Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Microsoft Releases new Windows 10 preview for PCs with Aero Glass Cortana Redesign and Fresh Sounds

Microsoft launched a new Windows 10 preview for PCs today. The build includes a slew of improvements all over the operating system, both in terms of design and new features.

First up, Microsoft is reintroducing some Aero Glass elements in the user interface. The distinct look was introduced with Windows 7 but dropped in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

“We’ve also heard loud and clear that many Windows Insiders want to see Aero Glass from Windows 7 make a comeback,” said Gabriel Aul, the leader of Microsoft’s operating systems group’s data and fundamentals team. “We’ve been working out how to satisfy this request, and are trying some things out with this build to see how you like them.”

Aul explains that not everyone will see the return of Aero Glass, as Microsoft is running an A/B test with this build. Half of Windows 10 testers will see normal transparency on the Start menu and taskbar while the other half will see a blur effect. Microsoft will choose which one to make the default based on feedback it receives.

Next up, Cortana has received a visual refresh “that makes the experience feel more ingrained into the overall Windows experience.” Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of the operating systems group, showed off some of the changes at Build 2015 earlier today.

In short, Cortana is more tightly integrated with the Start menu/screen. Searching for an app will bring up Cortana, the new Windows split view control has been added to Cortana’s left rail, and Cortana now provides navigation consistent with many other Windows first-party applications.
Better yet, Cortana has gained new features powered by Bing Instant Answers, meaning it tries to give answers while you’re still typing. It has 11 new functionalities:
  • Weather — type “Seattle Weather”
  • Finance — type “MSFT stock”
  • Dictionary — type “define astounding”
  • Calculator — type “48*92″
  • Flight Status — type “UA 238″
  • Reference — type “how tall is brad pitt”
  • Showtimes — type “movies near me”
  • Tech Help — type “memory in my computer”
  • Time Zone — type “time in London”
  • Unit Conversion — type “42 ft in meters”
  • Chit Chat — type “tell me a joke”
Continuum is a Windows 10 feature that handles transitions between interface modes. Today we learned Continuum wouldn’t be limited to just convertible laptops and tablets, but was coming to smartphones as well.

Yet today’s build is for PCs. Continuum improvements thus include a simplified taskbar, general polish on snapping, and the option to adjust the size on the shared divider between two snapped windows.

Other additions and improvements in this build include:
  • Multitasking: Alt-Tab, Task-View, and Snap Assist have all been refined. Snap Assist also now supports the ability to close a window.
  • New default Windows sounds: Not all have changed, but most sounds are completely different.
  • Music and Video preview apps: The Music app has a more immersive Now Playing experience with a true full screen mode while the Video app can now download movies, TV shows, and TV seasons. You can download, delete, and even re-download videos as many times as you want on up to three devices (a limit that Microsoft is planning to increase).
  • Xbox app April 2015 update: Game DVR for PC games, screenshots, a Live Tile, user profiles, and real-name sharing. Drivers for Xbox controllers are also now included.
  • Windows Store Beta improvements: Blue tile, Xbox Live games, and in-app purchases are all ago. Most importantly, apps you purchased on Windows 8.1 will now show up, and vice-versa.
  • Discovering features and apps in Windows 10: More “bite-sized” learning and discovery experiences have been added.
Today’s update bumps the Windows 10 build number from 1061, released on April 22, to build 10074. The update should arrive overnight for Windows 10 preview users via Windows Update (your PC has to be plugged in, and be on or sleeping). If you want to get build 10074 now, head to PC Settings, select “Update and recovery,” then “Preview builds,” and click the “Check Now” button.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Windows 7 and 8.1 Users Nudged in Windows 10's Direction

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Windows 7 and 8.1 users have not received further stimulus to download the Windows 10 and later this summer, after secretly Microsoft implements a push in the right direction, as part of a new update.
The optional KB3035583 update for the two previous versions of Windows include "additional capabilities for Windows update notifications one when new updates are available for the user", and upon inspection found more Top MyCe That this was, in fact, a Windows installer 10.

Users who choose to download the update recommended-but-not-essential find that a new folder inside called System32 added "GWX." It contains nine different files and an additional folder called "Downloads".

The file that matters is "GWXUXWorker.EXE," For in the file description that includes the text "Download Windows 10." In addition, the config.xml file in the folder is "OnlineAdURL" That line indicates you should go to "https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=526874" where the update presumably be expecting a Once released.

