Friday, October 26, 2012

Windows 8 Released to the World, But is it Good?

The wait is finally over, Microsoft Windows 8 is officially here. The newest iteration of the world's most popular computer operating system was released today after months of demos and commercials showcasing it. Microsoft has said that over 1.24 billion hours of testing went into the new operating system and is in many ways hedging the future of the company on the new release. Because of the increased pressure from Apple and Google, Microsoft wants to assure consumers that they are still relevant in today's world.

Windows 8 marks a radical change for Microsoft in terms of the layout of their operating system. Gone is the traditional start menu, replaced by an entirely new start interface with "live tiles" and an array of downloadable applications from the all new Windows Store. Current windows users will notice a drastic change from Windows 7 to Windows 8. While the traditional "desktop" is still there, it is no longer the center of the computer's processes, and more of a "background application". Part of Microsoft's reason for making such drastic changes to the interface is to make their operating system compatible across more devices. Microsoft is trying to not only keep hold of the traditional PC market, but also branch into tablets and smartphones. Windows 8 is truly built more for new hybrid, touch-based computers and tablets more so than traditional desktops, though it is built to run on those as well.

Having already downloaded Windows 8 to my laptop early this morning, I have only had a short time to interact with it. That being said, I noticed one thing right away, there is a steep learning curve. The interface, short of the traditional desktop which is now essentially an "app", is completely different. Even for someone that is very familiar with the way Windows computers work, navigating Windows 8 is in many ways a whole new experience. That is not to say that all is bad. I do like the modern interface that Microsoft has introduced, and I like many of the new, full screen applications that are available from the Windows Store. I also like the deep integration with all Microsoft services, if you have an email account, that allows many settings and files to be synced over the cloud.

There are, however, plenty of drawbacks, at least currently, to Windows 8. For starters, nothing is where it used to be. Just trying to turn the computer off takes multiple steps that may take users a while to figure out. Also while Windows 8 is "easy" to navigate, it is more so for a touch screen rather than a traditional computer. A traditional keyboard and mouse feel "out of place" in this new user interface, save for when working with the traditional desktop. I understand Microsoft wanting to make Windows 8 touch friendly for tablets and new touch-enabled computers, but traditional computers upgraded to the new OS feel a bit neglected. In addition, the current offering of applications in the Windows store is very limited, and until more popular applications are added, it will suffer.

Overall, my opinion of Windows 8 is still up in the air. While I think it is a must have if you are looking for a new, touch enabled PC, it is not yet a necessary upgrade for existing computers. If Microsoft continues to add new, relevant applications to its Windows Store and allows easier ways to interact with the traditional desktop, then I think it will truly be useful to everyone. It remains to be seen how the radical change in design will impact sales of the operating system, but one thing is certain right now, it is a new age for Microsoft and for the future of personal computers.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Firefox 16 Re-released After Fix of Flaw

One day after suddenly pulling the latest version of its popular web browser off of their website, Mozilla has re-released Firefox 16 for download. Mozilla pulled the latest version of Firefox from their install page as a result of a discovered security flaw. The security flaw apparently allowed harmful and malicious websites to track and identify which websites the user had visited. This flaw was discovered by security researcher Gareth Heyes, who then publicly disclosed the vulnerability.

While Mozilla has stated that there is no evidence of this flaw "in the wild", Mozilla on Wednesday recommended that users who upgraded to version 16 downgrade back to 15.0.1. By noon Thursday, however, a new version, 16.0.1, was available for download and according to Mozilla, is now safe to download and use. Anyone that had already downloaded version 16 was upgraded to this newer version, along with an update for the Android version released Wednesday night.

The good news for Mozilla is that this security flaw appears to be minor and was one that they were able to quickly fix. Their browser Firefox, an open-source, free web browser, has enjoyed continued growth and success since its release in November of 2004, and now holds 22% of the global browser market share. With the continued competition from poplar web browsers such as Internet Explorer and Google Chrome, Mozilla has to ensure that their browser is safe and secure for users. It remains to be seen if any more security flaws will be discovered with the updated version, but for now it appears to be working well for Firefox.

Source: CNET - Mozilla rereleases Firefox 16 after fixing critical flaw
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

PC Satisfaction Increased by Tablets?

Recent news on PCs have been mostly negative with most people in the tech industry saying that the PC is dead, due in large part to the incredible rise of the tablet PC. Many people have been saying that tablets are killing the PC business and that it is only a matter of time before tablets completely make PCs obsolete. However, recent reports are suggesting that tablets may actually be boosting the rate at which consumers appreciate their PCs.

Personal computer satisfaction increased by 2.6% this year, giving it a record high score of 80 on the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ASCI). According to the index, the reason for this satisfaction increase is probably due to rise in tablet use among consumers.

When you think about it, this seems a little contradictory, though ASCI founder Claes Fornell has a theory. Fornell's theory is that when unsatisfied PC users move to Apple and other tablet makers, only the most loyal and happy users are left using traditional PCs, such as Dell, HP and Acer computers. That actually makes a lot of sense. If all the unsatisfied people switch to tablets, then only the happy and satisfied customers are left to take the surveys.

There may be an additional reason that tablet growth has increased PC customer satisfaction. Tablets typically server as an ancillary device, meaning they are viewed as second in importance to a PC. If this is true then tablets, instead of taking the place of a PC, are used solely for the tasks that they are best at, like surfing the internet, watching movies or checking Facebook. This leaves PC users fully aware of everything that their PC offers and everything that their tablet doesn't, further increasing their satisfaction.

Source: PC World - Tablets might actually be increasing PC customer satisfaction