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30 Days With Windows RT on a Microsoft Surface RT

This past Black Friday there were many great deals out there including some on the Microsoft Surface RT.  Both Best Buy and Microsoft had the 32Gb Surface RT on sale for around $200. No to mention I also saw it being sold with a touch cover for around $230 to $250 at other stores.  Well I had to jump on the chance to get one of these devices for many reasons if not for the fact that they are kind of a unique computing device.  So I picked one up from a Best Buy in Las Vegas and got a Type 2 Cover with it.  I know, I spent more than half of the total cost of the Surface RT on that Type 2 Cover but I think it was worth it.

After using this for a few days though I have to admit, I think this could replace my laptop almost full time.  Windows RT is just that good enough.  Of course it is also a year later so much has changed from a year ago and it does not hurt that Windows RT looks and works almost exactly like Windows 8, which I have used for over a year so I know a thing or two about it.  When I installed Windows 8 on my laptop it took me all of 10 minuets to know I could use that Windows operating system full-time, but without support for any desktop applications on windows RT can I really use the Surface RT like I use Windows 8 on my desktop and laptop?

So for the next 30 days I will only use the Microsoft Surface RT for my computing needs.  I will write many articles to help some of you out there that also picked up one of these devices and I will write about my usage every so often.  I think this will be an interesting month.

So for my first note about the Surface RT, I wrote this whole article on it using only the default touch on-screen keyboard.  Yeah its going to be an interesting month.  So make sure to subscribe to the blog, or follow Useful Windows on Facebook or Twitter and see how I do this month.

Install Windows 8 or 8.1 on HP Compaq DX2400 Microtower D2400M

Windows 8.1 Device Manager On HP Compaq DX2400

Windows 8.1 Device Manager On HP Compaq DX2400

You can install Windows 8 or 8.1 on HP Compaq DX2400 Microtower D2400m  and it is in fact very easy.  We will look at how easy it is to install Windows 8 or 8.1 on the DX2400 and how it performs on there as well.  For this test I did a clean install of Windows 8.1 Pro 64 Bit (and also Windows 8 Enterprise 64 bit) but you could do an upgrade install from Windows 8 keeping you files, settings, and programs or an upgrade from Windows 7 keeping you files and settings but not your installed programs.  If you have Windows Vista or Windows XP on this machine you will have to either upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8 or just do a clean install, keeping nothing, like I did. (If you and installing
Windows 8 you can do and upgrade from Windows 7 keeping all your files, settings, and installed programs, from Windows Vista keeping your files and settings but not your installed programs, or from Windows XP keeping your files but not your settings or installed programs.) The Windows 8 install is just like the Windows 8.1 install on this machine. For the install I booted off of the Windows 8.1 Pro DVD and did a clean install.  After the computer restarted it ran well and once I connected it to the internet Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 automatically installed the graphic card and after that I had a clean device manager which is pictured to the right. Below is the PC Info in the new Modern Settings in Windows 8.1.

Windows 8.1 PC Info HP Compaq DX2400

Windows 8.1 PC Info HP Compaq DX2400

One of the things that was cut from Windows 8.1 was the Windows Experience Index so we no longer have that to compare the performance of the computer however I did post the Windows Experience Index from Windows 8 below.  I ran PassMark’s Performance Test which this computer scored a 143.9 in Windows 8.1 and a 153 in Windows 8 and I also ran Futuremark’s PCMark7 Basic which this computer scored a 1193 in Windows 8.1 and a 1216 in Windows 8. I believe these numbers show that Windows 8 is a little faster than Windows 8.1 because Microsoft is still testing the performance of Windows 8,1 and will issue an update or two before Windows 8,1 hits General Availability on October 18.

Windows 8 Experience Index on HP Compaq DX2400

Windows 8 Experience Index on HP Compaq DX2400

Windows 8.1 is not only a great upgrade to Windows 8 for usability but Windows 8.1 runs very well on this HP Compaq DX2400 Microtower D2400M and I believe that Windows 8,1 performance will improve before October 18.  If there is anyone out there that is considering this upgrade should go for it.  It is very easy to install Windows 8 or 8.1 on HP Compaq DX2400 Microtower D2400M and it is recommended.

The Future of Computing is Touch!

I firmly believe the future of computing is touch, but will that include the PC?  I know a few people who think touch computing is just a fad like 3D TV and will be gone soon.  I however think touch computing is here to stay but I think it will happen one of two ways.

