Category: Operating Systems

Want to check on what is being printed using Windows 8.1

Modern User Interface - Device Charm menu when print job is in progress

Modern User Interface – Device Charm menu when print job is in progress

Those of you who have moved to Windows 8 and 8.1 may have found it difficult to know what’s printing when you send out a print job to your printer. Here, you may be used to the “Devices And Printers” window since Windows Vista where you could click on the printer icon to check what print jobs are being printed at a given time.

Here this routine has been simplified in Windows 8 and is available in both the Desktop and the Modern UI views as a consolidated list. This is easier for those of you who have two or more printers like a laser printer that you run as a “printing press” alongside a baseline inkjet printer for ordinary document printing.

Modern User Interface (Metro User Interface)

  1. Bring forward Charms (hidden task-specific option buttons) on right side.
    Touchscreen users simply swipe from the top right-hand corner while mouse users move the pointer in to the top right-hand corner.
  2. Click or touch Devices.
    The “Check Printing Status” text lights up when a print job is pending or in progress
  3. Click “Check Printing Status” to view the jobs list
Right click on Printer icon in Desktop notification area to bring up these options when a print job is in progress

Right click on Printer icon in Desktop notification area to bring up these options when a print job is in progress

Traditional Desktop User Interface

  1. Right click Printer icon in Notifications area in Taskbar
  2. Click on Printer icon
  3. Click on Open All Active Printers for all jobs sent to all printers
  4. Click “name of printer” to show this printer
  5. Desktop UI users can also follow the Modern UI steps as another way to bring up the pending print jobs.

Microsoft could improve on this by having the Devices Charm change colour when a print job is in progress or change to a different colour when something needs attention.

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Computers or other devices perform better after a reboot–why this?

Article

Why Rebooting Your Computer Fixes Problems | Lifehacker Australia

My Comments

Why is it that your laptop, tablet or smartphone performs so much better when you restart it? Why is it that some devices implement a watchdog circuit to force them to restart by themselves when they are critically underperforming?

This is typically to make sure the computer is working on a clean slate as regards to its primary storage (RAM – random access memory). Most software, especially if it is poorly written, can take up more of this memory as it is used. But when you close that program, it releases the memory it used. But a lot of recent regular-computer and mobile operating systems encourage the ability to run multiple programs at the same time, with the ability for programs to “sink” in to the background when they are not being used.

If this situation is allowed to get out of control, most operating systems undertake “paging” or “virtual-memory” procedures where they use space on the secondary storage as primary storage. At this point, most computer start to underperform and become devilishly slow. The worst-case situations that come about include programs or the computer simply “freezing” or “locking up” thus becoming unresponsive, a situation commonly described as “hanging”.

Even placing that PC or other device in to a “sleep” or “hibernate” mode or allowing the device to fall to sleep wouldn’t really rectify the problem because these modes cause the device to preserve its current operating state either to the RAM or its secondary storage (hard disk or solid-state drive). This is typically to provide a quick start-up for the device.

But when a computer or device is restarted using the operating system’s restart option or having it then shut down properly before you restart it, this causes all the programs it runs to start on a clean slate. For mobile devices, it may require the user to press the hardware Power button for a long time to bring up a “power-option” menu with the shutdown or restart option or pressing two buttons together for a long time to force a full shutdown or restart of an obstinate device.

You know when this restart has occurred when you see a longer boot time and see the startup screens or other startup graphics appear on your device’s display. You typically will then notice that the device is performing with a bit more “pep” in it. This is because the device is working on a clean slate with fresh “known” data.

A good practice to do in order to keep your computer running smoothly is to have it restart at least once a fortnight. This may be something you have to do when you install or update software. I also see this being more important for laptop users who typically close the lid when they have finished with their machine, causing it to go to a sleep or hibernate mode, or desktop users who turn off the monitor or use the sleep or hibernate modes at the end of a computing session.

This is also a good practice with well-used smartphones and tablets, especially if these devices are being used with poor-quality apps from the app store.

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A rush to release software can leave gaping holes for bugs and exploits

Article

iOS 7.0.2 Is Here, And It Fixes The iPhone’s Major Security Hole | Gizmodo

My Comments

The recent release of the iOS 7 operating system, like with the iOS 6 operating system with its Apple Maps product, has shown something that is very real with the way computer software and hardware has been developed.

In the case of the iOS 7 operating system, there was a gap concerning the lockout system which required the user to key in a PIN number in to their iOS device but someone could bypass that requirement easily. Apple had released the iOS 7.0.2 update just lately to fix this bug that was missed through the development process for this operating system. This operating system and the devices it runs on are at an increased risk of this behaviour because Apple keeps the marketing hype high as possible for as long as possible because they see it as the consumer-facing mobile operating system for most people.

Similarly various functions in Windows 8 weren’t as polished as most of us would like them to be so we are expecting great things out of Windows 8.1 with some improved “polish” to these functions.

As well, the Apple Maps program which was to oust Google’s Maps from the iPhone and iPad was rushed and there have been issues where there has been misnavigation going on with this program.

This happens more so with anything that affects popular consumer-facing devices and programs. Here, the software developers are put under pressure by the vendor’s marketing team to get the operating system update, firmware or other programs released as soon as possible so that the product can be marketed and sold while the hype surrounding it is still alive. Then the vendor has to wait for the bug reports to come in, whether via their support channels or the technology press, so that these can be fixed and released as part of a point update.

I often deem a software version number of x.x.x, preferable with a middle number greater than 1, such as 8.1.1 or 7.1.2 as being a “mature” version of the software in question. This is because bugs including security exploits and performance weaknesses have been identified and rectified since the original release of the program.

As for iOS devices, I would recommend that those of you who are running iOS 6 to run iOS 7.0.2 or hold off upgrading until a higher version number, preferable a 7.1 number appears.

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Formatting external hard drives to native file systems may allow them to work optimumly

Article

Using external drives to save space on your Mac? Format them first. | MacFixIt – CNET Reviews

My Comments

External hard disk

A typical external hard disk

This article highlighted the benefits of formatting external hard disks that are to be connected to an Apple Macintosh as HFS+ file-system disks. This advice hails well for formatting an external hard disk to an operating system’s native file-system such as NTFS for Windows or ext3 for Linux. This is because most of the external hard disks come preformatted to FAT32 more as an interchangeable file system that can be used on Windows, Macintosh and UNIX/Linux.

In the context of an external hard disk that you attach to a network-attached storage device for extra capacity, it may be worth looking through the instruction manual for your NAS or router to find the optimum file system. Some of the NAS units may work with ext3 or NTFS as the file system whereas most, including the routers with NAS functionality will stay with FAT32.

But this situation would apply to external hard disks that are primarily connected to the host computer all of the time rather than the “portable” hard disks that are likely to be moved between different computers and file systems. It wouldn’t hold well with thumb-drives and memory cards that you would expect to move between various computer devices including specific-purpose devices because most of these devices would only know the common FAT32 file-system.

This advice is best applied with an external hard disk that you have just purchased rather than one that contains all of your data because a format routine can wipe all of the data that exists on the hard disk.

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What has happened about the faulty firmware issue for the PS3

Article

Sony releases PS3 firmware update to fix last week’s fiasco | Tech Culture – CNET News

Instructions – From the horse’s mouth

Sony PlayStation

Manually updating your PS3 with the firmware

Safe Mode on PS3

My Comments

Sony PS3 games console

Sony PS3 games console – latest firmware should be 4.46

Previously, when Sony rolled out version 4.45 of the PlayStation 3 operating software, this update had caused many PS3s not to boot properly for interactive use. The situation had been described where the consoles were effectively “bricked” and Sony had to immediately pull the update from their PS3 software-update servers.

Now they have released version 4.46 of this firmware and made it available also as a manual-update file so you can recover a PS3 that had suffered this fate. When this situation had occurred with the PS3, the version-4.45 software went in to an “endless-loop” during startup thus not reaching the standard “XMB” start menu.

Fortunately, Sony had set up a “safe mode” for the PS3 in a similar way to what Microsoft, Apple and others have offered as a diagnostic startup option for their regular-computer operating systems. Here, this places the equipment in a known state with minimum software and hardware overhead that allows one to perform diagnostic or recovery work on faulty equipment.

In this case, you can load the firmware from a USB memory key and Sony have provided instructions on how to go about this, such as which folder to position the firmware file on the USB memory key. Here, you would need to use your desktop or laptop computer to download the firmware file to the USB memory key in the known location (\PS3\UPDATE).

Here they also detailed how to place the PS3 in to the aforementioned “safe mode” so you can load the firmware from the USB memory key. As well, you would have to connect the game controller to the PS3 via a USB cable while it is in this mode and be sure to select the “System Update” option on the menu that pops up to start this update without destroying your data and settings.

As well, I would suggest that you check that the version of the firmware on your PS3 is indeed 4.46 or newer in order to make sure that your console is behaving in a reliable manner.

An issue that could be raised regarding field-updatable firmware especially for consumer-electronics devices is providing a fail-safe update process with a rollback mechanism. This is more of an issue when there are situations like bugs that missed the quality-control process; failed download / install processes or, at worst, malware written in to field-updated firmware.

Here, the previous firmware could be kept in a separate section of flash memory or secondary storage, as well as the ability for the device to start in to safe mode thus providing the option for software rollback if the software didn’t start to the normal user interface.  Similarly, the standard user interface could be used as a way to facilitate this kind of software rollback, which can come in handy with bugs that creep up during normal operation. This is similar to what has been achieved with most desktop operating systems like Microsoft Windows, where the operating system creates “system restore points” at the start of software install or update processes and is able to roll back to these points if the install or update becomes dysfunctional.

What we are starting to see is that devices like games consoles, smart TVs and printers are becoming as sophisticated as regular computers and entering a point where the same kind of irregularities could creep up on them.

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What to do if the App Store gives your Mac the Dreaded Beach Ball

Article

Tackle a hung App Store update in OS X | MacFixIt – CNET Reviews

My Comments

You have that Macintosh computer running with Apple’s App Store as your preferred download spot for programs. But you notice that the Mac is not being its usual self while you are running an App Store update or download. It starts to show that dreaded “beach ball” for ever during the update process while nothing is happening. This means that the App Store client application is hanging and effectively slowing down the rest of your system.

The main problem that can lead to this typically are about the App Store working with corrupted files in its folders as what happens with any computer programs. This encompasses where the installation packages are held after they are downloaded as well as any temporary files that the App Store creates. The folders will exist on the “Macintosh HD” secondary storage location which is the main storage location for all of your Mac’s programs and data.

Here, when you notice this behaviour, you would have to “force-quit” the App Store application. Either this is done by selecting “Force Quit” from the Apple menu or pressing CommandOptionEsc on the keyboard. You could also “force quit” from the Dock by using Option-Right-Click on the unresponsive application’s icon. After you have done this, the Mac should be more stable by now.

Dealing with the corrupted data

Installation package folder

Then you would have to use Finder to clear out the App Store Updates folder which is at Macintosh HD/Library/Updates. This is where the software update or download packages are held by the App Store before being installed. Once you clear this folder out, it means that the App Store application can draw down fresh “known-to-be-good” install packages from the iTunes App Store.

Temporary and “work” files created by the App Store

Another location that you may have to clear out are the App Store Caches. These represent the temporary files that the App Store application creates as it goes about its work.

Here, you run Terminal and type in: “open $TMPDIR../C” to expose the “cache” folders where data that the App Store needs for speedy operation exists. In this window, look for folders that begin with “com.apple.appstore” and remove these folders.

You also go back to Terminal and type in “open $TMPDIR../T” to expose the temporary-file folders. Here, you look for the folders that begin with “com.apple.appstore” and remove them.

The App Store will take longer to start as it re-builds the cache and temporary files with the fresh “known-to-be-good” data.

Permissions fix for the system resources

This is another area that could house corrupt data and could generally affect your Mac’s stability. It is because the information about the permissions required by the applications to use system resources is kept as data on the Macintosh HD.

Here, you use the Disk Utility to do this task. You select the Macintosh HD in this program’s sidebar and click “Repair Permissions” in the “First Aid” tab to start it repairing any corrupt system-permissions data.

Tips to avoid this problem

If you are using a Wi-Fi wireless LAN connection or a mobile-broadband connection, and you intend to do a lengthy App Store update, make sure that you are getting a consistently strong signal from the wireless network. This is because a poor or inconsistent wireless signal could lead to an increased risk of failed downloads.

As well, it may be a good idea to have your MacBook connected to external power while you are doing a lengthy update. This avoids the risk of a failed download occurring because the battery is on the way out.

Here, you could confine the App Store software updates to your home or workplace so you can be sure of a smooth update scenario.

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Using a NAS to hold operating-system updates

The current situation

Netgear ReadyNAS

A network-attached storage can come in handy for storing software updates rather than downloading them frequently

Operating system and application developers are now being required to provide updates for their products during the product’s service life and beyond. This is to provide for a computing environment that is performs in an efficient, secure, reliable and optimum manner. The updates may be released at regular intervals such as on a monthly basis or in response to a situation such as the discovery of a bug or security exploit.

New devices

A common situation that happens with most regular and mobile computing devices when a user takes delivery of them is that the user downloads a large data package to bring it up to date. This may be done many times if multiple units running the same platform are purchased.

Many devices

Similarly, a household may have multiple units running the same operating environment and they have to keep these up to date. The typical example of this may be a family with two or three children who are at secondary school. Here, they may have two or three computers for the children to use as well as one computer per adult. This could be brought about with the older child being given a more powerful computer as they enter senior high school or another computer given to the younger children as they start their secondary school.

But the same bandwidth would be used again and again to update each and every device. This may not be a problem for a couple with one device per adult but would be a problem when you are thinking of environments with more than two devices which is fast becoming the norm.

Using a network-attached storage to locally cache updates

Somehow the network-attached storage devices need to be able to support the ability to locally hold updates and patches for operating systems and applications used in computers on a home or small-business network.

The practice is performed frequently with large-business computer setups because of the number of computers being managed in these setups. But it could be practiced with home and small-business setups using a simplified interface. This could be based on the use of a local-storage application for regular or mobile client operating environments which supports this kind of local updating.

A local client application to manage system-update needs

Here, the local-client software could register which operating environment the host computer runs and what eligible applications are on the system so as to prepare an “update manifest” or “shopping list” for the computer. The “shopping list” would be based on the core name of the software, no matter whether different computers are running different variants of the software, such as home laptops running Windows 7 Home Premium while a work-home laptop runs Windows 7 Professional. This manifest would be updated if new applications are installed, existing applications are removed or changed to different editions or the operating system is upgraded to a different version or edition.

A local software manifest held by the NAS

This manifest is then uploaded to the NAS which runs a server application to regularly check the software developers’ update sites for the latest versions and updates for the programs that exist on the “shopping list”. There could be a “commonality” check that assesses whether particular updates and patches apply across older and newer versions of the same software, which can be true for some Windows patches that apply from Windows XP to Windows 7 with the same code.

At regular intervals, the NAS checks for the updates and downloads them as required. Here, it could be feasible to implement logic the check the updates and patches for malware especially as this update path can be an exploit vector. Then the computers that exist on the network check for new software updates and patches at the NAS.

Software requirements

Such a concept could be implemented at the client with most regular and mobile operating systems and could be implemented on network-attached storage devices that work to a platform that allows software addition.

It would also require software developers who develop the operating systems and application software to provide a level of support for update checking by intermediate devices. Initially this could require setups that are particular to a particular developer being installed on the client device and the NAS, but this could move towards one software update solution across many developers.

A change of mindset

What needs to happen is a change of mindset regarding software distribution in the home and small business. Here, the use of local network storage for software updates doesn’t just suit the big business with more than 50 computers in its fleet.

It could suit the household with two or more children in secondary school or a household with many young adults. Similarly a shop that is growing steadily and acquiring a second POS terminal or a medical practice that is setting up for two or more doctors practising concurrently may want this same ability out of their server or NAS.

Conclusion

The NAS shouldn’t just be considered as a storage device but as a way of saving bandwidth when deploying updates in to a household or small business who has multiple computers on the same platform.

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DisplayLink Now Compatible with Windows 8

Article

DisplayLink Now Compatible with Windows 8#xtor=RSS-181#xtor=RSS-181#xtor=RSS-181

From the horse’s mouth

Product Page

Press release

My Comments

DisplayLink have updated their class driver for their USB-based “plug and display” infrastructure in order to satisfy Windows 8’s needs. Primarily this is to benefit tablet computers, convertibles, Ultrabooks and other similar portable Windows 8 computers to allow them to work with larger screens or display-adaptor modules and expose the displays to what Windows 8 can offer.

For example, there is the ability to use both the Start user interface and the regular desktop user interface across the different displays that are linked using this system. Similarly, a manufacturer could offer a touch-enabled monitor-dock that uses this connection interface as a point of innovation and Windows 8 users can still use this touch-enabled screen as a control surface for their portable Windows 8 computer.

It still can work across all USB connection types through the use of data-compression techniques for the common USB 2.0 setup. As well, the adaptors will support a resolution 2560×1152 per screen depending on the bandwidth, which can allow for the new high-pixel-density displays.

What I see of this is that the USB-based expansion modules (docking stations) will still be relevant to the Windows 8 touch-focused computing era as they are with Windows 7 and before.

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Touch-enabled Windows 8 computers–where to go

Introduction

I am writing this piece about the newer crop of Windows-8 computers that will be equipped for touchscreen computing. This will explain the different types that will be available and how to get on board this platform.

Types

Portable

Tablet

This class of Windows 8 portable is a simple touch-sensitive tablet that can come with a keyboard and mouse. If you don’t have the keyboard with the computer and you want to do some text entry, these computers will use a touchscreen virtual keyboard for this purpose. Because Windows 8 uses the Bluetooth and USB class drivers for input devices, you can use third-party keyboards and mice that connect via these interface methods. This can come in handy with using the Bluetooth keyboard attachments that are available for iPads and Android tablets.

An extension of this class is Sony’s VAIO Tap 20 which is a 20” tablet that isn’t considered all that portable. Here, this one works with supplied keyboard and mouse accessories but can work as a tablet. It also has a kickstand so it can work like the typical all-in-one computer.

Detachable-keyboard hybrid

These portable computers use a supplied detachable keyboard module that clips to the screen. They take this example from the Android-powered ASUS Transformer Prime and operate in two different forms.

The inexpensive varieties have the keyboard and, in some cases, a trackpad just as a controller device powered by the tablet. But most of the desirable variants would have extra functionality in the detachable keyboard such as an extra battery, USB ports, etc. Here, the computer can benefit from a large range of extra abilities when the user wants to enjoy these benefits.

Convertible

Here, the screen swivels or folds over to become a tablet or the computer can open and close like a regular laptop. An example of this type that I reviewed was the Fujitsu Lifebook TH550M that I previously reviewed and you might be able to claw for cheap on the secondhand market. This is one of the classes of computer that can benefit those of us who want to use the computer for a lot of text entry like working on documents or Excel spreadsheets. Similarly, they can he angled in a manner that benefits viewing or showing content like pictures, PowerPoint presentations, video or Web pages.

The simpler variants fold over so that the keyboard is exposed whereas other types have the screen swivel vertically on a pedestal or horizontally through a frame. These ones may have an increased risk of damage if you try to rotate the screen further in a similar way to what can happen with most digital cameras that have the fold-out screens.

Slider convertible

These computers such as the Sony VAIO Duo 11 appear like a tablet in normal use. But the keyboard on them slides out from underneath the screen and the screen can be tilted up using an integrated kickstand.

Most of them may, at the most, use an integrated thumbstick as the secondary pointing device. Here, you may find that the Bluetooth wireless mouse may be more important for these computers if you want that gradual pointing or scrolling ability that these devices have.

Touch-enabled laptop

The mainstream portable option may simply be a regular clamshell laptop computer that is equipped with a touchscreen. The manufacturers would find this easier to offer as an incremental option for their designs thus offering it across the board.

Most manufacturers are offering as a cheaper alternative a laptop that doesn’t have a touchscreen. Instead these machines use a highly-optimised trackpad that is flush with the palmrest, perhaps with a ridge surround the trackpad. This provides proper support for multi-finger touch operation thus providing some support for Windows 8’s touch gestures. This may be a confusing experience for you if you are working your laptop at one area while you view the screen at another area.

For customers, this could be a cost-effective entry point to the touch-enabled Windows 8 experience for a portable or transportable application.

Desktop

Touch-enabled all-in-one

Most all-in-one Windows desktop computers, like the Sony VAIO J Series that I previously reviewed, will have a touchscreen but Windows 8 and its Metro user interface would make the touchscreen come in to its own on these computers. A few of these computers are gaining respect as far as performance is concerned, thus allowing them to be used for intense gaming, video editing or other intense work.

Regular desktop with touchscreen monitor

Most of us who have regular desktop computers and want to upgrade to Windows 8 could upgrade the monitor to a touch-enabled screen. Similarly a newer regular desktop, whether tower-style or low-profile, could be specified with a touchscreen monitor.

The touch-enabled monitors nay require a USB connection to the host computer as well as the DVI or HDMI video connection.

At the moment, it may be hard to look for a reasonably-priced touchscreen monitor, especially with the preferred DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort sockets. This is because quite a lot of computer retailers, especially the “big-box” retailers, don’t sell them at all or sell them at an exorbitant price. The best result may be to do some online shopping or visit independent computer specialists for these monitors.

Confusing issues

Already own a tablet

If you already own an iPad or Android tablet, you may think that purchasing a touch-enabled Windows computer isn’t necessary. This is even though you may use the iPad or Android tablet with an accessory keyboard to create content.

In some ways, the touch-enabled Windows 8 computer may be a way of extending the touch-driven computing experience you started to enjoy with your mobile-platform-based tablet. Here, you could think of working with a touch-enabled large-screen laptop as a main or sole computer with the tablet serving as a casual-use unit. Similarly equipping the desktop computer for touch computing, whether through purchasing an touch-capable all-in-one or adding a touch-enabled monitor to the existing desktop may achieve this goal.

Similarly, you may own a Windows 7 computer that has an integrated touchscreen or is hooked up to a touchscreen monitor. Here, if the computer is equipped to modern specifications such as a recent-standard processor and at least 2Gb of RAM, preferable at least 4Gb, it may be a good break to update this unit to Windows 8.

Considering a touch-enabled computer less productive

Some of you may find that the touch-enabled computer less productive. This can be so if you expect to enter a lot of text such as working on spreadsheets or preparing copy. It may not be a worry if you just compose short emails or work the Social Web.

These kind of users should place value on a keyboard as being part of the computer and use the touchscreen primarily for navigation and coarse selection purposes. The main screen in Windows 8 does work properly with the touchscreen as do applications that are written ground-up for Windows 8.

The touch-enabled virtual keyboard can come in to its own in a few situations such as entering foreign-language characters, especially those languages with non-Roman alphabets. This can be enabled if you can implement different keyboard layouts for the virtual keyboard and the hardware keyboard. As well, the virtual keyboard can be useful for entering confidential data if you use a desktop computer that you suspect has been equipped with a keystroke-capture hardware “bug”.

Windows RT computers

There are some tablets and detachable-keyboard hybrid computers out there that use ARM processors and run the Windows RT variant of this operating system. One example of this is the Microsoft Surface detachable-keyboard hybrid. These won’t be able to run the software that is currently available for the Windows platform because this software is written to work on the Intel microarchitecture.

Rather, you have to download extra software from the Windows Store which is the integrated app store for the Windows 8 / Windows RT platform. There will be some software like a home-student variant of Office on these computers so you can “get going” with this platform.

Software in the Windows 8 touchscreen world

The iOS and Android mobile operating environments have exposed the world of touchscreen computing to the consumer. This will lead to various expectations for how the user interface will be designed for various classes of program.

A good place to start for finding this software is the Windows Store which is the platform’s app store. As with all app stores, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to sift through the poor-quality “shareware-grade” software to find the good-quality gems. For example, I would start with the official clients for the online services you use or Windows-8 ports of known software titles from known authors.

Web-browsing

This will become a “chrome-free” application with you having to “drag” to the window edge to call up browser functions or the address bar. In Windows 8, there will be some reliance on the Charms Bar which is selected from the right of the screen for some functions like searching.

Office applications

This class of application would benefit from touch, more as a way to locate the cursor to a point in the text or a particular cell or object in the document. You would still use the cursor keys or the mouse for fine-tuning the location of the object.

These applications would have you touch items on the ribbon bars to instigate processes or select options. In some ways, you could see “full-screen” dashboards being used to select options such as creating new documents or applying themes.

Of course, the keyboard and mouse still remain as the tools to remain productive in these applications. Here this would encompass creating the content as well as manipulation parts of the content so you can be sure it looks right.

Gaming

Most game types can benefit from the touch-screen user interface for handling game objects, coarse menu selection or coarse navigation. Some games may exploit the multi-touch option for swivelling or panning the point-of-view or providing “true-to-form” manipulation of objects by allowing the player to turn or grip the object.

Of course there may be issues with slow touchscreens which may impact gameplay with games that require real-time interaction like action, sport or “real-time strategy” games. This would evolve over time as manufacturers create highly-responsive touchscreens that are suited to real-time interaction.

What could happen for most games is to require support for multiple user interfaces such as keyboard, mouse and touch with the ability for the player to determine which interface suits their current gameplay needs.

It is also worth knowing that some existing games may be touch-enabled “out of the box” or through the latest downloadable software patch. For example, Civilization V has been “touch-enabled” through the latest downloaded patch for those of you who have Windows 8.

How to go about buying in to the Windows 8 touchscreen world

I would suggest that you buy in to the Windows 8 touchscreen world as you purchase newer computer hardware. This is more so as more manufacturers introduce this hardware to the market in increasing numbers and at increasingly-different price points.

Convertibles, to some extent sliders, are a good portable solution when you like entering a lot of text as well as wanting to take advantage of the touchscreen as a tablet. The detachable-keyboard hybrid would suit those of us who want the lightweight tablet but like to be ready to do text entry.

If you have the traditional desktop computer as your main computer, whether as the classic “tower” look or a low-profile chassis, I would suggest that you factor the cost of a touch-enabled monitor in to the total upgrade cost for Windows 8. This could be something to evolve to at a later stage as you consider upgrading the monitor. On the other hand, an “all-in-one” desktop can satisfy your needs if you want something more elegant and less cumbersome.

Conclusion

Once Windows 8 gets a stronger foothold, whether through people purchasing new computer equipment or upgrading existing Windows systems to this operating system, touchscreen computing will start to acquire a newer momentum.

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Touch-enabled Windows 8 computers–where to go

Introduction

Sony VAIO J Series all-in-one computerI am writing this piece about the newer crop of Windows-8 computers that will be equipped for touchscreen computing. This will explain the different types that will be available and where to go when entering this new world of computing with a regular computer.

Computer Types

Portable

Tablet

This class of Windows 8 portable is a simple touch-sensitive tablet that can come with a keyboard and mouse. If you don’t have the keyboard with the computer and you want to do some text entry, these computers will use a touchscreen virtual keyboard for this purpose. Because Windows 8 uses the Bluetooth and USB class drivers for input devices, you can use third-party keyboards and mice that connect via these interface methods. This can come in handy with using the Bluetooth keyboard attachments that are available for iPads and Android tablets.

An extension of this class is Sony’s VAIO Tap 20 which is a 20” tablet that isn’t considered all that portable. Here, this one works with supplied keyboard and mouse accessories but can work as a tablet. It also has a kickstand so it can work like the typical all-in-one computer.

Detachable-keyboard hybrid

These portable computers use a supplied detachable keyboard module that clips to the screen. They take this example from the Android-powered ASUS Transformer Prime and operate in two different forms.

The inexpensive varieties have the keyboard and, in some cases, a trackpad just as a controller device powered by the tablet. But most of the desirable variants would have extra functionality in the detachable keyboard such as an extra battery, USB ports, etc. Here, the computer can benefit from a large range of extra abilities when the user wants to enjoy these benefits.

Convertible

Here, the screen swivels or folds over to become a tablet or the computer can open and close like a regular laptop. An example of this type that I reviewed was the Fujitsu Lifebook TH550M that I previously reviewed and you might be able to claw for cheap on the secondhand market. This is one of the classes of computer that can benefit those of us who want to use the computer for a lot of text entry like working on documents or Excel spreadsheets. Similarly, they can he angled in a manner that benefits viewing or showing content like pictures, PowerPoint presentations, video or Web pages.

The simpler variants fold over so that the keyboard is exposed whereas other types have the screen swivel vertically on a pedestal or horizontally through a frame. These ones may have an increased risk of damage if you try to rotate the screen further in a similar way to what can happen with most digital cameras that have the fold-out screens.

Slider convertible

These computers such as the Sony VAIO Duo 11 appear like a tablet in normal use. But the keyboard on them slides out from underneath the screen and the screen can be tilted up using an integrated kickstand.

Most of them may, at the most, use an integrated thumbstick as the secondary pointing device. Here, you may find that the Bluetooth wireless mouse may be more important for these computers if you want that gradual pointing or scrolling ability that these devices have.

Touch-enabled laptop

The mainstream portable option may simply be a regular clamshell laptop computer that is equipped with a touchscreen. The manufacturers would find this easier to offer as an incremental option for their designs thus offering it across the board.

Most manufacturers are offering as a cheaper alternative a laptop that doesn’t have a touchscreen. Instead these machines use a highly-optimised trackpad that is flush with the palmrest, perhaps with a ridge surround the trackpad. This provides proper support for multi-finger touch operation thus providing some support for Windows 8’s touch gestures. This may be a confusing experience for you if you are working your laptop at one area while you view the screen at another area.

For customers, this could be a cost-effective entry point to the touch-enabled Windows 8 experience for a portable or transportable application.

Desktop

Touch-enabled all-in-one

Most all-in-one Windows desktop computers, like the Sony VAIO J Series that I previously reviewed, will have a touchscreen but Windows 8 and its Metro user interface would make the touchscreen come in to its own on these computers. A few of these computers are gaining respect as far as performance is concerned, thus allowing them to be used for intense gaming, video editing or other intense work.

Regular desktop with touchscreen monitor

Most of us who have regular desktop computers and want to upgrade to Windows 8 could upgrade the monitor to a touch-enabled screen. Similarly a newer regular desktop, whether tower-style or low-profile, could be specified with a touchscreen monitor.

The touch-enabled monitors nay require a USB connection to the host computer as well as the DVI or HDMI video connection.

At the moment, it may be hard to look for a reasonably-priced touchscreen monitor, especially with the preferred DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort sockets. This is because quite a lot of computer retailers, especially the “big-box” retailers, don’t sell them at all or sell them at an exorbitant price. The best result may be to do some online shopping or visit independent computer specialists for these monitors.

Confusing issues

Already own a tablet

If you already own an iPad or Android tablet, you may think that purchasing a touch-enabled Windows computer isn’t necessary. This is even though you may use the iPad or Android tablet with an accessory keyboard to create content.

In some ways, the touch-enabled Windows 8 computer may be a way of extending the touch-driven computing experience you started to enjoy with your mobile-platform-based tablet. Here, you could think of working with a touch-enabled large-screen laptop as a main or sole computer with the tablet serving as a casual-use unit. Similarly equipping the desktop computer for touch computing, whether through purchasing an touch-capable all-in-one or adding a touch-enabled monitor to the existing desktop may achieve this goal.

Similarly, you may own a Windows 7 computer that has an integrated touchscreen or is hooked up to a touchscreen monitor. Here, if the computer is equipped to modern specifications such as a recent-standard processor and at least 2Gb of RAM, preferable at least 4Gb, it may be a good break to update this unit to Windows 8.

Considering a touch-enabled computer less productive

Some of you may find that the touch-enabled computer less productive. This can be so if you expect to enter a lot of text such as working on spreadsheets or preparing copy. It may not be a worry if you just compose short emails or work the Social Web.

These kind of users should place value on a keyboard as being part of the computer and use the touchscreen primarily for navigation and coarse selection purposes. The main screen in Windows 8 does work properly with the touchscreen as do applications that are written ground-up for Windows 8.

The touch-enabled virtual keyboard can come in to its own in a few situations such as entering foreign-language characters, especially those languages with non-Roman alphabets. This can be enabled if you can implement different keyboard layouts for the virtual keyboard and the hardware keyboard. As well, the virtual keyboard can be useful for entering confidential data if you use a desktop computer that you suspect has been equipped with a keystroke-capture hardware “bug”.

Windows RT computers

There are some tablets and detachable-keyboard hybrid computers out there that use ARM processors and run the Windows RT variant of this operating system. One example of this is the Microsoft Surface detachable-keyboard hybrid. These won’t be able to run the software that is currently available for the Windows platform because this software is written to work on the Intel microarchitecture.

Rather, you have to download extra software from the Windows Store which is the integrated app store for the Windows 8 / Windows RT platform. There will be some software like a home-student variant of Office on these computers so you can “get going” with this platform.

Software in the Windows 8 touchscreen world

The iOS and Android mobile operating environments have exposed the world of touchscreen computing to the consumer. This will lead to various expectations for how the user interface will be designed for various classes of program.

A good place to start for finding this software is the Windows Store which is the platform’s app store. As with all app stores, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to sift through the poor-quality “shareware-grade” software to find the good-quality gems. For example, I would start with the official clients for the online services you use or Windows-8 ports of known software titles from known authors.

Web-browsing

This will become a “chrome-free” application with you having to “drag” to the window edge to call up browser functions or the address bar. In Windows 8, there will be some reliance on the Charms Bar which is selected from the right of the screen for some functions like searching.

Office applications

This class of application would benefit from touch, more as a way to locate the cursor to a point in the text or a particular cell or object in the document. You would still use the cursor keys or the mouse for fine-tuning the location of the object.

These applications would have you touch items on the ribbon bars to instigate processes or select options. In some ways, you could see “full-screen” dashboards being used to select options such as creating new documents or applying themes.

Of course, the keyboard and mouse still remain as the tools to remain productive in these applications. Here this would encompass creating the content as well as manipulation parts of the content so you can be sure it looks right.

Gaming

Most game types can benefit from the touch-screen user interface for handling game objects, coarse menu selection or coarse navigation. Some games may exploit the multi-touch option for swivelling or panning the point-of-view or providing “true-to-form” manipulation of objects by allowing the player to turn or grip the object.

Of course there may be issues with slow touchscreens which may impact gameplay with games that require real-time interaction like action, sport or “real-time strategy” games. This would evolve over time as manufacturers create highly-responsive touchscreens that are suited to real-time interaction.

What could happen for most games is to require support for multiple user interfaces such as keyboard, mouse and touch with the ability for the player to determine which interface suits their current gameplay needs.

It is also worth knowing that some existing games may be touch-enabled “out of the box” or through the latest downloadable software patch. For example, Civilization V has been “touch-enabled” through the latest downloaded patch for those of you who have Windows 8.

How to go about buying in to the Windows 8 touchscreen world

I would suggest that you buy in to the Windows 8 touchscreen world as you purchase newer computer hardware. This is more so as more manufacturers introduce this hardware to the market in increasing numbers and at increasingly-different price points.

Convertibles, to some extent sliders, are a good portable solution when you like entering a lot of text as well as wanting to take advantage of the touchscreen as a tablet. The detachable-keyboard hybrid would suit those of us who want the lightweight tablet but like to be ready to do text entry.

If you have the traditional desktop computer as your main computer, whether as the classic “tower” look or a low-profile chassis, I would suggest that you factor the cost of a touch-enabled monitor in to the total upgrade cost for Windows 8. This could be something to evolve to at a later stage as you consider upgrading the monitor. On the other hand, an “all-in-one” desktop can satisfy your needs if you want something more elegant and less cumbersome.

Conclusion

Once Windows 8 gets a stronger foothold, whether through people purchasing new computer equipment or upgrading existing Windows systems to this operating system, touchscreen computing will start to acquire a newer momentum.

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