Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Introducing Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Moments ago in Barcelona, we announced the release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, available to download now for anyone interested in trying it out. We’ve been hard at work for many months now, and while we still have lots more to do, we’re excited to show you our progress with the latest preview of the new operating system. I’m a writer on the Windows team, and over the next few weeks, I’ll be publishing a series of posts here on the Windows Experience Blog about what you can expect to see in Windows 8, tips for navigating the new operating system, and all the great new ways to have fun and get things done in this preview of a brand new Windows.

A reimagined Windows

With Windows 8, the whole experience of Windows has been reimagined. It’s designed to work on a wide range of devices , from touch-enabled tablets, to laptops, to desktops and all-in-ones. We’ve designed Windows 8 to give you instant access to your apps, your files, and the information you care about most so you can spend less time navigating and more time doing what you actually want to do. You can move between Windows 8 PCs easily and access your files and settings from virtually anywhere. We’ve made touch a first-class experience and navigating with a mouse and keyboard fast and fluid. And just like Windows 7, reliability and security features are built in. It’s the best of Windows 7, made even better.

Some things you should know before installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Before you start the download, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, this is a prerelease operating system

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is just that: a preview of what’s to come. It represents a work in progress, and some things will change before the final release. This means you’ll encounter some hiccups and bugs. One of the great things about widely releasing a preview like this is that it gives us a chance to get a lot of feedback through telemetry, forums, and blog posts on where we can smooth out some of the rough edges.

Second, you should be pretty comfortable with new technology

If you’re used to running prerelease (beta) software, you’re OK with a little troubleshooting, and you don’t mind doing a few technical tasks here and there, then you’ll probably be OK giving the Windows 8 Consumer Preview a spin. If a list of hardware specs is a little overwhelming for you, or you’re not sure what you’d do if something unexpected happened, this might not be the time to dive in.

As with pre-release software in general, there won’t be official support for the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, but if you have problems, please share them with us. You can post a detailed explanation of any issues you run into at the Windows 8 Consumer Preview forum. We’ll be able to look at your input, and you might find some help from other members of the community who have seen the same issues you’ve found. In addition, the Windows 8 Consumer Preview FAQ on the Windows website has information that could help you out and make the Windows 8 experience more productive and enjoyable.

And finally, you’ll need the right hardware

Windows 8 Consumer Preview should run on the same hardware that powers Windows 7 today. In general, you can expect Windows 8 Consumer Preview to run on a PC with the following:

  • 1 GHz or faster processor

  • 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)

  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)

  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

  • 1024 x 768 minimum screen resolution

However, there are some additional requirements to take into consideration in order to use certain features in Windows 8. In order to use the Snap feature, you will need a PC with a 1366x768 resolution or higher. If you want to use touch, you’ll need a multitouch-capable laptop, tablet, or display. Windows 8 supports up to five simultaneous touch points, so if your hardware doesn’t, you may find typing on the onscreen keyboard and using certain controls more of a challenge. You’ll also need an Internet connection to try out the Windows Store, to download and install apps, and to take your settings and files with you from one Windows 8 PC to another.

For some more information on hardware requirements, check out this post on the Building Windows 8 blog. Also, the Windows Hardware Team tells me they plan on updating the Microsoft Touch Mouse for Windows 8. You can read their announcement and more info on using Microsoft Hardware mice and keyboards with Windows 8 in this blog post.

If you’ve read all of that, and you’re ready to give it a try, then let’s go!

The beginning

It starts with the new Start screen.


This is where you’ll first see how we’ve reimagined the Windows experience. If you’ve seen what we’ve done with Windows Phone, this might look familiar. From the Start screen you can launch apps, switch between tasks, share content, and check notifications. The tiles show real-time updates—news, sports, and what your friends are up to. You can check your schedule or get the latest weather forecast without searching for information—no need to open an app to see your next appointment or find out if you have any new email. This design style is great on a phone for getting you to the content you want easily and quickly, and extended to the whole screen of a PC, it’s even better.