It applies to all PCs running Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Someone wants to take over he has to manually check the box next to the update to receive it.

Microsoft confirmed in January and 8.1 That all PCs with Windows 7 receive a free upgrade to Windows 10 after release and that even includes pirated copies of the operating system. Users of Windows XP, meanwhile, have to install Windows 7 or 8.1 before you can use Windows 10.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

70-680 Question Answer

Question NO: 3 

You work as a desktop support technician at Abc.com. The Abc.com network consists of a single Active Directory domain named Abc.com. Abc.com purchases a new client computer named ABC-WS680. You have been instructed to perform an automated installation of Microsoft Windows 7 on ABC-WS680 using the Microsoft Windows 7 DVD. What should you do?

A. You should consider creating an ANS file named sysprep.xml and copying it to a network share.
B. You should consider creating an ANS file named winnt.sif and copying it to a removable drive.
C. You should consider creating an ANS file named autounattend.sif and copying it to a network share.
D. You should consider creating an ANS file named autounattend.xml and copying it to a removable drive.

Answer: D


Explanation:

When Windows 7 is booted from the DVD, it automatically searches for an ANS file called autounattend.xml. If it finds such a file, it will use that to ANS all of the configuration Qs.Incorrect ANSs:
B: Winnt.sif is the Windows XP auto-ANS file name.
C: The file should be named autounattend.xml not autounattend.sif.


Question NO: 4


You work as a network administrator at Abc.com. The Abc.com network consists of a single Active Directory domain named Abc.com. The servers on the network run Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and the client computers run Microsoft Windows 7. A network user named Mia Hamm has a client computer which she regularly backs up. Mia Hamm additionally creates system image backups. During the course of the day Mia Hamm's computers disk fails and she replaces the failed disk drive. Abc.com wants you to recover Mia Hamm's computer to the previous Windows environment. You started the computer using the Windows 7 installation media. What should you do?

A. You should consider having the System Image Recovery option selected.
B. You should consider having the Upgrade option selected.
C. You should consider having the System Restore option selected.
D. You should consider having the Command Prompt option selected.
E. You should consider having the Last Known Good Configuration selected

Answer: A

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

First Look: Microsoft Office 'lite' for Touchscreens

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Microsoft Office

As part of the beta release program for Windows 10, Microsoft has released free touchscreen versions of Excel, PowerPoint and Word through the Windows Store. This does not represent the next version of Office, but instead a simplified version of the current Office. Nonetheless, together, they are a full-fledged set of tools that you can use to create documents, and edit or view your current Office format documents (.doc, .docx, .ppt, .pptx, .xls and .xlsx).

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Only available for Windows 10 Technical Preview testers

Excel Preview, PowerPoint Preview, and Word Preview are each available for free for the time being, but are meant for testing purposes, and only for users of the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview, which is Build 9926. Each is downloaded separately from the beta of the desktop version of the Windows Store. Their file sizes range from 78 MB up to 90 MB.

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Designed to work across all screen sizes

These are among Microsoft’s first apps intended to work across different Windows 10 device platforms: desktop/notebook, tablet or phone. To accommodate touchscreen use, the toolbars utilize large fonts and icons with plenty of whitespace in between. When you highlight text or an image, a toolbar appears listing Cut, Copy and Paste buttons. The UI still works with the traditional keyboard-and-mouse. Thus, these apps are well suited for Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, which is designed to be switched between notebook and tablet modes.

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Features: Not as extensive as Office

Some Office 2013 features are missing. In Word Preview, you can’t create a table of contents. You’re not even allowed to define custom margins or page sizes; you can only choose from a selection of preset margins and sizes. But when it comes to the features they do have, these three apps are similar to the web app versions of Excel, PowerPoint and Word. They are “good enough” for most users’ needs. Excel Preview includes charts and formulas helpfully grouped into categories. The light bulb icon works as both a help search engine and agent that can guide you on how to do something to your document.

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Availability of final releases

As for the price of these apps when their final versions are publicly released, it’s speculated that they could be included with the next version of Microsoft Office (which is being targeted to come out sometime in the second half of this year) and to subscribers of Office 365. They will also come pre-installed on Windows 10 phones and tablets (which have screens of a certain maximum size, perhaps 10 inches and smaller), and could be offered for free for other Windows 10 computers and devices. Either way, additional features would be unlocked with an Office 365 subscription.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 Should you upgrade?

