Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Most of us know Windows 7 as being a remarkable rebound from the prior Windows Vista that was commonly known as a full-featured failure. Since Windows 95 there hasn’t been a generational  chance until now - Windows 8.

The consumer preview is much more polished than the buggy developer preview released last year in September, which was mainly to get the APIs out to developers. Since the developer preview, over 100,000 code changes have been made, making the Windows 8 platform much more polished and refined. 

Windows Re-imagined:
Windows 8 is set to “re-imagine Windows” being half desktop, half mobile, utilizing a tile-based Metro user interface. It will be a parting with what we are used to experience with Windows. Most likely you’ll either love it, hate it, or learn to love it - much like how Microsoft Office 2007 changed everything for Office 2003 lovers back in the day, but on a much larger scale.

Today, we have to choose between consumption or productivity, battery life verses functionality, form factor - tablet or laptop, touch interface or keyboard and mouse - how do you want to be mobile?

Microsoft is looking to solve this dilemma with the Windows 8 platform, an operating system that scales with you allowing you to be productive with any device form-factor. The goal of Windows 8 is to deliver ‘Desktop’ without any compromise, completely immersing 3 key elements - the Operating system, apps / dev platform, and hardware - for a unified operating system experience across multiple devices. From the hardware chip-set to the applications and the user interface (UI) experience, bringing the best of mobility together with the best of the desktop with a fast and fluid interface, better power management, and more functions for safety and reliability.

The new operating system gives users the ability to find out what’s going on by just glancing at the screen; much like the “glance-and-go” approach of the Windows Phone’s tile user interface. From scaling to different screen resolutions to user needs of consumption verses productivity. From the moment of logon, uses of apps, accessing files - all brought together via the Metro style tabs. The experience of the operating system and apps working together more harmoniously - fast - fluid - modern, making Apple OSX look outdated.

Windows Store:
At the moment, all apps are available for free. Take advantage of them while you can. Many Windows 8 homegrown apps include Bing Maps, Bing Weather, Calendar, Mail, Messaging, Music, People, SkyDrive, XBOX Live, etc. Make sure you sign-in with your Microsoft account ID to take advantage of these applications. Otherwise you will most likely get an error screen when attempting to get to the Windows Store.

Internet Explorer 10:
Greater support for HTML5 for developers and those who use their apps.

Microsoft Cloud Services:
One huge benefit for many users is the integration of Windows 8 and Microsoft Cloud Services. Users sign-in with their Microsoft account ID, making new applications live connected via the cloud. This allows a user to start a project on one Windows 8 machine and finish it on another. This also applies to user settings and themes that roam with the user’s profile via the cloud. 

Our First Thoughts:
The tiles are a little overwhelming, I find it more common to be easier to see and use it on an actual mobile device than having the metro interface on the desktop. It seems to be a working operating system for a phone or tablet that has been ported to the desktop. At least we don’t have to fully part ways with the normal desktop user interface that we are all accustomed to. Everything you want to still do in Windows you still can under the hood. It’s just a pretty Metro interface (tiles) on top - a ‘tablet-ified’ Windows 7. 

If you seem to get stuck in the normal desktop mode wanting to get back to the metro ‘tiles’ interface then we figured out you have to hit the Windows key (looks like a flag next to the ‘alt’ key on your keyboard). Many users might miss the epic Windows Start button on the lower left of the desktop. This has been removed in Windows 8. Much of the normal desktop feel much like Windows 7; it’s just going to take time to get used to the metro interface. Overall we are pretty impressed with Windows 8 despite all of the initial negative hype. Unless Microsoft messes up along the way - it could be the year of the PC desktop again; or they will at least give Apple a run for their money with the introduction of Windows tablets.

Get Windows 8 Consumer Preview:
Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO

The full version of Windows 8 will be available later this year. Most likely it will be released to manufactures end of summer just in time for Windows 8 device sales this holiday season.

Windows 8 Support:
Pre-release software is not supported by Microsoft. However, they do provide a Windows 8 Forum for users and a Windows 8 FAQ with system requirements and other useful information.

When Windows 8 desktops, laptops, and tablets are released later this year, we will support your Windows 8 needs with Digital Designs LLC Computer Repair Grand Rapids MI. Around the holiday season release, we will most likely run a special for upgrading your Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 machine to the new Windows 8 platform. Follow Digital Designs Computer Repair for the latest news, updates, and coupons.

Minimum Windows 8 System Requirements:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device or higher

Watch the Windows 8 Consumer Preview Video

More Videos available at Microsoft News Center:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New iPad Released! Not Called iPad3 or iPadHD?

SAN FRANCISCO – March 7, 2012 – Apple releases a 3rd generation of the iPad with a high-definition retina display at the launch event at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. 

However, Philip Schiller (Apple’s Senior Vice President of worldwide marketing), Tim Cook (CEO), and all of the various Apple execs who took the stage never named the newest member of the Apple family; referring to the new device as “the new iPad” and not the iPad 3 or iPadHD as most of us were predicting. No joke - for reference, check out Apple’s official press release for new iPad.

What’s New
Display - The tablet boasts a 9.7-inch retina display of 3.1 million pixels, a resolution of 2047x1536 pixels, twice as much as the iPad2 (1024x768) and the highest resolution currently available over any other tablet or laptop.