You can customize this screen to put all of the information you care about in one place, such as the weather, websites, playlists, and your contacts. Your favorite apps are always front and center. Because you decide how to organize and group things on the Start screen, viewing and interacting with content is faster than ever.

Start screen tiles - Weather tile with live update

Move easily between PCs, courtesy of the cloud

When you use the cloud to store your information, it doesn’t matter where you’re sitting or what device you’re using. Your music, photos, files, contacts, and settings aren’t stored on one device, they’re in one place: the cloud. I like to write, and I’m not always in the same place when I do it. With a Microsoft account, I can start a project on one Windows 8 PC and finish it on another.

When you sign in to a Windows 8 PC with your Microsoft account, you're immediately connected to all of your people, files, and settings, including themes, language preferences, and browser favorites. You can connect your favorite cloud services to your Microsoft account, too—services like Hotmail, SkyDrive, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. And you can immediately get to your photos, docs, and other files, whether they’re on SkyDrive, Facebook, or Flickr. When you sign in, even a brand new Windows 8 PC will have access to your files and settings. And if you share your Windows 8 PC, anyone else can have their own personalized, cloud-connected experience by signing in with their Microsoft account.

Type and click, or swipe and tap

With new touch-based PCs, the things you do with a mouse and keyboard are now easy to do with touch, too. If you’ve gotten used to touch with a smartphone or tablet, you’ll feel right at home in Windows 8. You can switch between apps, organize your Start screen, and pan and zoom to really fly through the things you want to do.

Windows 8 is a full-featured PC operating system designed from the start with touch in mind. But if you type long blog posts like this one, do precise work like graphic design, or even play first-person shooter games, you probably want to use a mouse and keyboard as well. When I’m not using touch, I use my keyboard for everything, so I’m happy that Windows 8 has kept mouse and keyboard as first-class citizens. People work in different ways, and Windows 8 adapts accordingly.

Charms let you work faster

In Windows 8, we’ve built new, fast ways to get around the operating system and do common tasks. They’re called charms. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen or move your mouse to the upper-right corner, and the charms bar appears (you can also use the Windows key + C). The charms are the quickest way to navigate to key tasks in Windows 8. You can go to the Start screen, or use the charms for quick shortcuts to common tasks.

Charms appear on the right side of the screen


Just like in Windows 7, with Windows 8, you can easily search for apps, settings, or files on your PC. And with the Search charm, searching now goes even deeper. You can search within apps and on the web, so you can find a specific email quickly in the Mail app, or see what a friend has put on Facebook using the People app. You can also get search results from within apps right from the Start screen. If the info you need is on the web, just choose Internet Explorer in your search results, and Search brings the results right to you. Apps designed specifically for Windows 8 can use the Search charm easily, so as you install more apps, you can find movie reviews or show times, opinions on restaurants, or even stock prices (just to name a few), without having to hunt around. If you’re using a keyboard, you can also search right from the Start screen – just start typing, and the results will appear. You can filter results to view apps or settings, or to search within individual apps.

The Search charm lets you search within apps like Internet Explorer


When I read something great on the web or see a picture that makes me laugh, I like to pass it on. The Share charm makes it incredibly easy. And just like with Search, apps can hook into Share easily, so you don’t have to jump in and out of an app to share great content. You can quickly send wise words with the Mail app or share a great photo on SkyDrive. The apps you use most often are listed first for quick access, and you can choose whether to share with just one person, or with all of your contacts at once.

Sharing the Windows Phone website via Mail with the Share charm


The Devices charm lets you get to the devices you want to use so you can do things like getting photos from a digital camera, streaming video to your TV, or sending files to a device, all from one place. For example, if you’re watching a movie in the Video app and want to share it with everyone in room, the Devices charm lets you stream a video right to your Xbox to show it on your TV.


The Settings charm is the place to go for basic tasks like setting the volume or shutting down your PC. When you’re in an app, the Settings charm takes you to settings for that app, so you can set up email accounts, select options for sound and video, or choose a control setup for games. The Settings charm can also take you right to your PC settings so you can change themes, set up sharing with HomeGroup, or use Windows Update.

