Categories
Charity Environment Search Engines

Ecosia 🌍

What is Ecosia?

Simply put, Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees with its profits.

💻📱 👉 💷💲 👉 🌱🌳

Which Search Engine Does Ecosia Use?

Ecosia is an organisation and search engine in its own right, but its results are powered by Microsoft Bing. Bing itself is carbon neutral and the whole of Microsoft are looking to go green by committing to be carbon negative by 2030.

How Green is Ecosia?

Ecosia recognise the impact the internet has on the environment of our planet. Ecosia runs on renewable energy, meaning your searches aren’t negatively impacting the planet.

“If the internet were a country it would rank #3 in the world in terms of electricity consumption” – Ecosia, 2018

In fact, searching with Ecosia is actually positively impacting the planet, with each search removing CO2 from the atmosphere. How? Because they plant trees with their profits.

As mentioned above, Bing (which powers Ecosia) is carbon neutral, so searching using Ecosia is a win-win from the perspective of your carbon footprint 👣

How Does Ecosia Make Money?

Like Google, Ecosia don’t make money from search results, they make their revenue from the ads that sit alongside the results.

Every time you click on an advert on Ecosia, you contribute to their revenue, which ultimately leads to trees being planted somewhere around the world

Ecosia tree tracker

They have a helpful counter on their search results to show you how many trees you’ve personally contributed towards.

So far they have planted over 100 million trees worldwide, supporting projects in 15 countries.

Why am I Promoting Ecosia?

The reason I wrote this article is because I think Ecosia awesome. They’re an organisation trying really hard to do the right thing and they’re clearly having an impact.

Congrats Ecosia on your success and thank you for what you’re doing for the world 🙏🎉🎊

Ecosia.org 🌍 give it a go 😊

Categories
Business

Business advice from industry experts


This is a sponsored post on behalf of Microsoft Cloud who have been working with The Economist. To find out more about sponsored content on Technology Bloggers, please visit our Privacy Policy.

Multinational business magazine The Economist has been working with Microsoft Enterprises business solution, Microsoft Cloud, to create a micro site called Empowering Business.

The site contains some very interesting bite-sized video snippets of business advice from industry experts. In this article I’m going to explore some of the advice that is offered on the site.

Marketing

Professionals in a meetingIn under 30 seconds, the CMO of technology news site Mashable, Stacy Martinet, explains how businesses can control their own publicity channels. Historically, businesses have been dependant upon buying advertising, or relying upon the media to cover their brand. Now however they can control – to a much to a much greater extent – what messages they send out, when they send them and how; through the use of blogging, social media and other forms of new media. This has fundamentally changed the way we (consumers) perceive organisations, and also how they market themselves to us.

On the Empowering Business site, Stacy Martinet also explains what she believes is the biggest mistake made by marketing professionals. She believes that thinking about marketing campaigns in an old fashioned way – running a project for a set period to achieve specific results – is a mistake. She suggests that businesses today should focus on constantly and consistently building and improving their brand(s) on a 24 cycle, rather than focusing on producing a specific return every 3 or 6 months.

Technology

Liz Crawford, CTO of beauty subscription service Birchbox believes that having a good understanding of your market and then being able to use technology to your advantage, to make your organisation more efficient, more effective and more innovative, is the key to being a successful Technology Officer.

Economist Advice Centre screenshot
The Economist in Partnership with Microsoft Cloud – Empowering Business

Leadership

Senior Lecturer at MIT School of Management, Claus Otto Scharmer, suggests that self-leadership is a skill that every leader needs. He states that before you can lead others, you need to be aware of how to lead yourself. If you can assess yourself to enable to you understand what you do and how you could improve, then you can transfer this knowledge into how you can make other people better too.

Human Resources

HR Consultant Jessica Miller-Merrell, from Xceptional HR, explains how company culture is a bottom-up phenomenon. She suggests that many high level mangers believe that they can dictate company culture from the top-down. Jessica states that because the employees are the culture, managers must get employee buy-in for an organisation to change how it operates.

