Different customised versions for PCs, tablets and smartphones

NEW YORK – The release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system is a week away, and consumers are in for a shock. Windows, used in one form or another for a generation, is getting a completely different look that will force users to learn new ways to get things done.
Microsoft is making a radical break with the past to stay relevant in a world where smartphones and tablets have eroded the three-decade dominance of the personal computer. Windows 8 is supposed to tie together Microsoft’s PC, tablet and phone software with one look. But judging by the reactions of some people who have tried the PC version, it’s a move that risks confusing and alienating customers.
Tony Roos, an American missionary in Paris, installed a free preview version of Windows 8 on his aging laptop to see if Microsoft’s new operating system would make the PC faster and more responsive. It didn’t, he said, and he quickly learned that working with the new software requires tossing out a lot of what he knows about Windows.
“It was very difficult to get used to,” he said. “I have an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old, and they never got used to it. They were like, `We’re just going to use Mom’s computer.'”
Windows 8 is the biggest revision of Microsoft Corp.’s operating system since it introduced Windows 95 amid great fanfare 17 years ago. Ultimately, Windows grew into a US$14 billion a year business and helped make former Chief Executive Bill Gates the richest man in the world for a time.
Now, due to smartphones and tablets, the personal computer industry is slumping. Computer companies are desperate for something that will get sales growing again. PC sales are expected to shrink this year for the first time since 2001, according to IHS iSuppli, a market research firm.
The question is whether the new version, which can be run on tablets and smartphones, along with the traditional PC, can satisfy the needs of both types of users.
“I am very worried that Microsoft may be about to shoot itself in the foot spectacularly,” said. Michael Mace, the CEO of Silicon Valley software startup Cera Technology and a former Apple employee. Windows 8 is so different, he said, that many Windows users who aren’t technophiles will feel lost, he said.
Microsoft is releasing Windows 8 on Oct. 26, and it doesn’t plan to cushion the impact. Computer companies will make Windows 8 standard on practically all PCs that are sold to consumers.
Speaking to Wall Street analysts on Thursday, Microsoft’s chief financial officer Peter Klein said he isn’t very concerned that user confusion could slow the adoption of Windows 8. When Microsoft introduces new features, he said, people eventually realize that “those innovations have delivered way more value, way more productivity and way better usability.” That’s going to be true of Windows 8 too, he said.
Instead of the familiar Start menu and icons, Windows 8 displays applications as a colorful array of tiles, which can feature updated information from the applications. For instance, the “Photos” tile shows an image from the user’s collection, and the “People” tile shows images from the user’s social-media contacts. (Microsoft is licensed to use AP content in the Windows 8 news applications.)
The tiles are big and easy to hit with a finger – convenient for a touch screen. Applications fill the whole screen by default – convenient for a tablet screen, which is usually smaller than a PC’s. The little buttons that surround Windows 7 applications, for functions like controlling the speaker volume, are hidden, giving a clean, uncluttered view. When you need those little buttons, you can bring them out, but users have to figure out on their own how to do it.
“In the quest for simplicity, they sacrificed obviousness,” said Sebastiaan de With, an interface designer and the chief creative officer at app developer DoubleTwist in San Francisco.
Technology blogger Chris Pirillo posted a YouTube video of his father using a preview version of Windows 8 for the first time. As the elder Pirillo tours the operating system with no help from his son, he blunders into the old “Desktop” environment and can’t figure out how to get back to the Start tiles. (Hint: Move the mouse cursor into the top right corner of the screen, then swipe down to the “Start” button that appears, and click it. On a touch screen, swipe a finger in from the right edge of the screen to reveal the Start button.) The four-minute video has been viewed more than 1.1 million times since it was posted in March.
“There are many things that are hidden,” said Raluca Budiu, a user experience specialist with Nielsen Norman Group. “Once users discover them, they have to remember where they are. People will have to work hard and use this system on a regular basis.”
Mace, the software CEO, has used every version of Windows since version 2.0, which came out in 1987. Each one, he said, built upon the previous one. Users didn’t need to toss out their old ways of doing things when new software came along. Windows 8 ditches that tradition of continuity, he said.
“Most Windows users don’t view their PCs as being broken to begin with. If you tell them `Oh, here’s a new version of Windows, and you have to relearn everything to use it,’ how many normal users are going to want to do that?” he asked.
The familiar Windows Desktop is still available through one of the tiles, and most programs will open up in that environment. But since the Start button is gone, users will have to flip back and forth between the desktop and the tile screen.
There’s additional potential for confusion because there’s one version of Windows 8, called “Windows RT,” that looks like the PC version but doesn’t run regular Windows programs. It’s intended for tablets and lightweight tablet-laptop hybrids.
Budiu believes the transition to Windows 8 will be most difficult for PC users, because Microsoft’s design choices favor touch screens rather than mice and keyboards. Alex Wukovich, a Londoner who tried Windows 8 on a friend’s laptop, agrees.
“On a desktop, it just felt really weird,” he said. “It feels like it’s a tablet operating system that Microsoft managed to twist and shoehorn onto a desktop.”
Not everyone who has tried Windows 8 agrees with the critics.
Sheldon Skaggs, a Web developer in Charlotte, N.C., thought he was going to hate Windows 8, but he needed to do something to speed up his 5-year-old laptop. So he installed the new software.
“After a bit of a learning curve and playing around with it a bit more, you get used to it, surprisingly,” he said.
The computer now boots up faster than it did with Windows Vista, he said.
Vista was Microsoft’s most recent operating-system flop. It was seen as so clunky and buggy when released in 2007 that many PC users sat out the upgrade cycle and waited for Windows 7, which arrived two and a half years later. Companies and other institutions wait much longer than consumers to upgrade their software, and many will keep paying for Windows 7. Many companies are still using Windows XP, released in 2001.
Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Financial, is optimistic about Windows 8, pointing out that it’s snappy and runs well on PCs with limited processing power, making it suited for compact, tablet-style machines. But he also notes that through Microsoft’s history, roughly every other operating-system release has been a letdown.
Intel Corp. makes the processors that go into 80 percent of PCs, and has a strong interest in the success of Windows. CEO Paul Otellini said Tuesday that when the company has let consumers try Windows 8 on expensive “ultrabook” laptops with touch screens, “the feedback is universally positive.” But he told analysts that he doesn’t really know if people will embrace Windows 8 for mainstream PCs.
“We’ll know a lot more about this 90 days from now,” he said. – AP