Switching apps and snapping

If you’re using touch, just swipe in from the left edge to go back to your last app, or keep swiping to go back through several apps. If you’re using a mouse, just move it to the upper-left corner to see your last app. You can also move your mouse down from the corner to see more recently used apps. Or you can try one of my favorite features: swipe in from the left, and then slide your last app out to the left or right side of the screen to snap it in place. Perfect for keeping your music controls up while you work, or keeping an eye on Twitter while you play a game.

Weather snapped to the left, browser on the right

Get apps from the Windows Store

So where do you go to get all these great apps? With the new Windows Store, you’ll be able to discover a variety of apps, all grouped in easy-to-find categories. We highlight apps we love, provide quick access to frequently downloaded, high-quality apps, and show you how other people have rated apps. This morning, we announced the winners of our Windows 8 First Apps Contest, and you can download all of these in the Store today.

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All of the apps you’ll see in the Store for Windows 8 Consumer Preview are free. Later, there will also be lots of apps that you can buy. You’ll be able to try many apps before you buy, and if you like one you’re trying, you can get the full version without losing your place or reinstalling anything. The Store will also offer available updates for the apps you already have.

When you install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, you’ll have several great apps already. These app previews also represent work in progress, but they’ll give you a great feel for what you can do with Windows 8 and how well apps can work together. The Weather, Finance, and Maps apps are all powered by Bing. Check out this post from the Bing team about the great work they’re doing for Windows 8. And our friends in Xbox have made a few great apps as well. The Xbox LIVE Games, Video, Music and Xbox LIVE Companion apps are previews of what’s to come. Major Nelson published a blog post today about what the Xbox team is up to. Definitely worth having a look.

Internet Explorer is new, too

With Internet Explorer 10 Consumer Preview, we’ve reimagined what a great web experience can look like. Internet Explorer is designed to dedicate your entire screen, edge to edge, to your websites. Websites extend over your whole screen, and tabs and navigation controls appear only when you need them and then quietly get out of the way when you don’t. Browsing is as easy as using the rest of Windows. With Internet Explorer 10, the web is crazy fast. Everything you want to do on the web is a swipe or tap away, and it uses hardware acceleration, modern browser standards like HTML5, and the quick core of Windows to make browsing fast and fluid.

With Internet Explorer 10, websites are front and center

A safer web experience

Internet Explorer is a leader in protection against malware and phishing, and it will help keep you more secure when browsing the web. SmartScreen Filter identifies scams and sites that are known to be malicious and warns you when your security might be threatened. And the privacy controls in Tracking give you choice and better control over where your personal info goes on the web.

Get a fresh start

No one likes to have computer problems, but sometimes things go wrong. With new options to refresh your PC, Windows 8 makes it simple to go back to a fresh installation of Windows without losing your personal files or settings, or any apps you’ve installed from the Windows Store. You don’t have to get out an installation disc or burn DVDs to back up your photos, videos, or music. Just start the process, and Windows will do all the work and get you back in action.

Keep your PC more secure

Windows Defender in Windows 8 provides anti-malware protection to monitor and help protect your PC against viruses and other malware in real time. If your PC becomes infected, Defender will automatically detect and attempt to remove the malware so your PC stays up and running. And if you have other antimalware or antivirus software you want to use, Windows Defender will back off quietly, so you can use the option you like best.

The Desktop is still around, and it still runs all of your apps

We’ve had a lot of fun reimagining how Windows looks and behaves, but we’ve been careful to stay true to the core features that have made Windows great for decades now. The familiar Windows desktop is still around, and we’ve made improvements to make it better than ever. We’ve added easy access to networking features, file management, and search with the ribbon. We’ve updated Task Manager and improved Control Panel. All the stuff you know is still here.

The Desktop still runs familiar apps

You can work with your mouse and keyboard, pin apps to the Windows Taskbar, and right-click to get to everything you’re used to. (To get back to the Start screen, just move your mouse to the lower-left corner of the screen, or press the Windows key on your keyboard.) Most importantly, if you install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on your laptop or home office PC (or any other x86-based PC), you won’t have to retire all of the desktop apps you like to use, so if you have games you like to play, or you use Microsoft Office to get things done, you can still do it all in Windows 8.