Categories
Media News Science

Designing a Better World

Last year I wrote a post about a baby incubator made from car parts, built here in Boston by not-for-profit organization Design that Matters. The incubator uses car parts because they are easy to find practically anywhere in the world.

One of the problems with baby incubators and other pieces of technology used in hospitals is that they are often abandoned once they break down because access to the parts is difficult. In many cases it just needs a fuse to go that cannot be locally sourced and a hugely expensive machine becomes unuseable.

The car parts incubator hopes to avoid this problem. Read more in the post here.

Readers will be glad to hear that the Design That Matters organization have been named as finalists in Fast Company magazine’s Innovation by Design Awards. They appear in the category of Social Good, and that really represents the philosophy of the organization.

Project Firefly
Project Firefly

This year they have received numerous awards and special mentions for their Project Firefly, a safe, robust and inexpensive tool to provide infant phototherapy and warming for otherwise healthy newborns at risk of developing hyperbilirubinemia (leading to jaundice) and hypothermia.

Design that Matters (DtM), the East Meets West Foundation (EMW) and Vietnamese manufacturer MTTS have launched a collaboration to develop the device. It is hoped that the product could save hundreds of thousands of babies from disability or death through jaundice related complications.

I believe that design really could improve the world. We might think about some relatively inexpensive technological idea that can improve life for many people. In an article I also wrote last year on the Bassetti Foundation website I mentioned the Microsoft Imagine Cup, a competition organized to promote and support such ideas.

Many great ideas come through design schools. One example is the liter of light project started at MIT. Plastic bottles are used to reflect light into dark rooms by being placed in the roof. They run on water, bleach and sunlight, and have brought light into thousands of homes. Check out the video on the post linked above.

A Liter of Light in use
A Liter of Light in use

One fantastic source of “design to save the world” is the website Inhabitat. This site contains posts submitted by its editorial staff and readers that bring such projects to the public eye. They have a newsletter, and there is something for everyone, from technology, to architecture and an entire section for kids.

Really educational, interesting and fun, and maybe you will get a world improving idea yourself.

Categories
Computers Technology

Can you recondition an old computer?

There are many ways to deal with old computers. One popular way is to get rid of it. This is because old computers have no value, are slow and take lots of physical space.

The other way to deal with them is to sell them for a super low price so that you can buy a new one without paying too much. However, second hand electronic stuff does not really have any value. For instance, you probably ended up selling a graphic card for $50 that you bought for $200-$300 originally.

So why not keep your old computer and make good use of it.

How to rebuild an old PC

1. Format your hard disk to ensure you have completely remove all the data in it – remember that even formatting your disk might not remove all your data.

2. Install an new Operating System. If you are looking at Windows, XP might be a good choice for an old PC, however 7 also handles low spec hardware pretty well, so is also worth considering. There are several reasons why I think Windows XP is no longer the best choice:

  • License rarity – Windows XP is 3 versions behind the current Windows operating system, meaning few firms still stock XP licenses
  • Support has ended – Microsoft have officially announced the termination of the support for Windows XP in 2014
  • Malware issues – Windows XP is prone to more security risks than more current operating systems, simply because it has been around longer; this means you are likely to need a better antivirus software to keep the PC safe

If you don’t want to go down the Windows route, I highly recommend is the Ubuntu, which is a free Linux OS. There are several free Linux operating systems out there but so far, I think Ubuntu is one of the popular Linux distribution and probably easiest to use.

What is the requirement to run Ubuntu? According to the official site, these are the requirements.

  • 700 MHz processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 5GB of hard disc space
  • VGA capable of 1024×768 screen resolution
  • Either a CD/DVD drive or a USB port – or both

I bet you have a better PC than Ubuntu requires 😉 Ubuntu

Uses for an old computer running Ubuntu

No matter how old the computer, it always has uses. Here are some of my suggestions:

  1. Use it for regular web browsing. With a lightweight operating system (which won’t suck up your RAM and CPU usage) your old computer can still perform pretty well for simple web browsing
  2. Use it for data backup. You can always transfer all your important stuff into an old computer, and use it as a backup machine, so you can keep your files safe and access them easily
  3. Home surveillance system. If you buy a webcam or two and install them into your house you could use your old computer to run your own home surveillance system!