The PC will adapt to touch computing and continue being dominant.  This is what I hope will happen.  I hope that computers like what we use today like laptops and even desktops will embrace touch interfaces and we will have powerful machines that we can interact with touch.  Now the mouse and keyboard will not go away as the mouse is more precise especially when using video and audio or even image editing programs and you need a keyboard for programing but lets face it most people use their computers to check email and Facebook, or to play flash-based games.  I think this gives the all in one device we are looking for instead of having to have multiple devices to take with us when we travel.

The second way is similar to what we see today.  Basic tablets like the iPad, or Android tablets will replace most computers in the home because they meet the needs of people who just check email and Facebook.  Lets get real here, most people do not really need all the power in their computer all the time and could make by with just a basic tablet.  I mean these tablets are just big smartphones and people use smartphones all day long for similar functions.

Now Microsoft is trying to position itself to be ready no matter which scenario works out.  If normal PC’s go the route of touch than I expect to see Windows RT go by the way side but if these less powerful media tablets start winning the battle (like the iPad and Android tablets) then I expect to see Windows RT further developed into something to compete with these devices and probably no longer contain a Desktop.  While Windows 8.X (Or whatever version we are on to by this time) will keep the desktop and rely less on the modern environment.  We could then see Windows booting straight to Desktop and maybe not containing the Start Screen at some point.  Again this is all speculation and just what I see as I look in from the outside.

Either way touch screen devices are here to stay in the home, now seeing them in business uses we will have to wait and see.  I see either way working out long-term for the future of computing what I do not see is computers staying in their traditional configuration (non-touch) and being as dominant as they once were, not in the home.  Again this will be different in businesses but for the home market computing is changing and its future is touch.

Install Windows 8 on Samsung RV511

Samsung makes great laptops at great prices.  A friend of mine has one and Windows 7 has some issues and clearly needed to be reinstalled but he has talked about Windows 8 for a while so I told him I would let him use a copy of mine to check out.  Here is how to install Windows 8 on Samsung RV511.

It is very easy to install Windows 8 on Samsung RV511.  For this test I did a clean install keeping nothing but you could do an upgrade install keeping all your programs, files, and settings.  After the install was complete I ran Windows Update to install all updates.  I only had one driver missing for the Intel WiMax.  You can download the Intel Centrino WiMax 6250 Driver from Intel’s website.  Once you install that you should have a clean Device Manager.

Windows 8 Samsung RV511 System Properties and Device Manager

Windows 8 Samsung RV511 System Properties and Device Manager

So how does Windows 8 perform on the Samsung RV511, well actually really well.  Windows 8 just makes this machine up and makes it fly I really suggest the upgrade.  You can also install and use Hyper-V 3.0 on this machine making the upgrade very attractive.  I ran the PassMark Performance Test and this machine got a 652.8 and below you can see the Windows Experience Index.

Windows 8 Samsung RV511 Windows Experience Index

Windows 8 Samsung RV511 Windows Experience Index

This is one of those upgrades that is a no brainer.  I highly suggest you install Windows 8 on Samsung RV511 it makes a great machine even better.

 

Install Windows 8 on Dell Vostro 230 with Dell SX2210T Touchscreen Monitor

The Dell Vostro line of computers is great for business large and small and the Dell Vostro 230 is a great machine.  I had to wonder how it would work with Windows 8 especially since we also had a Dell SX2210T touchscreen monitor.  I use this computer almost every week and figured if I use Windows 8 at home on non touchscreen computers why not on this one as well.

It was easy to install Windows 8 on Dell Vostro 230 and I even got the Dell SX2210T Touchscreen Monitor working.  For the install I used Windows 8 Professional and did a clean install keeping nothing.  You can also do an upgrade from Windows 7 keeping your files, installed programs, and settings.  After Windows 8 was done installing the device manager was pretty clean except for the Dell SX2210T touchscreen.  So I first made sure that the computer was up to date using Windows Update. Then you will want to download the driver for the Dell SX2210T touchscreen.  This will download a Zip file, extract the file (right-click on it and click on Extract All) then in the extracted folder double click on dpinst64.exe this will install the driver needed for the Dell SX2210t Touchscreen Monitor.  Now using Windows 8 on the Dell SX2210T is ok there is no room to swipe in from the side to bring up the Charms Bar or any other experiences that have to be swiped in from the sides, top, or bottom as the bezel is too close to the screen. Other than that it is not bad and I like being able to reach out and touch the screen and have it respond.  This monitor will not replace a mouse and keyboard on this machine but it compliments it nicely.  So once you have the driver installed that is it you are done you should have a clean device manager.