Processor – An A5X quad-core graphics processor upgraded from the iPad2’s A5 dual-core processor, allowing for higher CPU capabilities and mainly to support the need of processing twice as many pixels on the display screen.

Camera – The “new iPad” has 5-megapixel iSight backside illuminating camera supporting 1080P video recording

Network – In addition to standard Wireless, the new iPad supports  4G / LTE data connections with AT&T and Verizon.


What’s Missing/Disappointment
The new iPad design is virtually indistinguishable from the prior iPad2 released in last year 2011. The glass and aluminum constructed device still measures 9.5”  tall and 7.31” wide but now has a thickness of 0.37” weighing 1.5lbs.

The front-facing camera has remained unchanged and the rear camera has been upgraded to 5-megapixels but not a higher quality 8-megapixel that most smartphones and a few other tablets currently have such as the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime.

Looks like Siri (digital personal assistant) will be staying with the iPhone 4GS. She isn’t present on the new iPad; however, there is now voice dictation that could assist with transcribing emails, browsing the web, etc.

Some of Apple’s old iPad complains still remain regarding no additional lead in extending battery life (Apple claimed ~10 hours / 9hrs on 4G). There isn’t a microSD memory expansion, a dedicated video output port, or a truly universal connection for charging/data transferring. Also, let’s not forget the absence of Adobe Flash support vs it’s support on ALL other products other than iOS but that's another topic.

Many were hoping for an entry level tablet device that would compete directly with the $199 Kindel Fire or Barnes & Nobel’s Nook Tablet. Numerous other companies have been flooding the market with entry-level tablets that are smaller and cheaper than Apple’s iPads.

Pricing / Availability
Preorders at Apples online store began today in the US. Good luck today or the next couple days as the site seems to be down since everyone and their brother is on the site trying to get their hands on the new tablet.

iPad Wi-Fi models will be available in black or white on Friday, March 16 for $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), and $699 (64GB) models. 

iPad Wi-Fi + 4G will sell for $629 (16GB), $729 (32GB), $829 (64GB), and will be available on AT&T and Verizon networks.

On March 16th the device will be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Sinapore, Switzerland, UK and the US Virgin Islands. Many other countries will have the availability on March 23, 2012.

The iPad 2 price has dropped to $399 (16GB Wi-Fi), and $529 (16GB Wi-Fi + 3G).

Final Thoughts - Upgrade or Skip?
If you have an original iPad then upgrading to the new iPad would be a good investment. However, for iPad 2 owners the scene is more unclear. When looking at the core of the new features it comes down to “is the high-definition screen worth it?”. If you can justify another $499 this year for a base-model of the new iPad to really appreciate and show off the retina display then by all means go for it. However, it might be a better bang for your buck value / feature-wise to just wait another year for the next release when there are more device capabilities to make the purchase worth-while.

Alternatively, tablet seekers could look towards the $199 Kindel Fire or Nook Tablet. Last week, Microsoft deployed its Windows 8 operating system for tablets, many suggesting Windows-based tablets could make a serious presence in the tablet market.  In addition to Windows, Android has been maturing in the tablet market. Many Android-based tablets offer features that have been successes over the shortcoming of various Apple iPad features. Our favorite Android tablet to date would have to be the ASUS Transformer / Eee Pads ~$499, same as Apple's starting price point.
Your Thoughts
What do you think about Apple's New iPad? You will order to upgrade, wait until next year's 4th generation release, or go Android or Windows 8 tablet?

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital SLR

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital SLR Camera is a new product positioned between the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the high-end EOS-1D X. The EOS 5D Mark III sports a 22.3-megapixel full-frame DIGITC 5+ CMOS imaging processor making this sensor 17 times faster than the DIGIC 4 in the EOS 5D Mark II. The Mark III boasts the 1D X’s high density 61-point reticular autofocus with 41 cross-types, a bit of an upgrade over the Mark II 9-point autofocus. The Mark III has 100-25,600 native ISO range (51,200 and 102,400 extended), and functionality for 6 fps burst shooting mode with RAW processing, JPEGs, and movies all delivering on-chip lower noise levels with higher sensitivity.

These features allow for its greater ability to shoot “outstanding image quality in all shooting conditions, even low light” (Canon). The EOS 5D Mark III has enhanced video functionality over the Canon EOS 5D Mark II released in 2008. It shoots H.264 encoded video at 1080p at 24, 25, or 30 fps or lower 720p at 50 or 60fps. Video files are no longer limited to 4GB file data limit and will automatically create additional video files allowing for a 29-minute and 59-second maximum shooting length verses a prior maximum of 12-minutes with the EOS 5D Mark II.
The Mark III also has an enhanced weather sealing body with a 3.2-inch LCD display with 1,040,000 dot resolution.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III will be available later this March for $3499 MSRP along with an option for the EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens kit for $4299.

Our recommendation; if you are just getting into photography, a current armature, or aspiring pro - unless you are shooting a lot in very low light environments or focusing on having the Mark III video features then I would recommend going with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II since the recent price drop, 40% less than the Mark III.

An option to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is the recently released Nikon D800 with a 36-megapixel sensor for around $3000.

What are your thoughts regarding these new Digital SLR products? What are the most important features you are looking for in these cameras that will meet your needs?