So now, if you have an old computer lying around or burred in your storeroom why not dig it out and start making good use of it?

If you have any good idea on how to re-use your old computer, why not share with us below?

Categories
Gadgets Technology

The Gadget Show Live 2013

The Gadget Show's 'G' logo at The Gadget Show LiveOn Sunday the 7th of April, I went to the Gadget Show Live at the NEC in Birmingham. It was a really great day, and I want to share the experience with you, I just haven’t had time to finish this post!

First of all I must give thanks to British Gas, who were very kind to give me tickets to the sold out event. As you may know, thanks to a collaboration between Technology Bloggers and British Gas, I have been able to step into the future of smarter living, and experience how technology has the potential to improve our lives. The technology I tested was of course their Remote Heating Control system, and I got to try it a few months before the national roll-out; I reported my findings via a series, which British Gas later posted on their website.

The day was very good fun, and I live tweeted from the event – take a look at our Twitter account and you can find some of the Tweets.

There was a lot of technology on show, some of which was cutting edge stuff, just being brought to the market.

Super Show

I had tickets to the ‘super show’ which was an event in which the three presenters of the Gadget Show: Jason Bradbury, Pollyanna Woodward and Jon Bentley, showcased exciting gadgets, offering various prizes to members of the audience. The show was good, however it did feel slightly commercialised, as pretty much every third word was plugging a product!

Smarter Living

After the show, the first stand (there were hundreds!) I visited was the British Gas stand. They had been kind enough to send me to the event, so I thought it only fair to pay them a visit!

They had designed their stand to look like a home, and had equipped it with all the very latest smarter living technology. Their Safe and Secure security system, Remote Heating Control and smart meters were all on show. It was very well designed and the complimentary Stuff magazine was appreciated!

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Microsoft

A tweet I posted about the Gadget Show, had attracted the attention of the team at Microsoft Windows UK, and they invited me to check out their stand, and to use their bloggers lounge.

As the main sponsor of the event, Microsoft got a pretty big stand – making it hard to miss!

Microsoft's stand at The Gadget Show Live 2013On their stand, Microsoft were showcasing many of their different software and technologies, including IE 10, Windows 8, Windows Phone, Surface, Bing, 3D scanning software and a real time, 3D webcam!

There was quite a lot on display, and the amount of technology was quite impressive, that said, as the event was so busy, they needed it all, as their stand was quite crowded at times.

I got talking to the person manning the 3D printing section, and was then offered (as a blogger) to go to the bloggers lounge. There I met some great guys from the technology giant, including the faces of @IE_UK and @WindowsUK, and the Senior Product Manager for Windows at Microsoft UK. I was given a tour of Surface and IE 10, and got to test them out for myself. I was quite impressed.

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I love Windows 7 and don’t have any problems with it, so I have never really thought about upgrading to Windows 8, however having been given a Windows 8 license, I am going to test it – expect more soon!

AQUAdue Loo

There was some really innovative technology on show this year. One example was AQUAdue‘s toilet system, when you need to flush, a tap which runs into a basin on top of the loo, starts to run. Use this to wash your hands, and it fills up the toilet for the next flush. What a great idea to save water and space!

AQUAdue toilet system

3D Printing

TARDIS 3D printout
3D printed TARDIS cufflinks.

The 3D printer Microsoft were using on their stand was an Up! 3D Printer. On another stand there was a firm called Denford Ltd there, who were showcasing the capabilities of a 3D printer. Probably the best giveaway I got from the event were some 3D printed TARDIS cuff links – as a techie, and a Doctor Who fan what better freebie could you get?

The technology has been around for a few years now, however it’s now starting to become mass market. Fancy a 3D printer? Well they aren’t as expensive as you might think, here’s a link to somewhere you can buy an Up! Mini 3D printer for less than £1200!

3D printed objects
An Up! 3D printer and some printed objects, included a printed TARDIS, castle and Yoda.

