Microsoft to Unveil Surface 2 and Pro 2: What You Need to Know?

Surface tablet

We did a short review on Surface RT tablets earlier in the blog. We also checked out Surface Pro, and their performance. Also, Surface RT is a tablet quite different from what you expect from a Windows tablet, and as a result they failed in the market. With these said, Microsoft has sent out invitations for an event in NYC on , where they will unveil the next generation of the tablets—Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. Let’s check out what you can expect from these tablets.

Also, there is the rumored Surface Mini that may be unveiled too.

Basically, a few things that we have been able to confirm about these tablets are these: NVidia Tegra 4 processor on RT; Intel Haswell processor on Surface Pro 2; 1080p HD screen; two-step kickstand that helps maintain orientation on uneven surfaces; a battery-powered keyboard cover, known as power cover; an upgrade to RAM to about 4 GB or so; Windows RT 8.1 on Surface 2 tablet.

What’s Wrong With Surface RT?

Earlier when Surface RT was released, it had Windows RT operating system, and that was one of the prime reasons why the tablet failed. The problem with Win RT is that it is a special tablet operating system without the capability to run any of regular desktop Windows applications. Windows 8 that comes on Surface Pro is the regular Windows desktop operating system that is capable of running any Windows application that works on other versions of Windows, such as Win 7 and Vista.

Dell XPS 10 and Surface RT are two of the tablets that run Windows RT. The problem with Windows RT is that Microsoft doesn’t have enough apps to support the platform. The manufacturers like Asus are not enthusiastic about the platform and they have decided to stop creating tablets based on Windows RT.

In order to find the number of apps on Windows RT platform, you can go to the Metro Scanner. Right now, it is showing 115,863 apps. This is an improvement from about 44,000 apps in February this year. However, considering Android and iOS have nearly a million apps, this is not commendable. Also, Windows RT platform has all sorts of crappy apps there are.

Also, Microsoft is not being honest and clear about their products and operating systems. Microsoft’s website on Windows RT and Windows 8 for instance shows up all kinds of tablets. It is extremely useful if you are getting a tablet with Microsoft Windows 8 operating system, the desktop version. Some of these tablets include Acer Aspire R7, latest Asus Vivo Tab, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, HP Envy Touchsmart Sleekbook, Dell Latitude 10, and Surface Pro. However, in a Microsoft website, these tablets are shown along with Windows RT-based Surface RT and Dell XPS 10. It is a tricky way that Microsoft is trying to sell off the remaining uncalled-for Surface RT tablets.

Make absolutely sure that you buy only Windows 8 tablets, and not Windows RT tablets.

Let me say again this: Surface Pro is a good tablet to buy, in fact one of the best. Surface RT is a bad tablet to buy, in fact one of the worst. You will not find it clear by simply visiting Microsoft’s website, okay? So, beware!

Another shady approach from Microsoft at besting iPad: In this page, Microsoft is comparing iPad 4 with Windows RT tablets, including Surface RT. This is a classic example of how companies only compare the features that they have got better on their products. The comparison takes only a few aspects—display size, thinness, presence of a keyboard, battery life, cloud storage given, price, presence of Microsoft software, and weirdly enough printing.

Click to enlarge iPad comparison

In those aspects, Microsoft’s Surface RT is slightly on par with iPad, while other tablets in the range that run Windows 8 operating system are on par or better. The comparison does not mention any other aspects, such as the awesome app store of Apple where there are a million apps for iPad, the Retina Display that is much better than Surface RT’s regular display, the lightning fast Lightning connector, 3G/LTE capability, Apple’s specially made A6X CPU that adds to the performance, and the highly secure iOS 6.

On any day, iPad is a better product than Surface RT. However, if the competition is with Windows 8 tablets, iPad will fail bitterly. Hence, if you are trying to buy a good tablet, I would suggest you go with one that runs Windows 8. iPad could be a second choice.

Upcoming Surface

With the upcoming Surface 2 tablet, Microsoft will not be using the ‘RT’ trademark. It will be called ‘Surface 2’ only. The issue is that this will further confuse the customers. It is fortunate that other manufacturers are not supporting the Windows RT platform. While Microsoft has a way to make the desktop operating system work on tablets and a third operating system to work on mobile phones, there is absolutely no need for RT.

