All posts by snehal

About snehal

I am a computer engineer from Mumbai who is curious to learn new stuff that i come across and is an ardent Microsoft follower.Also I do love playing games in my free time

Now Get Metro-Style Startscreen On Your Browser With New Plug-in “EIGHT”

Windows 8 has put in new life into the already very popular OS genre of Microsoft,and with this new found enthusiasm  Microsoft lead into the life beyond Windows 7 where the emphasis is on making the user experience one to remember. The newest version of Microsoft’s massively popular OS is scheduled to make its impact on loads of  Microsoft devices such as tablets, desktops, notebooks, Microsoft Surface tables. Among many of  Windows 8 features such as faster boot times, less restarts, better search options, and ISO mounting the one that stands out is the introduction of tablet-like interface known as Metro.

Metro features smart updating tiles, tablet optimized interfacing and flexible apps. Metro is very new to the desktop, tablet, and laptop world but it is very familiar to those of us that use Windows Phone 7.However, there are mixed opinions about Metro.Overall  Metro looks pretty good and with more apps coming out of it  we can expect it to be an exceptional hit and it would display its true potential and will eventually silence its critics.

Now, If you want to use the Metro UI without  installing  Windows 8 until either the Beta or the final release,then your wish has come true.  There is a new plugin called “EIGHT” for Firefox, Chrome, IE, and Safari which will allow you to set your browser start page so that it has the look and feel of Metro UI.

This cool plugin was created by L’ubomír Krupa to give users a small taste of what UI looks like in action while giving easy access to your favorite websites and is basically just an alternative to the start screen found on most modern browsers. It is also a very highly customizable plugin as well. It is more of a series of links to different web portals that has a Metro-feel to it. If you don’t want to install Windows 8 but like the idea of at least getting a minor preview of what it would be like, this plugin is pretty cool. It is not even close to actual metro UI but it is still worth toying around until the Beta or Final version arrives.

Download Now[ EIGHT plugin ]

Microsoft Office 15 Beta Due Early Next Year [Rumor]

The major chunk of Microsoft’s revenues would come from the OS and its prime software Office. Now that Microsoft is working on developing Windows 8 and releasing its beta versions sometime next year,the company hasn’t forgotten about releasing the latest version of its Office productivity suite.

According to Winrumors Microsoft is planning  to release the first beta version of Office 15 (working title) sometime in late January. The company has reportedly been working on the final milestone builds of Office 15 in preparation for the beta launch.Microsoft is expected to offer a Technology Preview version of Office 15 to the public in early January at CES 2012, which is also when Microsoft is expected to launch the beta version of the Windows 8 operating system. Office 15 will likely support many of the touch interface features that are being developed for the Metro-style interface for Windows 8.

It’s more than likely that Microsoft will release the latest version of Office alongside Windows 8 which many analysts believe is scheduled to launch sometime in the third quarter of 2012. Even though Microsoft is moving more into the cloud server business with the launch earlier this year of Office 365, the company likely knows that it’s Office software suite will continue to be used on local PCs for a long time to come.And which the company don’t want to loose grasp on.

Personally, it would be great to see the launch of both Office as well as Windows 8 beta versions simultaneously,which will give the users an elaborated preview of what to expect from the actual products when they will be launched later next year.

Microsoft Apparently Signed NDA With Yahoo !

According to reports  from the New York Times , Microsoft has signed the NDA to align itself for a potential bid for the struggling Internet company and also take a closer look at the financials of the company.This latest piece of information comes after a long trail of news about a possible buy-out of Yahoo by Microsoft .It was not long ago that Microsoft did bid for the company but the offer was later rejected by Yahoo!

Although, Microsoft currently has a search agreement with Yahoo! which the company is looking to maintain and if Yahoo! is however acquired by another firm, then Microsoft would not be willing to break that contract.However, the question still looms at large about what Microsoft would do with Yahoo! Surely they would integrate many of their products such as Skype, but how it would handle the other operations of the website is still a mystery. Also, there is the curious case of what Microsoft would do with its own portal site,

Signing the NDA and actually bidding for the company are two separate things but, by signing the NDA, it does come to show the interest levels of  Microsoft in Yahoo!

Qualcomm President Elaborates Windows 8 And Windows Phone Plans

Qualcomm and Microsoft have collaborated on Windows Phone devices for the past year. Every Windows Phone device that has debuted since 2010, including Nokia’s new Lumia phones, runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon mobile platform.However,Nokia has already announced it intends to use chips from Europe’s ST-Ericsson in upcoming Windows Phone devices. But Qualcomm President Steve Mollenkopf says the company will continue to work with Nokia and other manufacturers on Windows Phone products,forbes reports.