Microsoft were also using the Up! 3D printer to showcase their 3D scanning technology. You could get your head scanned, and then a miniature version printed out, right there and then – how cool is that! Gadget Show presenter Jason Bradbury seems to think so too, as he went to get his head scanned and printed! Take a look below.

Gadget Show's Jason gets a 3D printout of his head
The Gadget Show’s Jason Bradbury gets a 3D scan and print out of his head.

Too Much!

It was a really great day, and there was far too much there for me to talk about it all. Some of the best bits I have mentioned above, there’s loads more that I haven’t mentioned, mainly because I don’t want to run too far over 900 words – people tend to switch off after that!

I think from the number of tweets and images in this post, you can see that there was a lot going on 🙂

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Categories
Browsers Internet

Internet Explorer 10 puts Microsoft back in the game

A few months ago I posted an article entitled ‘Stop using Internet Explorer‘. I still stand by most of the points I made in that article, however since writing it IE 10 has been launched, something which has changed my stance on Microsoft’s browser.

Last Sunday, I went to the Gadget Show Live at the NEC in Birmingham. For this I owe thanks to British Gas, as they provided me with tickets to the sold out event. I will be posting more on the event soon.

When at the NEC, as a blogger I was invited to use Microsoft’s bloggers lounge, where I was made to feel very welcome by a friendly team of Microsoft employees. During my time there, I was given a (very impressive) demonstration of Surface by Robert Epstein, Senior Product Manager for Windows at Microsoft UK, who also demonstrated Internet Explorer 10.IE 10 LogoI didn’t think that the new IE would impress me, but it did. I was told how even Microsoft realised that IE was a little behind other browsers, and that when designing 10, they decided to completely start again. IE 10 isn’t just an update, it is a completely new browser.

Internet Explorer was one of the first browsers ever released, and was designed for a very different web to the one we use today. Internet Explorer 6 was initially released in 2001, and IE 7 in 2006. Firefox launched in 2004, and Chrome in 2008. That means that when IE 6 went live, neither Firefox or Chrome existed; probably why so many people (including myself) used it.

It is easy to point out how bad IE 6 is compared to other browsers. Today, it isn’t considered a very good browser, however when it was launched in 2001, it was, and that’s because compared to the competition at the time it really was.

Internet Explorer 10

Microsoft started again with Internet Explorer 10. They scrapped all that had gone before and built a completely new browser. Some aspects of the interface are the same, but that’s it really – oh, and you use it to access the web! 🙂

I have now installed IE 10 on my Windows 7 desktop, and was blown away by how fast it is. From warm, Internet Explorer 10 (on Windows 7) opens faster than Firefox and Opera. The difference is marginal, however IE does come out on top – just. IE 10 and Chrome 26 seem to take the same amount of time.

Internet Explorer is the fastest browser on Windows 8. IE 10 is available on both the start screen (or ’tile’) version of Windows 8, and the Desktop version; however the two browser interfaces are very different. The Desktop version offers an interface similar to that seen on the Windows 7 version, whilst the start screen version has a clean, minimalistic interface, with the focus primarily on content.

Improvements

Design improvements and faster boot time are not the only areas Microsoft have improved. For starters, the overall speed of browsing is much faster, giving an experience similar to that which you can experience using Chrome: responsive, fast and slick. IE 10 is currently the fastest Windows 8 compatible browser.

Microsoft IE at the Gadget Show
The Internet Explorer section of Microsoft’s stand at the Gadget Show Live

In terms of compatibility, Microsoft have fixed most of IE 9’s issues, IE 10 now handles HTML5 much better than its predecessors. Having tested the blog, I can confirm that it now appears correctly in Internet Explorer. So you can now visit Technology Bloggers and see things how they should look correctly using Internet Explorer, just make sure you are using 10!

The new browser is fully touch compatible, and is even multi-touch compatible. Microsoft have created several websites, (and helped upgrade others) which are touch compatible, and designed to register multiple points of contact at once.

One website which is now touch compatible is games site Atari. Many of the games require more than one point of contact at a time, and having tried some of them myself, IE appears to handle it very well.