Windows Phone operating system already has over 170,000 apps, and they are useful on your Windows smartphone. Windows 8 has its own applications for the desktop, and they are all useful. We know it because we have been using them for nearly two decades. Windows RT neither has the apps nor the necessary support. It is hence not required in today’s market. What Microsoft should have done is not refreshing the Surface RT line at all.

Speaking from a consumer’s point of view, Windows RT is not an operating system with a bright future as Windows Phone’s. It is bound to die out. Also, creating inconspicuous campaigns to sell off remaining Surface RT tablets along with regular Windows tablets will create lack of confidence among customers with Microsoft products. This is going to be bad for everybody.

Upcoming Surface 2 is not a substantially good upgrade to existing Surface RT considering the available specs. Talking about Surface Pro, however, it is going to contain a latest Windows 8 OS, possibly with the Blue update. The Power Cover that comes as an accessory will enhance the battery life of both tablets.

Power cover on Surface

Another news given by WSJ is that Microsoft is working on a mini version of Surface, known as Surface Mini. It is expected to take on Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, and iPad Mini.

Conclusion

For the next Surface line, I strongly suggest you look for Surface Pro 2 and see if it is priced right for purchasing. If a tablet is running Windows RT, you are better off not thinking about it twice. Price is another important concern. Surface RT is good for a purchase for a price point of let’s say 299 dollars.

[Image: Neowin]

Which Are the Best VOIP Software Applications for Your Computer?

Simply speaking, VOIP has become a means to make calls from your PCs to all kinds of devices. Here is a list of short reviews of the best of VOIP software programs out there.

6. Vonage

Vonage VOIP

 

In the large field of VOIP software, Vonage (also UK edition) is already quite a bit known. It is also one of the best services out there. The Vonage VOIP plans start at 9 dollars per month. The system has a box known as Vonage box that works with your broadband modem in order to bring unlimited calling worldwide.

There are a lot of included and add-on features for Vonage service, including call management, voicemail, simultaneous ringing on five phones, enhanced call forwarding, virtual numbers, Fax, extra lines, toll free numbers, etc.

5. Nextiva

nextiva

Nextiva

is a VOIP software program with business focus. It is feature-rich with quite a number of features listed here. You can also buy VOIP software phones from Nextiva at affordable prices. Nextiva has a number of plans at affordable prices.

Nextiva’s NextOS VOIP software makes it possible to conduct business easily. The company offers customer support features through its telephony service and that makes the VOIP program quite attractive to business customers out there.

4. eVoice

eVoice

eVoice

VOIP solution has been around for quite some time. This piece of VOIP software also has almost all the features provided by the others mentioned. They include toll free numbers; call management functions; voicemail; apps for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, etc.; multiple extensions; speed dial; texting; web conferencing; etc.

You can get US and Canada local numbers with eVoice VOIP program. The pricing starts at 9.95 USD per month. The excellent features and affordable price tag make eVoice an excellent VOIP software application.

3. PhonePower

PhonePower

 

Here is another piece of VOIP software that is excellent and feature-rich. PhonePower has these features—long distance (outgoing) to various countries including Canada, Puerto Rico, etc., toll free number, caller ID, voicemail, SMS, call return, call transfer, call blocking, email, virtual phone number, mobile app, etc.

The service also provides VOIP hardware that can be connected directly to your broadband modem.

PhonePower is hence a great all-in-all VOIP software solution.

2. Ring Central

 

Looking for another VOIP software application? Here’s Ring Central. This is a cloud-based business telephony system with these major features—toll free numbers, local numbers, caller ID control, Softphone (call management from the computer itself), unlimited texting, voicemail, MS Outlook integration, call management features (forwarding, answering, intercom, etc), cloud-based PBX, conferencing, internet FAX, etc.

The major features of this VOIP software program are listed here.

Ring Central plans start at $ 19.99 per month and are perfect for businesses. This makes Ring Central our second best VOIP software application.

1. Skype

Skype VOIP

Skype

, a Microsoft product, has been around for a long time before Microsoft acquired the service. It is not only available for all sorts of Windows PCs, but also Android, Apple iOS, Linux, OS X, Symbian, Windows Phone, etc. Windows Live Messenger is also merged with this VOIP software. By 2012, about 34 percent of the VOIP software market is in Skype.

The application has all sorts of features, including calls to landline and mobile phones, caller ID, SMS, Voicemail, chatting, Skype online number, video-calling, screen sharing, etc.

Skype also has a portable version that you can take anywhere with you.

