Everything You Need To Know About Windows 8.1

With the release of Windows 8, or Windows Blue as many call it, there were huge improvements and some other aspects that had users scratching their heads. Well, 8.1 looks to build off what works well, and call “Do-Over” on what didn’t. That’s what ‘dot’ releases are for, right?

So, here are some things that you can expect in the new Windows 8.1 release. The developers are making the interface more easy to use, adding new features, and adding support for smaller screen devices. The great thing about these upgrades is that they cost nothing.

User Interface

Start Button: Microsoft removed the start button from the first release of Windows 8 and you would have thought they were ending the world. They now realize that the functionality built behind the start button is mandatory for most users and it is coming back. Users will also be able to set their default screen to the “All Apps” screen which should appease many who utilize the start button pop-up.

New Live Tiles: Windows 8 originally only came with the two preset tile sizes. The large and small. Which allowed users to select larger tiles for features they used more often or smaller tiles for those that aren’t quite as important. Or if you had your facebook feed imported directly to your start screen you could use the large tile to display the first few messages. That was nice, but now they are taking it a step further. You can now use even a smaller tile which will fit four tiles into the same space as the initial small tile. This should calm some of the masses who complain that the start screen doesn’t offer a folder system.

Downloaded Apps No Longer Instantly Pin To Start Screen: No more will every app downloaded automatically pin itself to the start screen. You will have that option after download. This will inevitably end up with a much cleaner start screen for the average user.

All Apps Gesture: Finally, a simple gesture will show you all the apps installed on your machine. A simple swipe up and your there.

Auto Updates: Windows 8.1 will now automatically update your apps overnight while your sleeping.

Boot To Desktop: Windows 8.1 now saves you the click it takes to load the desktop version. You can change this in your settings.

More Colors & Textures: The updated OS will offer many new color schemes for your environment and will also support textures as well.

Desktop Background Image On Start: You can now match your start screen background with your desktop environment background. While it seems small, it makes a difference to some users.

New Features

Global Search: Windows 8.1 welcomes you to the omnibox experience on the new release. The global search function is one of the most used functions of any OS and you will now have access to it on your Windows machine, again. The search “Hero” will replace the Bing app.

Snap Display: This allows you to run two apps simultaneously on the same screen. One app will take up 25% of the screen while the other utilizes the other 75%. You can also snap more than two apps and run multiples on the same screen.

Better Support For Multiple Monitors: The new Settings app allows you to manually set the resolution of secondary monitors if you wish.

Reading List: In any app with content (including IE), users will now be able to save that content ‘offline’ so they can read it at their leisure, without an internet connection.

IE Improvements: IE in Windows 8.1 supports endless tabs. Also, you can make live tiles out of your favorite websites.

Active Lock Screen: The lock screen supports an intelligent slide show so it can do cool stuff like display photos on your device from exactly one year ago and make Skype calls without unlocking the device.

App Syncing Across Devices: When you log into a second Windows 8.1 device, the same apps you have on one device will automatically download and sync to the other device.

Photo Editing: The photos app gets basic photo editing in Windows 8.1.

New Microsoft Apps: Windows 8.1 introduces new Microsoft apps including a Calculator, alarm, food & drink, and health & fitness.

Apps Enhancements: the Xbox-branded apps for music, video and games all introduce new features that bring you to the content you interact with most often.

Small Screen Support

Microsoft knows and is willing to admit that it completely missed the mark when it came to small screen tablets, which have really become the more popular devices over the last two years. The issues that caused display problems on these devices have been addressed in the new Windows 8.1 release.

All screenshots courtesy of Mashable.com

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Cheaper iPad Mini Expected To Hit Soon

There is always the one main gripe when it comes to iOS anything, the price. Granted, there are people who are die hard windows, linux, and android users who would never in a million years purchase an iOS device, but these are not the people I’m talking about.

The people I’m referring to are the ones who would love to purchase a new Macbook Pro, but can’t afford the $1500 price tag, so the settle for a fast Windows machine for half the money. The people who would love an iPad but aren’t willing to shell out $600 when they can get an Android tablet for $400 that does just as much and in many cases more.

Well, for those people, you might just be in luck. Looks like Apple is going to release a new iPad Mini that takes the price down to the same level as the Google Nexus 7. You read that right. Would you buy an iPad Mini if it were on sale for $250, or would you go with the Google Nexus? I know from experience that the Nexus is a smoking tablet that anyone can fall in love with, but I’m an Android user. This might just increase Apples iPad sales and right before the end of the year as well, which will look good to investors.

I wonder if this is a move to increase stock prices in the company, or increase sales, or both. But, whatever reason there is behind it, I can see a lot of people snatching these up over the Summer.

Photo via – apple.com

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Xbox One – What You’ll Love and What You Need To Know

If you are a gamer, or have one in your household, then I’m sure that you are already aware of the new Xbox ONE. At least you are probably aware that it has been released and is on someone’s Christmas list. It’s been years since and actual upgrade to the Xbox gaming system. Sure, they’ve released the special editions, slimmed down the design, and beefed up the storage, but there have been no real changes to the processor or ‘guts’ of the device.

Well, that has all changed. The new Xbox is touting a brand new design along with brand new features. The processor can simultaneously switch between apps and inputs. No longer will you have to launch a new app and wait while it loads. This will all be done on the fly.

There will be a full NFL integration that allows you to watch the games, and see stats as they change on the fly. If you are watching a football game and your ‘fantasy’ wide receiver scores a touchdown, you will see your ‘fantasy’ results update right on the screen. On top of that you’ll have instant access to a skype based app that allows you to trash talk your friends after.

The new Call Of Duty Ghosts will have new rendering and all new skins for all of the graphics. The action and gameplay will be smoother and more realistic than ever. Prepare for this game to be taken to the next level.

Here is something that they are not advertising though. The new Xbox ONE will now allow for scanning YOUR room for licensing violations. Here’s an example. Imagine that you have gotten the latest UFC fight on pay-per-view. You invited 100 of your closest friends to a UFC party for some drinks and an evening of watching the fights. Well, now Xbox ONE can scan your room and report back to the broadcaster that you are violating the licensing contract and allow for proof for the broadcaster to take actual legal action against you. Big brother celebrates with this new technology.

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New Google Music All Access Is iTunes Worst Nightmare

There are many differences between the iOS and Android (Google) mobile operating systems. Just ask an android fan and they will be able to name tons of them. From the instant marriage to iTunes to the lack of customization (unless you jailbreak your iPhone, which we don’t recommend), the list can go on and on. Granted early versions of Android had their stumbling blocks, the latest versions of ICS, Jellybean, and now Key Lime Pie have labeled Android as a easy match to the iOS system of the iPhone.

Now, iTunes vs Google Music. Since the development of Google Music users have raved about the ease of use, simple download features, and cloud based storage (not just for purchased music, but Google offers storage for your personal music as well) make Google music a hit. Well now they are bringing out the big guns, so to speak. They are now announcing the Google Music ALL ACCESS addition which will allow you to stream as much music as you want for 8 bucks a month. The cool thing about this is that you can que your music and ever re-order that music which are options not offered by Spotify and Rhapsody.

You can also download that music for off-line play which is huge. The great thing about the Google Music/Play applications are that your device is not married to them. You don’t HAVE to use these applications to download and upload pictures, music, and videos. You can still mount your device like any other drive using a usb cable and copy any type of file to and from the device. No external software or funky drivers. Just simply drive loading which many users might not find to be a huge deal until they have tried to copy a video or song FROM an iOS device.

So, if you haven’t had a chance to mess around with Google Music, this is your shot. Also, to sweeten the pot, Google is making the first 30 days absolutely free and you can cancel at anytime.

 

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New X-Box Reveal – LIVE BLOG

The new X-Box reveal is taking place now, and we want you to have all the information now. The next generation of X-Box will integrate kinect, controller, and wireless devices. This is truly a new innovation in the gaming experience. But, it won’t just be a gaming experience anymore. It will be a full entertainment system integrating movies, television, gaming, and internet.

12:00 – When you integrate wireless, controllers, and kinect motion, real magic happens.

12:15 – Over 10 million downloads of Smart Glass. The new Xbox will have Smart Glass technology built in.

12:30 – We are taking the world’s best controller and making it better.

12:35 – The VGA camera has been replaced by a 1080p camera which is without a doubt a gigantic upgrade.

12:36 – Voice is now more conversational and will allow use by the entire family

12:36 – You can switch between a movie and a game like the flip between channels with the new OS.

12:37 – You can do group conference calls on your television using Skype.

12:38 – The new Xbox LIVE will be based on Xbox ONE which will amplify an all new generation.

12:40 – 15,000 servers now power the network over the 500 that were in use when Xbox officially launched.

12:41 – You will now have a dedicated gaming DVR to share your favorite moments.

12:42 – The television screen is still the most important screen in your house and Xbox ONE will change how you view your television.

12:44 – You’re television will now become social. You’re Xbox will become the new ‘watercooler’.

12:45 – For Me, Halo has always been more than a game. It takes place in a rich sy-fy world.

12:46 – Live action Halo television series from Stephen Spielberg.

12:47 – Xbox will now be your home for Sports. An alliance with the NFL.

12:49 – Exclusive content that will only be offered from the NFL to Xbox. Your fantasy football team integrated into your television and a live broadcast!