Another new feature which capitalises on the touch capabilities is flip ahead. To quote Microsoft:

“Flip ahead allows you to explore favorite websites like you would a magazine. By implementing flip ahead, you enable your users to flip through a news article or an online catalog, regardless of their actual location on the page. Visitors no longer need to click a Next button to go to the next page.”

I was shown a demonstration of how it works on MSN news, and it looks very promising; just find some empty space, drag your finger from right to left, and you load (or flip to) the next article. I feel that flip ahead has real potential for blogs and news sites, hence why we are currently working with Microsoft to make Technology Bloggers flip ahead compatible.

UPDATE: Technology Bloggers is now flip ahead compatible! You can flip forwards and backwards between articles. Currently it only works for posts, however we may look at implementing it on (date/category/tag) archives in the future.

Issues

Okay, IE 10 is much better than previous versions, but it isn’t 100% problem free. The major issues surrounding the new browser involve bugs. Lots of software experiences the issue of bugs, however IE seems to have a reputation for them!

One of the bugs IE is facing media scrutiny for is issue of the Windows 7 version of the browser being incompatible with many hybrid graphics cards. Another reported bug seems to link installing IE to disabling the Aero interface on Windows 7. I haven’t experienced either problem myself, however if you search for the issues, there are quite a few people claiming to have problems.

When I started using the browser I felt that there wasn’t much room for tabs – on Windows 7. Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera all have a separate area for your tabs, however IE tries to squash them in next to the URL bar. You can increase the room available to tabs, but you loose URL box space. It is possible to put the tabs on a separate row, but doesn’t come as default; just right click on the headers and from the menu select ‘Show tabs on a separate row’. I would personally prefer tabs to be on a separate row by default.

Conclusions

Don’t touch any version of Internet Explorer that is below 10. On Windows 7, IE 10 seems very promising, and you should seriously consider it as a browser, it seems fast, safe and sleek. I am still using Firefox, however were I using a Windows 8 powered Surface, I think I would be using Internet Explore; but I don’t have a Surface, so I can’t be sure.

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Internet Explorer 10 is a completely new browser, that has put Microsoft right back in the browser war.

Where will it go from here, will IE start to steal back dissident users?

Watch this space.

Categories
Browsers Internet

Stop using Internet Explorer

This post was going to be entitled “Why you should stop using Internet Explorer” however I didn’t think that was a strong enough title, so I changed it to the direct instruction you see above this text: Stop using Internet Explorer.

You have a choice. You can use Google, Bing, Yahoo! or Ask. You can buy Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS or Ubuntu. You can go with Apple, Samsung, Sony or RIM.

Although Google dominate the search market, there are still many other search engines out there. Microsoft dominate the computer market, but you can still choose from a [reasonable] selection of other, popular operating systems. You could argue that Samsung now dominate the global smartphone market, but there are still many other companies you can go to to get a smartphone.

You also have a choice as to what browser you use. The internet is arguably now the main function for any computer, so surely you should devote some time then to choosing which browser is right for you?

If you have tried more than three different browsers before, for a considerable length of time and have after weighing up all the pros and cons of each, have chosen your favourite, well done you. If you haven’t, read on.

If you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), stop. Okay, well you can finish reading the article, but then stop using it. A simple instruction, which could do wonders for your internet experience.

Reasons To Not Use IE

There are many reasons not to use IE. Here is a list of what I think are the strongest arguments against the heavy, slow and outdated browser.

Lack of Security

IE seems to constantly be in the news for its security issues. Much of the malware out there on the internet is only made possible by bugs and holes in Internet Explorer! Need proof? Check out this section of IE’s Wikipedia page.

Speed!

In recent years Microsoft have been really working on making Internet Explorer faster, and IE 9 is much faster than IE 6 or 7 were; granted. That said, it is still much slower than the competition. For example, loading Technology Bloggers from cold (hard refresh) in Firefox, Chrome and Safari took 3 seconds, Opera took 4, while Internet Explorer took 7 seconds.

