Windows 10: It may just be everything that Windows 8 should have been


A Verdict

Windows 10 is coming along very well – there are still some issues to be tackled, but this is shaping up to be one of Microsoft’s most popular releases yet.

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The revamped, customizable Start menu.Nate Ralph/CNET

Microsoft’s Windows 10 event gave us a deeper look at the next generation of its operating system. At once panacea and prescience, it’s a remedy for Windows 8’s identity-crisis that reworks Microsoft’s bold vision of creating a single, universal experience for all of our devices.

A new build of the Technical Preview arrived just a few days after Microsoft’s event, bringing with it a host of new features, including Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana. A Windows 10 build for Windows Phones is slated to arrive sometime in February. There was also some pretty good news for folks who are currently running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8 — upgrades to Windows 10 will be free for a year. There’s no word on pricing after that (or for folks still running Windows XP), but if Microsoft has its way, we will have all made the switch by then anyway.

A fresh start

Windows 8 was a bold re-imagining of Microsoft’s operating system, but the Start screen proved contentious. The colorful Live Tiles offer useful notifications and information, but they were designed with touchscreen devices in mind: much of the work we do in Windows involves keyboards, mice, and large displays chock-full of windows and apps. Windows 8’s Modern apps demand a full screen’s attention, oblivious of our need to multitask. The Windows 10 Start Menu gives us the best of both worlds.

Boot up a PC running the Windows 10, and you’ll be dropped off at the oh-so-familiar desktop. The taskbar and its icons sits on the bottom, and the recycle bin sits in the upper-left corner. It looks, at first blush, like Windows 8 all over again.

But press the Start button, and you’ll be greeted by the return of the Start menu. It’s a proper Start menu too, with your most frequently used apps are stacked in a column. Press the “All Apps” button and you’ll find the endless column of nested folders we’ve all been scrolling since Windows 95, though they’re now grouped alphabetically. Sitting alongside that column are Windows 8’s animated Live Tiles, endlessly serving up news-bites and social network updates.

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The Start Menu can be maximized to take up the entire screen.Screenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

The menu has evolved since the early builds. The Live Tiles can be arranged into separate groups, and those can be labeled (just like Windows 8). If you’ve got plenty of apps you’ll need to scroll to see them all: as of Build 9926 you can no longer drag and stretch the menu to different sizes. That’s rather disappointing, as I liked the flexibility of dragging my Start menu up to take up more of the screen — here’s hoping that’s a temporary change. You can also press the maximize button to get a full screen version of the Start menu.

What’s old is new again

Click or press the Live Tile shortcuts, and the Modern apps introduced in Windows 8 open as classic windowed apps. This is a welcome change, allowing us to sample the new aesthetic Microsoft is pushing for the next generation of Windows without sacrificing our entire display. You can now drag these Modern apps around, snap them to half of your display, or minimize and maximize them at will.

Windows 10 lets you work smarter, too. Click the Task view button, and you’ll get a quick glimpse of all of your open apps and windows. A black box running along the bottom of the display prompts to create a virtual desktop: that’s a sort of private island that keeps everything you open there as an independent workspace. You can, for example, create one desktop for all of the applications you use for work, another to browse gaming forums or sites like Reddit, and yet another for games or whatever you want. The virtual desktop feature alone tempts me to install this technical preview on my primary machine. Of course we’ve had virtual desktops on Linux and Mac machines for years (and on Windows, from third-party apps), but it’s nice to see Microsoft catching up here.

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Modern apps no longer take up the whole screen.Nate Ralph/CNET

In Windows 10, you can press Ctrl+Windows key to jump between desktops, triggering a slick little sliding animation that was added in an October update to the Technical Preview. You can also right-click an app when you’re in task view and select a specific desktop to move it to. It’s not completely there yet, however. I’d really like to be able to drag and drop open apps to different desktops instead of right-clicking all of the time. And being able to drag and drop to rearrange the virtual desktops I’ve created would be a huge boost to my productivity.

