Monday, November 17, 2014

Windows 10 With The Latest Technical Preview Build


If you've been keeping tabs on Microsoft's Windows 10 Technical Preview then you should really focus in here for a second. Microsoft has been consistently tweaking its Windows 10 Preview with new builds loaded with new features. These builds have been coming out pretty regularly with the first one debuting on October 1. The next iteration, which was known as Build 9860, came out around three weeks ago and Microsoft has just released the newest build, Build 9879. But why are these new builds so important?

With Windows 8 failing to attract customers like Windows 7 did so, naturally, Microsoft is under a lot of pressure to make sure that Windows 10 releases to as much fanfare as possible. In that respect, Microsoft has opened up a Windows Insider Preview Program, the purpose of which is to encourage people to download and install Windows 10 and share their opinions with Microsoft in order for the company to see if it is making the right choices. By keeping up with the latest builds you ensure that your feedback is relevant and up to date.

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In order to be up to date you have to be running the latest build, but how do you make sure that you're doing so? If you're not already running the Windows 10 Technical Preview then you can download it on your PC, though that isn't recommended unless you plan on doing so on a separate, spare computer. You can download it as an ISO file and then copy that file to a DVD or USB drive in order to install it on another PC, in a separate partition or as a virtual machine on your current computer.

Ok so if you've done all that or already have Windows 10 running it's time to get the latest build. And here's how to do it:
  • If you're using Windows 10, click the Start button and then click the option for PC settings. 
  • On the PC settings screen, click the Update and Recovery setting.
  • On the Update and Recovery screen, click the option for Preview Builds.
  • On the Preview Builds screen, click the button to Check Now. 
Once you do all this, Windows will tell you if a new build is available and display a Download Now button. If there are no new builds then another message appears alerting you that there are no new Preview Modes found. If a new build is found then:
  • Click the Download Now button. Windows will begin downloading and then installing the new build. 
  • Once the build is installed Windows will prompt you to restart your PC. 
  • Restart your  PC, log back in and the new build will be ready and waiting. 

You can then confirm that you are running the newest build by looking at the lower right portion of your desktop. There you will see the label Windows Technical Preview Evaluation Copy followed by the number of the build. At the moment, the latest build number is 9879. The next time you run this process you should see a higher build process number.

Now you are able to mess around with new build to see what you like, what works and what doesn't. Microsoft's OneDrive, for example, is not working in the current build. As Microsoft unleashes new builds, new features and new bugs will be noticed. In order to send feedback, click the Start Button and then click the Windows Feedback tile. At the Windows Feedback page you can select a specific category and feature to see feedback from other users or add your own.

Microsoft already has certain plans for Windows 10 and how it will tweak and shape things for the final build, though the company is definitely relying on the feedback it is receiving from users of the Technical Preview builds. If you were less than thrilled with Windows 8 then this is your chance to make Windows 10 the operating system you've always wanted.

Monday, October 20, 2014

HP Splitting Personal Computers And Printers Division From Enterprise Division

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When HP took over UK software group Autonomy the results were pretty bad. So bad, in fact that HP went into a full-blown crisis, which inspired the company to break up the two companies. This
news comes after allegations have been going back and forth between the two companies with each stating things like "fraud" and "misrepresentation" involved in the takeover with HP claiming that Autonomy overstated the number of contracts it had when the deal was being brokered.

CEO of HP Meg Whitman, whom has come under considerable fire for this whole situation, has decided to split HP's personal computers and printers business from its corporate hardware business, which has been highly profitable. Each part of the company will be worth tens of billions of dollars, though the deal itself is directed at making the large PC division easier to manage and focus on.

Whitman will take on the role of CEO of the enterprise division with Senior PC Division Executive Dion Weiser leading the PC division. In addition to that, Whitman will also be chairman of the PC division with the current Senior Independent Director, Patricia Russo, becoming chairman of the enterprise division. Some people have noted that this was the plan of Whitman's predecessor Leo Apotheker, who's idea of breaking up the two businesses was swiftly canned when Whitman took over. In addition to that, it has also been noted that both halves of the company are pretty equal in size, generating revenues of $55.9 billion last year.



HP was previously the world's biggest PC maker until Lenovo managed to snag the top spot last year. Lenovo has been increasing its presence in the American market with its low cost of production and quickly increasing technology. Whitman has had trouble finding HP's next area of growth in the computing world. Things like tablets and cloud computing have changed the face of the computing world drastically. As a result, Whitman has tried to branch HP into cloud computing, but with little success. That has also been exacerbated by her failed efforts to pull off a mega-merger with data storage giant EMC Corp.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo & Ashton Kutcher Are Giving Us A Tablet With A Built-In Pico Projector!