Lack of Features

Without a doubt, for features, add-ons and extensions, Firefox and Chrome are miles out in front. Safari and Opera also have a reasonable number of things you can add to your browser to customise/improve it, but Internet Explorer has only really started to embrace such features since IE 8. Apart from toolbars, Flash, Adobe Reader etc. IE 6 didn’t really do add-ons.

Inconsistency

Social buttons badly rendered by IE
How IE rendered the same code (our social buttons) on three separate page loads – neither is correct.

Take a look at the three images to the right.

Each of the images is a different variation of the social buttons on our sidebar that IE rendered. The screen size remained the same, and the loads were seconds apart.

IE managed to render three completely different versions of the same code. How does that work?

In the first image it didn’t even attempt to load the social buttons before declaring it was finished. It took a better shot in the second image, whilst in the third image it didn’t bother loading Twitter and threw Google+ to the bottom. Why?

Upon loading the blog in Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, I saw the exact same result. Each browser displayed them as they are meant to be displayed, every time – Internet Expolorer didn’t.

Lack of Compatibility with Modern Code

Code is advancing all the time, and a good browser will keep up to date with changes, and make sure it is able to interpret and display modern CSS, HTML, PHP etc.

When the blog snows at Christmas, IE doesn’t show that, IE also doesn’t like the ‘modern’ code which makes our search box work, or the code we use to add shadows to text.

Lack of Compatibility with Older Operating Systems

IE 9 doesn’t work with Windows XP, or any Mac OS or Linux system. Only Vista, 7 and 8 support IE 9. IE 10 only works with Windows 7 and Windows 8. According to StatCounter, in the last 6 months, 26.55% of all computer users used XP, whilst 7.13% used Vista and 7.46% use MacOSX – that’s 41.14% of the market that Microsoft are isolating straight away, and Windows 7 and 8 don’t even own all of the 58.86% share of the market that is left!

Advertising Campaign

Microsoft have recently undergone a quite extensive advertising campaign for IE, to try and shake off its bad reputation. They state how ‘lightning fast’ it is compared to how it used to be, which I can’t dispute. What they don’t however say is how it compares to Chrome or Opera. They also try to reassure users that it is now secure, although that is still debatable!

Which Browser to Use?

There are loads of web browsers out there, check out this handy Wikipedia comparison table to see.

Below is a map showing in 2013 so far, which internet browser is the most commonly used by country.

Top browser by country - 2013
Browser popularity by country. The colour of the country is the colour of the most used browser – see legend.

Personally I would advise using either Chrome or Firefox. If you have a relatively standard, or slow PC, then Chrome is probably best for you. It is light, simple and fast.

I still think that Firefox had more functionality than Chrome, and it is my personal favourite. If your PC is usually pretty quick and of a reasonable spec, then I would recommend Firefox.

Chrome is owned by Google – a multinational corporate giant – whilst Firefox is non-profit and open source.

Categories
Computers

A look at Microsoft’s Surface

This is a sponsored post. To find out more about sponsored content on Technology Bloggers, please visit our Privacy Policy.

With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft has now entered the tablet market with the highly anticipated Microsoft Surface. Surface also marks the introduction of Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 designed specifically for ARM. Without further ado, here’s our verdict on the Microsoft Surface.

Microsoft's SurfaceWindows Surface is one of the new hybrid tablets that are emerging, blending touch tablet and traditional laptop functionality into one portable package. The main selling point is the keyboard, which can be effortlessly connected to Windows Surface, allowing for speedy word processing that is normally difficult on touch tablets. Being priced at the same level as the iPad retina display (£479 including keyboard), it’s clear to see who Microsoft have in their crosshairs.

Dimensions

With a 10.6-inch screen, the Surface is perfect for word processing, watching video and doing day to day tasks while remaining portable. It’s incredibly slim (9.3mm), being 1mm slimmer than the iPad retina display. Weighing in at 678g, this device is slightly heavier than other tablets and may cause discomfort when held in the hands for extended periods of time. That being said, there is a nifty kickstand which makes viewing Microsoft Surface extremely convenient.

