Archive | December, 2012

Intel-based Windows 8 tablet beats Surface, but ‘bug’ cited

21 Dec

A fresh review of a Windows 8 Acer tablet by chip site Anandtech shows it beating ARM-based devices pretty consistently on central processor unit performance benchmarks but not on graphics. The site also noted a “bug” that has delayed the release of some Intel-based tablets.

“The [Intel] Atom architecture is still faster than every single ARM based [processor] core on the market today with the exception of the Cortex A15,” — ARM’s newest chip design — wrote Anandtech when it posted a review of the Acer W510 today.

Intel’s Atom z2760 “Clover Trail” system-on-a-chip is just starting to appear in products like HP’s Envy x2 and Samsung’s Ativ 500T — both are tablets that can run the full version of Windows 8 and can convert into a laptop via a keyboard dock.

Those systems compete with tablets that run the RT version of Windows 8 on top of ARM processors from Nvidia.

“It doesn’t really matter where you turn, the CPU side of Clover Trail is clearly ahead of anything we’ve seen thus far in the Windows RT camp…clearly better than Surface,” Anandtech said.

It’s not all good news, though. Clover Trail’s graphics processing unit (GPU) is out-classed by most of the competition, including the iPad.

“Compared to what’s shipping in the latest iPads however, Clover Trail is horribly under-specced…based on what I’ve seen thus far it looks like the GPU here is a bit slower than what you get in a [Nvidia] Tegra 3,” Anandtech said.

And a lot slower than the GPU in the iPad 3 and 4 and even less powerful than the iPad Mini’s GPU.

Battery life is good, however, and able to keep up with an RT device.

And like Microsoft Surface and other Windows RT tablets, desktop mode is nothing to write home about. “[User interface] performance can be sluggish in desktop mode,” Anandtech said, referring to the Windows 8 mode that resembles the traditional Windows 7 desktop.

And about that “bug” that has delayed shipment of some Intel-based Windows 8 tablets?

“Contrary to popular belief, driver problems aren’t what kept the first Atom Windows 8 tablets out of the market at launch. A bug (not related to power management) caught several months ago caused schedules to slip by about a month and a half.”

Anandtech continues: “Depending on whose design the OEM followed (Intel’s or their own), the implementation of the fix could come quickly or would take a bit longer.”

Shipments of tablets such as Lenovo’s ThinkPad Tablet 2 and Dell’s Latitude 10 have been delayed until January.

An Intel representative acknowledged delays with the Clover Trail chip when contacted today by CNET but did not specify a reason for them.


UK Met Office: 2013 ‘very likely’ to be in Top 10 warmest years

21 Dec

It is very likely that 2013 will be one of the warmest 10 years in the record which goes back to 1850, and it is likely to be warmer than 2012,” the Met Office said on Thursday (20 December).

Next year was expected to be between 0.43 and 0.71 degrees Celsius warmer than the long-term global average of 14 degrees (1961-1990), with a best estimate of around 0.57, it said.

The forecast is based on Met Office research, as well as data from the University of East Anglia, the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Rising temperatures could be due to the natural variability of the climate and global warming from increasing greenhouse gas emissions, said Dave Britton, a Met Office forecaster.

A warmer global average temperature does not necessarily mean every region of the world will get hotter, as regional climate variability produces different effects in different parts of the world, he added.

Eleven of the 12 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001, according to data from the World Meteorological Organisation.

Last year is ranked the warmest on record, having been 0.54 degrees above the long-term average, while 2012 is ranked the ninth warmest, with a rise of 0.45 degree Celsius.

Rising global temperatures

Most scientists blame increasing temperatures on man-made greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, and say they can lead to rising sea levels and extreme weather events such as superstorm Sandy that hit the US east coast in October.

Last week, a leaked draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed that global average temperatures could be more than 2 degrees above average by 2100, and could reach 4.8 degrees.

Low-lying island states and other countries vulnerable to rising sea levels, floods and hurricanes have been putting pressure on developed countries to curb greenhouse gas emissions and keep the rise in temperatures to within a limit of 2 degrees this century.

Global carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high in 2011, led by China, the International Energy Agency said in May.

