August 2012 - Posts

Microsoft Surface redefines computing

 

Windows 8 presents huge opportunities for PC makers to innovate new ideas and concepts to create new kind of Windows 8 devices: Slates, Hybrid PCs, Ultrabooks with multitouch etc.  And interestinly Microsoft is also competing with its own PC makers with Microsoft Surface.

With Microsoft Surface, Microsoft is showing OEMs "This is how you create a PC". There are wave of new Windows 8 devices flooding this market along with global launch of Windows 8 & Surface is the device that just feels like made for Windows 8. I have never been fan of hybrid devices with detachable keyboard or tablet cover. But Surface with its touch cover & kick stand feels like they are part of the surface (not accessories).

Army of Android tablets tried & failed to compete with iPad.  And I think Windows 8 devices from other PC makers too are not ready to take on apple. But Surface (esp Windows RT version) has what it takes to take on iPad. Unlike iPad, with Surface Pro you can create & consume content, play & work in home, school or office. It a tiny little device with the power of full blown PC.

Surface can be your perfect device in lot of scenarios. You can browse the web or play casual Windows 8 games with touch and gestures, watch movie comfortably (thanks to its innovative kickstand) and stay connected with your friends & families. You also can take it your school and take digital notes, collaborate with your friends on new Office 15 (touch cover makes it easy & seamless for typing) and even run powerful desktop apps like lightroom, Visual Studio etc. So, it is just one device that does it all.

And what’s interesting is PC makers are already worried about having to compete with new & innovative Surface. And Acer even complains publicly about it.

We have said [to Microsoft] think it over,” CEO of Acer said. “Think twice. It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction. It is not something you are good at, so please think twice.”

And I also think that Surface is so awesome that I will definitely not look for other Windows 8 devices. I was quite impressed by Lenovo Yoga, but after seeing surface, I changed my mind.

However, Surface will only be available to Microsoft retail stores and via Online Store. It clearly implies that Surface is not making it to Nepal anytime soon. But I will definitely be looking for other interesting Windows 8 devices in Nepal.

 

Posted: 08-26-2012 1:23 AM by Suraj kc with no comments

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HowStuffWorks: Best Windows 8 app for students

Metro apps are the heart & soul of Windows 8.  But I think HowStuffWorks is what makes Windows 8 so special (at least for me). Infact, howstuffworks.com was the first website I visited on the internet and super exited to see it in Windows 8 RTM.

I find many people including tech bloggers skeptic about productivity of Windows 8 apps and can they compete with desktop apps?  One answer for that – check out HowStuffWorks app on Windows 8.

As other Windows 8 apps, HowStuffWorks embraces metro design and provides simple and immersive experience.

This app explains thousands of topic from computer, electronics, physical science, facts & quotes, entertainment to history, with video & illustrations. I think this is the best app that can help students with their homeworks, learn new and amazing things and help tech enthusiasts to answer their curiosities. The best part of the app is its podcast and video galleries about tech and science stuffs.

HowStuffWorks presents its contents in four columns: Most popular, Channel, Stuff & Shows. You can look for interesting articles related to science and technology in the Most Popular section. You can dive into subtopics like auto, tech, entertainment, adventure, science, money, health, home & garden in Channels section.  Under Stuff, you can look for facts and quotes, watch videos, take quizzes or listen to podcasts. The most interesting section is Shows. Shows as similar to TV programs feature audio podcasts from experts on latest and hot topics. It gives you inside stories and insights about technologies and other stuff.

 

I had a great time listening to ‘Microsoft’s history with tablets’ under Tech Stuff. And I was surprised that the audio played smoothly without buffering even in slow internet connection. But what annoying is when you switch to another app or desktop, the app gets suspended and audio & video does not play in the background.  That’s the feature of Windows 8 rather than the app. I hope it will improve in next releases.

 

Do checkout this app if you are using Windows 8 RTM and please share what you think about HowStuffWorks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: 08-19-2012 10:49 AM by Suraj kc with no comments

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Windows 8 RTM: First Impressions

Finally , the wait is over and super excited to get my hands on Windows 8 RTM..  And really lucky to get it before Windows 8 global release on October 26. You too can get it for free by participating in Windows 8 Utshav @ MIC or in your own college from MIC Nepal.

If you are expecting drastic changes from the release preview, you are going to be disappointed. Windows 8 is definitely improvement over Release Preview but there are not feature additions besides vastly improved Windows 8 apps, stability & bug fixes.

The set up was really quick in less than 30 minutes on my PC. And when I signed in with my Microsoft account, I was surprised that all my data, apps, IE settings and lock screen wallpaper were synced up.

 Windows 8 gives your old PC new life

When I first heard about Windows 8, I was like time to upgrade my PC. But I was actually surprised to know that with Windows 8 runs better than Windows 7 on same hardware. And what's more interesting is it boots in less than 8 seconds if it gets the right hardware.  On old PCs too, Windows 8 boots faster than Windows 7 and is responsive, fast and fluid.

New start screen patterns

 Now you can choose from 20 design patterns to make your start screen and visual. ( My Windows was not activated so I could not try them)

 Windows 8 Store and apps

Till Release Preview, all apps in the Store were free. Now you also can look for paid apps.  But  I think it is only available for US (for now) since there was no way to change country in Payment options.

There are handful of beautiful apps to play or work with. And I hope by the general availability of Windows 8, there will be enough apps to compete with apple store. Also, Microsoft's apps like Mail, People, Music, Video and SkyDrive which were in app preview are now feature complete and have nice improvements over the Release Preview.

 

Windows 8 desktop gets metro look

No surprises here. As announced, aero is removed and replaced with simple colors and flat look. I was actually fan of aero but I am not missing it now  :) 

 Bing gets visual with Windows 8

Bing search late comer to bing apps is what makes RTM  version special..As other Windows 8 apps, Bing search provides  full and immersive experience free from chrome and tools.  I never though that searching on web could be so awesome and beautiful.  With the bing app on Windows 8, searching via browser on google and even bing.com feels outdated.  (Note: Scroll via mouse to see different Bing Wallpapers)

 Internet Explorer 10

Internet Explorer for me too was the browser I loved to hate. I even had speed and hang issues in Internet Explorer 9. But Internet Explorer 10 is just fast and fluid. Its is not different in look and feel from IE 9 but definitely better. And I prefer IE desktop to metro version on my desktop.  And One thing that surprised me was now Internet Explorer has auto correct that automatically corrects your common typing mistakes. And I am not sure if it was available in previous versions.


I  have not got enough time to dive into new apps and features in Windows 8.So, these are just my initial impressions and will be writing more about Windows 8 in my next blogs.

 

Posted: 08-18-2012 11:55 AM by Suraj kc with no comments

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Creating Animations in Adobe Photoshop

Software recommended: Adobe Photoshop CS5 or higher

Time: About 30 minutes

Tutorial Level: Beginner

Purposes: For animated ads and banners in websites, gif images, animations in powerpoint presentation, avatar in deviantart and twitter

 

This is what the final project will look like:

And the final Photoshop document will be:

So, lets get startted. 

Step 1: Open Photoshop & Create new Photoshop document with the following inputs. You can also keep size and resolution as per your desire.

File ->  New 

Step 2:  Make a design with text and color similar to picture below.  

 

The tools and options you need to know:

Step 3: The idea is we are going to duplicate the main image multiple times and just change the color of each text separately in each layer.

(Ctrl + J to duplicate layer)

The layer panel looks like this:

The layers will appear one after another in short time creating animation effect of changing text color. 
Open Animation Panel from Window. Each layer is given with its own timeline (green). Just slide the timeline for each layer as shown here.

 

Step 4:  Photoshop features mainly three animation effects: Position, Opacity & Style. To show position change animation, create new layer and fill half of picture with white rectangle. 

Go to its layer in animation panel. Click the blue arrow and three options (Position, Opacity & Style) will appear. Click Position. Yellow keyframe will appear. Move the yellow key frame to final stopping time. Move the rectangle straight to right. (Ctrl + Drag). Then starting key frame will appear.

To show Opacity animation, Create a text layer and type some texts. Set the opacity to zero. And slide the yellow key frame to stopping position and increase the opacity to 100 %. Starting key frame will appear. 

You can control the time limit of animation by sliding to your desired time frame. 

The final animation panel looks like this:

To save your animation, Click File, and go to Save for Web and Devices. You can choose looping options to Once for Forever depending on your animation. Then Save as gif animation or html file. 

 

You can also try Text Wrap and Style animation for your project.

So, any questions or if you want to share your animation, post in the comments. 

Posted: 08-14-2012 4:07 PM by Suraj kc with no comments

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10 Reasons to give twitter a try

You might question,” if I have a Facebook account, do I need twitter?”. And I suggest you “YES”.  Facebook is the largestsocial network and I know all your friends are there. So, you might wonder if you will be alone in twitter.

Both the services help you connect with your friends and communicate with the world. Here, I present some tips that can help you get started with twitter and make your social life fun and exciting.

1.  Link your Facebook profile to Twitter

Facebook and twitter are friends. You can post updates to your friends, followers and subscribers at the same time right from Facebook. And to protect your privacy, only posts that you set public appear in your twitter stream. You also can link your facebook page to twitter. 

So, maintaining Facebook and Twitter accounts is extremely easy and seamless.

Link your twitter to facebook account here:

www.facebook.com/twitter


 

2. Express what’s on your mind in 140 characters

The best part of twitter is its 140 characters limit. That’s why, I like to call it SMS (Short Messaging Service).  The fun part is when you commit grammar crime to limit your post to 140 characters.

And this microblogging and character limit really makes tweets interesting for readers as well as  tweeters.  

3. You like to update your status every minute, twitter exists for a reason

Facebook is great for sharing photos and real life experiences. But if you start posting jokes, quotes and updates frequently every second, you might get unsubscribed.  So, twitter is great place for you to share your updates.

4. Twitter is awesome with Windows 8 and Bing

Like Windows Phone, Microsoft is deeply integrating social networks in its upcoming OS, Windows 8.  People app in Windows 8 is fully cloud powered and connects to your social networks including twitter. And live tiles provide you live updates from your twitter without opening the app. So, you never miss a thing about people you care.  There are also awesome twitter clients like Metro Twit, tweet Pro, Fliptoast etc. that can provide you best twitter experience with the unique capabilities of Windows 8.


There are also couple of good desktop clients like TweetDeck.

And twitter is also integrated into Bing and you get suggestions and posts from your friends and experts related to your search right on bing.

5. Follow Celebrities

Celebrities love twitter. You can get real time updates on where they visit, what they are doing, their new song releases, movies etc on twitter. And unlike facebook, you can easily find the real one with a tick mark on their profile.

And I really do not want to clutter my facebook wall with celebrity gossips. That’s why Twitter is great to keep up to date with your favorite celebrities. 


6. Joke, Humor and tweets related to your everyday life

I really find twitter amazing place to have a fun and good time. There are awesome pages like Funny Tweets and Funny Jokes where you can enjoy funny and humorous tweets. If are going through break up or just in first love, tweets related to love and life can make you feel good. See Love Facts.

7. Twitter is great for bloggers

As a blogger, I can get up to date with tech news, reviews and comments from IT related people and information from Microsoft and other companies on twitter.

Here are my few suggestion if, you want to know latest news and information about Microsoft products and services.

Build Windows 8: Official page of Microsoft team building Windows 8

Marry Jo Foley & Paul Thurrot: All news and information about Microsoft

Omar Shahine: Group program manager on skydrive.com

CNET: IT news and information

8. See what the world is tweeting

With twitter, you can see what the people are tweeting on any topic that interest you. Just search for the term and you get what people are talking about that right now.


9. Keep up with internet trends

Twitter is not just a social network to connect with your friends. It is for people who want to share their knowledge and learn from other. You get to read interesting articles, breaking news and blogs from other sources right on your twitter feed.  There are also reviews, previews, comments and views of people about the latest technologies, services and news that can keep you up to date with latest evolving internet trends.

9. Connect with your friends.

Twitter is after all a social network and helps you to connect with your family and friends. Just like in facebook, you can share what’s on your mind, retweet or favorite a post and send messages.

10. So, write in comments on why do you think you should give twitter a try.  

 

 

Posted: 08-11-2012 3:40 PM by Suraj kc with 1 comment(s)

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Which tech makes you feel you are living in the future?

Whenever I think about the future of computer and technology, I get very excited and keep imagining about technologies in movies like Star Trek, Tron, Iron Man and Wall E.  Sometimes, I have weird feeling like where will these mouse, keyboard and smartphones will be in next 10 years? Will we be able to communicate with computers in natural languages?

And the main question I ask myself is are there real technologies that make me feel I am living in the future?

And the first thing that come to my mind is Windows 8 and Kinect. You might argue that there are definitely new features in Windows 8, but how does it feel like the future. Okay, using it with mouse and keyboard is nothing new. In fact, I think they are just for backward compatibility. What I am talking about is touch plus gestures and voice commands to interact with your Windows PC.

And it is not just my imagination. This technology does exist. There are news that the creators of Kinect technology (I forgot the name) are bringing Kinect gestures and voice commands in Windows 8 devices. And Microsoft’s recent announcement about Smartglass app feels like it is step forward toward the future.

 If you have watched video of Microsoft Future Vision, you see the future of technology is touch and gestures. The computing devices are extremely thin like papers and touch & tap to get work done everywhere from books, mobile to offices. You can also see the displays and animations in the big screens are controlled by small paper sized mobiles (now this work is meant to be done by Smartglass).

With Windows 8, Microsoft is making its way to the future with unified OS across all devices. Windows 8 is built from ground with touch in mind and you will like to touch it. And I can imagine the day when there will be touch devices everywhere from school, hospital, office to science laboratories and people will be just be touching to play, work or have fun, just like on the video of  Microsoft Future Productivity Vision. Windows 8 provides seamless cloud and social features that it feels like something new.

What gets me excited is Microsoft upcoming Surface tablet with its super thin and pressure sensitive touch cover that just can head to head with iPad or even an Ultrabook.  And finally there will be just one device whether you want to play, browse the web, do some office work or even HD video processing and graphic designing.  

If touch only does not excite you, there is Kinect. When Kinect migrates from xbox games to Windows 8, it will be giant leap for the science and technology. Lets imagine that we have a laptop, just connect to the secondary big display and with Kinect, we can scroll through start screen, store and Windows 8 apps just by sliding hand, zoom in and out of pictures plus semantic zoom moving our fingers and play motion based games by jumping, dancing and running all effortlessly with controller free experience. There is already a Kickball app in Windows store where you can experience Kinect like experience.

And what about typing paragraphs just by pronouncing words, opening apps, clicking links and accomplishing most PC tasks just by speaking? I think voice recognition is there in Windows since Vista, but it is just that good. May be Voice recognition technology team from xbox should go for Windows 8.  I also wish Windows 8 had Siri like Voice assistant but with its own artificial intelligence, not hosted by cloud servers.

Microsoft’s new Smartglass app is multiscreen entertainment platform. It allows to play video and other media from mobile devices to big screens. It also acts as companion to tablets and smartphones to see more information about the program being watched and help browsing the web with Internet Explorer on xbox.

 

So, if Microsoft can bring Smartglass app to Windows and create multiscreen experience combined with Kinect effect and intelligent & accurate voice recognition on Windows 8, we do not have to wait 5 or 10 years to experience the future of technology.

Please, write in comments if you agree with me or there are other technologies that makes you feel that you are living in the future.

 

 

Posted: 08-09-2012 5:47 PM by Suraj kc with 1 comment(s)

Windows 8: Developer Preview to RTM

Developer Preview

Microsoft gave the first glimpse of its most ambitious product “Windows 8” with a vision of merging best of mobile and desktop at BUILD conference in Semtember. This was something strange and unexpected for both developers and consumers.

Developer Preview was the first public release of Windows 8 followed by Consumer Preview and Release Preview. I really have to give credit to Developer Preview for who I am here as a blogger and also a Microsoft Student Partner. I just used to get updated with latest technologies and tools .But it was Windows Developer Preview that excited me with its stunning user interface. I did not know about Windows Phone and its metro design, so, it was completely new for me. I remember that when I first tried Vista or Windows 7, I was not that excited as I am with Windows 8.

Developer Preview of Windows 8 has visually appealing (green), simple and clean UI with handful of beautiful apps. But in terms of functionality and productivity, everyone including me were skeptical and the metro environment did not go well with mouse and touch inputs. The major shock was the removal of decade old Start Menu with charms. And in the Developer Preview, you could get access to Charms by hovering mouse in place of black Start Menu icon. The first Windows 8 apps like Piano, Photobook and Socialite were beautifully designed but not feature complete. Users were limited to pre-installed Windows 8 apps with no access to Store.

After all, this release was intended to developers rather than users to give them idea about new Windows 8 apps and Windows 8 development platform.

 

 

 

Consumer preview

Microsoft launched Windows 8 Consumer Preview in grand event in Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The show ran more than 2 hours and focused how Windows 8 runs great on touch devices including Windows RT (ARM based devices) and with mouse and keyboard. Steven Sinofsky also shows the next generation Windows devices that will be exclusively available for Windows 8.

And Consumer Preview gave the clear vision of Microsoft to create social, cloud powered and connected user interface that works great with mouse plus keyboard. With the hot corners and right click to do more mantra, mouse and keyboard users were not left like second class citizens.

Windows 8 Consumer preview got new Windows 8 metro like logo. The major highlight of this release are Windows Store with many new free apps plus pre-release versions of People, Massaging, Maps, SkyDrive, Reader and Mail apps from Microsoft. USA Today, Tech republic, Flixter, Cut The Rope, Evernote etc. are really cool apps that show the potentiality and capability of Windows 8 apps. Many apps were still in development phase and had issues like scrolling with mouse and hang. And they are much improved and revised in the next Release Preview.  Consumer Preview also introduces contracts like Search, Share, Devices and Settings to provide consistent user experience across the system.  This release also introduced a wave of new and innovative features like picture and pin password, semantic zoom, syncing data, apps and roaming of settings and apps across PCs via cloud, new REFS file system, built in in full and free antivirus, File History, improved IE for metro and many more.

Release Preview

Microosft launched its next milestone of Windows 8. There are not radically new features in the Release Preview than the Consumer preview. However, there are fine improvements in desktop and Windows 8 apps. The explorer and ribbon gets flat and metro look.  Windows 8 apps come revised and improved with new features. And there are hundreds of great apps in the Windows Store for users to try out. Bing apps like Travel, news & Sports and Office Outlook MX are the apps that you do not want to miss in Release Preview.

After the Release Preview, it has been exciting time for Microsoft. There were number of big announcements & presentations. Since then Microsoft is preparing its services and products to seamlessly interact with Windows 8.  The Software giant surprised the World by presenting its own Surface tablet for Windows 8.  Though Microsoft did not provide full details on price and specifications, Surface excited the audience with its fresh, and innovative look and touch cover.  The next big story was of course, Microsoft’s next generation mobile OS, Windows Phone 8, now getting much needed features plus new edged technology to go head to head with iphone and android. Being designed for Windows 8 means being social, cloud powered and getting a metro style. And Office 2013 and recently announced outlook.com just feels like they are designed for Windows 8.

RTM

August 1 marks important milestone in Windows 8 project.  Windows 8 is finally done and ready for release to manufacturing setting October 26 to be available for consumers for download or buy Windows 8 PCs. Surface RT will also be launched along with Windows 8 on launch and following Surface Pro after 3 months. But MSDN and TechNet subscribers and selected Microsoft partners will be getting final version of Windows 8 with in August.

Windows 8 RTM features Windows Store with new and feature complete apps with paid options and now developers from supported nations can submit their apps to be launched when Windows 8 becomes available to consumers. And Bing search is also getting a Windows 8 app in RTM. 

Microsoft is also exclusively promoting Windows 8 for consumers to adapt when it becomes available by providing 39.99 $ upgrade offer  from previous versions of Windows and users currently purchasing Windows 7 PCs just for $ 14.99 (for limited time).

Posted: 08-05-2012 4:47 PM by Suraj kc with 3 comment(s)

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Microsoft gets its email service ready for Windows 8

2012 has been really an existing year for Microsoft as well as users. The software giant is surprising us with new and redesigned services and apps. Windows 8, Windows phone 8, visual studio 2012, office 15 and next is the new Outlook. I just want to suggest you guys, “Be what’s next” 

Microsoft is clearly making a big bet with Windows 8 giving a metro touch on everything it owns and getting services ready for Windows 8.

Previously when there were news about Microsoft’s new email service Newmail now named to outlook, I just thought why we want next email service when we already have Hotmail that just works.  But when I signed in for outlook account, I feel it is new, modern and just like a Windows 8 app. I use Hotmail as my primary email account, however, I actually do not like it and no fan of Hotmail or other email service. I have never cared or been excited about email services after all they are just for sending/receiving emails, but the new outlook is totally worth it and I would like to call it “cool”.


 

I again repeat new outlook is just like a Windows 8 app – clean, beautiful and metro. Actually I think it’s a superset of mail app plus People, Calendar and SkyDrive.  And being designed for Windows 8 means it is simple, fast and fluid with immersive user experience. The new outlook connects to your social networks and gets your friends' updates and tweets right in the inbox so you can be up-to-date with people you care.

Today’s emails not only mail from your friends or employees. Social updates, newsletters, offers and promotions are more than 50 % in your inbox and Microsoft’s new email service does excellent job in orgranising and presenting them beautifully.  

If you loved Hotmail and relied on it powerful features like sweep, automatic unsubscribe, graymail etc., they all are there in the new outlook. So, there remains no reason to switch to outlook.

Then new outlook is not just about mail, I would like to call Mail, People, Calendar and SkyDrive are the charms of outlook (in Microsoft style). You can start conversations with your friends with Windows 8 like messaging app right from outlook. When you go to calendar or SkyDrive, you will switch back to old windows live style that feels like outdated and uninteresting. I think Calendar and SkyDrive too will get metro look by the final release of Windows 8.


According to many sources, the new outlook is here to replace hotmail.  When you upgrade to outlook, you can change your hotmail domain to @outlook.com keeping all your emails, data and preferences.

So, check out the new outlook and see how mailing is fun and exciting. 

 

Posted: 08-01-2012 6:02 AM by Suraj kc with no comments

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