Conclusion

 

You can see there are a huge number of VOIP software programs out there. Among them, it is difficult to spot the best. This list may help you in your search.

How to Automate Setting Up New a New Computer?

After you purchase a new computer, you may set up a new operating system, Windows 7 or Windows 8. Probably the system comes with the OS preinstalled. But the real job comes after this. You will have to change the system settings, install your important programs from the previous computer, and create an environment that looks exactly like your old PC. This is a time consuming, tedious, mind-numbing job, if you know what I mean.

Is there a way to automate this process? Is there a way to transfer all your programs and settings with a few clicks at best? Is there a great way to get your new PC behave exactly like your old one out of the box? There is.

Laplink PC Mover Pro is a Windows application that will transfer all your settings from old computers to new ones. Here, watch this animation:

Moving your programs and settings from the old PC to the new one is as simple as a few steps.

1. Install Laplink PC Mover on both computers first. The installation is pretty straightforward, like installing any regular application. You may need to restart the computer after the installation.

2. Open up PC Mover application and you will find the wizard that will guide you in an easy transfer of files and software between systems.

PC Mover dialog

 

Select the appropriate option: PC to PC Transfer (self-explanatory); Windows Upgrade Assistant (If you are upgrading from old version of Windows, Windows XP/Vista/7 to Windows 7 or Windows 8); PC Mover and Image Drive Assistant (If you are trying to restore from an old image or an old hard drive).

You may see security alerts from Windows, and you should allow PC Mover to run. Also, it is recommended that you disable the firewall on the receiving system, so that the transfer of application programs and settings from the old PC happens smoothly.

Requirements and Limitations

 

When upgrading from the old PC to the new PC, when you transfer files and applications, PC Mover shows you the important requirements and limitations on this page.

Requirements of a PC to PC data transfer

 

These are also self-explanatory. Sometimes, the new operating system on the new PC may not support an application on the old computer, and hence it may not work. Sometimes, the system requirements of a program may not be met correctly on the new computer. Drivers tied to some hardware on the old computer may not compatible with the new PC and may not be transferred thus.

These warnings and basic steps you need to do, such as disabling firewall, are shown on this page.

Connection Method

 

As the next step, select how you will connect the old PC to the new one—over Wi-Fi, Ethernet cable (Laplink), or the Laplink USB cable. You can buy cables from Laplink itself or from any regular computer shop.

connecting old PC to new PC for transfer of files

 

Notifications and Customization

 

You can get proper notifications from the application about the completion of the task, via SMS or email.

getting SMS or email notifications

 

Also, you can configure the transfer options, either Standard or Advanced. Within Advanced transfer, you have more control over the transfer and set more options on user accounts, applications, drives, folders, etc.

Standard vs Advanced transfer
Advanced setup options

 

There are advanced customization options for each of these settings, and the application gives you complete control over how you want to set up the new PC.

Final Step

 

As the final step of transferring files between your old computer and the new one, it shows the progress dialog.

PC to PC transfer progress dialog

 

This is where the actual work is being done. Depending on the size and complexity of applications and settings on your old computer, the transfer can take minutes to several hours to complete. Once done, as mentioned earlier, the notification will come, and the program will show this finish dialog.

transfer finished dialog

 

PC Mover Advantages

 

PC Mover is the best upgrade companion to Windows. Here are a few advantages of the application.

  • It takes care of all applications and settings on your old PC and transfers them to the new one. In order to do the same task with a computer support company or executive, you will have to spend a lot more and it will take days.
  • Doing it yourself is one option, but it takes a lot of your valuable time.
  • Doing it yourself may also cause some unnecessary, unneeded issues.
  • The application is pretty easy to install and work with, and it gives extensive configuration options.
  • There are also other options that help you in easy upgrade to Windows 8 or Windows 7.

 

The one disadvantage is that the application doesn’t seem to be available for Mac OS X yet.

If you are looking for just upgrading to Win 7 or 8, there are individual applications that do just that. Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant and Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant.

Conclusion

 

With PC Mover, and other related Laplink applications, upgrading or transferring software and settings to a new PC becomes easier than ever. This automated PC set-up tool is one of the most unique out there.

Blue: Will the Upcoming Update to Windows 8 Change the Scene?

Windows 8

It was a fine morning in January that 72 year old Tami Fletcher went to the Radioshack Store in Long Beach, New York and purchased an upgrade to her old laptop running Windows. She had a Dell laptop of nearly ten years old that was running Windows XP Media Center edition.

In the recent times her applications and the Internet connection have been slowing down unnecessarily, and she was not able to display some web pages properly. A friend of hers suggested that she upgrade her laptop’s hardware and get the latest Windows. This was what drove her to Radioshack.
an upset old lady
When she got the laptop back after three days, with the necessary hardware upgrade and Windows 8, she was quite happy, until she reached home, turned on the laptop, and found herself wondering where all her stuff went. She was specifically told that none of her stuff would be lost in an upgrade, but she was looking at what was completely new to her. And there was no way old Tami could get herself acquainted with the new Windows.

This is not a single incident. A difficult learning curve in getting around the new Windows 8 has been reported by millions of people, who purchased the upgrade from different parts of the world. Within the first six months of releasing Windows, it was purchased by over 100 million people, the same kind of attention and popularity as garnered by Windows 7.

The problem began soon. Microsoft started receiving calls and messages regarding how absurd the new Windows operating system was and how difficult it was to learn to use it properly. This is one of the reasons why the Windows team is developing an update to the OS, right now codenamed Blue. Let’s check it out in detail.

What Was Wrong With Windows 8?

 

A huge number of popular features were removed from Windows 8 due to the fact that the operating system primarily supports Microsoft’s mobile user interface for Windows Phone and Windows RT. Microsoft wanted to have a unique user interface across all these different form factors, and that was the reason why they pushed Windows Phone’s Metro UI in Windows 8 for desktop as well. But that probably did not help the company out greatly.

A brief look at the features missing on Windows 8 alone will convince you why people are bothered about this upgrade. One of the most important features missing in Windows 8 is the vintage Microsoft Start button. People really need this to feel at home in a Windows PC. While millions of users of this operating system are not technically savvy, they have grown accustomed to the familiar Windows interface that was retained even in Windows Vista and 7.

While Windows 8 is perfect for touch interfaces, most people still want this OS to support a mouse and keyboard, and they want that Start button. When they don’t find it, they simply complain.

Another feature missing is the Windows Media Center, which was provided as an add-on up until Windows 7. There are many old customers who are still using Media Center.

The OS comes with a brand new user interface that many old customers find annoying. What Microsoft should have done from the beginning was to make the regular Windows desktop the primary part of the UI and then make the Metro an add-on. Many people flipped out looking at the new user interface and had no clue what they were looking at. This was to be expected. While mobile phones and tablets can have that different kind of UI, a desktop computer must have its familiar interface, or there will be backlash from everywhere.

Windows Blue

 

With that huge number of customer complaints and feedback, Microsoft realized that they made a mistake at least in the case of the desktop operating system. This was the motivation behind Windows’s upcoming update known as Blue.

On , TechNet had a blog post by Frank X. Shaw, Corporate VP of Corporate Communications of Microsoft that Announced the existence of Blue.

On , Microsoft’s Chief Marketing and Financial Officer to the Windows and Live division, Tami Reller made an announcement about the new developments to Windows 8. She said, “The learning curve is real and needs to be addressed.” This has been the first time that Microsoft has realized how important it is to satisfy the old customers, especially the ones who install Windows 8 on non-touch devices. The details were published by the Microsoft Windows blog by Brandon LeBlanc as an interview with Tami Reller. Microsoft did forget that huge customer base as soon as tablets and smartphones started encroaching into the PC market and pushed down the sales strongly.

Windows Blue is a strategic upgrade to Windows 8. It has been known to address a few of the important issues that created widespread negative feedback from customers toward Windows 8. Although over 100 million licenses of it were sold, that makes up for only 3.8 percent of the overall PC market (click to enlarge).

PC OS market share

 

In the above blog post, it has been mentioned that over 2400 devices run Windows operating system. While most of the new devices (tablets and touch laptops) are touch-based (like HP Envy, Acer Iconia, and some others) , there are a huge number of regular PCs, including the ones that come with CRT monitors that cannot use touch capabilities of Windows 8. Hence, as a first step, Microsoft Blue will address the regular Windows interface on these devices. It should essentially push the regular Windows interface on non-touch devices and Metro UI to touch-based devices.

What’s New to Blue?

 

We don’t have any confirmation as to what will be the new things that Blue implements. However, on , a Microsoft-centered community called Microsoft Portal gave us this image:

Suppress start screen option

 

This is an indication that the next update of Windows 8 may include a way to boot directly to the regular desktop mode rather than the tiled Metro UI. One of the major complaints from users was that there was no way for them to boot to the regular desktop mode as in Windows 7. With Blue, if this gets fixed, people may like the OS more.

Microsoft is gearing up toward the Build conference in June, between and , in the Moscone Center, San Francisco. It is expected to be in this conference that more details of Windows Blue will be made available.

Three important aspects that Tami Reller has mentioned that Microsoft Blue will address are the touch interface, addressing feedback from customers, and new form factors. One thing Blue will incorporate is the ability to resize the tiles in the Metro interface. Tiles can be made as small as one fourth or as large as fourth their original size. The customization tools also include ways to change color, looks and other properties of tiles. These enhancements could make the tiled interface friendlier in touch-based systems.

Windows, although is available on smartphones and large tablets, has not yet addressed small tablets in the 7-inch range, dominated by Apple iPad Mini, Google Nexus 7, and Amazon Kindle Fire. With Blue, it is expected that this flaw may be addressed.

A number of recent leaked builds have given us indications as to the presence of the following features on Blue:

  • Support for ReFS (Resilient File System), Miracast (a Wi-Fi method to screencast), NVM Host Controller Interface (a way to standardize the device drivers for SSDs, Solid State Drives), Universal Flash Storage.
  • Apps and updates: Internet Explorer 11, calculator, alarm clock, sound recorder, file manager, and video editor.
  • More options in the Control Panel and PC settings.
  • The start screen has been revamped to include: more color options, size options, ability to lock tiles in place, ‘all apps’ section, etc.
  • Something called kiosk mode in which the entire device can be made into a metro app.
  • Better integration to SkyDrive, more syncing settings with other devices, and more options in Bluetooth keyboards and mice.
Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8 Blue
Win blue alarm clock
Blue Calculator

 

Start screen customization options

 

various other settings under PC

 

Kiosk mode

 

As you can see, there are a huge number of updates and improvements expected in Blue. If these developments change Windows user experience in a positive way, there will be hope for Windows desktop operating system.

Conclusion

 

It was proclaimed early in the year that Windows 8 surpassed 60 million sales across all-in-ones, PCs, laptops, and tablets. A few days ago, that number reached 100 million licenses. In the PC marketplace, Windows stands out as the biggest operating system. However, this is one of the major reasons why Microsoft cannot sell large user interface modifications to the operating system. That move will only alienate users from their familiar operating system, especially since a huge user base of Windows consists of non-techie customers.

With Blue and further developments in Windows 8, Microsoft may probably be able to turn the tablet and tablet PC industry in its favor. We will gather more information and update as necessary.

Software to Encrypt Your Files and Protect Them From Eavesdropping

Today let me discuss about encryption a little bit. You may know that the government agencies, hackers, and companies are capable of eavesdropping into your communications. It doesn’t matter how you transfer files and emails, they are always under the threat of wiretapping.

How do you hide your data? There is only one way you can safeguard from data stealers. That’s by using a software application to encrypt your files and folders. One of the best encryption software out there is being reviewed in this article. The program is known as Encrypt4All available for trial download.

Encrypt4all is a complete encryption software program that can encrypt and lock files, folders, documents in various formats, etc., into an archive with bit-by-bit encryption methods. One of the major advantages of Encrypt4all is that it has the capability to work with many different file formats, some of which include documents, text files, PDF, mp3, videos, Flash, etc. This is not a big advantage as the software developer would want you to believe. Windows encryption software is also capable of encrypting any type of file.

With Encrypt4all, you can set a password for any encrypted file. It is hence not possible to open encrypted archives without supplying the specific password. The application is available for these Windows versions—98, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, and 7. It also supports 64-bit and 32-bit operating systems. The application requires Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or later.

The application has a shell interface that integrates to the Windows Explorer. Hence, you can call up the encryption function directly by right-clicking on a file.

You can set a master password to safeguard Encrypt4all as well. Here are two screenshots of the program.

encryption software

 

Encrypt4all program for encryption

 

This encryption software has been regarded to be the best by Brothersoft, Free Downloads Center, FDM, Wareshare.org, etc. In order to protect your files and folders, encryption is the best method out there. With this, you will be able to hide the content by scrambling it with a key, only with which you can unscramble the data at the receiving end. This is the best way to protect sensitive data from getting into the hands of strangers.