My parents bought a new ultrabook and it was my job to set it up for them. Since all new home computers now come with Windows 8 it was a chance to take the PC version of the operating system for a test drive. So far I am not impressed. One of the first things I did was install an aftermarket Start button to keep it closer to their previous Windows experience. There are a number of these available, most of them are free and not only return the Start button but some of the original Windows 7 functionality you may like. Take a look at a few of them and decide what things you want or need to have.
They wanted Skype and the only way to get it is through the Windows store. The only way to get into the Windows store is via a Windows account, eg firstname.lastname@example.org. So, not only do you need a Windows account to install some software, anything installed this way is only available from the new Start screen with all those squares. This is, of course, decidedly user-unfriendly and restricts you to the Windows store for some programmes, like Skype. Yahoo Messenger installed as usual and is under the Start menu where you would expect to find it. Sorry Redmond, but I'm just not feeling it.
One thing I did learn from the Christmas break was the general reliability or unreliability of eBay orders from suppliers. Local ones are the best, but may be more expensive due to local taxes and postage charges. Postage charges from China and Hong Kong are the best, but delivery can vary from acceptable to glacial. I ordered one product 60 days before Christmas and it has yet to arrive. I have also received the wrong product twice where it was difficult to get anything back. In general, however, my online ordering experiences have been excellent and problems were resolved to my satisfaction. If you are living in the US and reading this you still have the best options for variety and price. For smaller things, China has the cheapest prices.
Blu-rays have not been all that successful so far for a number of reasons. The new release prices are still high, the players are slow, it takes a while to get to where you want to be, ie watching the movie, and many players lack the ability to start from where you finished. You need constant firmware updates to make sure that you can play the latest movies, and blanks for any kind of recording are still way too expensive. For many it is easier to just grab a 1080p rip from somewhere and watch it via a media player. That being said, I have my collection of favourite movies that look good in HD and a few 3D one's as well. The best 3D movies to date are Prometheus, John Carter and The Avengers, mostly because you forget it is in 3D. Many other 3D movies are too obviously 3D and spoil the viewing experience.
Apple has not been doing so well in the legal stakes recently. The latest small but socially stinging fine comes from China, where it had to pay about $150,000 in compensation to the China Written Works Copyright Society after a court determined that Apple was responsible for applications which appeared on its App Store containing unlicensed content. This is not the only time Apple has been slow removing copyrighted materials from their store and there are other cases pending.
On the subject of Apple, there are already some rumours of what will appear this year to wow their followers. The most active one is for a watch-based smartphone. This might be a 1.5-inch OLED screen watch with Bluetooth, a Sim card, Intel CPU, Siri as an interface and a few apps. Linked to your iPhone, you will be the envy of your friends. Or you could view this as an iPod Nano with a Sim card and a watch strap. The idea of a wrist phone has been around since Dick Tracy so I'm not seeing the wow factor here. It is possible that Apple may not even feature on the iWow list for 2013.
A brief RIP notice for netbooks. These were supposed to be the future of mobile computing but will vanish from shelves this year, sooner rather than later. Acer and Asus are the only two hardware makers still producing them and mostly to sell to emerging markets like those in South America and Southeast Asia. Both manufactures have announced they will stop making them. These failed mostly because of their poor performance and because other alternatives entered their pricing space.
As a final note for the week, the humble light-emitting diode, or LED, has been around for 50 years and has replaced the old Christmas bulbs on trees, saving energy and all that time required to find the faulty light. They are now used in car headlights, diving torches, home globes of all types and just about any electronic device you own, including your TV.
James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at email@example.com.
About the author
- Writer: James Hein
Position: Database Writer