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At the end of the day, it is the user experience that counts, if the user needs to learn everything from scratch on a PC, you would have failed to deliver, the most you could only adopt 50% of new features with a fallback to the old desktop interface for PCs, but tablets and smartphones eco-system evolved so much quicker that you do not have to worry about the old interface, help menus could be linked to the cloud with intelligence to better the user experience, and you got 90 days before the release of your final product. It is not impossible to disect every part of software to reassemble back together to achieve what you require to enhance your user experience.
– Contributed by Oogle.

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British engineers create petrol from air and water

LONDON – A small British company has developed a way to create petrol from air and water, technology it hopes may one day contribute to large-scale production of green fuels.
Engineers at Air Fuel Synthesis (AFS) in Teeside, northern England, say they have produced 5 litres of synthetic petrol over a period of three months.
The technique involves extracting carbon dioxide from air and hydrogen from water, and combining them in a reactor with a catalyst to make methanol. The methanol is then converted into petrol.
By using renewable energy to power the process, it is possible to create carbon-neutral fuel that can be used in an identical way to standard petrol, scientists behind the technology say.
“It’s actually cleaner because it’s synthetic,” Mr Peter Harrison, chief executive officer of AFS, said in an interview.
“You just make what you need to make in terms of the contents of it, so it doesn’t contain what might be seen as pollutants, like sulphur,” he said.
The work is part of a two-year project that has so far cost around £1 million (S$1.95 million).
The green petrol will not appear on forecourts any time soon, though.
“We can’t make (the petrol) at pump prices, but we will do eventually,” Mr Harrison said. “All we need is renewable energy to make it, and so when oil becomes a problem we will be able to make a contribution to keep cars moving or to keep aeroplanes moving.”
AFS said it was confident the technology could be scaled up to refinery size in the future. Each of the processes that go into making the fuel already take place separately on an industrial scale.
For now, however, AFS plans to build a commercial plant in the next two years that will produce around 1,200 litres a day of specialist fuels for the motorsports sector, Mr Harrison said. REUTERS

Increase your productivity with Google Calender for worldwide online collaboration

Increase your productivity with Google Calender for worldwide online collaboration

Interface

The interface of Google Calendar, designed by Kevin Fox (who also designed Gmail and the second version of Google Reader[2]), is similar to desktop calendar applications such as Microsoft Outlook or iCal on Mac OS X. The Ajax-driven interface enables users to view, add, and drag-and-drop events from one date to another without reloading the page. It supports view modes such as weekly, monthly, and agenda. Users can “quick add” calendar events by typing standard English phrases, such as “Dinner with Michael 7 p.m. tomorrow”. Users can also set the number of days to show in their custom view mode.

Content access

Events are stored online; consequently, the calendar can be viewed from any location that has Internet access. For users who might experience a hard drive failure, it also means that no data is lost. The application can import Microsoft Outlook calendar files (.csv) and iCalendar files (.ics, the de facto open calendaring file format). Multiple calendars can be added and shared, allowing various levels of permissions for the users. This enables collaboration and sharing of schedules amongst groups. General calendars available for importing into one’s account include those containing national holidays of various countries. Users can also add “live” iCalendar URLs that update regularly.[3]

Sharing calendars

Google Calendar allows multiple calendars to be created and shown in the same view. Each can be shared, either read-only or with full edit control, and either with specified people or with everyone (public calendars). In February 2009, Google discontinued the option of searching for public calendars from the search field by removing the “Search Public Events” button. It also disabled its public calendar gallery,[4] citing maintenance and usability issues. The company suggests adding calendars via the “Interesting Calendars” feature, known calendar URLs, or via email requests to friends. Daily “To Do” tasks cannot currently be shared between users.

I do not need to travel the entire world for everyone to reach me, you can easily check my schedule for my free time to fix a meeting with me via Skype or QQ, IT has enabled many with productivity tools to increase your income, learn the tools to manage the productivity of your time. 

My Contact details ; 

Skype ID : gilbert.tan.ts *Skype Hong Kong : +852-8197-7274 *Skype New York : +646-736-7638 QQ : 2405544539 Email : gilberttants@facebook.com Calendar : gilberttants@gmail.com *Presently all my Skype Online Numbers are down due to technical glitches.

– Contributed by Oogle.