A bit of malware discovered by researchers at Symantec this week reverses the target-selection priorities of most malware designs by treating Windows-based PCs as a path to Android devices, rather than as the primary target. “We’ve seen Android…
Microsoft is keeping us busy these days, isn’t it? First we hear about the $100 incentive for Windows developers. Then, over the weekend, Windows lovers were treated to the news that Windows Blue has been leaked. Windows Blue is the next version of the ubiquitous operating system, and an early build has been released, albeit unofficially.
According to Tom Warren of The Verge, “build 9364, a partner version that was originally compiled on March 15th, has been made available on file sharing sites and includes some of the new changes that Microsoft is building into its significant Windows 8 update.”
The Windows Blue leak comes from winforum.eu, where screenshots have been posted. It’s in Polish, but Google Translate can easily take care of that. Plus, images are what counts in this matter anyway.
Microsoft’s next version of windows has every reason to have much expectations weighing on it. Its massive clout in the business space means that there is a lot of anticipation on the release. But with the recent news on Vista and some industry reports pointing to the bloat in successive releases, the next version of Windows – Windows 7 gets a lot more significant.
Microsoft’s Windows juggernaut is collapsing as it tries to support 20 years of applications and becomes more complicated by the minute. Meanwhile, Windows has outgrown hardware and customers are pondering skipping Vista to wait for Windows 7. If Windows is going to remain relevant it will need radical changes.
That sobering outlook comes courtesy of Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald. Half of a full room of IT managers and executives raised their hands when asked whether Microsoft needed to radically change its approach to Windows. “Windows is too monolithic,” says Silver.
The sober analysis from Gartner got the blogosphere buzzing with news of Microsoft’s Windows being in trouble. The truth cannot be much more farther. As Ina Fried at News.com notes:
Microsoft still holds a huge share of mind among developers, meaning that there will likely to continue to be a whole host of applications that come out first or only on Windows. That, in turn, will make it different for mainstream businesses to shift to an alternative to Windows.
There is no doubting that Vista has been a major debacle for Microsoft. There has been a reluctance among customers to shift to Vista from Windows XP and Microsoft had to acknowledge the reluctance by extending the date for shipping XP with new PCs.
The main problems that Microsoft faces and it is seeking to address:
- Reducing the product release cycle for Windows.
- Making the next version of Windows much lighter on the hardware.
Being a mainstream OS, Microsoft cannot be blamed to have been in the business of shipping bloated versions one after another. After all it works well in the larger picture of software driving hardware requirements (the vicious cycle that drives innovation).
But the issues facing Microsoft are the things happening in the “cloud”. As more applications go online, in the long run it matters little what runs on the PC. There is no immediate threat to Microsoft. But that said, the gradual changes are already taking place. We have companies with serious and established data infrastructures such as Amazon and Google offering web services. Enterprises are getting options to run their apps off the web via SalesForce and Zoho. So its time that Microsoft took stock of the scenario.
The expectations are for a modular light weight version of windows that will integrate well with Microsoft’s online services. Having a staggering lead in the OS space means that Microsoft is most ideally placed to provide the most compelling of online-offline applications.
This is a time when enterprises are grappling with the prospect of online applications delivering on their business needs. Microsoft could make a winning move with Windows 7 to provide enterprises with integrations they can trust.
Windows XP is a landmark in Microsoft’s history. After a couple of unstable releases, Windows XP ironed out all the creases. Even today, Windows XP is more stable and considered a better OS than Vista by many.
No matter how stable, any (Windows) operating system requires proper care, optimization and tuning to keep it quick and responsive over long periods. Temporary files, crumbs of partially (un)installed programs, cached files and similar add to the bloat and make Windows XP slower over extended usage.
However, following a few simple tips, we can keep XP squeaky-clean and fast – just what you want. Follow these easy tips:
1. Install only necessary apps.
Installing every application you come across, trying them out for a few days and then uninstalling them is a bad idea. Install only the important applications, and then stay with it – do not uninstall. The reason is that more often than not, applications leave various files (temporary, shared etc.) even after uninstalling them. Over time, multiple install/uninstalls can lead to an unhealthy system with unnecessary bloat (and hence slowdown).
2. Install a good anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall.
Though the chances of being infected with malware is limited if you access only legitimate sites and downloads, it is still better to be on the safe side. Installing an anti-spyware is important, because spyware can simultaneously slow down your system and use internet bandwidth. Refer to my 8 Freeware for Windows post for good software.
3. Defragment your harddrive.
Defragmenting hard drive is commonplace, and is advisable. However, the default defragmentation app on Windows defragmentation is very slow, so using a third-party tool is a good idea. PowerDefragmenter accomplishes this task effectively. See a how-to by Shankar.
4. Use multiple partitions cleverly.
Using multiple partitions can improve data seek times significantly. Create partitions for operating system, program files (and use this partition as the location for all app installs), documents and media. Try to keep the partitions small in size, except for the media partition.
If you have more than one hard drive, use one of them for OS, and the other for other files (media, programs, My Documents etc.). This improves performance, and also increases the longevity of the hard drive on which the OS is located, since the data access is made for OS only. You can check the eHow page about hard disk partitions.