Windows 10 vs Windows 7
Windows 10 vs Windows 7

Should you ditch Windows 7 for Windows 10 later this year?

Even at this early stage we’ve established that Windows 10 is a good deal better than Windows 8 for most desktop PC users. But what if you’re still using Windows 7? Microsoft may be offering a free upgrade to Windows 10, but should you take it or should you stick with what you know? That’s what we’re here to find out.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Performance

One of the least talked about improvements of Windows 8, and subsequently Windows 10, is that it does include a raft of performance upgrades.

Chief among these is bootup time, which is markedly quicker, while better hardware acceleration and a host of other tweaks mean general navigation feels nippier, too. Power management has also been improved, so mobile device battery life tends to be a little longer.

Gaming performance is much more evenly matched, but with Windows 10 will come exclusive access to DirectX 12, which promises to unlock more performance from your existing hardware – read our DirectX 12 vs DirectX 11 comparison for more on that.

It may seem like trivial stuff, but if there’s one single thing that's generally at the heart of the upgrades we make to our computers, it’s performance. So the fact that Windows 10 offers that base-level improvement on top of all its other features is definitely something to be happy about.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Design

Windows 8 marked a stark departure from the styling of Windows 7, with flat windows and bold colours taking over from 3D-looking icons and round-edged and transparent windows.

Windows 10 continues this change, with the flat and bold styling now taking over desktop icons and other core system features, though there’s still some way to go, with plenty of features such as the Control Panel using old icons.

Related: How to install Windows 10 Technical Preview

Windows 7 Design
Windows 7's design is cohesive

Overall, we’re still unconvinced that the new styling is actually better than the old. It’s arguably more "modern", as flat seems to be the design theme of choice at the moment – websites are doing it and so is Apple – but we’re not sure it generally looks any more aesthetically pleasing.

Also, Microsoft’s implementation is particularly stark and disjointed, and it clashes with legacy programs.



Windows 10 Design
Windows 10 feels more disjointed and stark

All that said, there are some practical benefits to the new design direction, such as windows being smaller due to the lack of borders. Windows are also more customisable and some elements are clearer, thanks to the lack of translucent backgrounds.

Windows 10 is still in preview, so there's time for Microsoft to make changes for the better, but 'more modern looking' isn't really a powerful argument in its favour.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Search

Windows 7 has a reasonably powerful search function that will quite rapidly look up matching programs and documents as you type. However, Windows 10 ups the ante by adding Windows Store apps and web search, as well as a much more organised results page.

Windows 7 Search
Windows 7 search is effective but simple

Click on the search box and it also shows preview information such as the latest headlines, updates from your favourite sports teams and the weather.

What’s more, it includes Cortana, the digital personal assistant. This adds two key features. Firstly it monitors things like your email, calendar and search to provide useful information, such as when you need to leave for your next appointment.

Windows 10 Search
Windows 10 greatly enhances the features of search

If you have a microphone on your machine, you can also speak your commands to Cortana and it does a fine job of interpreting colloquial language to get you the answer you need. Sadly the interface doesn’t return the answer to you right there in the search bar, but rather opens the web browser. It’s still pretty cool to not have to type anything, though.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – File Management

It may seem totally mundane, but the tools used for finding and managing your files are some of the most oft used and fundamental to a good operating system.

Windows 7 has a decent selection and certainly we’re all long used to them. However, they certainly aren’t the most advanced, and in some ways they’re a backwards step from what came before – who remembers the removal of the Up button from the File Explorer?


Windows 7 File Management
Windows 7 File Explorer and copy dialogue are relics

This one little feature summed up all that was wrong about the nonsensical path being trodden by Microsoft at the time. But it wasn’t the only problem with Windows 7 File Explorer. By any standard it was poorly designed, with wasted space and key functions hidden from view.

Well, with Windows 10 the Up button is back! And with it are a host of other improvements to File Explorer – many of which, again, first arrived in Windows 8. The top menu is now arranged in a ribbon, so all the common tools are right where they’re easy to click and, perhaps more importantly, easy for novices to find.

There’s also a new Share ribbon which makes it much easier to move files between different apps such as Outlook, Dropbox or Skype. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a definite step in the right direction.

On top of these improvements to File Explorer there’s also an improved file copying interface. Now copying/moving tasks are grouped into one window for easier management. Transfer speed is also shown in real time and operations can also be paused, where they could only previously be cancelled.