In an interview ahead of the company’s annual Analyst Day in New York, Mollenkopf added, “We’re quite pleased with how [the Windows Phone collaboration] is going”.He also confirmed that Qualcomm’s relationship with Nokia for Windows Phone devices is “ongoing” despite the Nokia/ ST-Ericsson tie-up.Despite the low share of Windows Phone in US markets,there is still hope for Qualcomm from the upcoming Windows 8.The much-anticipated update to Microsoft’s ‘big Windows’ operating system will be the first version of Windows to support the ARM processors which Qualcomm and other mobile chipmakers use. The move will enable Qualcomm to move beyond phones and tablets into laptops and other gadgets.
Though Windows 8 is still some months away — Microsoft won’t say exactly when it will be released — Qualcomm is already working on Windows 8 devices and applications. “We’re investing very heavily to really prepare for [Windows 8],” said Mollenkopf.He also said, ” upcoming Windows 8 devices will share certain characteristics, such as extreme slimness and portability. Windows 8 laptops could resemble Apple’s sleek MacBook Air.”

Windows 8 will not only enable Qualcomm to sell chipsets for new classes of gadgets, it also shows that smartphone-like features can and should be incorporated into non-phone devices.One example of this phone/PC crossover is Windows 8?s “connected standby” feature, which pulls data for email and social networking updates even when the device is on standby or — in the case of a laptop — closed. This “always-on” connectivity and power efficiency is a trademark smartphone feature. “That’s exactly what we talked about with smartbooks,” contends Mollenkopf. “It’s a phone use-case, now appearing in the heart of the PC market.”

New Version Of 3D Mark For Windows 8 Announced

There still is considerable amount of time for the official unveiling of Windows 8, but that hasn’t stopped Futuremark from revealing plans to offer a new version of its most well known product.

On Monday, Futuremark announced plans to release 3DMark for Windows 8. 3D mark is a benchmarking software product which is set to be  released in 2012.The development of 3DMark for Windows 8 benefits from the co-operation of many of the world’s leading technology companies. The Futuremark Benchmark Development Program (BDP) includes AMD, NVIDIA, Microsoft, Imagination Technologies, Dell, HP and other well known companies.

Image Source: FutureMark

3DMark for Windows 8 (working title)

  • Measures and compares gaming performance on all Windows 8 devices
  • Stunning real-time scenes stress test all levels of hardware
  • Supports both x86 and ARM-based architectures
  • Can be used in both Metro UI and ‘classic’ Windows environments
  • Created in co-operation with the world’s leading technology companies
  • Currently in development, expected to be released in 2012

Typically, Futuremark offers a new version of 3DMark when there is also a new version of Microsoft’s DirectX graphics API available. Currently, game developers are working on tools based on DirectX 11. Microsoft usually releases a new version of DirectX around the launch of a new Windows OS. It offered up a DirectX 11.1 version for the Windows 8 developers preview build. However, Microsoft has yet to reveal any plans for DirectX 12 and if history is of any indication then we should shortly see the next version of DirectX pretty soon.

Windows 8 Will Minimize Restarts After Installing Updates

When it comes to Windows Update, one of the most discussed topics is the disruptive nature of restarts in the course of automatic updating. A recent post on Building Windows 8 blog enlists the improvements the Windows Update Team at Microsoft has put in to make it more user friendly and less disruptive.

WU (Windows Update) will consolidate all the restarts in a month, synchronizing with the monthly security release. This means that your PC will only restart when security updates are installed and require a restart. With this improvement, it does not matter when updates that require restarts are released in a month, since these restarts will wait till the security release. This simplification helps in three ways: it keeps the system secure in a timely manner, reduces restarts, and makes restarts more predictable. Only exception to this being in the case of critical security update to fix a worm-like vulnerability (for example, a Blaster worm). In that case, WU will not wait, but will go ahead and download, install, and restart automatically. But this will happen only when the security threat is dire enough.

WU notifies you of any upcoming automatic restart. Suppose, WU has already detected, downloaded, and installed security updates, and now requires a restart. Windows Update will notify you of an upcoming automatic restart through a message on the login screen that will persist for 3 days.

Farzana Rahman of Microsoft explains how this will work:

1.  A message about the upcoming restart is shown in the login screen for three days or until the PC is restarted (whichever is sooner). This means you now have three days to restart the PC at your convenience. All you need to do is see the login screen once in 3 days to see the message about the upcoming restart and by default the lock screen will appear after 15-minute idle timeout.

2.  In addition to the restart notification on the login screen, the Power options on the lock screen will change to “Update and restart” immediately after the update occurs, and will include “Update and shutdown” on days two and three, to make the message even more apparent to you. This allows you to restart your PC at your own convenience.

3. If after three days, the restart still has not occurred, then WU will automatically restart your PC for you. In this case, the automatic restart will happen either at the end of the three-day grace period, or, to prevent data loss if WU detects that there are critical applications open at the end of the three-day grace period, it will wait to automatically restart the next time you login. I’ll address this behavior in more depth in the next section.

4. After the restart has occurred, the message on the login screen will go away and the power options will revert to the original choices. We know people would like Windows to automatically log in after the restart, but we strongly advise against doing so, given the potential security issues with this configuration.

If the PC has hit the three-day deadline and still needs an automatic restart, WU will only automatically restart the machine if there is no chance of losing the user’s data. That means, if you are not at your PC (i.e. it is locked), if you have applications running in the background, or if there is potentially unsaved work, WU delays the automatic restart until the next time you come back to your machine and log in. At log-in, you will be asked to save your work, and you’ll see a warning that the machine will be restarted within 15 minutes.

Having a restart notification or dialog pop up in the middle of an important presentation, a game or a movie is not a pleasant situation, to say the least. When attempting to automatically restart the PC, if you are in presentation mode, playing a game, or watching a movie full-screen, WU detects this state, and delays the automatic restart until the next available opportune moment or the next time you log back in to the PC.

For PCs in an enterprise setting, if no policy has been set by the IT administrator, the updating experience is exactly the same as it is for home users. However, an IT administrator can set a policy to prevent auto-restart after automatic installs (just as in Windows 7). If they set this policy, there will be no three-day countdown and no automatic restart. Instead, users will see a message on the login screen indicating that the PC needs to be restarted, and the message persists until the restart occurs. This informs users that a restart is required while keeping them in control of when to restart.

Microsoft Details Power Smart Windows 8 Development

According to a recent post on Building Windows Blog, Pat Stemen, a program manager on Kernel team with Microsoft explains why battery life and power consumption continue to be some of the most important topics in the computing industry.Three goals were kept in mind while engineering Windows 8 power management:

Let the hardware shine: Windows 8 was built in such a way that the power efficiency of the hardware platform shines through, regardless of whether the system is a SoC-based Windows tablet or an SLI-equipped gaming PC.

Continue to deliver great battery life: Like Windows 7, in Windows 8 too, the same level of efficiency is maintained as on existing PCs even as development of Windows continues.

Enable the smartphone power model: One of the coolest things about the System-on-Chip (SoC) platforms is their capability to quickly enter very low-power idle states. Efforts are being made to bring  that ultra-low idle power to bring the constant connectivity and instant-on features of the smartphone power model to capable Windows 8 PCs.

Windows 8 features three key innovations to improve how software influences power consumption—the Metro style app model, idle hygiene, and a new runtime device power management framework.

The Metro style application model

One of the new power management innovations in Windows 8  is the Metro style application model. The Metro style application model is designed from the beginning to be power-friendly. The power management benefit is that the model makes it easy for developers to ensure their application is running only at the right time, applications in the background are suspended such that they do not consume resources and power when not in use.The Metro style application model and the underlying WinRT support background activity through a new set of capabilities called background tasks.Background tasks make it easy to perform background activity in a power-friendly fashion.

Task Manager showing suspended Metro style apps

Idle hygiene

Software can have dramatic influence on power consumption even without consuming a lot of resources through intermittent idle activity. A new term is used for  improvements to idle activity as idle hygiene.Most PC platforms feature processor and chipset idle states that allow the hardware platform to stop the clock or completely turn off power to parts of the silicon when they are unused. These idle states are absolutely critical to enabling long battery life, but they require a minimal residency duration—that is, you have to be idle for long enough to make the transition in and out of the idle state worthwhile in terms of power used. This is because some power is consumed on the way into and out of the idle state. Software most effectively uses these idle states when there are as few exits from the idle state as possible, and the duration of the idle state is as long as possible.

Figure below shows the difference in idle duration between the Windows 7 and Windows 8.When the screen is on, we’ve already moved the bar significantly from a maximum idle duration of 15.6ms in Windows 7 to 35% of our durations longer than 100ms in Windows 8! With the screen off and during Connected Standby, our idle durations are even longer, currently in the tens of seconds.

Runtime device power management

PCs attain their longest battery life when all devices, including the processor, storage, and peripheral devices enter low-power modes. Almost every device in the modern PC has some kind of power management technology, and runtime device power management determines how we use those technologies seamlessly without impact to the user experience. A really good example of runtime device power management is dimming the automatic display after a timeout in Windows 7.For Windows 8,  a new device power framework  is built that allows all devices to advertise their power management capabilities and integrate them with a special driver called the Power Engine Plug-in or PEP, designed for SoC systems. The PEP is provided by the silicon manufacturer and knows all of the SoC-specific power management requirements. This allows device drivers like our USB host controller or a keyboard driver to be built once, and still deliver optimal power management on all platforms from SoC-based PCs to datacenter servers.


Kinect SDK Beta 2 Released For Windows With Windows 8 Support

Prior to this week’s Kinect Windows Beta 2 version, Microsoft released the first beta version of the Windows SDK for its Kinect motion controller camera which was a big hit for researchers and for people who just wanted to tweak Kinect for fun. This week, Microsoft announced that the second beta version of the Kinect Windows SDK has been released.

While this is still the non-commercial version, the Beta 2 version has a number of new features and improvements as opposed to the first Beta release this version has  “faster skeletal tracking, better accuracy rate when it comes to skeletal tracking and joint recognition, and the ability to plug and unplug your Kinect without losing work/productivity” according to Microsoft.

Microsoft had previously disclosed that they are working on a commercial version of the Kinect Windows SDK which should be released sometime in 2012. It is expected to be a big hit for software developers and enthusiasts who will most  likely create a number of interesting Kinect applications, and of course games, that will run on Windows PCs. It is likely to be of greater interest for the developers, who will be able to make some money off their Kinect apps, although so far Microsoft has yet to announce the terms of the licensing agreements.

This new Kinect for Windows SDK Beta 2 adds support for the Microsoft Windows 8 Developer.You can download the new version of the SDK here


Supposedly Leaked Roadmap Reveals Windows 8,Windows 9 and Windows Phone Apollo Roadmap

With the release of  Windows 8 Developer Preview the expectancies from the latest version of Windows have increased significantly,and now to increase curiosity, reports of a leaked Microsoft road map are doing rounds on the web revealing an August 2012 commercial launch schedule for Windows 8. Prior to that, the beta will reportedly arrive during CES 2012 this coming January along with the WinStore Beta, an online marketcommunity technology preview (CTP), and the first “Tango” update for Windows Phone. Windows 9 is even slated for a late 2014 reveal.

According to the roadmap, the Release Candidate for Windows 8 (RC) will roll out at MIX 2012 along with the online market beta and the Kinect commercial SDK — “Apollo” for Windows Phone is also expected to be revealed. By the time E3 2012 rolls around, Microsoft will reportedly unveil the Xbox 360 SDK for creating apps, the Apollo SDK for Windows Phone and third-generation Kinect games. The Windows 8 RTM build is also expected to be released in June 2012.

Later,In August 2012 , Windows 8, The Online Market, Windows Phone 8 and the Xbox (App) Store will launch if all goes according to plan. Then in September during BUILD 2012 Microsoft will offer a Windows 8 product upgrade developer preview

On the Windows 9 front, a developer preview is expected to go live during BUILD 2013 followed by a Beta during CES 2014. A Release Candidate is slated to arrive during MIX 2014 followed by the RTM build with Internet Explorer 12 during BUILD 2014. It also looks like Windows 9 Mobile will also make its debut, as both the desktop and mobile versions will go commercial in November 2014.

To view complete roadmap, click here.

Microsoft Surface 1.0 Supports Windows 8 Developer Preview

With the release of Microsoft Surface 2.0 due early next year,a new video has “Surfaced” showing Windows 8 Developer Preview running on Microsoft Surface 1.0.

Josh Blake from Infostrat has done a demo of the Windows 8 developer preview running on Microsoft Surface 1.0 at his place.



From the video we can see that  Surface 1.0 is quite capable of handling Windows 8 Developer Preview.However, With the release of Surface 2.0 Scheduled next year,it would be interesting to use Windows 8 advanced versions and to feel the difference it would make using Surface 2.0.

Surface 2.0 Specs include:

  • It’s aptly named SUR 40 due to its 40-inch 1080p display which is capable of handling fifty simultaneous touch inputs, and is protected by the largest sheet of Gorilla Glass ever applied to a screen. The display uses Microsoft’s new PixelSense technology, which essentially infuses each pixel with both optical and infrared sensors that enable the screen to recognize fingers and other objects that interact with it without the use of cameras.
  • AMD Athlon X2 245e 2.9GHz processor and a 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6750 GPU, along with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 320GB hard drive, while the Surface 2.0 software is built on top of 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.