Windows 8 Device Manager and System Properties on Dell Vostro 230

Windows 8 Device Manager and System Properties on Dell Vostro 230

Windows 8 runs very well on this Dell Vostro 230 and it is going to stay on here, I have noticed a speed increase over Windows 7.  Now you will not be able to install Client Side Hyper-V 3.0 on this machine as the processor does not support SLAT, I thought that the Intel E8400 did, if your Vostro 230 has a different processor then your mileage may very.  I did run the PassMark Performance Test and the Dell Vostro 230 got a 599 with Windows 8 installed on here.  Below you can look at the Windows Experience Index.

Windows 8 Experience Index on Dell Vostro 230

Windows 8 Experience Index on Dell Vostro 230

So my conclusion is you are thinking about an upgrade to Windows 8 on your Dell Vostro 230, go for it, you will love the performance.  If you have a Dell SX2210T monitor and want to use it with Windows 8 why not but I would not buy one just to use with Windows 8, I would look for something else that is going to allow you to swipe in from the edge of the scree.  Still it is pretty cool to have a touch screen desktop now. It was easy to install Windows 8 on Dell Vostro 230 with the Dell SX2210T Touchscreen Monitor and I do suggest the upgrade.

Microsoft Reveals the New Xbox One Console, All In One Entertainment

Today Microsoft revealed the new replacement for the Xbox 360 and its third video game console the Xbox One.  The Xbox One really seems to be the console that Microsoft has wanted to have in the living room for years and then some.  They are marketing this as the All In One console for your entertainment needs.  The Xbox One has an eight core 64-bit processor with 8 GB of RAM, a 500 Gb hard drive, Blu-Ray optical drive, built-in Wireless N support, and Ethernet port, three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI in and out ports, optical audio out, and what looks like an IR out for controlling set-top boxes.  The Kinect sensor has been redesigned with a 1080P camera, and there is a new controller.

New Xbox One Console

New Xbox One Console

New hardware is not the only thing that is new there is new software that drives new experiences on the console.  Microsoft said during the reveal on Tuesday that the Xbox One has three operating systems.  I really think it is more a combination of three operating systems.  These three systems are the Xbox OS which game makers can use to take advantage of the Xbox One’s power, There is another system that is based on the Windows kernel which should make porting Windows 8/RT and Windows Phone apps very easy, and finally a third that allows switching between these systems seamless.  You can also snap another app along side what ever you are doing like watching TV or playing a game.  There are also a love of voice commands and hand gestures to control the Xbox One without the use of a controller and since the console is powered down in a more connected standby state you can just say “Xbox On” to turn the Xbox One on.  Also Microsoft has integrated Skype into the Xbox software so you can video chat right from your living room and do so will still watching your favorite TV show or playing you favorite game with the Skype app snapped to the side of the screen.  This really changes things like we have not seen since the Nintendo Wii was revealed.

New Xbox One Dashboard

New Xbox One Dashboard

If you look at the above screen shot you will see that they were watching Live TV, and if you noted earlier I said that there was a HDMI input.  the Xbox One can pass through the HDMI signal from your Set Top Box and overlay additional content.  Also the IR out allows the Xbox One to control the Set Top Box to change the channel.  This allows the Xbox One to make TV much more interactive and allows apps to be snapped next to what you are watching on TV.  The Xbox One also has Xbox Guide which is like in interactive TV guide allowing you to find the shows you want to watch and go right to them.  In addition Microsoft announced that there will be a live action Halo TV show directed by Steven Spielberg.

Xbox Live is also getting additional features allowing for your content to be synced to the cloud and they are ramping up the amount of servers from 15,000 to 300,000.  I think Microsoft is expecting increased traffic on their servers.

So what about gaming, well I can say what I have seen looks great and games are going to look fantastic on this system.  EA announced they had new titles coming to the Xbox One and their will be a new Call Of Duty game coming out soon.  All downloadable content for Call of Duty will come out exclusively on the Xbox One first.  Microsoft’s own Game Studios will be releasing 15 new games only on Xbox within the first year.  Eight of those games will be new franchises.  The only thing Microsoft did not talk about was backward compatibility of Xbox and Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One.  We will have to wait till E3 to hear more about the system.

I am excited about the new system and can’t wait for it to come out which should be later this year.  It looks great and the new features and not only compelling they are just down right cool.

 

Windows Live Messenger (MSN) Support Has Ended, Users Must Upgrade To Skype

Microsoft has retired the Windows Live Messenger, formally MSN Messenger, in favor of Skype.  This comes after Microsoft purchased Skype in 2011 and started integrating other Microsoft technologies into it like Lync and most recently migrating Windows Live Messenger users to Skype.  This transition was supposed to be done at the end of April.  Now when users try to open Windows Live Messenger they are presented with a message to download an update in order to continue.  This update is in fact the latest Skype for Desktop.

Windows Live Messenger Message To Download Skype

Windows Live Messenger Message To Download Skype

If you chose no, you will not be logged in and instead Windows Live Messenger just sits there at the login screen.  If you click the What’s New… button you are taken to a website urging you to download Skype and explaining it to users.  Now Microsoft had made it so you can sign to Skype with your Microsoft Account and all your Windows Live Messenger contacts will be there ready for you to chat with.

Skype supports Windows XP (Including Windows XP Professional X64 Edition) all the way to Windows 8 Desktop (there is a Windows Store app as well).  You can also get Skype for Mac OS, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

I do think it is a good thing that Microsoft is pushing forward with Skype instead of Messenger.  There are a lot more users on Skype today than there were on Messenger.  Now Skype does not have all the features that Windows Live Messenger had and I hope Microsoft adds these to Skype goes on.  I also would like to see Skype better integrated into Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox like Messenger is today.  (For now these Windows Live Messenger integration features are still active and useable) I am sure as we go forward Skype will only get better and those users that miss features from Windows Live Messenger will hopefully get any features they miss.  Either way, welcome to the future, welcome to Skype.

Amazon Releases Cloud Player for PC, an iTunes, and Xbox Music Alternative

Amazon has released the Cloud Player for PC which it really starting to set them up as a good alternative to iTunes and Xbox Music / Zune.  The software is very simple to use and does not have a lot of features but I imagine that more is coming in future versions.  In this version you can listen to music on your computer which Amazon Cloud Player for PC will auto scan you computer for or listen to music in the cloud that is stored in Amazon Cloud Player, this includes any AutoRip or mp3’s you have purchased with Amazon.  You can also export those song to iTunes or Windows Media Player.  There are also links that take you to the Amazon MP3 Store but at this time it is not integrated into the software like iTunes or Zune PC software.  There are also no options to Sync to a device unless you export the music to Windows Media Player or iTunes.  Of course you could also use Winamp to sync music to your device of choice once you have exported it to either option.  The interface looks like other Amazon software and services out there.

Amazon Cloud Player For PC in Windows 8

Amazon Cloud Player For PC in Windows 8

One great feature I have found about the Amazon Cloud Player for PC is that is supports Windows XP Professional X64 Edition.  I know that there are still a few fans of the 64 Bit version of Windows XP and both the Zune PC software and iTunes do not install or work on that platform but this does.

I am glad Amazon made Cloud Player available for the PC and I hope to see a Windows 8/RT and a Windows Phone app soon as well.  Going forward for me I will be purchasing my music through Amazon or Xbox Music à la the Zune PC software.  If you want would like give the Amazon Cloud Player for PC a chance and see how you like it.

Install Windows 8 on Toshiba Satellite A215-S5849

If there has been a computer manufacture that has made laptops longer than most companies it is Toshiba.  Well I had a Toshiba Satellite A215-S5849 that I was working on and I wanted to test it further to see if its issues were hardware or software.  So I got out my test hard drive and decided to install Windows 8 on this machine.  I will say my test proved that the issues I was observing were software related and Windows 8 runs very well on this machine.

For my test I did a clean install of Windows 8 Enterprise X64 on this machine but you could to an upgrade install keeping your files and settings. but not the programs you have installed.  The install went great and it was up and running in no time.  After it booted I checked the Device Manager and there were a few drivers missing, to install these just run Windows Update.  Now the Device Manager looks clean but there are a few hidden issues.

First if you check under Display under the Device Manager you will see that there is no Graphic Driver installed.  This is easily solved however you will want to download the AMD ATI driver for the X1200 Graphic Card.  Once downloaded run the installer and choose the express setting.  This will not install the driver you have to do it manually.  Under Display Adapters right-click on the Microsoft Basic Display Adapter and click on Update Driver Software… then click on Browse My Computer For Driver Software, then click on the Browse button, then go to this folder C:\ATI\Support\10-02_legacy_vista32-64_dd_ccc\Packages\Drivers\Display\LH6A_INF then hit OK and then Next.  This should get the correct driver installed and want you to restart the computer.

Second if you try to adjust the screen brightness you may notice it does not work.  To resolve this you will want to download the Function Keys Driver from Toshiba.  Once you download it just run the installer and that is it.  Now the Function Keys should work fine under Windows 8.

Toshiba Satellite A215-S5849 System Properties and Device Manager in Windows 8

Toshiba Satellite A215-S5849 System Properties and Device Manager in Windows 8

This machine performs very well actually and I really like Windows 8 on here if you have a Toshiba Satellite A215-S5849 I would install Windows 8 on this computer.  Now if you are interested in running Hyper-v 3.0 you will not be able to on this machine as the processor does not support SLAT.  I ran the PassMark Performance Test and the computer got a score of 324.1, below is the Windows Experience Index.

Windows 8 Experience Index on Toshiba Satellite A215-S5849

Windows 8 Experience Index on Toshiba Satellite A215-S5849

This is a great computer to run Windows 8 on and I highly suggest this upgrade.  It really runs well on here and I think it is a great upgrade from Windows Vista or Windows 7.

 

Slow Windows 8 Sales, is Microsoft to blame…I think not

Many people out there including the computer manufactures are blaming Microsoft for slow Windows 8 computer sales.  When I look at everything I can not believe Microsoft is to blame and if anything it is the manufactures that are at fault.

There have been many speculating that tablets were going to kill the PC industry or at least make it very small.  So far this has not happened because people need to get real work done and most tablet today are not that great at getting real work done but awesome if you just want to check email, read a book, or watch a movie.  Nevertheless people are wanting more tablets and pressure was put on Microsoft to respond.  Well they did, with Windows 8 and Windows RT.  So where are the Windows based tablets?

Go to your local Best Buy or other computer electronics store (if your lucky to have anything other than Best Buy) or heck go to Wal-Mart and see how many Windows based tablets there are.  At Best Buy when I went recently I could only find two, a Surface RT and a Surface Pro, and when I inquired about them I was told that they were selling the Surface Pro pretty well, of course this was not too long after the Surface Pro came out.  Granted there were plenty of Andriod and iPads there.

I also looked at other Windows 8 machines there and I noticed something that concerned me.  First I did not see keyboards optimized for Windows 8 with specific buttons for the charms bar.  Microsoft has done this to many of its keyboards which I think is a nice touch and their lead should be copied.  Second I noticed just how many computers are still not touch screen.  Let me make something extremely clear, I have wanted to touch the screen on my computer for over 12 years now, and I still have issues when buying a computer to get this option.  I know I am not alone and I think more people would rather have a touch screen so what is the issue and hold up?

Clearly if anyone is to blame it is the computer manufactures and the retailers for slow Windows 8 sales.  If you are seeing commercials about Windows 8 and you get all excited about using a touch screen only to go to your local computer outlet to find non touch screen computers, well I would be disappointed.  What are computer manufactures doing to make Windows 8 computers different from the ones that had Windows 7 on them?  The reason tablets sell well is because they are new and cool, so if we did something new and different with computers don’t you think they would sell better?  If everyone at a coffee shop is touching their laptop screen, or folding it into a tablet, I think even some Mac users are going to have envy.  The retailers need to get what is different and new (like Lenovo’s lineup) out in stores and get rid of the junk they sell currently.  I know that cheap laptops sell but I am sure there are some manufactures making cheaper touchscreen devices, give them a chance instead of the main manufactures.

So far I am disappointed with the industry’s response to Windows 8, it is a great OS and has potential to do amazing, but until we get better hardware I am going to keep my current desktop and laptop because they run Windows 8 extremely well and I can not justify buying a machine that does exactly what my current machine does now.  Granted there are a few machines out there that are embracing the future but I want choice, that is why I am not a Mac user.