Whitman is looking at the need to not only cut costs due to the falling sales of traditional PCS. What's more is that Whitman and HP are also dealing with the need to cut tens of thousands of staff members around the world. The decision by HP to divide the two companies will likely be seen as positive by those on Wall Street due to the fact that investors have been demanding sprawling companies with diverse interests break up into smaller divisions that are easier to value and easier for management teams to oversee.


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Monday, September 22, 2014

Micron Ships Its Cheapest SSD With New 16n, Node

Last week Micron announced its newest solid-state drive (SSD), one that uses its densest process ever and one that has a chip capable of programming the memory to act like a high-performance SLC or high-capacity MLC flash drive. This new client-class SSD is known as the M600 SSD and uses Micron's new 16nm lithography with 128GB NAND density.

That greater density allows the company to drop the cost per GB to as low as $0.45. In addition to that, the ability to dynamically program the flash also reduces power use while improving write performance up to 2.8 times over models without this feature, according to Senior Technical Marketing Engineer for Micron Jon Tanguy. Tanguy also added that the M600 also has a sequential read/write rate of 560 MBps and has a random read/write rate of up to 100,000 I/Os per second and 88,000 I/Os per second, respectively.

The M600 is based on an 8-channel Marvell controller that comes with government-grade hardware encryption using the 256-bit AES protocol. This SSD is being marketed to manufacturers of corporate notebooks and ultra-thin netbooks as well as workstations and desktop PCs. As a result, the M600 comes in three form factors: a 2.5" SSD, an mSATA card and an M.2 memory stick. The mSATA and M.2 form factors come in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities for $80, $140 and $260, respectively. The 2.5" SSD comes in all the same capacities for the same prices but adds in a 1TB version that runs $450. In addition to that, the prices drop depending on the quantity you purchase, meaning the more you buy the cheaper they are per unit.

These prices may seem a little steep but they are in line with consumer-class products. SanDisk recently released its Ultra II SSD, which sells for $0.44 per GB. This SSD uses triple-level cell NAND flash, which means it stores three bits of data per NAND flash cell making it the densest industry specification to date. However, the more bits that are stored in cells the bigger the potential for data errors, which requires companies to create more sophisticated ECC.

Micron, instead of packing more bits in cells or over-provisioning its SSD with flash capacity, reduced the size of its process technology and added what "Dynamic Write Acceleration". Dynamic Write Acceleration is a special firmware that changes flash cells from single-level cell technology to multi-level cell technology. According to Tanguy, "So you can swap back and forth dynamically in order to deliver a pool of SLC or MLC capacity. Any new data programming is performed in SLC mode for really high performance."

This new firmware allows Micron to create a dynamic pool of cache without the need to overprovision. "We think doing this gives us a good method to address client loads that tend to be bursty in nature as opposed to enterprise data center write workloads that tend to be sustained," Tangy added. However, changing the NAND flash from SLC to MLC and back does increase write amplification. Increasing this wears out the usable lifespan of NAND flash more quickly. "The additional write amplification introduced with the new dynamic write acceleration firmware is manageable," Tanguy stated.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Microsoft's New Surface Pro 3 Has A New Docking Station That Makes It Indistinguishable From A Desktop

I feel that there are far too many times where we see add-ons for technology or games. Really, just about anything that has to deal with add-ons kind of makes me cringe, and here is the reason why. I just spent money on the product, but now you're telling me that there is something else I need to add to make it better? While that is all well and good, I feel like I'm getting gypped because I feel as if I'm getting an unfinished product. We see this a lot with video games and downloadable content extras. I feel as if tech companies have started to take notice of all the people who purchase things like this and now have decided to use it with their own technology to increase sales. Take for example the relatively new Microsoft Surface Pro 3. The "tablet that can replace your laptop" now is offering a nice little add-on for those hardcore enough to get it.



The Docking Station
Let's get to the meat and potatoes of it all. Microsoft has just recently introduced a new docking station for their Surface Pro 3, and for what it's worth, it's actually pretty awesome. The docking station itself comes with quite a few extra ports; 5 USB ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, a security slot, a gigabit Ethernet port, and a very handy Mini Display Port connector. The Mini Display Port can enable your tablet to add another monitor to double the screen size, definitely a really nice touch for the new docking station. Arguably the best part of the whole device is the way that it makes the new Surface Pro 3 look oddly reminiscent of a desktop computer in the way that it has been designed. The new docking station is pretty portable as well, and only adds to  fact that the device can have its versatility stretched.