Screen Quality

With many tablet manufacturers pushing screen resolution to the max, people were surprised to see that the resolution was somewhat lacking. With only 148ppi (pixels per inch) things definitely lack clarity when compared with the likes of the iPad 4 or Nexus 10.

Software

The biggest problem with Microsoft Surface is its distinct lack of apps. The marketplace is extremely barren when compared to the likes of the Apple of Android stores. Basic things like Facebook and Twitter don’t have their own apps and can only be accessed through ‘People Hub’. You should only rush to sell your iPad when this problem gets sorted.

Processor

Microsoft Surface is powered by a Tegra 3 chip, a highly praised processor that has powered the likes of the HTC One X+. The performance of the Surface is stable for the most part, however there have been many reports of long loading times for apps launching and lag while browsing. Not the most impressive thing about the Surface. However, it does do the job.

Connectivity

One of the best features of Microsoft’s Surface is its wealth of connectivity options, some of the best seen on a touch tablet. The Surface comes with a full sized USB port, Micro SD slot and HD video out. The only disappointment is the lack of mobile internet connectivity for the Surface, giving it limited capabilities when not connected to Wi-Fi.

Overall

This is a very promising product from Microsoft, however it still has many problems that need sorting out, in particular the lack of applications. I don’t think it is time to trade in/sell your stuff online just yet to fund the purchase, until Windows fix some of the problems with Surface.

Categories
Computers News

Is Windows 8 an attempt to create a united Windows?

It has been nearly two weeks now since Microsoft released its latest operating system: Windows 8. Windows 8 is probably the most extreme overhaul Microsoft have given its operating systems to date.

It would appear that Microsoft’s aim is to unify all devices with one standard operating system – which works on desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets. Since the launch of Windows 7 just over three years ago, tablets have revolutionised the technology market – when Windows 7 was being developed, they didn’t exist. Windows Phone – the mobile operating system family – was also not around when Windows 7 was launched.

Until recently, the general perception of Microsoft was that it was falling behind in the rapidly evolving technology industry. Microsoft appear to have been aware of this, and that is reflected in the changes and developments they have made with Windows 8.

Tablets and smartphones are becoming widespread and more heavily depended upon than ever before, so Microsoft has moved to ensure that its new operating system works seamlessly with all our devices.

To do this the firm has simplified the range of operating systems that it offers. If you wanted to purchase Windows XP, then you could choose from XP Home, Professional, Media Center Edition and 64-bit Edition – among others. Vista made the choice even harder with Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, Ultimate and then other 64 bit variants to choose from. Windows 7 similarly offered many different versions of what is arguable the same operating system – give or take a few features.

Microsoft Windows 8If you want to buy Windows 8, your choice is much simpler: Windows RT, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. Microsoft believes that those three variations of Windows 8 are all the consumer will ever need, no matter what their device or needs. Windows 8 and its three variations will (Microsoft believes) cater for all uses of the operating system (e.g. educational use, entertainment use, business use, etc.) and all devices that you might want to use it on – i.e. tablets, smartphones, desktops and laptops.

Windows 8 is a bold move by Microsoft, and it appears to be working for them – at least at the moment. I get the perception that the industry is a little taken aback by the release.

Major Features

There is no-doubt in the fact that Windows 8 is a major change from the operating systems we are used to from Microsoft, but what are the most notable changes?

  • No start button – for the first time since its introduction in 1995, Microsoft have decided to remove the iconic start button from the operating system. It is possible to get the button back if you want, but its not how the operating system is designed.
  • Touch-enabled – all three variations of Windows 8 are touch screen compatible. If your computer supports multitouch, then you will be able to control your PC via touch! All versions also support the conventional mouse and keyboard.
  • Cross device compatibility – Windows 8 can be run on tablets as well as laptops and desktops.
  • Tiles replace the desktop – no longer does the operating system revolve around the desktop, as it has done for so long, users now access software and applications via a start screen which is a series of ’tile’ style menus – similar to the way many smartphones operate. Windows Phone 8 and Xbox also run a similar tile welcome screen interface. The desktop is still there, just not the main focus.