12:50 – Use Skype to trash talk your friends when your fantasy football pick scores a touchdown.

12:51 – The all in one system for every living room. Your games, tv and entertainment come alive.

12:52 – XBox ONE will launch later this year. My guess, just in time for Christmas.

12:53 – One of the biggest franchises in gaming history, Call of Duty. All downloadable content will launch exclusively on Xbox ONE.

12:54 – Coming up, the preview of the new generation of Call of Duty Ghosts.

12:54 – Camera crew gives you exclusive look at Call Of Duty Ghosts in the studio.

12:55 – New cast of character that feel like real people. You are the underdog fighting against superior forces.

12:56 – A new character and team member is your dog. Your teammate.

12:56 – This is a completely new Call Of Duty experience.

12:58 – New dynamic maps that change according to what you do on the level.

12:59 – We design Call of Duty for gameplay. Period.

1:01 – New generation Call of Duty Gameplay.

 

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Google+ Steps Up It’s Game [VIDEO]

Google announced at the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco that Google+ would be getting 41 new features that affect the Stream, Hangouts and Photos sections.

Google’s Vic Gundotra announced the new multi-column design for the Stream, which went live yesterday. The redesign has a lot of geeky eye candy like clever animations and cards that look a lot like Google Now, with strong hints of Pinterest’s layout and style.

One of the many new features is the ability to click on a photo and flip it over to see similar photos with the same hashtag. Gundotra says that users will be able to exempt thier photos from the ‘related’ hashtag. Speaking of hashtags, one of the new features is auto-hashtags. Google+ will automatically “hash” your post with a relevant tag – pretty cool.

Most of these new features seem to prepare the world for Google Glass which I blogged about in December.

I very much enjoy using Google+ and I think people who give it a try will enjoy the experience and these new features make it more attractive than ever.

Give it 30 days and you may never go back to Facebook again.

 

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Windows 8 Only Makes Sense With A Touchscreen [VIDEO]

Windows 8 has, so far, only had a lukewarm reception.  The main reason?  Most people are installing it on – or buying it new on – a traditional laptop or desktop.

 

Without a touchscreen, Windows 8 just doesn’t make sense.

 

As a Microsoft Partner, I got my hands on a copy of Windows 8 before it was available to the public and I installed it on my workstation. My experience? I felt like I was trying to conduct business computing on my son’s Xbox 360. I was constantly trying to hover my mouse in one corner or another in order to find an app or a program or something that I could use. I was desperate just to get back to the desktop that I was familiar with. My productivity at work sank and my opinion of Windows 8 went with it.

 

Why didn’t I didn’t like it? I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

 

That’s when we got our first shipment of Lenovo’s All-In-One IdeaCentres and I realized that Microsoftmight be on to something. Using the touchscreen changed my Windows 8 experience from a productivity killer to a faster way of getting around and a realization that I was connected to the PC via the touchscreen. This was a feeling I was all too familiar with from my experiences with my smartphone and tablet.

 

What if Microsoft had figured out a way to only release Widows 8 on devices with touchscreens? Would satisfaction have been dramatically higher – causing a boost in sales? Honestly, I believe so.

 

Since I’ve had the ability to use Windows 8 on a touchscreen, I’ve realized that it’s much more powerful than when using my old monitor, keyboard and mouse.

 

In short, it’s a waste of money buying a PC or laptop that has Windows 8 but lacks a touchscreen. You will have to fork over an extra couple of hundred dollars initially but you will gain a love for the new OS and hours of  lost productivity and fewer frustrations.

 

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Company Cars Are In Your Neighborhoods

When you are choosing a company to come to your home or office to perform a service, do you ever ask about their driving records or their safety policies?

There are thousands of service vehicles on the roads and streets of our communities, what does that company do to ensure that the person behind the wheel has a clean driving record?

Especially as the temperatures warm up and more of us go outdoors to walk, play and ride bicycles – it becomes very important that we know who is driving through our neighborhoods.

ASK – Yep, when you call – ASK.

According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and General Estimates System (GES) – there were 38,588 fatal commercial vehicle accidents and 5,974,000 total accidents in 2006 alone.

At catmandu, Inc. we have very strict policies for hiring and allowing our technicians to operate company vehicles in the communities that we serve. Our team must maintain a completely clean driving record in order to make service calls or even run errands. During the interview process we ask permission from the candidate to pull their MVR (Motor Vehicle Report) as well as a criminal background check. We also run random checks throughout their employment and if there are bad marks, the company car keys are taken away.

This summer when your family is outdoors and you look up and see the catmandu logo drive by, you can feel safe that a competent and courteous driver is in your neighborhood.

 

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