A step forward

We finally got a chance to see more of Windows 10’s real game-changing potential: this will be one operating system to rule them all. It’s all thanks to Contiuum, a feature that serves up a device-specific interface that’ll scale from desktops down to tablets. Consider a two-in-one convertible device like theSurface Pro 3: pop it off its keyboard base, and a little prompt will pop up asking if you’d like to switch to “tablet mode.” Press it, and the apps on your desktop will instantly transform into their full-screen, tablet incarnations — this includes traditional Windows desktop apps, too. You’ll be able to use all of the gestures you’re accustomed to on a Windows tablet, and can switch back to the desktop by popping the device back onto its keyboard, or by pressing the “tablet mode” toggle button in the Windows 10 Action Center.

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The Action Center, and the new Settings MenuScreenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

The Action Center showed up in the October update to the Windows Technical Preview, and it’s become a bit more useful. All of the notifications you receive are routed here, with the most recent events rising to the top. It can get a little cluttered — Dropbox is especially chatty — but you can turn off notifications with ease. There’s also a new Settings app, which attempts to corral all of the various things you can tweak into a single, searchable menu.

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Cortana is now available on Windows 10.Josh P. Miller/CNET

Speaking of search: you may have noticed the little search bar sitting next to the Start button. Click the search bar, or tap the microphone, or just say “Hey, Cortana” (once you’ve turned that feature on), and you’ll be greeted by Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant. She’s able to search for files on your PC, set reminders, and do more mundane things like tracking a flight or keeping an eye on the weather.

Cortana isn’t firing on all cylinders just yet — this is still an early preview — but the virtual assistant is an important part of Microsoft’s plan to bring Windows 10 to all devices, everywhere. As you use Cortana on your phone, and your tablet, and your PC, it’ll learn more about you and tuck relevant facts into a “Notebook.” You can duck into this list of preferences and tweak things to your liking (much like Google Now), while leaving some parameters off limits to preserve your privacy. As Cortana gets to know you, you’ll presumably find it more useful, and use it more often.

That last part is key. Cortana’s ability to parse natural language will only improve as millions of people (Microsoft hopes) start chatting with Cortana on their PCs, thanks to their free Windows 10 upgrade. This will improve the virtual assistant’s functionality, allowing “her” to handle increasingly complicated conversational queries, such as “Who is the President?”, “What is his wife’s name?” and “How old is he?” without tripping up.

Apps that run everywhere

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The Photos app lets you tweak images — or have it done automatically.Screenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

Apps are going to be an instrumental part of getting Windows 10 working everywhere — including on smartphones and devices like gaming consoles. To that end, Microsoft is trumpeting universal apps that’ll exist on PCs and mobile devices. The new Photos app scans your devices and OneDrive account for photos and arranges them into a giant collection. It’ll work on mobile devices too, though we’ll have to wait to try that for ourselves.

The app will also automatically enhance all of the photos it finds, wrangling red eye and sorting out exposure levels. The process is completely optional, and works on RAW files too — if you don’t like a change, you can undo it without affecting the original file. You can also use the Photos app to make edits of your own — it’s not going to replace something like Adobe Lightroom, but if you’re looking for a simple tool to manage your shots, you’ll do well here.

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The Xbox app will make it easy to keep tabs on your achievements.Screenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

Microsoft has also added an Xbox app. It doesn’t do all that much, at present: you’re be able to see what your friends are doing and send them messages, check out achievements, and look at game clips people have pre-recorded. Microsoft ultimately aims to bring the full Xbox Live experience to Windows 10 PCs, including allowing you to stream games from your Xbox One console directly to your PC — we’ll have to wait quite some time for htat functionality to be implemented.

We still haven’t seen much of Windows 10 on Windows Phones, but we did get a glimpse of universal apps like Mail, Calendar, and the new Photos app running on both phones and PCs. There will need to be allowances based on particular devices — a desktop without a camera has little need for a Camera app, for example. But this unified, universal experience eases a lot of work for developers trying to spread their app across as many platforms as possible, as well as opening up new opportunities.

Future-proofing

Windows 10 isn’t going to fix everything, but these changes to Windows 8’s most divisive elements has made a world of difference to the OS. And that’s crucial to Windows’ future, as Microsoft is still looking at the big picture: PCs are old news.

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Windows 10 will morph to fit the device it’s running on.Nate Ralph/CNET

Desktops and laptops still handle most of our work and play, but tablets and smartphones have long since stolen the limelight: future operating systems will need to work to bridge that gap. We’ve seen steps in this direction from Apple, with OS X Yosemite’s ability to hand off files and things like emails and calls from your phone or tablet. And some Android apps are making their way to Google’s Chrome OS, an interesting sign of where Google might be headed.