The Price Tag
You may not think that the price tag of something like this is really that much to talk about, but it's more the price tag for different add-on devices that tends to grind my gears. This particular device has a relatively smaller price tag. The docking station will cost you roughly $200. This in itself isn't TOO bad, but when you think about the fact that the Surface Pro 3 is already $800 (and that doesn't even include the tablet's keyboard), those extras add up quickly. So the docking station raises the price tag of the Surface Pro 3 by quite a bit, which can only raise one question: Is it really worth it?




A Sound Investment?
These types of add-ons for devices aren't usually this intricate or this practical. It definitely makes having the Surface Pro 3 that much better if you do own/use one. Now you really can have a desktop on the go with the new docking station. The docking station does still have a few drawbacks, including the price and that fact that the only display port is a MiniDisplay port. That being said, if you can get past the price of the docking station and not really need another screen, then this honestly could be a must buy. The only thing that would really hold me back from this, again, is the price tag of this station. $200 is a lot of money to ask for when you're not really getting anything other than a power charging station and a few extra ports.

For those of us who may happen to already own, or may rent, the new Surface Pro 3, this could definitely help make working with your laptop/tablet hybrid a lot easier. The fact that you can basically have a new desktop wherever there is electricity definitely makes the new docking station all that much more appealing despite the fact that it still is $200. Who is to say that more tech companies won't follow suit and start putting out tech add-ons either? We will see in the very near future!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Windows 9 May Be Unveiled On September 30th

It appears that we may not have to wait much longer for Windows 9 to come out. According to reports, Windows is planning a huge event scheduled for September 30th. At this event the company is expected to show off an early version of their highly anticipated Windows 9 operating system.

Update: Microsoft Is Skipping 'Windows 9' And Naming Their Newest Operating System 'Windows 10.' Read more here:

Many different sources that have proven to be legitimate in the past have said that Microsoft is probably going to release a developer version of Windows 9 at the same time that the press event on September 9th happens. Last week a report from Mary Jo Foley, a ZDNet Microsoft expert, said that a preview version of the new operating system would be coming some time in late September or early October. This is pretty consistent with the news that is popping up, so all the puzzle pieces are starting to come together.

The code name that they are using right now is Windows Threshold. This is likely going to be Windows 9, but either way it is expected to feature a brand new and re-worked Start menu for Desktop mode. It is also going to have a nixed Charms bar and Metro apps that you can run in a window. There have also been hints dropped that there will be a desktop version of Cortana, Microsoft's mobile voice assistant. Cortana might not be in the first build of the new operating system, but it is pretty certain that she will make her way in at some point or another.

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There has also been some talk about what else there might be at the big event on September 30th. There may be a new hybrid of Windows RT and Windows Phone. There has been a lot of talk about a unified Windows operating system for all devices, so that might make sense. There will be tons more details as we get closer to the event, so stay tuned.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Tablet Winds Are Changing For Everyone, Including Apple And Microsoft

Tablets are the way of the future... right? Well that would be the case if you asked just about anyone who uses them. Some experts would say otherwise unfortunately. Tablets have come a long way since Apple came along and introduced the iPad back in 2010. Ever since that point, an entirely new category was opened up for other tech companies to come along and develop new products in. Over time that have been a few changes though. Certain companies can only stay on top for so long. We've known that Microsoft was the top dog tech company for years and years. The PC was good to go but again, times have changed. PC's aren't as sought after as they used to be. The tablet sales are also going downhill a little bit, even for Apple. So Microsoft and Apple have something to worry about now... don't they?

Well, yes and no.

Microsoft
Microsoft hasn't had the best luck lately. With the recent deal between IBM and Apple, the funeral for PC's has been set. Think about this. Just with the way that technology has gone more mobile, the days of stationary computing are gone. That's just the facts. Microsoft recently killed off it's attempts at a mini tablet with the death of the Surface Mini. This is a big deal for Microsoft. The small screen tablet market has been filled up with other companies' products, such as Apple's iPad Mini or Google's Nexus 7. Since these tablets are already well established on the market, Microsoft wouldn't be making the best investment should they've decided to release it. No one would've taken notice since they're 2 years late and the fact that their operating system's staple office programs don't work very well on small screen tablets.

Apple
Recently there have been reports of Apple's iPad sales going down. This has led experts to think that the iPad is on its way out. They couldn't be more wrong. The way that we deal with tablets is oddly reminiscent of the way that we deal with most other computing technology. Yes, I feel that tablets are basically smartphones without the phone part, but they aren't dealt with in the same manner. What I mean by this is that we deal with our tablets the same way we deal with our laptops and computers. We don't normally replace our laptops or computers every 2 years like we do with our phones. Because of this, this is going to cause a lull in sales over a particular amount of time. Not to mention the fact that people don't just trash their tablets after their done with them. They typically pass them down in order to save money. So the sales have slowed but people are still buying tablets, just not as much as they used to.

What Does This Mean For Both Of These Companies?
Apple doesn't really have much to worry about. Mainly because they are Apple and until another company one ups them, they will always be a fashion statement in terms of the most advanced tech. They will continue to make more tablet iterations of the iPad. I'm sure we can expect to see the iPad Air 2 some time soon. The only thing is that the sales might still fade unless they are in the holiday season to boost sales. Microsoft is a different story. People don't resort to Microsoft for their mobile technology needs like they do for Apple and Samsung. Microsoft has the Surface Pro 3 out and even though it's been getting good reviews, it's still not everyone's first choice. The Windows phones don't seem to be doing well either. Naturally, Microsoft is just a PC company and unless they are able to create something game changing for the mobile technology world, they're going to be out of luck in terms of sales.

The tablet market is going through a change right now, and only the top companies will remain in the game. Apple will be fine until someone knocks them off of their throne, but Microsoft looks to be on the ropes in comparison. Time will only tell how long Microsoft will last, and what will become of the current tablet market and it's future.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

The Surface Pro 3 Is A Nightmare For DIY Users

The Surface Pro 3 is officially available from Microsoft with the company touting the hybrid device as a true notebook replacement. However, a lot of do-it-yourself tech junkies out there are singing a different tune. DIYers in no way see the Surface Pro 3 as a notebook replacement, instead viewing the hybrid as a tablet only through and through, according to iFixit.

iFixit, which is based out of San Luis Obispo, California, is one of the most well-known electronics repair companies in the country and recently acquired the Surface Pro 3. Once in hand, iFixit decided to tear the thing apart (in a professional way) to see what Microsoft had stuffed inside it and to determine how easy or difficult it was to reach the internal components. On iFixit's repair score spectrum, which rates how easy or how difficult it is for a DIYer to get inside and replace things, iFixit rated the Surface Pro 3 the lowest possible score of 1.

Several characteristics of the hybrid were to blame for the incredibly low score, including what iFixit called a "paper-thin display glass" that actually cracked when the team tried to pry apart the device. According to an email about the device from iFixit, "The Surface Pro 3 traded the 2's 90+ screws for some seriously hideous adhesive, and consolidated even more components."

The cracked screen wasn't the only thing that went wrong with iFixit's teardown. In addition to the screen, the battery in the hybrid also became warped thanks to the thick adhesive spread throughout the device. This adhesive technique is a common thing among ultra-thin tablet makers these days. Though we shouldn't be too surprised by this as iFixit also gave the Surface Pro 2 a repair score of 1 and the original Surface Pro a 1 as well.

"We think the 3 is pretty much the same insane difficulty to repair as the 2," according to Co-Founder and CEO of iFixit Kyle Wiens. "You're more likely to break the screen than on the 2, but things are more a bit more straightforward once you get inside, it's not very modular."

It isn't just Microsoft devices that are receiving these low scores. Other popular tablets have also earned 1 point repair scores, including Apple's iPad Air. The thing for Microsoft is that it has been touting the Surface Pro 3 as a notebook replacement, not a tablet. When you compare the Surface Pro 3 to other notebooks, accessibility is simply a nightmare. Talking about repairability Wiens added, "Notebooks are usually pretty darn good. Dell, HP and Lenovo post service manuals for their laptops and believe that they are reasonably serviceable."

Some notebooks are just as impossible to get inside of as the Surface Pro 3. iFixit tried to break into a Retina Display MacBook Pro in 2012 it titled the device the "least-repairable laptop we've even taken apart", giving it a score of 1 also. However, the MacBook Air, which Microsoft has used as a direct comparison for the Surface Pro 3, earned a repair score of 4 out of 10 from iFixit last year.

"Part of the reason we emphasize repairability on tablets is that it's such a huge departure from the designs of the past," Wiens added. "People assume their electronics are repairable, and then are surprised when they learn that things have changed for the worse."

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