Windows 10 File Management
Windows 10 File Explorer and copy dialogue is much more useful

Another neat new addition is Storage Spaces. This is a way to group multiple hard drives together to form a single logical drive. While hardly revolutionary sounding, what makes it particularly useful is that it supports multiple levels of drive redundancy, to ensure your data is backed up, and unlike a RAID system it's completely hot-swappable and drives can be different sizes.

All told, there's a lot that Windows 10 adds to day-to-day file management and very little that's been taken away.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Gaming and DirectX 12

We touched earlier on how gaming performance hasn’t changed much on Windows 10, but it’s worth elaborating.

In fact there's a slight drop in performance on average, with Windows 10 tending to be about 0.5% slower than Windows 7, particularly with older games – Crysis 3, for instance – although there are some instances where the roles are reversed. Of course 0.5% is a ridiculously small amount either way, so much so that it’s not worth worrying about.

Elsewhere Windows 7 has proven to be a robust and reliable gaming platform, though not one entirely stacked with innovation – it’s a solid base on which a host of gaming tools are built.

Windows 10, though, adds a load of new features. Most will, in all likelihood, be of limited interest to most PC gamers – the ability to access your Xbox Live account, stream games from your Xbox to your PC and have multiplayer games work with both PC and Xbox players – though they are, of course, mostly welcome.


Windows 10 Gaming
Windows 10 brings access to lots of Xbox features

Probably the neatest feature is built-in game capture. This will constantly record your gaming sessions, allowing you to grab a snapshot of the last 30 seconds of gameplay to share with your friends. It may not be new technology, but having it baked into the OS is very useful. Also it will work with every game ever – at least so Microsoft says – so if you fancy capturing a video of your Monkey Island adventures, it will happily do so.

Also, Windows 10 will have exclusive access to DirectX 12, which promises to unlock performance on existing hardware thanks to it allowing programmers to better access the features of specific hardware. The performance gains are likely to be fairly small, and very much dependent on exact circumstances, but it’ll likely be enough to tip the balance of performance back in Windows 10’s favour.

DirectX 12 will also likely bring some new features – new graphics effects and such like – but Microsoft hasn’t yet disclosed what these will be.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Notifications

Windows has long had a notifications area of sorts, in the shape of the System Tray. Here you’ll find popup messages from the likes of Outlook, Dropbox and Spotify – anything that actively runs in the background.

However, it’s never really been a proper unified place where messages from other apps can reside, and where you can see a history of updates.

Windows 10 Notifications
Windows 10 has a useful single place for all notifications

Enter the new notifications area of Windows 10. This simple addition brings together system messages and app notifications into one place, with alerts ordered chronologically. It’s a small addition, but one that’s immensely useful.

The notifications area also contains some useful system functions, such as being able to switch to tablet mode or access the settings screen.

Winner: Windows 10

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Workspace Management

Getting and keeping your workspace tidy is of key importance to certain users. While those with a laptop may be content with just making everything fullscreen, if you’re a desktop user you may have multiple large monitors and need good tools for managing all the windows and desktops that make up the total working area.

Windows 7 has multi-monitor support, though it’s somewhat limited with just access to either a mirroring mode or one that stretches the whole desktop across all the monitors, but with only one taskbar on one monitor. It also has an early version of Snap – the tool that automatically resizes windows when you drag them to the left or right. But that’s it – it’s a fairly limited set of tools.


Windows 10 Virtual Desktop
Windows 10 adds virtual desktops and better multi-monitor support

With Windows 10 both these features have been enhanced. Different monitors can now have different backgrounds, with different slideshows, too. Pictures can also now be set to span across all your monitors.

On a more practical note, the taskbar can now appear on multiple monitors or both your primary monitor and whichever monitor you’re currently active in. Snap has also been improved to support snapping to four corners, not just side to side.

Perhaps the biggest addition, though, is virtual desktop support. Although Windows 7 has had support for virtual desktops via third-party software, now it's built right in. The implementation isn’t super slick, but it's a big bonus, particularly for laptop users.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Price

Of course, right now we don’t know how much a standalone copy of Windows 10 will cost, but the big news is that it will be free to upgrade from either Windows 7 or 8 for the first year of Windows 10’s life.

