Browse the web in speed and style with Opera

opera_retina_iconChange is constant. If there’s one thing that you can count on staying the same, it’s the fact that things change. Case in point, Soft32 reviewed Opera Browser just over a year ago. At the time, I found Opera to be a decent browser, but not quite on par with, say, Chrome or Firefox. A year can make a huge difference, and quite honestly it did with the platform independent browser, Opera.

The internet is a huge resource, and if you go poking about, you never know what you’re gonna find. Opera makes that easier than ever with its Discover feature. Discover gives you top-quality news and entertainment from all around the globe. You can enjoy new content from a variety of categories and read articles from your region, in your language with just a few clicks. Its quick and easy to get the content you want.

Speaking of search, finding things with Opera is really easy. The browser has one intuitive, powerful location for searching and navigating the web. You can search using multiple providers and view the site suggestions as you type. This type of behavior should be very familiar to most web users and is a welcomed addition to Opera Browser.

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If you’re on a slow network, or if you just want to make your browsing experience that much faster, again, Opera has you covered. Its Off-Road mode compresses pages for faster, all-conditions browsing. It helps you stay online when your connection slows down. If you’re concerned about dropping a connection, or things totally tanking, Off-Road will help your browsing experience.

One of the biggest problems I’ve got with all of my bookmarks and favorites is keeping them straight and of course, getting to the ones that I use the most. Opera’s enhanced Speed Dial, groups your most-visited sites directly on a custom start-up page. From there, you can quickly search and access your favorite content. Once you’ve found something you like, keeping it just got easier. Opera’s Stash feature can capture a page with one click and organizes captured pages into a simple, sophisticated list. You can quickly search what you’ve stashed in a resizable preview page; or search what you’ve saved, by keywords.

Opera has come a long way in just over a year. With improved search and navigation support and the ability to support off-line browsing; and the ability to make your browsing experience, faster, Opera has changed..and its changed for the better.

If you’re looking for an improved browser experience, then Opera may just be the breath of fresh air you’ve been looking for.

download Opera

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The Golden One

6574.Xbox-logo.jpg-550x0Yes, the Golden One is not someone, it’s something. It’s not a special one, it’s THE Golden One.

You might have heard about the iPhone 5s golden edition, with a fake gold coloring, thisONE is for real. An Xbox One plated in 24-karat gold. Yeap, it’s the best thing you can buy if you’re ever getting bored while you’re counting your money.

Get ready to play with Class – Ok, so you decided to spent about £6000 ($9750) for this extremely fine piece of technology, and for this amount of money, you have some special features, right? Well, NO. It’s an ordinary Xbox One, no games included. And I don’t know if there are any golden gamepads included. So, how about the Xbox Live Gold membership? This must be included, right? We are talking about gold here… No, not even the gold membership. Standard Xbox One console. But “a bit” shinier.

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 So, this is the item spotted and photographed by a Reddit user – available only in Harrods store – London. (This store it’s known for selling special luxury edition items like furniture, fashion, electronics, etc…)

– available only in Harrods store – London. (This store it’s known for selling special luxury edition items like furniture, fashion, electronics, etc…)

Bad news for the Xbox Golden One fans, I know… But if you can afford to buy this, you can plan a visit to the store, wherever you’re from. And who knows, maybe you see some other items that you might like there!

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‘K… Unlock ‘Em if You Got ‘Em!

Major US carriers agree to unlocking principles.  Story at 11pm…

shutterstock_129802106I’ve been following this particular story for the past few weeks or so.  Quite honestly, this particular issue is near and dear to my heart as I cut my journalistic teeth on mobility – all forms of mobile computing to be precise – and its probably the one computing issue I really know the most about.  Today’s development is significant, as it brings the US closer to parity with other countries in the world when it comes to interoperability (but the true form of that is a whole other ball of wax for a later date…)

Anywho… the four major wireless carriers in the US – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as fellow CTIA member US Cellular, have all agreed to the following:
1.    To post their device unlocking policies on their websites
2.    To notify customers once their devices are eligible for unlocking
3.    To unlock mobile devices for customers after their service contract has expired
4.    To unlock prepaid mobile devices no later than 1 year after their initial activation
5.    To respond to unlock requests within 2 business days
6.    Military customers who become deployed can have their devices immediately unlocked upon providing the appropriate deployment paperwork

According to former NFL wide receiver and current CTIA President and CEO, Steve Largent, “…this agreement will continue to foster the world-leading range of devices and offerings that Americans enjoy today.”

While I applaud not only the wireless carriers and the CTIA for coming together on this, let’s not forget that carriers in the European Union have had similar policies in place for a while now.  Technologically, the US is behind the curve. This is a catch up move.

However, it is a significant and important development; and its one that I’m very glad came about. While this doesn’t supersede the restrictions in the DMCA that prevents cell phone owners from unlocking phones on their own, it will give cell phone users a clear understanding of when and how they can get their phones unlocked and if they will have to purchase what is commonly called a “burner phone” if and when they travel internationally before they’re eligible to unlock their current phone with their home-based carrier.  (that still doesn’t sit well with me, but its much better than what we had before).

The six, adopted unlocking principles, in their entirety, are:

1. Disclosure. Each carrier will post on its website its clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking.

2. Postpaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock mobile wireless devices or provide the necessary information to unlock their devices for their customers and former customers in good standing and individual owners of eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contract, device financing plan or payment of an applicable early termination fee.

3. Prepaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.

4. Notice. Carriers that lock devices will clearly notify customers that their devices are eligible for unlocking at the time when their devices are eligible for unlocking or automatically unlock devices remotely when devices are eligible for unlocking, without additional fee. Carriers reserve the right to charge non-customers/non-former customers a reasonable fee for unlocking requests. Notice to prepaid customers may occur at point of sale, at the time of eligibility, or through a clear and concise statement of the policy on the carrier’s website.

5. Response Time. Within two business days after receiving a request, carriers will unlock eligible mobile wireless devices or initiate a request to the OEM to unlock the eligible device, or provide an explanation of why the device does not qualify for unlocking, or why the carrier reasonably needs additional time to process the request.

6. Deployed Personnel Unlocking Policy. Carriers will unlock mobile wireless devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers

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Oops. They did it… AGAIN

This may be just me; but I heard about this and just shook my head

UPDATEDwindows-71_sold

Over the past few years, there have been a couple different instances of Microsoft backtracking on decisions. While many will agree that rethinking the decisions that were made was probably a very good idea, the fact that Microsoft reversed its action really bothers me. I mean it REALLY bothers me. I’m not certain if I’m bothered more by the decision or the apparent fact that Microsoft can’t seem to make up its freakin’ mind.

I recently reported that Microsoft had ceased retail sales of Windows 7 as of 2013-10-30. While Microsoft has confirmed this date – you can’t buy a retail boxed version of Windows 7 as of this date – they had further announced that OEM’s would cease providing Windows 7 on new PC’s as of 2014-10-30. They’ve retracted that last statement.

According to an authorized Microsoft spokesperson, [Microsoft has]

“yet to determine the end of sales date for PCs with Windows 7 preinstalled. The October 30, 2014 date that posted to the Windows Lifecycle page globally last week was done so in error. We have since updated the website to note the correct information; however, some non-English language pages may take longer to revert to correctly reflect that the end of sales date is ‘to be determined.’ We apologize for any confusion this may have caused our customers. We’ll have more details to share about the Windows 7 lifecycle once they become available.”

I don’t know about you, but this wishy-washy, indecisive posture that Microsoft has assumed is really Ballmer’s fault. I also blame the Microsoft Board. With Ballmer on the way out as CEO, the need for leadership is clear. Microsoft’s Board needs to get its act together and name Ballmer’s successor sooner rather than later.

Microsoft has a roadmap for Windows. They are (desperately) trying to get all Windows users on the most current version of Windows – Windows 8.x – as quickly as they can. They made a decision that supports that strategy. They should stay the course and take firm, decisive action in support of it. It may not be the most popular of decisions; but this barometer reading and second guessing that Microsoft is doing has got to stop.

No, I didn’t like it when they removed the Windows 7 Start Menu from Windows. No, I didn’t like it when Microsoft changed the Windows UI. However, backtracking on these and other decisions that are currently in the Microsoft pipeline isn’t doing them any favors.

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On the Threshold of What..?

There are Windows Changes coming and some of them, my friends, are truly encouraging.

Change ahead isolated signWhen I write a column, I usually try to come up with some cool play on words or other “hook” to sorta grab a reader’s attention. With this particular column its really hard because the news I found is really very exciting; and there really isn’t a decent, cute way to put this without reducing the excitement.  So, I’m just gonna come out and say it:

It looks like the Start Menu – the real Windows 7 styled Start Menu – is intended to make a come back in Windows Threshold.  At least that’s what I see when I read the latest article by Paul Thurrott.

Paul and I go back a ways. We both worked for WUGNET for a while. Paul started WinInfo there, and I wrote most of their computing tips over a 15 year period.  So, honestly, when Paul says something, I tend to listen and listen VERY carefully. If there’s one thing I know, its that Paul knows Windows. So when I hear Paul say that the Start Menu is coming back, I tend to listen.

According to Paul and his cohort in Windows Weekly crime, Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft Threshold is all about bringing Windows to the threshold of unification between Phone, desktop and Xbox One.  This unification will include a series of updates that will go a LONG way to satisfying many of Microsoft’s very, very unhappy enterprise and consumer users.

In the next version of Windows, be it Threshold, Windows 8.2 or whatever they decide to call it, ModernUI apps will run in a window, if your PC supports Windows’ Desktop Mode. This is going work a lot like Stardock’s ModernMix, though its likely be somewhat different…at least one would hope.

The Start Menu is also going to return. The Start Button clearly wasn’t enough for everyone, and the “next logical step”  is to bring the Start Menu back as an available option.  According to Paul, its possible that this option will only going to appear in product versions that support Desktop mode.  There’s more that will likely be in this update, but at this time, this is all that’s confirmable.

Paul calls this a good step. I have to agree with him. Part of me is wondering if I’m not the only one wondering if this isn’t in response to Surface RT/Surface 2’s poor sales numbers and if Microsoft is clearly starting to get it – after more than 30 years, Windows is a productivity tool more than an entertainment tool.

If this is the case, I’d call that a good thing too.  I like Surface Pro and Surface 2 Pro.  They’re both good ultrabooks. However, with full blown Windows on them, its hard for me to use something like that as an entertainment device. Its not impossible, but YOU have to change gears with it. I don’t know about you, but I am not always very successful with that. I often find that I gravitate towards other devices other than my work PC for entertainment. Its easier for me to mentally keep them separate than to use one device for both purposes.

Over the years, I’ve found that my IT departments feel the same way. When you use a work PC for personal use, at least at my current job, you can be terminated.  The two do NOT mix at all, and BYOD is not something they encourage or support.  While other IT shops may not have the same policy, filling up a hard drive with MP3’s or videos is often discouraged.  Unless you work for a company that fully supports BYOD or are self employed and have to supply your own PC equipment, I’m not certain that kind of concern applies to you.  My guess is that most people don’t bump into the problem. Its likely not an issue for most.

What do you think about the Windows developments? Why not join us in the discussion below and tell us what you think.

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Microsoft Ends Retail Sales of Windows 7

microsoft-windows-7You can’t buy it at the store any more…

I saw this the other day and it was one of those “oh yeah..!” revelations that take you buy surprise, but you kinda already knew if you sit and think about it for a second or two.  Microsoft very quietly has announced that is has ended retail sales of Windows 7 as of October 30, 2013.  However, don’t start panicking just yet.

If you still want Windows 7, you can still get it if you buy a new PC.  However, that’s likely the ONLY way you’re going to get it.  And – here’s the caveat on that – you have to buy that new Windows PC between now and October 30, 2014. Over and above that, the PC vendor you’re buying the hardware from has to offer the PC with Windows 7.  Unfortunately, not all of them do. However, PC vendors that DO provide that option should be able to sell Windows 7 at least until that date (2014-10-30) or two years after the release date of Windows 8.

After that, you can still get Windows 7 if you want. Windows 8 includes downgrade rights, so consumers can put an older OS on a Windows 8 machine if they wish. Further, OEM’s can also make use of those rights and offer the hardware with an older OS if they choose, before it ships.

Microsoft first announced this policy – to stop selling the OLD version of an operating system one year after the latest version is released – in 2010.  With Windows 8 released in October 2012, it was time for this policy to kick in.  However, Microsoft, as late as September 2013 hadn’t acknowledged this. Obviously, now they have.

win7_size

However, if you’re not in the market for new hardware, again…don’t panic. Its likely that you’re still going to be able to find retail copies of Windows 7, though likely not the latest, greatest version as of 2013-10-30, at a number of online retailers, including Amazon, for example, for years.  Copies of XP and Vista were available for quite a while after Microsoft stopped selling it directly to retailers for quite a while, and getting restore DVD’s for current hardware for some level of nominal fee has been possible for Dell customers for as long as I can remember. Downloading ISO images may also be possible, depending on the PC vendor in question.

For those that don’t have options to get Windows 7, you can always use apps like Stardocks’ Start8 to bring the Windows 7 UI experience to Windows 8.x.  The OS itself isn’t bad, its fast, stable and easy to use. It also has touch built in, so if your hardware has a touch screen, you may find it easier to use with Windows 8.  If not, apps like Start8 will make your Windows 8 PC more Windows 7 like.

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New Electronics, New Accessories – The Added Expense that you Didn’t Count On

screen-shot-2012-09-25-at-1.23.30-pmIts exciting getting new toys, but buying a new gadget can add additional expenses you didn’t count on…

It happens every time you buy a new gadget or iDevice. You get the new toy, and then you find out that many, if not all of the accessories you have for it, aren’t compatible. I know that many people are aware of this issue, but with the 2013 Holiday Season upon us, its important to know and hear this quick warning and cautionary guidance before you buy.

In the smartphone arena, if you’ve got an iPhone 4S or later, you’ll hit this issue. The iPhone 5 introduced the Lighting Connector. The classic 30 pin connector that’s been in use on Apple iDevices for just about 10 years. With a minor change of pin-outs with the introduction of a video signal and the removal of FireWire support, the 30 pin connector remained largely unchanged. It was so constant, that it lead to the creation of a whole industry – one of iPhone, iPod and iPad accessories.

When the Lightning connector was introduced with the introduction of the iPhone 5, that industry took a huge hit. None of the established accessories would work with the new iDevices, at least not with out an adapter, and then, not all of the original functionality of the new device would work with the older accessory.

Gadgets

With Android devices, you don’t get as much of this. Over the past 5+ years, Android’s microUSB connector has been pretty constant. However, it doesn’t have the longevity and history that Apple devices do. While that doesn’t mean as much as Google’s strict compatibility guidelines, most Android users have been able to keep most of their accessories over the 7 major releases of Android (Donut to Kitt-Katt).

So what’s the best thing to do?

That’s a great question. If you buy someone a new version of something be it a smartphone, tablet or MP3 player, you need to be aware that you might be forcing the recipient of the gift to buy themselves either an adapter or to buy themselves new accessories. Speakers and such may work very well with an adapter. Some of the more customized or function specific accessories – car kits, cradles and the like, for example – will likely need to be replaced or simply done without if replacements don’t exist.

The one thing that I’d like everyone to take from this particular article is that depending on how “deep” the gift recipient is into their device(s), getting them a new version of the device is often going to change what they can use from their current accessory stash and will effect what they may have to buy to get key functionality back. The major expense isn’t always the device or cellular plan, it might be the accessories that they have to leave behind in order to use the new device.

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Consumer vs. Enterprise Windows

It’s a different kind of pane…

I’ve been involved in software for quite some time. Not to blow my horn or anything, but I’m a methodology and process engineering expert. I specialize in identifying process disconnects within the software development life cycle; and then help organizations identify the best ways to reconnect them.

I’ve seen a lot of talk over the past few days about Microsoft Threshold, or a unified approach to Windows that would bring everything together under one development cycle for Phone, Consumer and Enterprise Windows. Today, I got a refreshing look at the other side of the coin from one of my favorite People, Mary Jo Foley.

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So…the first question on your mind has to be, “Well, that’s great, Chris.  How the heck are these two things connected?”  Good question…   Right now, except for Phone and RT – which is scheduled, to make an exit soon – all Windows development is connected.  Both consumer and enterprise versions of Windows have the same feature sets, underpinnings, back end hooks, etc.  With many hardware manufacturers concentrating more on the consumer market, keeping your enterprise product hooked to a consumer-focused, lean back device doesn’t make sense in a lean forward product line.

The needs of the [consumer]… are different than those of the enterprise. Consumers want to be current on everything, all the time, every day, out loud. The more current your security patches, virus updates and apps are, the more secure and virus free YOU are.  When it comes to keeping your personal, private data (like passwords and financials) personal and private, this is usually the best way to go.

IT professionals don’t always feel that way. While they have other security tools  available to them to insure that their networks are safe, they usually prefer static environments to rapid change.  With so much diversity in critical, operational apps from department to department, division to division, their focus is keeping the work progressing forward and not rapid OS changes. It’s easier to control the changes and insure that work gets done than to allow OS level changes into the enterprise that may conflict or create compatibility issues with business critical apps. They prefer policies and security restrictions so they may control when upgrades are applied.

From a use case perspective, this makes sense.  Consumers want all the latest and greatest features.  Professionals and people at work just want what they need to get the job done to work without having to wrestle with things.

This also makes a great deal of sense from a life cycle perspective.  Originally, both consumer and enterprise Windows were kept on the same development and feature life cycle so that people at work would be able to use the same version of Windows at home.  However, due to the implementation of Active Directory and Policy Manager, Windows at work and Windows at home have never quite felt EXACTLY the same.

Since PC use is declining in favor of a more slate-tablet form factor, and traditional computing is likely going to stick around at the office for quite some time (at least in the more conservative industries that I find myself working in – healthcare IT and State Government), splitting these user types into different Windows versions makes a lot of sense to me.  The only thing that I hope doesn’t happen is that they become so divergent that you can’t put the business form of Windows on your compatible, consumer tablet/device/PC.

According to Terry Myerson, the new head of the unified Windows team at Microsoft, the goal is to build one Windows platform that runs all compatible devices. However, that doesn’t mean “one OS to rule them all.” The UI’s may be different, the features may be different, but the underlying codebase – and more importantly, the cloud services – will be the same.

Strategically, this is very sound.  I’m going to have to reserve judgment until I see the tactical deliverable, however.  Post Windows 8.1, the picture gets fuzzy. However, between now and Spring of 2015, there should be two more Windows releases – in the Spring of 2014, there should be a Win8.1 Update 1 (or some such named animal) that will more appropriately align Windows and Windows Phone.  “Threshold,” or the next version of Windows, is the version slotted for Spring of 2015 and there’s very little that’s really known about it, its direction, etc.

At the end of the day, having this kind of desktop OS split from Microsoft isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s actually a return to a previous practice for them. Windows ME, back in 1990-blah, blah, blah was the last truly consumer version of Windows (Win95) before an updated version of Windows NT (Windows 2000, if you remember…) was released and became very popular with consumers, due in large part to is enterprise focused stability.

Do you think Microsoft returning/splitting its focus with Windows between consumers and the enterprise is a good or bad thing?  Can you support your argument?  I’d love to hear what you have to say.  Why not join me in the discussion below and tell me what you think of this interesting development.

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