Here’s a look at Windows 8 Consumer Preview in action from Jensen Harris, Director of Program Management for User Experience on the Windows Team.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview for developers and IT pros

If you’re a developer and your app isn’t in the Store today, now is the time to start building apps. The Windows Dev Center provides you with free developer and design tools, code samples, technical docs, and expert help from the community so you can get started on getting your apps out worldwide with the Windows Store. Once you’re running the Consumer Preview, download Visual Studio 11 Express Beta – your free tool to get started building Metro style apps. It includes the Windows 8 SDK, Metro style templates and easy access to Windows 8 APIs. Also take a look at the Windows 8 Developer guide for an in-depth look at powerful new options for developers.

If you’re an IT pro, visit the Springboard Series for Windows 8 on TechNet learn about Enterprise key features. Start with Explore Windows 8, your one-page guide to technical overviews and frequently asked questions about AppLocker, BitLocker, Client Hyper-V, DirectAccess, hardware device management, the Windows Store, Windows To Go, and more. If you need support to help you test and evaluate Windows 8, make sure to visit the Windows 8 Consumer Preview IT Pro Forums on TechNet.

Much, much more to come

If I went into detail about every new feature and improvement we’ve put into the Windows 8 Consumer Preview in this post, you’d never actually get around to trying it out yourself. So stay tuned over the next few weeks as I go into more depth about some of the cool things we’ve done. In the meantime, go ahead and give Windows 8 a try, and play with the apps that are included. Remember, the Windows 8 Consumer Preview forum and the Windows 8 Consumer Preview FAQ can give you help, as well as a place to leave feedback. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you see, too, so you can leave comments here as well. We hope you enjoy the new Windows!

Kent Walter
Windows Team

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

R.I.P. Windows Live

R.I.P. Windows Live

Windows Live, R.I.P.

Windows Live appears to be on its last legs, with Windows 8 ushering in a new generation of monosyllabic, Metrofied analogs. Here's a scorecard of what's changing.

By Woody Leonhard, Infoworld Feb 27, 2012 5:40 pm

All indications are that "Windows Live" won't be part of the Windows 8 lexicon. Microsoft seems to be re-(re-re-re)-branding the ragtag collection of applications formerly known as Windows Live-something, gussying up some of them, assigning them shorter monikers, and casting them center stage for the Metro part of Windows 8.

For those of you who depend on one or more of the current Windows Live lineup, you may find yourself stuck with orphaned apps -- which, given the status of the "legacy" Windows 7 desktop in Windows 8, shouldn't come as a huge surprise.

Windows Live started in 2005 as a re-re-branding of some MSN applications and gradually took on new cloud features. Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live SkyDrive, Windows Live Calendar, Windows Live Contacts, and Windows Live ID have almost nothing in common, except they all run in the cloud.

"Windows Live" as a brand took on greater prominence when Microsoft decided to pull many applications out of Windows, with the Vista deadlines imminent, and thrust them into a post-Vista-ship-date collection of downloadable PC programs known as Windows Live Essentials. Such Windows apps as Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Movie Maker, and Windows Live Photo Gallery also have almost nothing in common, except they run on Windows and they're available for free download to any Windows customer.

All of that's changing. Here's a scorecard, for what we've seen and what's been rumored to date:

  • Windows Live ID (formerly known as Microsoft Wallet, Microsoft Passport, .Net Passport, and Microsoft Passport Network), which now operates from the Windows Live Account site (confused yet?), will be rebranded Microsoft Your Account and referred to informally as "your Microsoft Account." You can see it by signing on to the new Microsoft Your Account site. It's no longer Live in name, but your Microsoft Account name is taking on sweeping new capabilities, including everything from log-on verification on local machines to billing history in the Windows Store, Xbox purchases, and ownership verficiation for cloud storage. Just don't call it a Live ID.

  • Windows Live Hotmail (formerly Hotmail, Microsoft Hotmail, and MSN Hotmail) is now just Hotmail. If you log into Hotmail, you go to the Windows Live Home page, at, but the name Hotmail appears all by itself.

  • Windows Live SkyDrive has already turned into just plain SkyDrive. Parts of Ray Ozzie's Windows Live Mesh -- formerly Live Mesh, Windows Live Sync, and Windows Live FolderShare -- have been folded into SkyDrive, although Microsoft has squashed PC-to-PC sync; the only way to synchronize files is through the SkyDrive cloud. It appears as if Mesh has met its match. (You can download the new Live-less logos for Hotmail and SkyDrive from the official Windows Live Image Gallery, if you don't mind the non-sequitir.)

  • Windows Live Calendar has already appeared in numerous Metro demos as Calendar. Windows Live Contacts is now called People. Windows Live Photo Gallery morphs into Photos. Perhaps someone discovered that putting the full name of all of those apps on Metro-size tiles would drive the display font down to about 4 points. At any rate, at this point, nobody knows what the tile-ized applications will look like.

  • Windows Live Messenger sits perched in a particularly precarious position, with Lync on one side and Microsoft Skype on the other. It's been integrated in various degrees into all sorts of sites and apps, including Internet Explorer, Hotmail, SkyDrive, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Windows Live Photo Ga -- er, Photos, Bing, Xbox Live, Windows Phone, the Zune (which is also biting the dust) and it's available for iPhone and iPad from the Apple App Store. It looks like Windows Live Messenger will be called Messaging, or perhaps Messenger, but it's ripe for inclusion in either Skype or Lync or both.

Tom Warren at The Verge quotes unnamed sources as saying that Messaging, Mail, Calendar, and People "are designed to be core Windows communications apps," although that characterization has to make one wonder where Skype fits into the mix. Warren also says that "the Music and Video applications are currently branded with Zune, but are built by the Xbox team. We are hearing that this branding will be removed shortly before the Windows 8 release, moving to Xbox Live for Windows as the entertainment brand for Windows 8 Music, Video and Games." One must also wonder why Xbox would retain the recently dearly departed "Live" designation.

Missing in action, so far: Windows Live Family Safety, Windows Live Movie Maker, and Windows Live Writer. It's easy to imagine Live Writer going away, absorbed by Word 15 and the new SkyDrive. But the other two aren't so readily dismissed.

We also have no idea which, if any, of the new Live-less apps will ship with Windows 8, and which will have to be downloaded from the Windows Store. Microsoft may not make that decision until it's close to the final release.

There are much greater concerns, of course. What happens to the Windows Live programs that run on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7? Remember, the ones that existed before we'd ever heard of Metro tiles? Is Microsoft going to pour any money into improving those "legacy" apps -- particularly when the revenue from all of them put together probably wouldn't pay Bing's bills for a day? If it won't run on a tile, will Microsoft turn a blind eye?

Compare and contrast with Apple's branding. We have iMail (formerly known as iMail, then iMail, and uh iMail, and iMail) and iTunes (aka iTunes, iTunes, and ... you get the idea). The toughest rebranding hurdle Apple customers had to clear came when the term "Mac OS" turned into "OS."

This story, "Windows Live, R.I.P.," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

For more IT analysis and commentary on emerging technologies, visit Story copyright © 2011 InfoWorld Media Group. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Soothing Milky Way Time-Lapse

These are awesome movies!

This soothing time-lapse is a perfect follow up to one of our latest posts about how to photograph the Milky Way.

Mesmerizing Skylines (Photos)

Home, let me come home [Explored]

A painting of pastel colors - New York from the Rock at Sunset

en route to laguardia at night, new york city

Eye Painter

Working the night shift...

Photos from Edwin_Abedi, 1982Chris911 (Thank you 100.000 Times), andrew c mace, vulture labs, and chewie2008~.

SkyDrive to allow unlimited photo and document storage

SkyDrive to allow unlimited photo and document storage

Tim Schiesser11 September 2011 - 09:06 51 Comments

Windows Live SkyDrive is about to get a considerable boost to the free storage space allowed with the service. Liveside reported earlier today that the popular Microsoft service will get a storage upgrade, allowing unlimited storage space for both Office documents and photos, leaving the original 25 GB for any other files you wish to store in the cloud.

This increase will be added to Windows Live SkyDrive Wave 5 sometime in the near future, and will be quite considerable when you take into account the 70 million people that use the service today. There are also plans to expand the realms of SkyDrive, as Microsoft is currently developing native clients for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS and Android along with the client embedded into Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft has been good at consistently increasing the space allowed for SkyDrive users. When the service launched in 2007 it only offered 500 MB, which increased to 5 GB the next year. With the launch of SkyDrive Wave 3 in late 2008 this got a huge increase to the current 25 GB – more than Google offers for free across their services and more than Dropbox’s 2 GB. With unlimited storage available for documents and photos, SkyDrive should cement itself in the top spot of providing cloud storage.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Making Cloud Panoramas

How to Photograph the Milky Way

How to Photograph the Milky Way

via Photography Blogger by Luis Argerich on 2/24/12

Photographing our own galaxy: The Milky Way is a great experience. From a dark location without light pollution the dusty band of the Milky Way is a wonderful sight to the naked eye and it looks even better in long exposure photographs. Summer in the North Hemisphere and Winter in the South Hemisphere is the best time to photograph the Milky Way and here’s a short article about how to do it.

Good preparation is critical if you want to get a good shot of the Milky Way. I use Stellarium (free) to forecast how the sky will look from any location at a given time. For the Milky Way, you will get a good shot around 3am in March, around 2am in April, around 1am in May, and at midnight on June. In July and August you the ideal times are from 9 or 10pm.
The brightest part of the Milky Way is towards the direction of Scorpius/Sagitarius. Look for those constellations on Stellarium and take note of the direction where you need to point the camera and the best time of the night to do it (when the constellations are higher in the sky).
Then you need to find a location that has little or no light pollution in the direction of your shot. This can be hard depending on where you’re at. Rural areas are fine but make sure the Milky Way is not in the direction of a town or city.

Setup & Taking the shot
To take a good photo of the Milky Way you need to avoid star trails. Use a very wide lens, a fast one if you have it and a solid tripod with a good ballhead.
The following procedure will help you frame the shot and take the best possible exposure.
First Stage: Framing
- lens wide open
- ridiculous ISO (12800,25600 etc)
- 2 or 4 second exposures
Use this short exposures moving the camera around to find the framing you like. The photos are useless but we are using the camera as an extra pair of eyes, eyes that are far more sensible to the light than ours.
Once the framing is found we move to stage 2, the exposure.

Second Stage: Exposure
- lens wide open
- ISO800 or 1600
- 20 seconds exposure
Take a shot and in the camera LCD examine the stars near the borders of the frame (not the center) if you see trails, then repeat with a shorter exposure. If you don’t see trails repeat with a longer exposure. Do this until you find the longest exposure you can afford without trails.
Note: when you check the stars for trails you might see the stars at the borders display a strange triangular shape. That’s called “comma” and is an optical defect on the lens. To solve that close the aperture 1 step (for example move from F2 to F2.8). Some lenses are good at F2.8 others at F4 and others around F5 for night time photography.

Following these steps you will get a shot with a framing you like and the longest possible exposure time without trails or optical defects. That’s your Milky Way photograph!
The Milky Way will move in the sky following Earth’s rotation as the stars move, this means you will have different compositions at different times of the night. You can get the band of our galaxy in vertical or horizontal orientation and in the middle you will have a diagonal.
The Milky Way is huge, you can attempt a panorama to get the whole band of the Milky Way in the sky. Just make sure to allow a gentle 40% overlap between shots to make things easier to your stitching software. Besides that it’s like any other panorama.