As such, if you’ve got a copy of Windows 7 you’d almost be foolish not to upgrade. After all, although we’re yet to find out exactly how the upgrade process will work – whether you’ll lose your Windows 7 license if you upgrade – the chances are you’ll be able to just reinstall your old version of Windows if you find the upgrade isn’t for you.

If you're buying a fresh new copy and the upgrade period has run out then there’s a chance Windows 7 will be cheaper than Windows 10, but that’s rather dependent on whether you can still get hold of it.

The verdict so far...

It’s clear Windows 10 has a lot of genuinely useful new features, as well as key improvements to old features, compared to Windows 7. None is enough on its own to make an upgrade necessary, but when combined they do make a compelling case.

You’ve got better search, window management, file management, gaming tools and more. Indeed it’s only really the styling that we’re less keen on, which in the grand scheme of things is a minor point.

As such, with Windows 10 being a free upgrade it would almost be silly not to at least try it. Windows 10 may not be perfect, but it most definitely looks like an upgrade worth having when it's available later this year.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hands On: Windows 10's New Preview

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When Microsoft released the newest Windows 10 Technical Preview on Friday, testers saw some major new features the company is hoping to bring to its operating system designed to switch seamlessly between PC and tablet modes. Among the key new features are a new Start Menu and Cortana, the digital assistant that, until now, was only available on Windows Phone.

Along with those and other new features, the new Build 9926 takes a key step forward in showing the progress Microsoft is making to remove the split personality that epitomizes Windows 8.x. Microsoft is designing Windows 10 to launch desktop apps from the Windows Store interface and vice versa. Upon downloading the new build you'll want to look at the following:

Start Menu: One of the biggest mistakes Microsoft made when it rolled out Windows 8 was the removal of the popular Start Button. While the company brought some of its capabilities back with Windows 8.1, the new build of the Technical Preview introduces a new Start Menu that Windows 7 users who have avoided Windows 8.x should feel comfortable with. The Start Menu displays the apps you use most on the left side of your screen and lets you customize the rest of the page with tiles that can be sized however the user chooses and grouped based on preferences such as productivity tools and content. It can be viewed in desktop mode (Figure 1) or in the pure tablet interface (Figure 2).

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 Figure 1. The Start Menu in Windows 10's desktop mode.

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Figure 2. The Start Menu in Windows 10's tablet mode. 

Cortana: The digital voice assistant available to Windows Phone users is now part the Windows PC and tablet environment and it was the first thing I wanted to test upon downloading the new build. It wasn't able to answer many questions, though when asked who's going to win the Super Bowl, Cortana predicted the New England Patriots. We'll see how that plays out. Ask it the weather forecast and she'll give you a brief answer. In other cases when I asked certain questions it would initiate a Bing query and send back the search results in a browser view. Cortana is also designed to search your system, OneDrive and other sources based on your queries. Microsoft has warned Cortana for Windows is still in early development but it could emerge as a useful feature if it's able to work as the company hopes.  Like the Start Menu, Cortana works on the traditional desktop (Figure 3) or in the tablet mode (Figure 4).

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Figure 3. Cortana on the desktop.

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Figure 4. Cortana in the tablet mode.

Continuum: The design goal of Windows 10 is its ability to let users transition between desktop and touch-based tablet modes. In either environment, you should be able to access desktop or Windows Store apps. For example if you have downloaded Google's Chrome browser as a desktop app, when in the tablet mode it will appear as an app in that environment. In either case, you're accessing the same browser, just from a different interface.

Farewell Charms: Microsoft introduced Charms with Windows 8 as a hip new way of configuring machines but many found it cumbersome and confusing. In the new build, Charms are gone, replaced by a new Settings component (Figure 5). As the name implies, Settings offers an easy way to customize the display, connect peripherals and configure networks.

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Figure 5. Windows 10's new Settings component.

New Windows Store: Microsoft is preparing a new store that has a common design for PC, tablet and phone users as well as those accessing it via the Web. The new Windows Store beta (Figure 6) appears as a gray icon, though the existing Windows Store is still available in green.

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Figure 6. The Windows Store beta.

File Explorer: Many users have complained that the File Explorer in Windows 8.x doesn't allow for a default folder. Now when opening the File Explorer in the new preview, it can be set to open to a default folder (Figure 7).
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 Figure 7.Windows 10's File Explorer.

Because this is still an early beta you'll find bugs and just because you see features here doesn't mean they'll end up in the shipping version this fall. If you've looked at this build, please share your opinions on the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview.