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Articles Technology

Windows Operating System And The Even-Year Jinx

I was and remain a committed fan of the Windows 8 Operating System. I found it very painful that the OS did not gain widespread acceptance as expected.

Microsoft’s attempt at forcing what they (and I) felt were features for an OS of the future was met with stiff resistance, which was expressed in its rather poor acceptance. A far cry from the success of its predecessor, the Windows 7.

I guess its true what they say, the customer is king. Moreso, the customer now has a lot more options to chose from now.

However, many had predicted doom for the Windows 8 OS long before it was even conceived. They call it the “Even Year” jinx. All Microsoft OS released in even years flopped! All, except Windows 98 – released 1998 & 1999 (2nd ed).

Roll Call: Windows 3.0 (1990), Windows 3.1 (1992), Windows Me (2000), Windows Vista (2006) and Windows 8 (2012).

PS: Windows 2000 was actually released in 1999.

Perhaps not to take chances, Microsoft is releasing the next iteration of its popular OS in 2015 – an odd number year. It has also listened to the complaints of its end users, incorporating the features they yearned, yes, especially the “Start Menu”.

I am presently taking the Preview Version of the new Windows 10 Operating System for a spin. Watch out for my review!

Screenshot (1)

Categories
Hack

Use The ATM And Risk Losing Your Money!

Windows XP finally reached its end-of-life this April (2014), after which Microsoft ceases to release bug fixes for the operating system. If you’ve upgraded your PC then everything should be fine – but what about your bank? Have they upgraded?

The Risk Isn’t Necessarily With You

Have you upgraded from Windows XP yet? If not, you can easily choose from several different options;  Windows 7, Windows 8 or even Linux. While it is important to ensure your home computer system is as up to date as possible, it is also important that the companies you do business with are also suitably secure.

Sadly, this hasn’t been happening. For various reasons (usually cost) a vast number of businesses have been spending time burying their heads in the sand rather than coming to terms with the fact that their systems have suddenly become a lot less secure since Microsoft withdrew support for Windows XP.

Although corporate security support has been extended to April 2015 – only in the UK, this still doesn’t give businesses who haven’t yet made the necessary upgrades an awful lot of time to purchase and roll out new hardware running Windows 7, Windows 8, Linux or even Mac OS X. While you might have taken steps to upgrade, the Windows XPocalypse has wider ramifications.

Among these are the customer-facing systems running on Windows XP, the ATMs especially, and its continued presence represents an open door to digital criminals.

DSC_2031ATMs: Stay Away!

If you visit ATMs to make withdrawals, you likely do so from a system running Windows XP. If you’ve ever seen one of these machines crash or reboot, you’ll know that behind the simple set of options Windows XP is hiding. Once upon a time it was providing security against intrusion from sophisticated hackers; these days, its presence is arguably as big a headache as the breaches it once helped to prevent.

ATMs running Windows XP are rife for exploitation and should be avoided.

Avoid withdrawing money from an ATM by doing so over the counter at your bank. You might consider using point of sale cashback services too. This is not very popular in Nigeria though.

A rule of thumb should be to avoid these at all costs. If you can’t, it is worth being prepared by setting up a separate ATM card with a low balance.

Windows XP: The New Millennium Bug?

15 years ago, the IT world worked itself into a frenzy as it fought to combat the effects of the so-called Millennium Bug (aka Y2K problem) – an issue with the way computers calculate the date that was set to cause chaos come January 1st 2000 (or 1900, if the bug had its way). Although there was plenty of time to prepare for this, many businesses waited until the last few months to apply a fix.

Fast-forward to 2014 and the situation is recognisable, if not identical. Home users are largely protected but businesses seem to have ignored the many warnings issued by Microsoft about Windows XP going end-of-life and the implications of this. The push to get domestic users onto Windows 7 and Windows 8 has been slow, but it would seem that even if you upgraded tomorrow, your bank and other institutions handling sensitive data would still be running XP, with the impending security failings this will bring.

As such, you need to be careful where and how you use credit and debit card. As a rule of thumb, if you’re attempting to use the card at an exposed location, you should already be cautious of the risks. With unsecured Windows XP installations now providing an added threat, automated payment solutions should be avoided.

Culled from Makeuseof

Categories
Hack

How To Capture Streaming Music From Your PC

I subscribed to the music service Deezer a few weeks back. With a monthly subscription of US$4.99 (NGN800), Deezer gives you unrestricted access to about 30 million+ music files for your listening pleasure. You are able to stream any music track or if you prefer, you can even save the tracks to your device (PC or mobile device) for you to listen to when are not connected to internet.

The snag with this arrangement is that;

  • the music files are not in your regular mp3 or wma format but some unidentifiable encrypted format.
  • access to your music files are cut off any month you fail to pay your subscription. You lose access to all your music files until you renew your subscription.
  • you are restricted to the music player app provided by the music service both on your PC (Chrome Browser app) or mobile device.

In a bid to avoid the restrictions listed above, I started looking around for a way to capture streaming audio from either my PC or mobile device. I met a brick wall with android, there was no app available for what i wanted to do. At least, i did not find any.

For the PC, however, the story was different.

I revisited this Windows application called Audacity. For those that know, this application has been around for quite a while – but not with the features in its latest iteration. From Audacity version 2.0.4 onwards, Audacity can record computer playback even on budget laptops with sound devices lacking that ability.

dj

On other operating systems (Linux and Apple OSX platform application), Audacity does not provide its own ability to record computer playback but can do so if the computer sound device offers this ability.

The process of capturing streaming audio using your Windows PC is realtime. You have to play all the tracks from start to finish in realtime to capture the songs. If the total playtime of the songs in your playlist is, say, 6 hours, it will take that many hours to capture your songs into mp3 format. Good thing is, you can lower the volume of your PC speakers to the minimum or even insert an ear phone piece into the earphone jack to listen to the songs while playing without interrupting the recording process.

Methodology

1. You will need a PC with at least 2GB RAM, 2Ghz Processor with OS Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. However, Audacity recommends a minimum of 4GB RAM to prevent any hiccup.

I will be using a Core i3 2.3Ghz processor, 8GB RAM, Windows 8.1 HP Pavilion G6 laptop for this test.

2. Visit Audacity download page and grab the latest version of the software http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/

3. Install and configure as follows;

  • Launch the software, select Edit –> Preferences

Screenshot (2)

  • Select the options as shown below. The Host entry must be Windows WASAPI. Under Recording, search for any entry with “(loopback)”

Screenshot (3)

  • Save your settings and you are ready to roll.

The software looks a bit intimidating but you do not need all the available features. The control buttons are top left (as shown in the image below). When you are through, click on File –> Export to save the music file in any format of your choice. Note that to save in MP3 format, you need to install the Lame Encoder on your PC

Screenshot (5)

Categories
Advertorial Entertainment

Deezer Music Service – Unlimited Music Downloads

A few weeks back, i wrote about Xbox Music, a Windows 8 app that gives you access to an estimated 30 million+ of songs to stream for free on your PC (Online or Offline mode), on the web and on your android & iOS tablets or phones .

This music service, however, has at least 2 major flaws;

deezer

  • The mobile apps does not have an offline mode. You can only stream music online – Data services required!
  • At US$9.99 monthly subscription fee, it is not competitive.

For those of us living in Africa – except, perhaps, South Africa – we have very limited music service options. Popular services like Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, Google Play Music and Amazon are just not available.

It was only by chance that i stumbled on this less known music service called Deezer. It boasts of a presence in a whooping 182 countries, including Nigeria. The first thing that struck me was the similarity in its song database and that of Xbox Music.

The following are what i will consider as the strengths of this service;

  • Seemingly similar song database to Microsoft’s Xbox.
  • A more affordable US$4.99 (NGN850) subscription fee per month, giving you access to 30 million+ music tracks including Nigerian hit tracks .
  • Offers mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry platforms.
  • Offline music playback both on the desktop PC and on your mobile devices.

Fortunately, Deezer offers a 15 day trial. You have nothing to lose, why not give it a try?

Categories
Entertainment Gadgets

Xbox Music – Free Unlimited Music Downloads

One of my favourite apps available on Windows 8.1 OS is the Xbox music. This service was introduced with Windows 8 at launch in 2012 but for some reasons, it was not available to Nigerian card holders. However, the gates have now been flung open to just about anyone that cares.

The business model for this music service from Microsoft can be summarized as follows;

  • Unlimited Music Streaming
  • Unlimited Music Downloads
  • Stream with your Android and iOS devices
  • Access to over 30 million songs. Believe me, even very old school Nigerian tracks from Cloud 7, Bongos Ikwue & Sonny Okosuns are available.
  • All for a monthly fee of US$9.99 (N1650), which can be paid for using your regular Naira denominated Visa/Mastercard cards.
  • You even get this service free for a whole month. You get charged only from the second month

Too good to be true? Okay, there are caveats;

  • Unless you make an outright purchase of a track, usually in MP3 format for US$0.99 per track, songs downloaded with your subscription (called Xbox Music Pass) are usually in encrypted (DRM) WMA format. The tracks are not playable elsewhere but only on PCs that you are signed into with your Xbox Music credentials.
  • You can not download music using Xbox Music Android and iOS apps.
  • The Android and iOS apps are still not available in Nigeria but there are workarounds.

Even with these limitations, i believe it is still worth the fees being charged. Moreso, i am actively working on ways to circumvent the restrictions Microsoft has put in place. I have some ideas already…

xbox-music-ios-617x416

Categories
Technology Tips

Upgrading From Windows 8 To Windows 8.1

A couple of weeks ago, i decided to upgrade my Windows OS from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. Ordinarily, it does not sound like a big deal but it was.

Firstly, you will have to initiate the upgrade from within the Windows store. Perhaps due to the large number of early adopters it was almost an impossible task. It was even worse in regions were Internet speed is very slow.

Windows-8.1Secondly, the upgrade requires at least 3.5GB of download data. That is about half my monthly data allocation. For an incremental upgrade, it is definitely a whole lot of data!

Additional problems i also identified are;

1. I do a lot of Operating Systems installations (and reinstallation). Would i be going through the time and data wasting routine of an online upgrade, the only official route provided by Microsoft?

2. The finacial implication of the Internet data download for the OS download and setup is at least N4000 based on the rates from my ISP. It adds up quickly when you do a lot of installations like i do.

The ideal solution that would work for me would be;

1. Look for a “Once and for all” solution. By this, i would need to find a way to download an ISO image of Windows 8.1 which i can burn on a DVD and use repeatedly without a need for internet access to download a fresh install for every machine i need to install Windows 8.1 OS on. Also, I could easily share the DVD and save others the costly internet access and the stress of slow data downloads.

2. To save myself even the estimated N4000 for the Windows 8.1 OS download, i could wait till 12 midnight. My ISP gives its subscribers free internet access with no download restrictions from 12am – 6am daily. That way i could do a whole lot of post installation downloads. Very nice option that comes at a cost – your sleep!

A quick search on the Internet brought up this link here. With it i was able to generate an ISO image of Windows 8.1. Took me almost 5 hours to download the data for the 3.5GB ISO image but, like they say, all is well that ends well.

Please note that if you follow the process in the link above closely, it will only generate the ISO image and should not install the OS yet. You can easily install the ISO image on a DVD.

For the OS installation proper from the DVD, you may encounter a problem whereby the product key may be rejected. Thing is, your license only qualifies you for an upgrade installation via the Windows Store and not a Clean Install. To get around this, pick up a temporary relevant product key from here for your installation, depending on the Windows OS type you purchased a license for. Note that you will still need to use your Windows 8 key to activate your installation online.

Good luck!

Categories
Tips

Improve Your Windows PC Boot-Up Speed

You hit the power on button on your PC, wait for minutes for the Microsoft boot up logo to even appear, before finally hitting your desktop. In all, it took you about 10 minutes. Sounds familiar to anyone? It is a fact that about everyone at sometime would have had this hair-pulling experience of slow Windows PC boot up.

While the geeks blame the slow boot up of Windows PC on its design architecture, however, how fast your PC boots is usually dependent on your PC processor speed, RAM, viruses, and installed program that load during boot up. Using fairly recent PC hardware with decent specifications, the average boot up time for fresh installations of various Windows OSes should not take up to 30 seconds, even with the dreadful Windows Vista. Windows 8 has actually put Microsoft haters to shame by greatly improving on its bootup time by saving the system state and memory contents to a file on disk, and simply reload it on reboot, rather than initiating everything all over again. You can actually boot up a new installation of Windows 8 in less than 10 secs!

Okay, that seems like a tall tale as most never get to experience these speeds mainly because right from when your PC slides out of the production line, manufacturers already have them stuffed with bloatwares – softwares you never asked for and you will never need. Thing is, for every single softwares that you install, chances are that it will negatively impact on your boot up speed.

I will take you through a routine that can help to reduce the time it takes to boot up your PC.

  • Click your Start Menu button. Check for the RUN link on the right pane, it is at the bottom. For Windows 8, just type RUN from your Start Screen
  • Not there? Okay, right click on the Start Menu and select Properties
  • Click the Start Menu tab and click Customize
  • Scroll down and select the check box labelled Run Command
  • Click Okay twice
  • Now go back to your Start Menu, click Run
  • Type into the dialogue box msconfig
  • Click the Services tab
  • Select the Hide Microsoft Services checkbox at the bottom of the dialogue box. Trust me, you do not want to mess with stuff that can break your system. Unselect everything else except anything that has to do with your antivirus. You can always select any other service you may need later.
  • Click Exit Without Restart
  • Next select the Start Up tab. Here again leave everything related to your Antivirus or Intel. Uncheck or disable everything else.
  • Close the dialogue box and restart your system.

You should notice an improvement in the boot up speed of your PC.

If you are confused about any step, check out my video on Youtube here.

Windows 7-2013-08-25-08-59-30

 

Categories
Gadgets Technology

Tablets : Between Recreation and Productivity

I handed over my tablet to my son a few months ago after a failed bid to sell it off.

While I was researching for the ideal tablet to put my hard earned cash on, the Toshiba Thrive came tops as the most productive or functional tablet around. However, after a few months of using it, i realised that there is only so much even the best featured tablets could do. Read my review of the Toshiba Thrive here.

By my definition, productivity or functionality is the speed or amount of work one can get done on a tablet compared to what can be achieved on a regular computer. Yes, the yard stick for comparison has and will always be the PC.

From this definition, you may understand why the iPad was never considered.

toshiba-thrive-6While the Toshiba Thrive could take most of what I threw at it by way of hardware accessories – full USB keyboard, mouse and all – the fact remains that the operating system powering it (an enhanced Android 4.1.2 custom rom) was never suited for getting much productive work done.

While tablet manufacturers have access to near infinite apps on Google Play, with a good number focused on enterprise & productivity, however it seems majority of the apps available fall within a ‘recreational’ category.

It has been predicted by many technology analysts that the tablet form factor will be replacing the PC as we know it. And as if to prove these pundits right, the PC has witnessed a very sharp drop in sales since the introduction of the iPad.

But why is this so when it is very clear to about everyone that the functionality of the PC is almost only limited by the imagination of the user whereas the tablet can barely get simple productivity tasks done conveniently?

The reason may not be far fetched. Most users do not need the infinite computing powers of the regular PC, at least you don’t need it for the regular tasks that most people indulge in; word processing, web browsing, other Microsoft office products, solitaire, watching films, etc. A role that even the least powered tablets can undertake perfectly.

The question however still remain; would the tablet form factor be the end of the PC. Well, one thing is very sure, definitely not in our lifetime. Many have predicted the demise of Linux too which, against all odds, is probably even more relevant than before; it powers most of the websites in the world, embedded in more devices than we can ever count and also is the basis of most operating systems around now; Mac 0s, android, etc.

For geeks like me, the tablet remains what it is meant for- recreation. I can not even being myself to undertake the simplest word processing tasks on an android or iPad tablet because of formatting issues.

However, Microsoft has already set the pace with its mobile and desktop OS convergence operating system – the Windows 8. Still rough at the edges, I strongly believe this company would play a major role in how soon the tablet form factor replaces the PC form factor.

Categories
Technology Tips

Shutdown, Hibernate or Put To Sleep – Which Option Is Best For Your Laptop?

You probably may have been faced with this decision more than once; Hibernate, put to sleep or simply shutdown your PC. What option did you take? What option should you take?

Simply put, the choice is yours on the options to take. Your work schedule or purpose for use of these laptops should largely determine what option you should take.

Hibernating or putting your PC to sleep usually preserves your PC state, keeping your workfiles and applications intact for you to continue with whenever you choose to do so. Perhaps the major difference between these two options is that with Sleep, is a power-saving state that allows a computer to quickly resume full-power operation (typically within several seconds) when you want to start working again. Putting your computer into the sleep state is like pausing a DVD player—the computer immediately stops what it’s doing and is ready to start again when you want to resume working. (I quoted Microsoft there). Hibernate, on the other hand, puts your open documents and programs on your hard disk, and then turns off your computer. Of all the power-saving states in Windows, hibernation uses the least amount of power. .

Sleep is good for short periods while hibernate is advisable if your laptop will be away from a power source for a long time. Note that if you will be transporting your laptop in a backpack, hibernate is advisable because of the heat that would be generated from your laptop if put to sleep.

PC Hibernate Or PC Sleep ModePutting your computer to sleep is popular with pre-Windows 8 systems largely because of the long boot up time of the Operating Systems. Putting your PC to sleep shaves a lot of precious seconds, even minutes, off the boot up time. Things have, however, changed a bit with Windows 8 which has a fairly fast bootup time.

A class of people however prefer to leave their laptops on 24/7. While this has an advantage of giving you quick access to your PC whenever you need it, it can however be a security risk if it is left online – well, except it is being used as a server. Also, because of the heat generated by the laptop, its internal components and USB accessories also stand a risk of being fried.

Geek Recommendation

– Put your laptop to sleep only for very short periods; lunch breaks maybe.
– Hibernate for longer periods, especially if you have unfinished tasks or open windows you are working on.
– Nothing beats the good old shutting down of your laptop. Windows OS sure needs to reboot itself very often to keep it functional.

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

Are Hybrid Tablets the New Netbooks?

Hybrid TabletsHybrids have gotten a lot of hype lately, with a slew of touch-enabled laptops and flipping, folding convertible designs launching so far this year. But with some of these new hybrids—specifically smaller tablets with docking keyboards—there’s been a nagging question that I can’t quite shake: Are hybrid tablets the new netbooks?

You remember netbooks, right? The minuscule clamshell PCs, with 8-to 10-inch screens and crowded keyboards, caught shoppers’ attention as much for their sub-$500 prices as for their compact form factors. For a brief period a few years back, netbooks were the hot new thing, selling like proverbial hotcakes—but it didn’t last. Those hotcakes didn’t even stay sold as customers returned their cheap netbooks in droves.

