Will Microsoft do a Redo with Windows Blue?

New rumors are circulating indicating that Microsoft is trying to win you back with Windows Blue…

It’s true I’m not Windows 8 fan. However since my Dell Latitude 10 ST2 tablet run Windows 8 and is a Surface Pro competitor, I’m at least interested in the future of the platform and what Windows 8.1 – more commonly known as Windows Blue – will bring to the table. From what I understand, there’s good news and bad news.

First the bad news – Microsoft isn’t giving up on ModernUI in Windows 8. Windows RT, even though it has Desktop Mode doesn’t run legacy Windows apps, so it can be confusing. WinRT is NOT the Windows you’re used to.

I saw an interesting article by my friend, Preston Gralla. If Preston is right with his speculation, then MS is going to do a bit of rethinking with Windows Blue and will let users boot directly to the Windows Desktop. However, Preston doesn’t think it will happen.

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My other friend, MaryJo Foley, is further speculating that not only is Microsoft considering allowing users to boot directly to the Desktop, they are considering bring back the Start Button as well. While both of these design elements were removed from Windows 8 and were NOT part of the original Windows 8.1 feature set, according to MJF, “these two UI options are looking more likely.”

MJF makes it very clear – nothing is certain, but at least Microsoft is looking at this as a very real option. The next milestone leak or the public preview in June will tell the tale. We’re really just going to have to wait and see, as until the software is in the can, anything and everything can change.

I am stuck in the middle. I’m not entirely certain that MS will relent and have the options built into Blue to bring back the Start Button or allow users to boot directly to the desktop. However, I really think they should do it. If they don’t, I see Microsoft having continued issues with Windows 8 adoption. Unfortunately, that’s something that they really don’t need right now, and the absolutely need to address.

As always, time with tell the tale. In the meantime, if you must have this functionality now, you can always check out my review of Start8 here on Soft32 and install it. It brings back the Start Button and allows you to boot Windows 8 directly to the Desktop.

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Play all of your media files with VSO Media Player

Play all of your media files with this single, must have Windows player.

vmp_128x_128I like watching movies on the go. I take them with me wherever I go. When I do have them, I really like to use VSO Media Player to view them. It’s a multimedia player for Windows.

VSO Media Player will play videos, Blu-ray discs, DVD’s and audio files without having to install any additional, external codecs. The fact that most everything that you need is included is nice, and somewhat expected in today’s modern, multimedia age.  However, it is nice to know that it will support just about any media you throw at it, including DVD and AVCHD .ISO files.

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VSO Media Player not only supports Blu-ray and DVD ISO files, but its support extends beyond that. It also allows you to plug in additional decryption support, from AnyDVD, for instance.  Its also a decent media management tool.  VSO Media Player can manage  your media collection.  It can create and edit playlists as well as Edit the settings of Text subtitles: font, color, size, etc.

VSO Media Player is extra light and easy to use. It has a lot more support for hardware and software acceleration than I thought it would, given its pay model.  While there’s a great deal to like about this player, including its Blu-ray support, its really a simple player and organizer. If you’re looking for something to get you buy, this is an excellent choice. If you’re looking for something more advanced, you might want to look at the paid version or at something else, though it does have support for multi-cored processors, an audio booster and the ability to switch between GDI and Direct3D.

 

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Ace of Spades – the Minecraft-style online multiplayer FPS

Ace-of-Spades-LogoCreate your own levels and enjoy four different game modes in this cool Windows game.

Gaming can obviously be a lot of fun. One of the biggest draws for some games is the ability to create your own levels. This is one of the reasons why games like Ace of Spades are cool. It’s a game for Windows that just might be for you.

Ace of Spades is a voxel-based build-and-shoot video game, similar in to Minecraft and Team Fortress 2. It features game modes such as team death match, capture the flag, base infiltration, zombie defense, and diamond mining. The best part of it is its sandbox construction elements. It enables players to construct defensive structures or to dig trenches, to achieve the goals of the current game mode.

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Players can choose between four classes of player characters – the Commando, with either a rocket launcher or a mini-gun and a pistol; the Marksman, with a sniper rifle and a pistol; the Rocketeer, with a submachine gun and a jetpack; or the Miner, with an auto-drill cannon and a shotgun. Shovels and pickaxes can be used as melee weapons or to destroy blocks. Other weapons are available to each player class as well.

Ace of Spades is an ok video game. The plus sides are its multiplayer classes and its ability to allow players to create their own levels and structures. You really have to want to do this, as the game doesn’t offer much more. I’m not a big fan and it has a lot to do with the graphics style used throughout the game. If the graphics were a bit different and if it did a bit more, I might be interested, but then again, I’m not a big Minecraft fan, either.

Download Ace of Spades

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A 7″ Microsoft Tablet?

It’s not a good idea.  Well, it *COULD* be, if Microsoft did it right, but they’re not going to…

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal announced that Microsoft is planning to spin up production of a 7″ Windows based, Surface branded tablet later this year.  The tablet is intended to compete with Apple’s iPad mini and the Google Nexus 7. The question one has to ask is whether this is an RT or x86 compatible device.

I think the RT model could work for a 7″ device if the price and margins were right.  Windows RT doesn’t completely suck as an OS or even as an interface. Its usable; though not very popular.  The problem is the ecosystem is extremely immature and there’s little to no native software.  Microsoft could solve part of that if it allowed Windows Phone 8 apps to run on Windows RT, but this isn’t currently the case.

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Intel’s Clover Trail processor can provide a decent x86 option in powering a 7″ MS Surface tablet providing power and battery life at a reasonable price point, but I don’t see Microsoft using the x86 platform and Windows 8 on a 7″ device.  We’ve proven over and over again that full blown Windows on a smaller device (phone or tablet) is not what we want (part of that was due to lack of horse power in that form factor, the other that the apps weren’t designed to run on the smaller screens). People would still try to run Photoshop, or similar desktop app, on their 7″ tablet in this scenario, and it would definitely [still] suck.

I think this is not so much a “can we” but perhaps more of a “[what] should we [do]” situation. IF MS has a plan, now would be the time to publish that, make it known, and then move towards it with expediency.  They don’t have much time left.  The PC market appears to actively be in free fall. Without a clear plan that all of their partners and customers can see and support, I don’t see Microsoft being relevant for much longer.

Believe me when I say I am NO fan of ModernUI.  Windows RT/8′s ModernUI is  the most un-Windows version of Windows in the [modern] history of Windows.  It’s a complete unWindowing of Windows; and Microsoft should not use the Windows name with RT at all. It’s a huge marketing mistake that many industry pundits will attest to.

While neither you or I may like ModernUI, Microsoft could make it work, if it did a little bit of work and enhanced the ecosystem or changed their marketing, or did almost anything to right the ship. Currently, there are no signs that any of this is happening.  As such, introducing a 7″ tablet into the mix is going to do nothing for Microsoft except create an unprofitable cost center.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about this entire situation is, again, that pundits everywhere are panning Windows RT, Windows 8 and ModernUI.  Consumers are looking at alternatives, including tablets, Linux, and Macs. PC sales, regardless of operating system, are in free fall.  Windows 7 adoption is either steady or flat; and Windows 8 adoption is far below that of Vista. For Microsoft, none of this is good.

What other information does Microsoft need before it takes appropriate action?  It kind of makes you wonder if Ballmer, or anyone at Microsoft, is paying attention, or cares.  If I were a shareholder. I’d file  a formal complaint with the SEC at this point, if for NO other reason than to get Microsoft’s attention. It may not do anything in the long run, but it WOULD get press, and would likely require some sort of formal, public response.

Microsoft needs to take these issues seriously; and though they MAY be internally, from an external perspective, they are asleep at the wheel. Unfortunately, there are a couple icebergs in their direct path.  The 7″ tablet with their current marketing plans – price points, margins, etc. – operating systems and UI’s are NOT going to provide a competitive solution and are not the right choices.

Microsoft needs to act.  Based on this news, they are just throwing good money after bad. Why would MS offer an RT tablet, simple – because it offers choice.  Windows  RT doesn’t work if its comparatively priced with the iPad.  An RT tablet needs to be priced between $149 and $199 to work. Microsoft needs to find a way to get there, or they need to get out of the tablet market. They won’t do that at $399 to $599.  They have to make it crazy cheap or it will never take off.

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Microsoft plan to funnel people towards their newer products

Microsoft Merges Windows Live Messenger with Skype and Announces that Support for Windows XP ends in 365 days

On Monday 8th April Microsoft announced that support for Windows XP will stop in exactly 365 days. This announcement came at the same time Microsoft merged Windows Live Messenger with Skype. These recent announcements are part of the new strategy Microsoft is intending to follow in order to channel customers to their latest products including Windows 8.

These updates from Microsoft are certain to affect many businesses and home users. Following we look at how Microsoft plan to funnel people towards their newer products and what you need to do to keep updated.

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RIP Microsoft XP

Windows XP was originally launched in October, 2001. From April 8, 2014 Microsoft will officially cut off corporate support for Windows XP SP3, as well as Microsoft Office 2003. Once support is cut, Windows XP will no longer receive any new security, hot fixes and most importantly support.

Microsoft announced that come April 2014 any customers using XP will be doing so at their “own risk,” and that failing to update would likely be costly later on down the line. It is estimated that 40 percent of all PCs still run XP, so these changes are set to affect a large amount of customers.

Cutting off support is likely to have a much bigger impact on businesses, than it is on home users. Whereas home users can simply upgrade with little hassle, upgrading for businesses is much more complicated. Microsoft warned businesses that is can regularly take 18 to 32 months to go through the entire deployment phase for new operating systems.

The announcements have put major strains on many businesses still using XP. Many are simply refusing to upgrade to Windows 7, as there is no simple upgrade path. These changes are likely to cause major upset for many a business.

If it wasn’t obvious, Microsoft is using this opportunity to persuade customers to upgrade to Windows 8 stating that it offers cutting edge technology with a stronger interface.

For smaller companies, with one or several computers, updating their operating system will be a breeze. The problems occur for larger companies and if they’ve failed to select a new operating system by now, it may already be too late to beat the XP deadline.

Windows Live Messenger Merges With Skype

In October 2011 Microsoft acquired Skype. Ever since then, they have been working to replace WLM. And on the 8th April 2013, Windows Live Messenger, known to most as MSN Messenger, was finally retired – ending 14 years of loyal service.

The last few years has seen a rapid decline in the amount of people using Windows Live Messenger, mainly due to the success of Facebook’s instant messaging service. Microsoft will now focus on increasing the success of Skype.

If you still have an account with Windows Live Messenger, you can still use those same details to log in to Skype. Once logged in you’ll find a list of all your old contacts, which can then be merged into Skype.

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Rip DVD’s to your hard drive with Full DVD Ripper

Keeping your movie collection together can be a challenge at times. You want to play them where you want them, and sometimes, that’s difficult. This is one of the reasons why having an application like Full DVD Ripper is really cool. It’s a multimedia tool for Windows and best of all, its free.

Full DVD Ripper rips DVD’s to just about any format you could want or need including AVI, MPEG, WMV, DivX, MP4, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, RM, MOV, XviD, and 3GP. It also rips DVD audio into MP3, WMA, WAV, RA, M4A, AAC, AC3, or OGG files, making them fit iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, or your mobile phone or other digital device. This software also lets you edit and clip video size, change image effects, and add watermarks/ subtitles/ soundtracks.

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Full DVD Ripper’s editing options are cool – you can cut clips, merge clips with transitional effects, crop selected scenes, add subtitles and soundtracks and attach watermarks. You can also set the target file size before conversion and even run Full DVD Ripper in the background to save resources.  It can even shutdown, exit, standby or hibernate your PC when it’s done with its specific set of tasks.

The best thing about Full DVD Ripper is that you can now enjoy your DVD collection on the multimedia player of your choice.  The app supports formats for your iDevice, PSP, PS3, BlackBerry, iRiver PMP, Windows Mobile phone, or Xbox.

download Full DVD Ripper

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Restore files from formatted disk, deleted or lost partition

thumbnail-100x100Everybody knows that the best way to keep your data safe is to back it up in some way. Having an extra copy is likely the best way to keep the data you need available. However, you have to have a disk, or some type of media to put it on, and sometimes that media gets damaged. Situations like that are made worse when the bad media in question is your backup drive, and your primary copy has bitten the dust. Its at times like this when you need tools like EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. It’s a data recovery tool for Windows that just might be able to save your bacon.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is free, a one-stop data recovery too that can recover up to1 GB data. It can recover deleted files or folders even when they’ve been emptied from Recycle Bin. It can also recover data due to format, lost partition, system crash, virus attack, etc. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard can restore files with their original file names & storage paths.

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The app was designed as a wizard, making the data recovery process easy even for a beginner. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard works with just about any rewritable media, including hard disks memory cards, and USB flash drives under Windows 2000, to Windows 8. Itt supports dynamic disks and all file systems including FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, NTFS/NTFS5, and EXT2/EXT3.

Free, easy-to-use, and powerful, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Free Edition is a must-have too to combat data loss. No matter how you lose data, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard will likely recover what you’re looking for. At the very least, it’s a convenient first stop; and the price is right, so its very difficult to go wrong here.

Download EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

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Customize the look and feel of your Windows 8 device with Decor8

Decor8-Review-2One of the things that most new Windows 8 users won’t like is the lack of interface customization options it has. The OS is almost completely new, and most users don’t know which end is up as far as putting a personal spin on it is concerned. This is why Decor8 is so important. It’s a Windows 8 customization tool.

Microsoft Windows 8 currently limits your start screen customization options to only a few provided background images and a few pre-defined color schemes. While this isn’t earth shatteringly disappointing, Windows 8 doesn’t really provide a lot of customization options, either.  This is where Decor8 comes in. It removes these limitations and provides the freedom to personalize your start screen with your own images and colors.

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With Decor8, you can choose from more background images to personalize your start screen.  You can add your own photos and images, select multiple images to create a custom slideshow, randomize background images in timed intervals, and apply effects to scroll, fade, blur, recolor and add contrast to your background images.  You can also choose an image for your lock screen background.

Decor8 will automatically create a color scheme to match each of your background images. You can also customize the color scheme, if you prefer. Custom color schemes can also be applied to your charms bar. You can also control how many rows of tiles are available on your start screen.

Decor8 is a decent app; and it’s one of the very few customization apps out there right now for Windows 8. The app follows the same look and feel as Start8, also from Stardock.  The one thing that I would do at the time of this writing is to hold off on any purchase of Decor8 until after the release of Windows Blue. The update is supposed to add to Windows 8′s customization options, and that will likely cause a rev in Decor8 as well.

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