5. Optimize page-file usage.
Windows controls the page-file usage by default, but performance can be improved by setting the limits manually. Go to Control Panel > System > Advanced, and click the settings button under Performance. In the Performance dialog box, click the Advanced tab. Click on the Change button under Virtual Memory. In the dialog box that comes up, click ‘Custom’ and set the value at 1.5 times that of your system RAM. For example, if your computer has 1GB RAM, enter 1536 (remember, 1 GB=1024 MB).
6. Control startup applications:
Startup items can plague your computer with slower startup times. The best way to improve boot times is to disable unnecessary startup programs. Unlike other tweaks mentioned in this post, this tweak will be different for everyone. Common apps to disable include Skype, Yahoo Messenger, iTunes etc. However, ensure that you do not disable antivirus, anti-spyware and firewall applications.
Not sure how to do this? Check this TweakXP article.
7. Ditch Internet Explorer.
Internet Explorer renders pages poorly and gets a lot of flaming for it. However, an even more important aspect is security. Windows and Internet Explorer are tightly integrated. This means that any vulnerability in the browser can make the OS also vulnerable. Spyware attacks, phishing etc. are commonplace on IE. IE 7 is better in terms of security, but still has creases to iron out. A better idea would be to get a third-party browser – Firefox or Opera.
Paid Windows software like Norton AntiVirus, Adobe Photoshop and Nero are etched into the minds of users thanks to years of advertising by the powerful corporations that own them.
Most of the times the users are not aware of the fact that there are several free alternatives on the market. More importantly, these free alternatives tend to perform just as well as their paid cousins, while consuming less resources and providing a cleaner interface.
Below you will find 8 free software that you can use for a wide range of purposes.
1. Avast AntiVirus: Currently at version 4, and free for home use.
Avast is the best antivirus in terms of resource consumption. It has a low CPU and memory footprint, even while scanning. Several independent tests have found out that Avast is comparable to Norton Antivirus, Kaspersky etc. in terms of scanning accuracy, quicker than every other antivirus, and has the smallest online updates among them. Virus definition updates often go unnoticed, and we are alerted only when the update is complete.
2. Spybot S&D: Free for private use.
Spybot S&D is one of the best anti-spyware tools available. Working in tandem with Ad-Aware SE, these two tools can sweep out most malware. The interface is simple, and presents three large buttons: Check for problems, Recovery and Search for Updates. Self-descriptive commands and options are the hallmark of Spybot S&D. There are two modes, Default and Advanced. Advanced mode adds many new options, but one wrong step and you may make or break the computer. The program will warn this when you try to switch to Advanced mode, though.
3. Foxit PDF: Free for personal use, contains an upgrade option for PDF editing and advanced usage.
Adobe Reader takes several seconds to load up. However, a free, lightweight alternative called Foxit is available. Foxit can be used as a basic reader for free, but advanced features like editing require a paid upgrade. It is the ‘light-weight’ factor that makes Foxit so attractive. Foxit also includes nifty features like minimizing to tray to reduce clutter on the taskbar.
4. ImgBurn: Currently at version 2.4, and free for personal use.
ImgBurn is a lightweight disc burning program, with a focus on getting things done quickly. Too many options may come in your way in Nero, but ImgBurn makes disc burning look easy. When starting up, you are met with a startup screen with options like ‘Write image file to disc’, ‘Write files to disc’ etc. Clicking one of those large icons takes you to the appropriate window.
Feed reading can be made fun and enjoyable by using a desktop feed reader. While these do not have features like ‘Shared Items’ in Google, they are quick and easy to use. You can read feeds much like reading emails in a desktop app. There are options to bookmark favorite posts for further reference, and there is a separate folder for these bookmarked posts. FeedDemon has another useful feature – synchronization with Newsgator online account. This can be particularly useful if you move between several computers regularly, and want to stay synchronized.
6. VLC player: Free and open-source.
VLC player is best known as a play-it-all media player. The open-source VLC player can play videos with ease. The interface design is rather drab, but not difficult to use. Weighing in at a hefty 35 MB, VLC might look heavy. However, this extra megabytes is caused by the codecs that are bundled. So, you can play most formats without installing any codecs on the PC.
VLC is one of the few players that can play FLV and mobile video files without conversion.
Multi-protocol instant messenger clients are always desirable for those who chat often, or need to connect with users of different protocols. Digsby was launched recently and is invite-only (get invite codes here and here), while Pidgin is free and open-source. Pidgin has a large number of plugins and themes available, while Digsby is feature-rich by default. Digsby has inline email reply(within the client) and integration with Facebook and MySpace – two innovative features. If you’re tired of Pidgin’s drab interface, try Digsby – it has a pleasant-looking interface.
8. IZArc: Free.
IZArc is a powerful archive/unarchive utility. It is free and lightweight. It has all the features of other archival utilities, plus some extra features like unpacking .iso files to component files. This can be particularly useful when you get a disc and need to extract and install any single part of the software, say the .net framework (I have used it for that particular purpose).
I have been using these freeware for over a year, and have never felt like going back to the paid software. Of course, this would require slight adjustments in our mentality and habits, but these can be done easily, once you remember that the benefits of using these are saving money, and saving system resources.