A UN conference aimed at curbing emissions ended this month with little progress.

iCookbook turns your Windows 8 laptop or tablet into a gorgeous cookbook

21 Dec
There are few things more appetizing than gorgeous, high-resolution photos of delicious food. Cookbook editors have known this for years, and the modern cookbook is bursting with full-page glossy photos showcasing the recipes. iCookbook is a $5 cooking app for Windows 8  that takes this aesthetic and brings it to life with thousands of photos, each leading to a beautifully typeset recipe.

Windows 8’s Modern UI is all about tiles, and iCookbook uses them to good advantage. Every recipe is represented by a tile bearing a photo and caption, but they’re not all the same size: The main screen is subdivided into several categories, each with a large centerpiece tile and three smaller tiles below. These categories let you browse recipes by dish, ingredient, theme, cuisine, occasion, and brand.

iCookbook’s main screen surfaces recipes using beautiful, bold imagery.

If one of the images on the main screen catches your fancy, just click to open the full recipe. But if you’d like to drill deeper into a category, you can click its header and find yourself in a submenu with vertical tiles, one per subcategory. So click Dish, and you get Appetizers & Snacks, Beverages, Breakfasts & Brunches, and many more. Click a subcategory, and you’ll find yourself in a screen full of alphabetically sorted tiles, each for a recipe in that subcategory. There are often more recipes in a subcategory than can fit on the screen, so you can scroll to see more – horizontally. In fact, all scrolling in iCookbook is horizontal. This can be strange and distracting at first, but such is the way of the Modern UI.

iCookbook lets you easily and visually browse recipes by several different categories.

With thousands of recipes available, search is a must-have feature. At first I just tried typing, expecting a search bar to pop up with my first keystroke, like it does in the Windows Start Screen and Windows Store. When that didn’t happen, I brought up the Windows 8 Charms bar and clicked the Search icon. That did the trick, and I was able to quickly search for recipes.

When you pull up an individual recipe in iCookbook, you get a larger version of its photo first. It starts off blurry, becoming sharp after a few seconds. Next to the photo, you’ll find important information about the recipe, such as its level of difficulty, how many people it serves, how many calories are in a serving, how long it takes to cook, and its average rating (you can also set your own rating for the recipe). Some of these values are underlined, which means you can click them for further information. For example, you can click a recipe’s calorie information to get a full breakdown of nutritional values. This is great information, but unfortunately, you can only use some of it for filtering: There’s no way to search for all cookie recipes that are marked as “Easy,” for example. There’s also no way to adjust quantities (turn a 9-person recipe into a 2-person one).

The recipe view uses large typography, so you don’t have to set your laptop or tablet too close to your work area.

Right by the recipe information you’ll find a list of ingredients and notes, often with branded ingredients (2 envelopes FLEISCHMANN’S RapidRise Yeastand so on). Some of the more complex recipes, such as Apple Cinnamon Rolls, have complex ingredients with recipes of their own, such as Apple Filling or Cinnamon-Sugar Topping. These say “(recipe follows)”, but there’s nowhere to click, and no way to actually get to that ingredient’s recipe. Even manually searching for “Apple Filling” didn’t bring up that recipe, instead yielding a long list of apple cakes. The vendor is working on a solution for this.

Each recipe has interesting metadata, but it can’t be used for filtering.

Fortunately, not all recipes are this complex, and many are self-contained, so you just need a single recipe to make the dish. Once you find such a recipe, you can scroll (horizontally) through each step as you work through the recipe. Steps are displayed with large, bold typography, each ending with a small “What’s next” note so you know what’s coming. The large typography means you can set down your Windows 8 laptop or tablet somewhere in the kitchen and glance at it every now and then while cooking without having to put it in harm’s way.

You can quickly search through recipes using the Search feature build into Windows 8.

ICookbook was fast and responsive in my testing, with search results, categories, and individual recipes all coming up instantly. Animations were smooth, except for the home screen, which had a jumpy, stuttering transition every time I brought it up. If you’re looking for some culinary inspiration and love photos of food, this is a great app to try out.

Note: The Download button on the Product Information page takes you to the Windows Store, where you can download the latest version of the software.

New Office 2010 Buyers Will Get Free Upgrade To Office 2013

11 Dec

Microsoft hasn’t yet confirmed final pricing for Office 2013, but it seems to be readying for launch. New purchasers of the full version of Office 2010 are now being promised a free upgrade when the updated software ships.

The deal lets buyers of either the box copy version of Office 2010 or the subscription Office 365 release, for which global pricing has been announced. Any purchases made between October 19 2012 and April 30 2013 will be eligible to download the final version of Office 2013 at no charge when it ships.

No official word yet on when Office2013 ships, though early 2013 is widely assumed to be the target date. The promotion can’t be redeemed after May 31, 2013, which effectively sets an outer limit on the release.

The deal mimics a similar scheme where Microsoft offered cheap Windows 8 upgrades for new PCs purchased after June this year — a scheme which hasn’t been very rigorously policed.


Windows 8: New Security Features Explained

11 Dec

Let’s get this out of the way: Microsoft’s decision to drastically change the Windows interface for Windows 8 remains highly controversial.

But there are benefits for users who make the switch to the new operating system (OS). Number one on that list: the all-new security features that Windows 8 offers.

Windows 8

For one, Windows 8 includes Windows Defender (otherwise know as Security Essentials). This free antivirus and antimalware security program takes over and protects a user’s computer automatically, and remains in operation until some other antivirus program is installed.

While recent tests have shown that it doesn’t provide quite as much security as other, subscription-based antivirus software programs, Windows Defender is certainly better than using no antivirus program at all.

Secure Boot Prevents Rootkits From Taking Hold

Microsoft has also changed the OS so that anti-malware software starts working earlier in the computer’s boot-up process. As a result, Windows 8 does a better job of finding rootkit-based malware, which can be especially hard to remove.

This feature, known as Secure Boot, validates the boot signature of all boot components. If it’s detected that a component has been tampered with, Windows 8’s Windows Recovery Environment will automatically begin the process of fixing the issue.

Secure Boot is important because many malware programs target a computer during the boot process, when a system is most vulnerable to infection. By preventing rootkits from infecting a computer and actively evaluating component status during the boot-up process, Secure Boot improves a Windows PC’s overall security.

For that reason alone it should eventually appeal to corporations, government agencies, and organizations, big and small.

But there are also security features that help keep a system clean after the boot-up process. Windows 8’s SmartScreen filter automatically screens any executable (EXE) file you download via Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or another popular web browser.

When SmartScreen scans an EXE file, the program’s signature is sent to Microsoft’s own servers, where it’s quickly evaluated. If malware is detected, Windows 8 won’t run that executable file.

Given that so many malware infections take hold while we browse the Internet, SmartScreen could potentially save home and business users thousands of dollars in PC repair costs.

Windows 8 Apps ‘Sandboxed’

A third new security feature allows the new operating system to isolate troublesome applications. Under Windows 8, applications are automatically ‘sandboxed,’ meaning the programs gain only restricted control over your computer.

This is extremely beneficial because it prevents malware that does get to run on your computer from spreading to other parts of your PC. In effect, Windows 8 uses the sandbox strategy to ‘wall off’ applications from doing more than minimal damage.

And guess what? You won’t find sandboxing — or the other security features — built into Windows 7.

But is that enough to convince consumers that Windows 8 is worth purchasing? Only time will tell. But it is worth knowing what benefits come with upgrading to the new OS.

Windows 8 system requirements

8 Dec

If you want to run Windows 8 on your PC, here’s what it takes:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2 (more info)

  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)

  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)

  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver


Additional requirements to use certain features:

  • To use touch, you need a tablet or a monitor that supports multitouch (more info)

  • To access the Windows Store and to download and run apps, you need an active Internet connection and a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768

  • To snap apps, you need a screen resolution of at least 1366 x 768

  • Internet access (ISP fees might apply)

  • Secure boot requires firmware that supports UEFI v2.3.1 Errata B and has the Microsoft Windows Certification Authority in the UEFI signature database

  • Some games and programs might require a graphics card compatible with DirectX 10 or higher for optimal performance

  • Microsoft account required for some features

  • Watching DVDs requires separate playback software (more info)

  • Windows Media Center license sold separately (more info)

  • BitLocker To Go requires a USB flash drive (Windows 8 Pro only)

  • BitLocker requires either Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2 or a USB flash drive (Windows 8 Pro only)

  • Client Hyper-V requires a 64-bit system with second level address translation (SLAT) capabilities and additional 2 GB of RAM (Windows 8 Pro only)

  • A TV tuner is required to play and record live TV in Windows Media Center (Windows 8 Pro Pack and Windows 8 Media Center Pack only)

  • Free Internet TV content varies by geography, some content might require additional fees (Windows 8 Pro Pack and Windows 8 Media Center Pack only)

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8 Dec

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