Windows 8 tyle start screen
Windows 8 new tile style start screen

So, what do these changes mean to me and you? Well it would appear that there is a really big move towards more integrated, purpose built systems, or as they are starting to become known all in ones. This is mainly due to the touch screen capabilities that Windows 8 offers.

Devices which need fewer input devices (like mice and keyboards) and have inbuilt screens are really those best suited to Windows 8. If you want to see some examples, take a look at some of the all in ones from Ebuyer.

What are your thoughts on Windows 8? Do you like the idea of a more united Windows, or do you prefer your devices to work independently?

Categories
Computers Internet

Google and Microsoft take on the cloud

Over the past few years cloud computing has become an increasingly popular trend. Two of the biggest tech names are also big names in the cloud computing industry: Google and Microsoft. But while both Google and Microsoft may have well-known cloud platforms, they are each extremely different and have met varied levels of success.

Google first launched its cloud computing platform, Google Apps, in 2006. Currently, Google Apps is available in four different platforms – Business, Education, Government, and Non-Profit – as well as a free version for personal use that can be obtained by creating a Google account. Google Apps is a completely cloud-based solution that does not require any additional hardware or software. The suite lives entirely within the web browser making it accessible from anywhere on any web-enabled device.

Microsoft introduced Office 365, its cloud solution, in summer 2011. When it first hit the market, Office 365 was available only for businesses. However, in spring 2012, Microsoft added a new platform for educational institutions. Office 365 is a hybrid cloud solution that requires some additional servers and software. This means that Microsoft users will have some patching and licensing and it also limits the mobility that Microsoft users can enjoy, especially in comparison to Google users.

Office 365 LogoAside from the difference in user experience and number of platforms, there is also a major price difference between the Google and Microsoft cloud services. Google Apps is a less expensive cloud service than Office 365. The highest-priced platform of Google Apps is the business suite, which runs standard for $50 per user per year. This price includes the entire apps suite and is standard for businesses of all sizes. The least expensive platform of Office 365 costs $48/user/year, but it is only available for businesses with fewer than 50 employees and does not include the entire apps suite. This means that businesses running on this platform must purchase add-ons, which will significantly increase the cost of the service. All other Office 365 platforms are priced higher, except for Office 365 for Education which, like Google Apps for Education, is free.

While the differences between Google and Microsoft might seem quite large now, they were even more distinct a few months ago. Recently, in an effort to better compete with Google, Microsoft added the new Office 365 for Education platform and cut its prices by as much as 20%. While these changes did narrow the gap somewhat, they still leave Office 365 trailing behind Google Apps in terms of platform diversity and pricing.

In May, Gartner Inc., a research firm, reported that businesses looking to move to the cloud for the first time were choosing a Google Apps migration one-third to one-half of the time. Perhaps this high percentage is a result of the differences between Google Apps and Office 365. This report came after a 2009 study by the same firm that predicted that Microsoft would be outselling Google by 4-to-1 in 2012.

In addition to making changes to bring in new users, Microsoft’s efforts are also targeted at keeping existing customers with Microsoft. To better achieve this goal Microsoft also created a “Google Compete” team, dedicated entirely to retaining current Microsoft users. The Wall Street Journal reported on this team’s failed attempt to keep Dominion Enterprises, a Virginia company, a Microsoft customer. Dominion Enterprises CIO Joe Fuller chose to have Google Apps setup even after the “Google Compete” team tried to convince him otherwise. The team invited Fuller to the Microsoft headquarters where he received a tour and saw the research lab, roadmaps to current technologies, and inside looks into new technologies. Nevertheless, Fuller still made the decision to switch to Google Apps. According to the Wall Street Journal, Fuller said he made the decision because he felt Google Apps was the “cooler” product and because he would pay $200,000/year for Google instead of $2 million for Microsoft, resulting in a savings of about 50%.

Although both Google Apps and Office 365 are well-known cloud services, there are very big distinctions that separate the two. Everything from user experience, platform variety, and price are different. Because of these differences, Microsoft has found itself trying to play catch-up in order to truly compete with Google Apps in the cloud.