Windows 8

Move over games, new Xbox One focuses on the big screen

Microsoft’s new Xbox One is billed as a gaming console. But the ability to play games seems incidental to many of the features – and hoopla – about the new device.

If you watched the unveiling closely on Tuesday, the tech company was keen to tout how well the Xbox One will work with your TV in the living room – whether you’re watching live sports or the latest episode of Mad Men.

Gamers, meanwhile, seem a little disappointed about some features.

One common complaint online is that the Xbox One isn’t backward-compatible with the plethora of Xbox 360 games we’ve amassed. So all those old discs can be turned into coasters, should one decide to upgrade.

Another gripe is that used Xbox One games will require consumers to pay the full price of the game – even though somebody else already did. This, despite word that the new console won’t require an always-on Internet connection, a feature which many had feared.

For game developers, this means they can get more money for the titles they produce.

But the Xbox One is all about the relationship with your TV – as heard several times during the unveiling.

While it won’t have a built-in cable tuner, you can feed your cable TV feed through the Xbox and use the console’s program guide to find out what’s on, and even which shows are trending.

While watching an NFL game, you could split the screen into two chunks: one to tweet, another to watch the actual game.

And you can control all of this with a combination of gestures and voice commands  using the included Kinect system, meaning the redesigned controller can collect dust. Just say “Xbox on” to fire up the console. Or “What’s on HBO?” to see when Don Draper will grace your TV next.

I was speaking with an app developer a couple weeks ago, and asked him which unusual platform was keeping him busy. Besides the usual suspect (iOS), he said Xbox app development was a fair chunk of their work.

Sony’s new PlayStation 4 also won’t be backward compatible with older games, so it’s on even playing ground with the new Xbox.

Which console do you think will be better? The Xbox One or the PlayStation 4?

Microsoft enables Windows 8 Flash support in IE 10

Windows 8 users who often encountered broken websites due to Flash content being blocked in Internet Explorer 10 are in for some relief.

Microsoft says the latest version of IE 10, now available, will display Flash videos and games by default.

Flash content was always available for anyone who used the browser in Windows’ ‘Desktop mode’ however that meant many of us – myself included – would just use the operating system in the traditional view rather than the “immersive” live-tile view.

The update will also enable Flash for IE 10 on the watered-down version of Windows 8, better known as Windows RT.

In a blog post, IE group program manager Rob Mauceri said they believe that when sites “just work” in the latest web browser, the experience is better for everyone involved. Fantastic move – finally.

So why did they limit Flash content to sites on a special list in the first place? Apparently, that move was to improve performance.

Flash wasn’t completely banned on Windows 8. Websites could get themselves on a so-called ‘Compatibility View’ list which enabled site-specific content. To get on the list, developers had to prove their site didn’t hurt a computer’s responsiveness, performance and battery life.

At the same time, Flash is problematic when it comes to web security, with anti-virus firms like Kaspersky often finding bugs and exploitable holes.

Then again, is any web browser ever secure? Apparently not.

Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer were compromised at the annual Pwn2Own hacker conference. According to a blog post from Sophos, all three browsers were cracked.

Which web browser do you prefer to use?


Pokki App for Windows 8 brings back the start button

Looking for the coveted Start button in Windows 8? You won’t find it, unless you get this app.

Pokki adds start button-like functionality to Windows 8 when in Desktop mode, adding all the usual menus you’re accustomed to in Windows 7 and previous versions.

You can access your apps, other documents and search for files from within the Pokki start menu.

Pokki also lets you download and install apps from their parent company, such as an app that lets you check your Instagram feed and another for Facebook.


Review: Microsoft Surface Pro a mixed bag

Microsoft Surface Pro, with the Surface Pen, appears in this supplied photo,

Microsoft Surface Pro, with the Surface Pen, appears in this supplied photo,

When Microsoft rolled out Windows 8, it did so alongside its first tablet – the Surface.

But that device wasn’t running the most powerful hardware, and the operating system was actually a watered-down version of Windows 8 called Windows RT.

The concept was a good effort, but I was hopeful that a tablet with more horsepower running a full-blown version of the operating system would be better.

Here we are, a few months later, and Microsoft has rolled out the Surface Pro. With more power under the hood and an operating system that can run Windows 8 apps along with traditional Windows 7 programs, is the Pro any good – and is it better than the basic Surface?

For those not familiar with the Surface, it’s a tablet with a little (and sturdy) kick stand that helps it stand at a slight angle on its own. Users can use a keyboard to type and click away at things. When it’s not a necessity, the keyboard can snap off or fold backward.

The Surface Pro has significantly faster hardware behind its rock-solid VapourMg case. Behind the 10.6-inch screen sits an Intel Core i5 processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000, the same type of computing brains you’d find in many laptops and desktops. Microsoft has this tablet configured with 4 GB of RAM.

There’s no spinning hard drive – the Surface Pro is available with either a 64 GB or 128 GB SSD drive that helps the device boot up and restore in almost no time at all.

But going back to the case, the Surface Pro has actually gained a bit of weight to fit in all the hardware. It’s not as easy to hold for long periods of time, but it’s still lighter than a laptop.

The full HD screen looks great, but it’s almost too small to use comfortably when in Desktop mode. Unfortunately, given the still-fresh selection of apps, I used the Surface Pro in Desktop mode almost 90 per cent of the time.

The other 10 per cent of the time, when I’m either watching full-screen video or using native Windows 8 apps, the display looks fine.

The Microsoft Surface Pro is an improvement on the base Surface. But with a starting price tag of $899 (which doesn’t include the Touch Cover keyboard), the Pro proposition is getting a little expensive.

And then consider what most people may not like with the Surface – you can’t exactly use it as a laptop on your lap. The hinge, though very clever, is not ‘stiff.’ And this means you can’t use it on your lap comfortably while the little kickstand rests on your legs.

Although it’s larger and less travel-friendly, the Lenovo Yoga is a Windows 8 computer that seems to get the format just right.

How to get more apps in Windows 8 by changing the location

While Microsoft is pumping a lot of money into Windows 8 app development, not all are accessible to Canadians.

It seems many app developers, when selecting the region or their apps, pick the United States instead of the rest of the world…or even North America.

So if you’re in Canada, great magazine apps like Zinio are ruled out. But there is a trick to beat the system that Microsoft hasn’t figured out.

All you need to do is change your region from Canada to the United States.

Here’s how:

  1. Swipe in from the right side and select the search button
  2. Select ‘Settings’ right underneath the search box
  3. Type in ‘location’ and then hit enter to search
  4. Select ‘Change location’ from the search results
  5. Select United States from the drop-down menu and then hit OK

And you’re done!

Note: You might need to close and re-start the Store app before the changes are reflected.


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