Microsoft’s vision of tomorrow’s ideal operating system is grander still. The goal is to offer a unified experience across devices of all shapes and sizes, and one that will morph to make sense: icons to tap and home screens when you’re on a phone or tablet, but windowed apps and nested folders when you’re armed with a keyboard and mouse. And then there’s Windows 10 on the Xbox One. We might not want to run Excel on our consoles (OK, I might), but the fact that Microsoft’s console and PCs will be able to share apps puts quite a bit of power in the hands of developers.

Windows 8 dreamed of dragging us into that future, but we kicked and screamed at the inefficiency of its one-size-fits-all approach. With Windows 10, Microsoft seems to be getting it right.

Excerpt: cnet.com

Here comes Swatch’s defense against the Apple Watch


iWatch from Apple
iWatch from Apple

As the Apple Watch launch approaches, one of the most interesting incumbents to keep an eye on is Swatch, the mid-price, design-driven Swiss watchmaker. Swatch has promised at least one smartwatch of its own. In the meantime, it has unveiled this chunky new fitness-oriented device, the Swatch Touch Zero One.

It’s a device geared specifically for beach volleyball enthusiasts—“Created with beach volleyball in mind,” the company notes—so it’s not quite fair to compare it directly to the Apple Watch. (It is, however, perfectly appropriate to say that Swatch seems to have raided the Sony Sports design closet from the 1990s.)

But it raises an important question: In the smartwatch era, is a separate device for tracking beach volleyball—or running, or any specific activity—viable? Or will those functions simply become apps on a more general device, like an Apple- or Google-powered smartwatch? And, moreover, can a company like Swatch—with limited software expertise, but a strong legacy of watch design and distribution—effectively compete?

Read this next: Six things to know about the Swiss watch industry before Apple invades

Apple Watch release date & UK price rumours: Watch event announced for 9 March


Apple unveiled its first foray into wearable technology in September 2014. The Apple Watch (yep, not the iWatch), is an Apple-made smartwatch. Here, we bring you the Apple Watch release date rumours for the UK, specs and features, UK price and photos of the device for you to look at.

We had been speculating about the Apple watch for years when Apple finally unveiled its first foray into wearable technology in September 2014. The Apple Watch (yep, not the iWatch), is an Apple-made smartwatch that was shown off during Apple’s 9 September iPhone 6 event, with a new dial called the crown, close integration with iCloud and Siri and a flexible sapphire display. Here, we bring you the Apple Watch release date rumours in the UK, specs and features, UK price and photographs of the device.

Update:  Apple has sent out invites to an Apple Watch press event in March, with the tagline ‘Spring Forward,’ and Tim Cook reveals Apple Watch is ‘shower-proof’. Read on to find out more.

You can also read our full first look review of the Apple Watch, including UK pricing information. And: Will the Apple Watch will be a flop?

Plus, find out what’s in store for this year: Apple rumours and predictions for 2015

Apple Watch release date: When is the iWatch coming out? When will Apple Watch launch in the UK?

On 26 February, Apple surprised us by sending out invitations to a special event on 9 March, with the tagline ‘Spring Forward’ hinting at an Apple Watch launch.

The event, which will be attended by analysts and media, will take place in San Francisco at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The event should shed light on the exact release date for the Apple Watch, as well as the final pricing structure for the various different models on offer.

[We hope to see a new MacBook Air at this event too read more here: 12in Retina MacBook Air release date rumours]

Prior to the event announcement, Apple had revealed that the Watch would be coming out in ‘Early 2015,’ and developers have been building apps for the smartwatch since back in October 2014 using Apple’s Watch Kit.

Additionally, in a January conference call regarding Apple’s financial results, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook suggested that the watch will be available in April.

As of mid February, third party app developers are said to have been invited to Apple’s Cupertino campus to join Apple’s developers as they finish work on the WatchKit apps for the Apple Watch, and one rumour even suggests that 100,000 apps will be available for the Apple Watch at launch (that’s according to analyst Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research but we’re expecting rather a lot fewer than that). Apple is said to be holding workshops for those developers. According to 9to5Mac thesecrecy surrounding these meetings is so tight that the developers are given only numbers, not name badges.

Apple Store employees are also being trained at secret workshops in Los Angeles, Cupertino, Austin, and Atlanta.

Apple is also, apparently, installing safes in its retail stores for the more pricy Apple Watches. According to 9to5Mac it also has weight scales to determine how much gold is in an individual Apple Watch, perhaps to avoid fake watches being accepted as returned faulty Apple Watches.

However, it still may be the case that the UK launch is later. Reports early in January suggested that the Apple Watch would launch in the UK and other parts of Europe in early 2015, after the Apple Watch messaging changed on the country websites to “Early 2015” from “Available in 2015”. However, a few days later that message had changed back to “Available in 2015” since, suggesting that Apple may have some hurdles to overcome in various locations before the watch can go on sale.

When our sister title Digital Arts spoke with Apple, the company said “We haven’t announced which countries will launch in April yet.”

There have been concerns here in the UK and Europe that the Apple Watch will launch first in the US, with a delay of perhaps months before it goes on sale here. Hopefully that won’t be the case.

Beyond the April time frame, we still don’t know exactly when the Apple Watch will launch. However, we can rule out the first weekend as 3rd – 6th April is Easter weekend and therefore not likely to be a suitable weekend for the launch.

Read: iPhone 6 review and iPhone 6 Plus review.

Apple Watch price UK: How much will the iWatch cost?

The Apple Watch starts at $349, which we expect will be around £300 here in the UK. That’s £216 plus 20% VAT and a little more ‘Apple Tax’.

An alternative way of looking at the price is to find a comparably priced product. The 64GB iPod touch costs $299 in the US and £249 in the UK. While the Retina iPad Mini costs $399 in the US and £319 in the UK. So pick a number in the middle of the two, about £294. Therefore, we think our £300 estimate is pretty close to the starting price you can expect to see.

New reports from French Apple site igen.fr have suggested that the Apple Watch Edition, which is made with real gold, could cost up to $5000, which is more than £3000. The Steel version could start at $500, the report says, which could translate to around £450.

We’ll bring you UK pricing when it is announced.

You’ll also need to own an iPhone in order to use the Apple Watch. The Watch is compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Apple Watch rumours: What Apple CEO Tim Cook has said

When Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the Apple Watch he said: “Apple introduced the world to several category-defining products, the Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. And once again Apple is poised to captivate the world with a revolutionary product that can enrich people’s lives. It’s the most personal product we’ve ever made.”Apple design guru Jony Ive explained that the Apple Watch includes multiple new technologies and an entirely new user interface designed “specifically for a device that’s designed to be worn.”

“It blurs the boundary between physical object and user interface,” Ive said. “We’ve created an entire range of products that enable unparalleled personalisation.”

Find out more about this personalisation, which is achievable through both hardware and software options, as well as the reasons why Apple believes the Apple Watch will be a category-defining product by reading on.

Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about the Apple Watch during a talk a the Goldman Sachs conference on 10 February. To begin, he reminded us of Apple’s success in the MP3 player industry despite the fact that the iPod was by no means the first. “They weren’t used very much. They were fundamentally too hard to use, and the user interface was really bad. You almost needed a PhD to use these. They’re not memorable. They didn’t really move the dial,” he said of the iPod’s rivals.

Cook then added that the tablet market had been the same: “There were lots of tablets shipping when the iPad came out. But there was nothing earth-shattering.”

Of course, Cook thinks that the smartwatch category is the same, but that the Apple Watch can change it in the way that the iPod and the iPad did with their respective industries. “There are several things that are called smart watches that are shipping, but I’m not sure you could name any. Maybe you could. I’m not sure the audience could name very many. But certainly there’s been none that have changed the way people live their lives.”

“And so what we want to do at Apple, that’s our objective: We want to change the way you live your life,” Cook continued. ” And just like the iPad has changed the way you work, and hopefully the way you live, and the iPhone has done that, we see Apple Watch doing that.”

“I’ve been using one, and I’m actually wearing one now – but I wear it all the time actually,” he added. “And I think one of the biggest surprised people are going to have when they start using it is the breath of what it will do.”

Cook then spoke a bit about the design, and the various different colours, band types and sizes available, as mentioned elsewhere in this article. He suggested that we’ll be using Siri more often with our Apple Watches, and getting notifications on our wrists.

The most obvious use for the Apple Watch is fitness tracking, though, and Cook says he uses it in the gym to track his activity level. “If I sit for too long, it will actually tap me on the wrist to remind me to get up and move. Because a lot of doctors believe that sitting is the new cancer, right? And arguably activity is good for all of us. And so if you haven’t moved within the hour, ten minutes before the hour it’ll tap you.”

Cook concluded: “It took a little while to get used to, but it’s actually very good. And so, there’s just an enormous number of things that it will do, and I think you’re going to find something that you’re going to think, “Wow, I can’t live without this anymore!” And you’re gonna be deciding you may not want to give up that real estate for that particular watch anymore.”

Is the Apple Watch waterproof?

When the Apple Watch was first unveiled, it wasn’t waterproof, but Apple CEO Tim Cook has reportedly been overheard mentioning to employees in a German Apple Store that he wears his Apple Watch in the shower, hinting that the waterpoofing has been improved. An Apple representative had mentioned last year that you’d be able to wear the Apple Watch in the rain or during a particularly sweaty workout, but not in the shower or while swimming, but if what Cook said is true then that may now have changed.

We should find out for sure during Apple’s 9 March event.

[We have the latest rumours about the Apple iCar here, plus read why we don’t think Apple will make an iCar]

What does Woz think about smartwatches?

Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has said that he would welcome an iWatch.However, he seems to keep changing his tune. In 2014 he was dismissing it as a “luxury fitness band,” perhaps because, as he admits in a BBC interview, “I’ve had bad experience with smartwatches so far.”

Now he is being a lot more enthusiastic. In an interview with the BBC Woz states: “Apple makes products more fun than anyone else. If you look at the display it’s almost like a little piece of art … It’s going to be so special. Everyone’s going to notice it, just like you do nowadays when you walk around — ‘You’ve got an iPhone, you’ve got an iPhone, you’ve got an iPhone.’ A lot of people, especially in hip areas, they’re going to be saying, ‘You’ve got the right watch, you’ve got the same watch as me.’”

Woz also talks about the market for the Apple Watch. “I look around a lot of times nowadays and when you’re in groups of older people, they still wear a lot of watches – usually like jewellery. Younger people wear no watch, they got rid of it, because it’s in the way.”

“That’s the question about a smartwatch: is it going to be a new class of jewellery that came back? Obviously, the wrist is free (for new devices), but it has to have a good enough use,” he asks.

Woz also suggests that although niche, measuring blood sugar levels for diabetics could be big, because it’s a “niche market that’s huge already”.

He goes on to say that Apple has “made so many good products that everyone who owns Apple products will buy [the Apple Watch] and that means millions of people will buy this watch from the start. That helps get a critical mass going.”

In the following paragraphs we summarise what Wozniak had said about the Apple Watch, and smart watches in general, in 2014…

Woz believes that wearables will be “a hard sell” for Apple. “Apple works very hard to produce exceptionally great products and doesn’t quickly release things like a wearable. So if one is introduced I expect it to have a chance to set the direction and make the product category finally viable,” Woz told Cnet.

He goes on to suggest that these wearable devices may be relegated to the same category as Bluetooth headsets: “fun to wear and show off for a day”.

Woz is hoping for a larger screen on the rumoured iWatch. He told Cnet that 1.5in screens aren’t big enough for him. He also hinted that the speaker had better be good if the iWatch is to serve as a speakerphone.

However, Woz is confident that Apple will be able to transform the wearable device market as they did the smartphone market with the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

This isn’t the first time Wozniak has spoken about wearables and smartwatches. Back in July 2014, Woz said that he doesn’t like the smartwatches he’s tested so far. In fact, he hated the Samsung Galaxy Gear so much he sold it soon after he got it. “That was the only technology I bought to experiment with that I threw out after half a day, sold it on eBay because it was so worthless and did so little that was convenient. You had to hold it up to your ear and stuff,” he told Xconomy.

Excerpt: Macworld.co.uk

Chrome 32 Launches With Tab Indicators For Sound And Video, Improved Malware Blocking & New Win8 Metro Design


Google today released the latest stable version of its Chrome browser. Version 32includes many of the features that recently arrived in the beta channel, including improved malware blocking and tab indicators for when a site is playing sound, accessing the webcam and sending video to your Chromecast. Google uses a speaker icon, blue rectangle and red dot to indicate these different functions.

