folder you want to use and press the [Alt] key. Pressing [Alt] again hides the menu bar once more.

· 67 Windows 7 tips, tricks and secrets

23. Show the Run command

The Start menu search covers much the same job, but if you miss having the Run command from Windows XP on the Start menu in Vista and Windows 7, you can use this tweak to get it back.

Right-click the Start button and choose Properties. Ensure that the Start Menu tab is showing, and click Customize. Scroll down to the box marked Run Command and tick it, then click OK twice to complete the process.

24. Ditch the Recycle Bin

If you’d like to clear your desktop completely, perhaps to show off a stunning wallpaper image, you can remove the Recycle Bin from it with this clever Registry tweak. You can then simply use [Shift] + [Delete] to dump your old files and folders, instead of dragging them to the bin.

Open the Registry Editor and browse to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\HideDesktopIcons\NewStartPanel.

Right-click in the right-hand pane and choose New > DWORD value. Right-click the newly created value and give it the following name: “{645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}”. Then double-click on the value and change the Value data box to “1”.

Quit the Registry Editor, right-click an empty space on your desktop and choose Refresh – the Recycle Bin icon will now magically disappear from view.

If you begin to miss the bin after a while, you can get it back again by going back into the Registry Editor and changing the DWORD value data back to “0”.

25. Quick Launch toolbar

If you miss the Quick Launch toolbar in Windows 7, you can get it back by right-clicking the Taskbar and choosing Toolbars > New Toolbar.

In the folder location, enter the following: “%AppData%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch”. Click Select Folder, and drag your toolbar to the left.

26. Disable startup entries

Click Start, type “msconfig” and click OK. MSconfig differs slightly between Windows versions, but does the same job.

Click “Selective Startup” and go to the Startup tab. Look in the list of startup entries for any you think you don’t need, uncheck them, click Apply, and restart your PC to check if the items were needed for a successful boot.

Some startup entries are important, however, so go back to MSconfig and reinstate them if you had a problem. If your PC started as normal you can permanently remove them, so use the details in the Location column of MSconfig to find out where the startup entries exist. Try to remove the startup option in the parent program, or delete the Registry entry or startup shortcut.

27. Alter keyboard options

Speed up your keyboard’s response time by opening Control Panel and choosing Classic View.

Double-click Keyboard, and use the sliders to adjust the Repeat rate and Repeat delay to suit your typing style. You can also alter the cursor blink rate here by dragging its slider. Try out your new settings in the text box.

28. Cut back services

Free up resources by disabling unnecessary services, or setting them to start manually. There’s a list of possible candidates for disabling them here.

To turn off services in Windows, go to Start > Run and type: “services.msc”. Double-click on the service you want to alter and change the Startup Type to Disabled or Manual. The Remote Registry Service is a serious security threat if it’s turned on, so make sure this is disabled.

29. Manage services

1. Computer Management

Right-click (My) Computer on the Start Menu and choose Manage. This launches the Computer Management console. In here, you can fi nd a number of key ways to tweak your Windows system.

2. Service properties

Click Services (and Applications) > Services. You can see each process that Windows runs. Those that show Started under the Status column are currently running. Rightclick a process and choose Properties.

3. Manual or Disabled

In the General tab, change the Startup Type drop-down menu setting to Manual. This means that the service will only start if you want it to. If you select Disabled, this means that the service won’t run at all.

30. Remove text from icons

Windows won’t let you rename a desktop shortcut to a single space. However, you can force it to accept a space by holding down [Alt] and typing “255” on the number pad. For multiple items, use an increasing number of spaces.

31. Mute shortcut

Right-click the desktop and choose New > Shortcut. Enter the following for the shortcut location: “C:\Path\To\nircmd.exe mutesysvolume 2”. Name the shortcut “mute_unmute”. Doubleclick it to mute your speakers and do so again to turn them back on.

32. Pin the Recycle Bin to the Taskbar

Right-click on the desktop and choose New > Shortcut. Enter this as the shortcut location: “%SystemRoot%\explorer.exe shell:RecycleBinFolder”.

Click Next and enter “Recycle Bin” as the name. Complete the wizard, then right-click the shortcut and choose Properties > Change Icon. Select the rubbish bin icon from the list provided and drag your new shortcut to the Windows 7 Taskbar.

33. Add Windows Update to the Taskbar

Choose Start > All Programs, and right-click and drag Windows Update to the desktop. Release the right mouse button and choose “Create shortcuts here”.

Right-click this shortcut and choose Properties, then change the contents of the Target box to: “cmd/cwuapp.exe”.

To prevent a Command Prompt box appearing when you click the shortcut, change the list next to Run to Minimised. Then drag your edited shortcut to the Taskbar for quick access.

34. Disable Jump Lists

For enhanced privacy on your PC, rightclick the Taskbar and choose Properties > Start Menu. Untick the box that’s marked “Store and display recently opened items in the Start menu and the taskbar”.

35. Tweak Bubbles screensaver

You can tweak the Vista and Windows 7 Bubbles screensaver by editing the Registry.

Open the Registry editor and browse to HKEY_ CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Screensavers\Bubbles.

Create the DWORD value “ShowShadows” and set it to “1” to enable a shadow effect or set it to “0” to remove it.

Make the bubbles opaque by creating the DWORD value “MaterialGlass” and setting it to “0.” To make the bubbles transparent, set it to “1”.

You can also change the speed at which the bubbles change colour by creating the DWORD value “TurbulenceNumOctaves”. You can set its value to anything between 0 and 255.

36. Schedule a task

1. Create a basic task

Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Task Scheduler. Give your permission to continue when prompted. Under Actions, choose “Create Basic Task” to launch a wizard that guides you through setting up a task.

2. Set the trigger

Provide a name and a brief description of your task, so that you can identify and edit it later. Click Next and specify when you want the task to run. If you choose Daily, you’ll need to supply a time for the event on the next screen.

3. Determine the action

Choose from the actions offered, such as starting a program or sending an email. In the case of running a program, click Next and browse to the executable fi le concerned. Provide any additional arguments if necessary.

37. Disable Vista’s User Account Control (UAC)

UAC in Vista can be frustrating, because it appears for many configuration changes. To turn it off, open Control Panel and type “UAC” into the search bar. Follow the link marked “Turn User Account Control (UAC) on or off”. Uncheck “Use User Account Control” and click OK.

38. Fake a high Windows Experience Index

This hack won’t actually improve your PC’s performance, but you can use it to make it look like you have the most cutting-edge hardware.

Ensure you’re logged in as an administrator and browse to the following location on your hard drive: C:\Windows\Performance\WinSAT\ DataStore. Check the files are sorted by date and that you have write permission. Open the most recent one in Notepad (right-click and choose Open with… > Notepad), then choose Edit > Find and search for “”.

Select the text between this and “”. You can now enter your scores in this section Windows Product Key, starting with “9.9”. You can do the same for each of the sub-scores. Set them to any number up to 9.9. Save the file to fake your score until you next rate your system.

39. Speed up USB drives

How fast your PC can access data from a USB drive obviously depends on the USB stick itself, but you can actually make your USB drives a little bit faster by choosing “Optimize for Performance” from the Policies tab found when you click on the device in Device Manager.

40. Alter power buttons

Change the behaviour of the power buttons by clicking Start and entering “Power Options” in the search bar. Press [Enter]. Now click “Choose what power buttons do” and select the new behaviour in from the drop-down lists available.

Apple steals from Windows Update playbook for OS X Mountain Lion

Apple will boost the frequency of security updates in OS X Mountain Lion and automatically install required patches for users, steps that bring it into line with Microsoft’s practices.

In an update Monday to Mountain Lion’s Developer Preview 4, Apple supplied what it called “Security Test Update Test 1.0.” As the name implied, the update was a test of Mountain Lion’s new security infrastructure, which presumably was put into place earlier.

Several Apple-specific blogs, including MacRumors, reported on the update and posted screenshots of the accompanying text that described it to developers and testers.

Although Apple has disclosed many Mountain Lion features, it has not revealed all those slated for the upgrade: Until Monday, there had been few hints of changes to OS X’s security update process.

According to the update’s description, Mountain Lion checks for security updates daily — a frequency increase from the weekly checks that are the default in previous editions of OS X — and will install those updates automatically for the user, either at the time they’re downloaded or at a machine restart.

By comparison, Leopard and later will only download updates and notify users when they’re available. It’s up to users, however, to install security and feature updates.

Apple also said it beefed up the security of the connections between customers’ Macs and its update servers, hinting at the same kind of improvement in encryption that Microsoft made this month after Flame, an advanced super-spy kit, was found to fake Windows Update downloads.

The security changes in Mountain Lion bring OS X to parity with Windows, which has long checked for patch updates daily, and which by default automatically downloads and installs those updates for users.

Security experts will probably applaud: Most have argued that the less users are asked to do, the more likely they are to keep their machines up-to-date.

It’s possible that Apple has had these improvements in mind for a considerable time, but they could also be part of the company’s response to attacks earlier this year that infected an estimated 600,000 Macs with the Flashback malware.

Apple has made other moves recently that may also have been triggered by the Flashback campaign, including patching Java on the same day that Oracle fixed the flaws for other operating systems; shipping the first security-related update in nearly a year for the unsupported OS X Leopard; and blocking outdated versions of the Flash Player plug-in from running in Safari.

Apple has not set a release date for Mountain Lion, but has promised that the upgrade will go on sale in July for $19.99 at the Mac App Store.

If Apple follows the same release track for Mountain Lion that it used last year for Lion, the most likely release date will be July 25.

Snow Leopard vs. Win 7: Battle Begins August 28

Apple’s latest operating system update, Mac OSX Snow Leopard, should be ready to roll on August 28, and while Apple says the new OS is “refined, not reinvented,” it’ll become the de facto competitor to Microsoft Windows 7 key come October. We love a good argument, so here’s your fodder: five innovations for each OS being touted by their respective makers.

Exposé Interactivity: The feature that shows all windows together is no longer a simple means for switching among them. It will be possible to drag content fromsnow leopard one previewed window to the other. Exposé will also work for individual applications by clicking and holding their icons in the dock. As a workaround for the miniscule preview windows in the dock, these improvements aren’t bad.

Smart Services: Control-clickers will delight in new context-sensitive menus that appear when you perform the Windows-equivalent of a right click. For instance, highlighting and control-clicking text in a Web browser lets you send the text to an e-mail or import it to iTunes as a spoken word track.

Smaller Install: Pony up the $29 to upgrade to Snow Leopard, and you’ll get 7 GB of your hard drive back. That’s not a feature, per se, but it’s certainly an innovation. The last thing we want is an operating system that’s continually gaining weight.

VoiceOver: Though it won’t be used by the majority of Mac owners, VoiceOver is arguably the most expansive addition to OSX. This tool for visually-impaired users essentially turns the trackpad into a screen reader, supporting special gestures to switch between windows and audio feedback when clicking.

Chinese Character Input: Okay, most of us won’t use this feature either, but it’s still pretty cool. After opening an input window, users can draw sketch Chinese characters on their trackpads and then select from a list of possibilities. It’s as good a reason as any to start learning.

Invisible Windows: The answer, of sorts, to OSX’s Exposé lets users turn all open windows into bare outlines by moving the mouse to the screen’s bottom right corner. From there, shaking a window makes all others minimize, and shaking it again brings them back up. A related window-management feature lets you quickly size windows to half the screen, allowing for side-by-side comparisons.

Jump Lists: It’s no longer necessary to hunt through a folder of recent documents to pick up work where you left off. By right-clicking icons Windows 7’s new dock (a feature cribbed from OSX), users can jump to recent documents or perform common tasks, such as resuming an old playlist in Windows Media Player.

Internet Access to Home Media: Got two computers, or a friend who wants to look at photos from your last get-together? Clicking a button within Windows Media Player opens up photos, videos, and music for streaming to other PCs. No party will ever be safe again from your weird musical tastes.

Touch Friendly: Should the touchscreen craze finally take off, Windows 7 Activation Key will be ready with a mode that’s tailor made for tablets. Start menu and taskbar icons are larger, and Web browsing can be done with a finger. Multitouch is also supported, with pinch and twist gestures for zooming and rotating.

HomeGroup: Sharing content between networked computers is nothing new, but Windows 7 makes it easier with HomeGroup. The feature lets any new computer joining your home network link up to existing ones, allowing for file transfers. Printers are also shared automatically, so no one has to be kicked off the master computer to print a document.

The complete business guide to Windows 8

With the final RTM (Release to Manufacturing) version of Windows 8 coming as early as July, now is the perfect time for businesses to start thinking about what to do when Windows 8 starts showing up as an option on new PCs this autumn. So to help TechRadar has put together this comprehensive guide to what Windows 8 will be able to do for your business.

The first thing you should do – if you haven’t already – is to download the Windows 8 Release Preview. Although we already know there will be further changes to the Windows 8 interface – the Metro start screen is here to stay but the Windows desktop will get a new look without Aero Glass that may make the transition between metro-style and desktop apps feel more seamless – there will be very few changes to functionality and the Release Preview is being promoted by Microsoft as ready for businesses to try out.

Despite all the changes, Windows is still Windows complete with desktop and programsDespite all the changes, Windows is still Windows complete with desktop and programs

One of the most important points for businesses is that Windows 8 is Windows and not a cut-down version of Windows or a new incompatible operating system. If you buy a Windows 8 tablet you get a tablet that can run the full version of Office, and all the other Windows applications you need, and that will work with all the peripherals you already have.

PC makers are claiming you’ll get around ten hours of battery life, and many Windows 8 tablets will come with keyboard docking stations that will enhance the battery life.

Both versions of Windows (Windows Pro and Windows RT) also have a Metro remote desktop app; a very friendly interface for making a remote connection to your work PC from home when you need to get at files and applications.

The Metro start screen is proving controversial; however the new Metro interface for Windows 8 has undeniable advantages that businesses will appreciate. Many of these advantages will be useful on current PCs, but the real advantages will only be seen with new PCs with touch screens and gesture-enabled trackpads, as well as security hardware like Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) – which replaces the traditional PC BIOS- and encrypted disks that businesses will appreciate.

Even the Start screen has a business purpose; pin secondary tiles for key topics in future Metro business apps like SAP and Microsoft Dynamics and your Start screen turns into a personalised dashboard; think Active Desktop and gadgets/widgets on steroids.
Faster booting and more memory for apps

Put Windows 8 on an existing PC and it will boot faster; nearly twice as fast in some of our tests, and resuming from hibernation is around a third faster. Performance always depends on what you’re doing on your PC but even in the Consumer Preview we found it generally about 10% faster (you can expect that to improve in the final release), and IE 10 is a faster browser than IE 9, especially for JavaScript-heavy Web apps.

Some of that increase in speed comes from two places; the Windows 8 operating system uses much less memory than its predecessors, and the way it shares a single-in memory copy of common libraries between applications, rather than filling up memory with a copy for each application that uses it. And that means programs can use more memory before they start paging out to slower disk-based virtual memory. Additionally the Metro-style apps save their state, so Windows can reclaim their memory any time you don’t have them open on screen, but you can still switch back to them as if they were still running.
Better battery life for laptops

Given how common laptops are now, improvements in battery life alone might make an upgrade to Windows 8 worthwhile for business users who need to work on the road; we’ve seen up to an hour more battery life on notebooks upgraded to Windows 8.

However you do have to be careful about not leaving USB sticks and SD cards plugged in; some of the power savings come from how aggressive Windows 8 is about turning off ports that aren’t in use, so leaving a USB stick in when you’re done using it makes a noticeable difference in battery life.

Battery life is one of the areas where new PCs will do better than today’s hardware as well. Microsoft is pushing PC makers to use low-power memory, higher capacity SSDs and GPUs and networking hardware that can take more of the load off the CPU, by making them requirements for the new Connected Standby state. This new state lets your PC stay on with the screen off (like a phone) and stay up-to-date with messages (in a Metro-style app) without running down the battery.

The great news is that this power saving is not just for Windows RT tablets and notebooks; it works on x86 PCs as long as they have a low-power integrated ‘System on Chip’ CPU and matching low-power components.
Fixing Windows 8 without reformatting

If you don’t have a real department with a helpdesk to sort things out, the new options for fixing your PC will be welcome. You can refresh your system, reinstalling Windows without losing your files, your user account or your Metro apps.

Unfortunately desktop apps get deleted in a refresh but it’s not hard to create an image with your installed desktop apps as well and use that to refresh with, so you can get your PC setup the way you like and keep it that way. And if someone leaves and you need to pass their PC on to another employee, removing all trace of the old user and setting up a clean copy of Windows is just as easy.

If you make an image that includes desktop apps, you can just replace Windows files and keep everything you’ve installedIf you make an image that includes desktop apps, you can just replace Windows files and keep everything you’ve installed.

Improved networking and especially better mobile broadband will also be a big help to business users. Wi-Fi in Windows 8 is smarter; it checks the throughput of different Wi-Fi connections rather than just the signal strength and will automatically connect you to the one that gives you better bandwidth rather than just the one that’s nearest.

In our tests, especially in Release Preview, Windows 8 is faster to get a Wi-Fi connection than Windows 7 and faster to switch to using Wi-Fi if you pull out your Ethernet cable (or the router fails).

If you have two network connections Windows 8 is far better at switching to using the faster connection even if it’s not the first one you connected to.

Windows 8 also comes with an Airplane Mode; like a phone, this turns off all the radios at once (handy on a plane or for saving battery, although it only works if you have the right drivers – in Airplane Mode a Bluetooth keyboard still worked on our test Samsung Series 7 tablet that we upgraded to Release Preview).

Given the cost of both Wi-Fi in business hotels and mobile roaming, the Wi-Fi Direct support in Windows 8 should be particularly welcome to business travellers, although it’s going to need specific software to make it work and there’s no sign of Microsoft building an app into Windows directly.

Wi-Fi Direct is a standard for letting your PC connect both to a wireless access point and to Wi-Fi enabled devices using a single Wi-Fi card; that lets your PC connect to the hotel Wi-Fi network and share that with your phone or tablet instead of you having to pay again for each device.

Mobile broadband in Windows 8 gets similar improvements; you connect far more quickly than in Windows 7 and setup is much simpler. Windows 8 builds in far more of the drivers needed for mobile broadband so you can get online straight away rather than having to spend 15 minutes installing large apps that make unhelpful configuration changes (T-Mobile once included mobile broadband compression software with 3G dongles that stopped Wi-Fi connections working).

You shouldn’t need to install any software at all to make most mobile broadband hardware work and the connection shows up in the Settings charm logo, alongside available Wi-Fi networks so you don’t have to run a separate application to get online.

That means the mobile operators can concentrate on making apps that show you how much data you’ve used and how much that’s costing (as well as adding features to give you an address book on the SIM, use the phone network to get your GPS location more quickly or give you access to their Wi-Fi hotspot service without needing to type in an extra password). You can see how much of your data allowance you’ve used and check the App History tab in Task Manager so see which apps have used the most data bandwidth to help make your mobile data allowance last longer.

Mobile broadband connections are automatically marked as metered connections; if you use your phone or a mobile hotspot you can mark those as metered as wellMobile broadband connections are automatically marked as metered connections; if you use your phone or a mobile hotspot you can mark those as metered as well

To help reduce your data usage Windows 8 allows you to limit the mobile broadband connection on a user-basis. Unlike a Wi-Fi connection, not everything on your PC can use your mobile broadband connection, regardless of it’s built into the PC or plugged in as a dongle. For example If you use a mobile hotspot like a MiFi, it can tell Windows 8 it’s a metered mobile connection. This can either be done automatically, which requires the manufacturer to set that up or you can mark any connection as metered yourself just by right-clicking on it.

Metered connections really come in to their own when you use your phone to get your notebook online when you travel. By selecting the right preferences you can download email and send files using your phone’s connection without worrying that Windows Update or Defender will start a download and give you a huge bill. By default, device drivers won’t download and account settings won’t sync on metered connections, but you can change those options from PC Settings.

Choose whether to download drivers for new devices on an expensive mobile broadband connectionChoose whether to download drivers for new devices on an expensive mobile broadband connection

You can choose whether to sync changes on any connection or wait for one that doesn’t cost as much as 3GYou can choose whether to sync changes on any connection or wait for one that doesn’t cost as much as 3G

Whether you’re a small business owner paying for mobile broadband to keep key workers connected while they travel or an employee who has to convince the boss to let you put the cost of connecting on expenses, knowing that you have more control over your mobile broadband bill is a big help.

Windows XP Mode in Windows 7 was a good stopgap for running older applications that even the various compatibility modes couldn’t fix, but it was only ever a stopgap.

Windows 8 gets the full Hyper-V hypervisor from Windows Server, which is much more powerful (as long as you have a 64-bit CPU with Second Level Address Translation, SLAT, which most recent processors like Core i3, i5, i7 and AMD’s Barcelona do). Not only can you run Windows XP if you need to (and Microsoft includes preconfigured virtual machines (VMs) containing old versions of Internet Explorer that are ready to load in Hyper-V), you can also run Windows Server or many other operating systems – 32-bit or 64-bit versions).

This isn’t just a basic VM player; you get the full features of Hyper-V, so you can take snapshots of running virtual machines, experiment with settings and then go back in time. Live Storage Move lets you switch the storage a VM is using – from your PC to a USB stick, or to a file share – without having to stop the VM first.

Additionally if you’re working on something in a VM and you want to take it out of the office to run on a different PC, just copy it onto a USB stick, pause it and restart it on the new machine. And unlike Windows Server, you can still hibernate or sleep a PC running Hyper-V (the virtual machines are automatically suspended and resumed when the PC wakes). Not every business will need Hyper-V but if you do, it gives you a huge amount of flexibility.

Windows 8 has some significant security improvements, and they’re not only about limiting what Metro applications can do to the PC. PCs that come with Windows 8 installed will have UEFI, the newer BIOS replacement that stores a database of OS signatures; with the UEFI secure boot feature enabled you can only boot a signed OS. That includes more than just Windows 8, and if you want to boot an unsigned OS or an earlier version of Windows you can turn it off, but with secure boot unless an OS signing key is compromised, you won’t have to worry about root-kits and other malware that tampers with Windows before it starts up.

Most anti-virus software will now start as part of the boot process – before any malware can run and turn it off; there are pre-production versions of all the major anti-virus tools that support this Early Load Anti-Malware option and the good news is that in our tests this didn’t slow boot times.

Protecting your anti-virus software means that malware will shift to attacking other software. If the PC has a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip – and far more PCs will come with a TPM, including Windows RT systems – you can use measured boot as well, which records the details of all the software you start up automatically – including your anti-virus software – and stores that securely in the TPM. That way if anything changes, including malware tampering with your anti-virus software, you’ll know about it.
SmartScreen moves from Internet Explorer to Windows

Windows Defender works with Early Launch Anti Malware (ELAM), it’s built in to Windows 8 and it’s a good enough anti-virus package that it may well save you money by being all the security software you need, especially combined with SmartScreen.

This SmartScreen reputation service for executable files from IE9 is now built into Windows, so it works with programs that you load from a USB stick or DVD or download through other browsers. If it’s the real version of Adobe Acrobat or WinZip it will download and install without any irritating warnings; if it’s a fake, SmartScreen will spot that it’s a file it’s never seen before and warn you. You can still install the software if it’s an obscure but legitimate program, but the warning will help protect you from viruses that are so new your anti-virus software doesn’t know about them yet.

If you do get a virus, Windows 8 improves on the techniques Microsoft has been adding since Windows XP SP2 to make it harder to attack Windows itself, by putting code and data into different places every time it loads and adding integrity checks to more key parts of Windows including the kernel and the memory heap.

Encrypting disks with BitLocker so the data is safe even if a PC is lost or stolen is much faster with Windows 8 because you can tell it to only encrypt the disk space that has data in (if you’re re-using a PC, use a tool to erase it securely first).

If you have one of the new generation of hardware-encrypted disks, the encryption on these is now good enough for BitLocker to use, so encrypting these disks disk is almost instant.

Windows 8 fixes some other irritations in BitLocker; you no longer have to be an admin user to change the BitLocker password or PIN. Recovery keys are automatically saved onto your server (or SkyDrive). Lastly, if you have a Windows Server 2012 network you can set BitLocker-protected PCs to boot without needing a PIN, so people only need to type in the PIN if they’re connecting from somewhere less secure than the office.

These improvements make BitLocker an excellent solution for protecting confidential data on business PCs without being so irritating it slows you down.

BitLocker is easier to work with, so you’re more likely to use it.BitLocker is easier to work with, so you’re more likely to use it.

Encrypt only the disk space you’re using and BitLocker encrypts disks much fasterEncrypt only the disk space you’re using and BitLocker encrypts disks much faster

There’s one Windows 8 feature that will be particularly useful to small businesses – the ability to boot Windows 8 from a USB stick.

Windows To Go lets you put a Windows 8 image on a removable USB 3 stick that users can boot from on any PC and get their Windows 8 account, applications and files. That makes it far less painful to share a PC, or to get work done when you’re away from your usual computer – because you have it with you.

Disappointingly, perhaps because Microsoft thinks only large companies will want to take the time to set it up, Windows To Go is currently restricted to the Windows Enterprise version, so you can only get it if you buy a Software Assurance licence for Windows 8.

However the licence is available for as few as five licences and is worth considering even for a small business because it comes with other new Windows 8 features like DirectAccess, BranchCache and AppLocker (which are all improved in Windows 8), as well as ‘companion device’ rights that let each user access their work PC remotely on up to four personal devices.

VPN replacement DirectAccess and BranchCache (peer-to-peer caching to speed up file downloads in a branch office) do make most sense for larger businesses, because you have to set up Windows Server 2012 systems to take advantage of them.

Like AppLocker’s whitelists of file and applications people are allowed to access, they’re most useful when you want to be managing users’ PCs more actively than many small businesses need to. But setting up DirectAccess is far simpler than it used to be and it gives users seamless remote access to file shares as well as allowing an admin to send updates to their PCs without waiting for them to log into a VPN. If you find VPNs unreliable and unpopular, DirectAccess is an excellent solution that makes people who travel a lot more productive.

You can’t search inside desktop apps from Explorer any more, but you can search multiple apps and mail in MetroYou can’t search inside desktop apps from Explorer any more, but you can search multiple apps and mail in Metro

You can search inside multiple apps in the same place, and pick which to show on the listYou can search inside multiple apps in the same place, and pick which to show on the list

Don’t be distracted by the arguments about the Windows 8 interface or the fact that when you put your mouse in the bottom left corner you’re clicking on a pop-up button labelled Start rather than a round button that’s always there. Yes, things are different. If you’re one of the few people that use the Start menu to search files and email at the same time, you can still do that in Windows 8 – but only with Metro apps.

Otherwise, business features in Windows 8 are either the same as in Windows 7 or improved. Whether you check out Release Preview now, wait till the final version in July or wait till you get a PC that comes with Windows 8, this is a solid OS for business users. You might not pay extra for the features if you’re happy with Windows 7 now, but you’ll appreciate them when you get them.