Complaints touched on everything from screen dimensions (in many cases, too small to display full-size webpages) to keyboard width (too tiny for traditional typing), but the biggest gripe by far was about the processors. Shoppers went looking for inexpensive alternatives to laptops, but found that netbooks’ pint-sized CPUs wouldn’t always support the programs they were accustomed to, or provide the speed they expected.

Though you’ll still see one or two being sold as inexpensive systems for K-12 students, by and large the netbook is now all but extinct. The ultrabook has come on the scene, offering portability with the promise of a full-fledged processor, but the prices usually bottom out around $700. Apple’s MacBook Air models eventually jump-started Intel’s Ultrabook category, but so surpassed the underpowered netbooks of the time that they are rightly considered part of another category.

It’s starting to feel as if the netbook is rearing its head again.

As tablets and hybrid ultrabook designs have begun cropping up recently, it’s starting to feel as if the netbook is rearing its head yet again. Ten-and 11-inch tablets are being released with docking keyboards and Windows 8, designed to provide the convenience seen in iPads and Android tablets, but with the additional productive capability and software support of a Windows PC. These little tablets share many of the defining features of netbooks. Dinky Atom processors? Check. Chintzy 32-bit versions of Windows? Check. Small screens? Check. Cramped keyboards? Check.

But there are some key differences as well. For example, the keyboards are slightly improved over those on netbooks, with many lessons learned from earlier disasters. You won’t see one coming in at less than 10 inches, where keyboards on the largest netbooks topped out at 10 or 11 inches—and most systems were equipped with nearly useless keyboards 8 or 9 inches in size.

Small screens are also less of an issue, as they are now wide enough to display content without cutting off webpages, and the Web has adapted to smaller displays thanks to smartphones and other mobile devices. And where netbooks were often used at arm’s length like a laptop, tablets are more ergonomically suited to cradling and carrying. Higher screen resolutions also play a part, with most hybrids offering 720p and a few even sporting 1080p. The result is a much more readable, usable display.

The current Atom CPUs can run all of the legacy apps that netbooks of yesteryear could not.

Where the Atom processors used in netbooks were slow and clunky, the newest batch of Atom CPUs deliver speedier performance and superb battery life. Intel has pushed hard to close the gap between their mobile and PC chips, desiring a stronger presence in mobile markets, and the Atom platform is the beneficiary of this progress. The results aren’t on par with the latest Core processors, but you will find solid basic performance. More important, the current Atom CPUs can run all of the legacy apps that the netbooks of yesteryear could not.

Finally, the usage model has changed. Only a few years ago, netbooks were expected to be primarily productivity machines, letting you type documents, fill out spreadsheets, and so on. Since that time, online services like Netflix, Facebook, and Skype have exploded. For these sorts of uses detachable hybrid tablets are perfect, letting you curl up with a movie the way past generations curled up with a good book. You can Skype and chat and browse to your heart’s content. And with a docking keyboard, you can actually do some work, whether that means taking notes in a classroom or meeting, preparing spreadsheets, or designing a presentation.

So, although detachable hybrid tablets certainly share a family resemblance to netbooks, they are ultimately their own devices, with their own pros and cons. One of the biggest benefits of these new devices is all-day battery life—and I do mean all day. Some of the latest Atom-powered tablets offer well beyond the 8 hours needed for a full workday, and then supplement this with a second battery in the docking keyboard, letting you go from dawn to dusk and into the night without stopping to charge.

Will 2013 see a repeat of the buy-and-return cycle that killed off netbooks? Between the improved capability of today’s systems and the evolution of buyers’ expectations, I think shoppers are safe. Vendors and manufacturers, on the other hand, have a very different concern: If people can already do most of this with the smartphones and tablets they already have, who will want to buy a Windows tablet?

Between the improved capability of today’s systems and the evolution of buyers’ expectations, I think shoppers are safe.

Source : PCMAG