Those indicators are a godsend for anybody who has ever tried to figure out which tab suddenly started playing music or a video. Google first started playing with this idea in early 2013, but the beta only got this feature in November.

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This new version also includes Google’s new malware blocker, which arrived in the experimental Canary build of Chrome last October. With this, Google will automatically block any downloads its systems have flagged as malware.

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For Windows 8 users, the new version now sports a new look in “Metro” mode (Google still uses that term, even though Microsoft itself has moved away from it and left it rather unclear what the new terminology should be). In Metro mode, Chrome now looks like ChromeOS  with its integrated app launched on Windows. In previous versions, the Metro mode simply presented users with the regular Chrome interface. This never looked quite right, but with this new interface, Google is actually using the Metro mode to its advantage and is basically bringing ChromeOS to Windows.

Also new in this version is support for Chrome’s “supervised users” feature, which is officially still in beta. With this, family members can check on a kid’s browsing history, for example, and set up site restrictions through chrome.com/manage.

As always, this release also includes a good number of security fixes (21 in total), as well as stability and performance updates.

Excerpt: Techcrunch

Hands-on with Google Glass’ big December (XE12) update


Gizmag runs through the big updates from Google's XE12 update for Glass Explorers

Gizmag runs through the big updates from Google’s XE12 update for Glass Explorers

Image Gallery (7 images)

Earlier this week, Google pushed out the last software update of 2013 to Google Glass Explorers. As Gizmag is now part of the Google Glass beta-testing party, we thought we’d give you our hands-on impressions of some of the new features.

Wink wink, nudge nudge

Wink is extremely handy if you're a Glass-wearer ... and maybe a little creepy if you're a...

The biggest new feature might be Wink, which lets you snap a picture just by winking. There was already a sideloadable app from a third-party developer that let you do this, but the experimental feature now comes straight from Google, baked right into the firmware.

In my experience, Wink works just as advertised. Wink with your right eye, and about a second later, you’ll hear the chime as Glass snaps a pic of whatever you’re looking at. It registers almost all of my deliberate winks, and it also differentiates them from regular old double-eye blinks. I did set it off by mistake a few times, but it was probably because I absentmindedly closed my right eye (too much caffeine perhaps?), not through some fault with the software.

If your goal is to always be ready for that Kodak moment, then Wink is something of a breakthrough feature. It’s never been easier to snap shots, no matter where you are, what you’re doing, or what your hands are holding. If your goal, however, is privacy, then you might want to keep an eye out for people wearing Google Glass. They can sneak pictures of you easier than ever.

Gatekeeper

You'll need to pick four gestures to unlock your device (not to lock it, as Google's visua...

Another big addition is the new Google Glass lock screen. If you set this up, anyone will need to know your handpicked series of taps and swipes to unlock Glass (much like a passcode on a smartphone). If you have Glass’ on-head detection set up, the screen doesn’t appear to lock when you take Glass off; you’ll have to actually power it off (by pressing the power button for a moment) to lock it.

Unlocking Glass is simple. When you wake the device from sleep, you’ll see a lone dot sitting below the current time. Enter your unique series of taps and swipes, and Glass will unlock. You even get visual feedback, showing each gesture as a series of dots on the screens … kinda like sheet music for security buffs.

Glass gives you some visual cues when you're setting up your lock screen gestures

The new lock screen gives you a nice layer of security for your US$1,500 device, though you will have to remember to press that power button to put up the gates.

MyGlass for iPhone, Hangouts, and more

The MyGlass companion app is now available in the iOS App Store

Another huge addition is better compatibility with the iPhone. Google just launched the MyGlass companion app into the App Store, so iPhone-owning Explorers now have some extra features.

The biggest are turn-by-turn navigation on your Glass display and a screencast of your Glass display on your phone. Android users have already had both of these features for a while, but hey, it’s nice to see this make its way into the App Store nonetheless. The iOS version is still much more limited though (due to iOS’ system-wide restrictions for third-party apps), so you can’t use SMS and you’ll need to pay for a personal hotspot plan to use navigation.

Hangouts messaging is now compatible with Glass, just be prepared for it to hijack all of ...

With the XE12 update, Google also brought a few more officially-supported apps to Glass. Google Hangouts is a big one. You could already use Hangouts for video calls, but you can now use it for messaging. This includes picture messages, something Glass couldn’t do before. It also helps to fill in for the lack of SMS on the iPhone version, though your friends will need to be in the Google ecosystem with an active chat app to get your messages.

The biggest problem I have with the new Hangouts messaging is that it automatically becomes the default way of sending messages. See, Glass doesn’t let you choose how to contact a friend. You say “OK Glass, send a message to Suzie” and it handles it from there. Hangouts gets priority, followed by SMS, and then email. So if a contact has their email address tied to a Hangouts account, you can’t send them a regular email. It will always send it as a Hangouts chat message. You can get around this by turning off Hangouts integration altogether, but then you miss out on its other perks.

YouTube is also in the fold now, though maybe not in the way you’d expect. You still can’t watch YouTube videos on Glass (that would probably kill its battery anyway), but you can now share videos you’ve taken to the popular video-sharing service. After recording a video, just bring up the “Share” option and choose a YouTube card. There are separate cards for Public, Unlisted, and Private options, so there shouldn’t be any confusion about who can and can’t see your masterpiece.

You can also now share your Glass-recorded videos to YouTube, including with public, priva...

There are also a few extra apps added to MyGlass’ Glassware section, like Weather Alert and Wall Street Journal. I don’t live in an area with much severe weather, so I haven’t been able to test that one yet. But it could be a handy feature to have onboard, especially if things like tornadoes, blizzards, or icy roads are concerns in your area.

Winkfeed is another new app that puts RSS feeds on Google Glass. You can read them on the device itself, have them read aloud to you, or save them to Pocket to read later on another device. Winkfeed doesn’t really fit my workflow, but if you only have a few feeds you follow, it could be a handy way to get news alerts from your favorite sources pushed to Google Glass.

We’re going to have much more on Google Glass in the coming weeks, but don’t expect to see any big software updates from Google for a while. Google says that this month’s big batch counts for both December and January, so these will have to tide you over until February.

 

Microsoft Windows Rumors: ‘Project Threshold’ Release Date Coming In Spring 2015?


Microsoft
Microsoft logo Microsoft

According to a leaked internal email, Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) is planning a major update to all of its Windows operating systems. Codenamed “Threshold,” the update will further unify the Windows platform across PCs, mobile devices and the Xbox One video game console, and could be released in the spring of 2015.

The Xbox One OS, Windows 8.x OS and Windows Phone 8 OS already share many features and are built from a common Windows NT core, but ZDNet reports that Microsoft wants to make them even more similar with Threshold.

Threshold will focus on “high value activities” like Office, Bing and IT management programs and make these products the same across all platforms. Microsoft is reportedly developing a singular app store and tool sets designed to make it easier for developers to create applications for each Microsoft platform.

Threshold falls in line with CEO Steve Ballmer’s announcement in July of a corporate reorganization of Microsoft and a new company mission of “One Microsoft.”

It’s the second codename to come from the “Halo” video game series. Microsoft also borrowed the name “Cortana” from the Xbox franchise to be the codename for its Siri-like personal assistant program.

Microsoft has not confirmed Threshold, and will probably release another update first. Microsoft is rumored to be planning a release an update to Windows 8.1 and the new Windows Phone “Blue” operating system in the spring of 2014.

 

Windows 8.1: What you need to know (FAQ)


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

One year after the debut of Windows 8, Windows 8.1 is here. It feels significantly less dramatic, but Microsoft’s latest version of its PC operating system has some changes, and some requirements, all its own. If you’re a curious would-be adopter, or a diligent Windows 8 upgrader, read on for some answers to your questions.

What’s new?

 

Last year’s Windows 8 was a brand-new, somewhat jarring operating system aimed at making touch-screen devices, and Windows devices that could convert between touch and keyboard/mouse modes, easier to use.

Windows 8.1 is a series of subtle changes, a software patch of sorts to last year’s software. There are some differences, but most of them seem to exist to appeal to more-traditional PC users — those who want more of a return to the traditional Windows experience. The biggest changes are:

  • You can boot directly into Desktop mode instead of the tile-based app user interface
  • The long-lost Start button is back
  • You can snap more apps side-by-side for better multitasking
  • There’s also better cross-system search, along with search that ties into cloud-based SkyDrive storage

For the full rundown, read CNET’s review. Or, check out our list of the top new features you need to know in Windows 8.1.

 

What’s the different between Windows 8.1 and Windows RT?

 

Windows 8.1 is the “real” Windows OS that runs on PCs and tablets; it includes backward compatibility with most earlier Windows software — programs and games that were designed to run on Windows 7, Vista, and XP. By contrast, Windows RT is a stripped-down version of Windows 8.1 that does not deliver that backward compatibility. (The reason: RT machines run ARM chips rather than full Intel or AMD “x86″ CPUs, allowing them longer battery life and cheaper prices.) Instead, Windows RT only runs the apps available in the Windows Store (which, confusingly, is available in both 8.1 and RT). Notably, however, Windows RT includes a free copy of Microsoft Office 2013, which has been designed to run on both versions of Windows.

While there were a handful of devices that ran RT in 2012, so far, the Microsoft Surface andSurface 2 tablets appear to be the only RT machines currently available. (Again, adding to the confusion: the Surface Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablets run full Windows 8.1.)

 

Do I need to buy a tablet to use Windows 8.1?

 

No, you can use any PC, as long as it fits the Windows 8.1 hardware requirements. Touch screens aren’t required. In fact, Windows 8.1 makes it easier: you can stay in “Desktop mode” and just use your PC in a way that (largely) bypasses the touch-friendly tile interface. Even those, should you encounter them, can be navigated with keyboard and mouse/touch pad, however.

Start button!

 

Is the Start button back?

Yes — sort of. The annoying absence of a Start button made easy-access navigation on Windows 8 a confusing chore, but it’s back — although it just provides a shortcut to the tile menu. However, right-clicking it brings up a contextual menu with additional options.

 

How do I get Windows 8.1, and what does it cost?

 

For existing Windows 8 users, Windows 8.1 is a free upgrade. Just go the app store if you’re a Windows 8 user, and start downloading.

If you’re coming from Windows 7 (or an even earlier version of Windows), it can be bought herefor $120, or $200 for the business-targeted pro version. For more step-by-step information, read our how-to guide.

 

What are the system requirements?

 

For the full rundown, click here. But here’s the bare-bones needs:

  • 1GHz or faster processor with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2
  • 1GB of RAM for 32-bit computing, or 2GB for 64-bit
  • 16GB of hard-drive space (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
  • A Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

 

What’s the ideal system to use with Windows 8.1?

 

Despite the return of the Start button, having a touch screen is still the preferred way to go with Windows 8.1. In the portable realm, look for a tablet (Sony Vaio Tap 11 or Microsoft Surface Pro 2), a convertible laptop (the upcoming Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga), or a touch-screen laptop (theSamsung Ativ Book 9 Plus).

In the desktop world, larger touch-screen all-in-one machines like the Dell XPS One 27 or Sony Vaio Tap 21 are ideal.

 

Should you upgrade to Windows 8.1?

 

My colleague Dan Ackerman said it best in his Windows 8.1 review. If you’re a regular PC user, I’ll repeat in his paraphrased words what you should do:

  • If you’re an existing Windows 8 user, the update is free and largely seamless, and adds some useful new tweaks and features. You should upgrade as soon as possible.
  • If you’re a Windows 7 user thinking of upgrading your legacy hardware, consider keeping with Windows 7 until it’s time for a new PC; those touch-optimized Windows 8 and 8.1 elements won’t do much for you anyway, and Windows 7 still works well with all sorts of applications.

 

Either way, you’ll probably have to get used to Windows 8 eventually, since it’s Microsoft’s PC operating system now. It’s really, however, more of a finishing touch for Windows 8-optimized machines.

The best way to get Windows 8.1? Wait to buy a new PC with Windows 8 or 8.1 installed: it’ll run the software better, and it won’t cost anything extra.

I’m moving on from Windows; what other alternatives are there?

 

 

Windows isn’t the only game in town: you can always opt for a Mac, a tablet (Android, iPad), or aChromebook. There are more choices than ever before; just realize that each of them has relative advantages and disadvantages, and none of them will run your legacy Windows software (unless you invest in a solution like Parallels for Mac).