Microsoft To Rep lace “Live” Branding With “Microsoft Acc ount” In Windows 8

Microsoft To Replace “Live” Branding With “Microsoft Account” In Windows 8

via TechCrunch by Devin Coldewey on 2/24/12

winliveThe long-running “Live” name Microsoft has placed on its many connected services (Mail, messenger, photos, etc) is coming to an end in Windows 8, as part of their ongoing, major brand rehaul. Zune, of course, has been on its way out for some time, but will receive the coup de grace in Windows 8.
Their main services are being rolled into bundled applications with a native Metro look and simpler names — Mail instead of Windows Live Mail, Photos instead of Windows Live Photo Gallery, and so on. The new apps will be tightly integrated, as we’ve seen in demos, and will retain much of the Live cross-service functionality. They’ll be unified by a single “Microsoft Account.”
But Live isn’t going away entirely: the name is too strong to take away from Xbox Live and its subsidiary components, and in fact Xbox Live may be coming to Windows as the main entertainment brand — for music, games, and video content. This will replace Zune, which Microsoft has been gradually sweeping under the rug over the past two years. Zune fans mustn’t despair, though: Zune pass functionality will remain intact, and chances are the old desktop player and Zune hardware will continue to be supported in some way. And the fact is that Zune has left an indelible mark on Microsoft’s operations, pioneering the look and feel found in Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8.
Smaller services, like Writer and Games for Windows Live, will likely be rolled into existing products. It’s in major brand shakedowns like this that one starts to realize just how many platforms and pieces of software Microsoft actually has and supports. This coalescence of services is probably coming as a huge relief to the company, though the labor involved in repurposing them is, naturally, Herculean.
Conspicuously absent from the lineup mentioned is Messenger, which may be seeing some integration with Skype. A multi-service messenger/video-chat app with Skype built in seems likely, though Skype would definitely have to have a discrete presence as well for power users.
No doubt they’ll leave behind many irate users who want things to remain the same — and indeed how Microsoft intends to accommodate these legacy users isn’t clear. Their new clean-break approach maroons many people on the old Windows XP/7 mainland, where they’ll likely remain until the launch quakes of Windows 8 clear away and the new land is safe for colonization.

The Windows Experience Index Determines and Rates the Performance Of Your Co...

The Windows Experience Index Determines and Rates the Performance Of Your Computer

via VikiTech - Daily Tech Updates by Melissa on 2/24/12

Windows 7Did you know Windows 7 comes with a built-in feature to test how your computer stacks up to even the most challenging of tasks? The Windows Experience Index helps users determine what a computer can do, how it rates against other computers running Windows and whether it is time for an upgrade.
Since most users do not even know this feature exists, it can come to a shock to Windows users when they finally find it and see what score their system gets. We will take a look at the Windows Experience Index and we will see how your Windows-based machine rates.

How to use the Windows Experience Index

The Windows Experience Index gives a Windows-based computer two scores: A base score and a sub score. The sub score is given in each category and the base score equals your lowest sub score. The base score does not function as a comparative average of how your computer stacks up on the Windows Experience Index, it gives you an idea of where it is failing.
Windows approved software will often give you the version of the operating system it works for, such as Ultimate or Enterprise along with the minimum base score it can operate under. You can then pick this type of software as another way to know it will work with your computer and operating system.
Windows will base your scores on a scale of 1.0 to 7.9. Your base score represents the bare minimum of how your particular set up will perform. This will always be the lowest score out of all the assessment scores given.
In order to see what your base score is and sub scores, open your “Start Menu.”
Start Menu
In the search box, type in “Performance Information and Tools.” Click on it when it pops up.
Searching for the Windows Experience Index
This will open the Windows Experience Index. Most computers with Windows 7 will start with the base score out of the box.
Windows Experience Index subscore
At the bottom left hand corner of the window you will see the last time the test was run. On the right hand corner, you will see a link to click called Re-run the assessment.
Last scan run and re-run the assessment link
Before you re-run the assessment, you want to close all open programs and any background processes that are unnecessary. Anything open and eating up memory can change the outcome of the assessment. Once you are ready, you can then proceed forward.
Click “Re-run the assessment.”
The assessment will pop-up and begin running.
Running the assessment
This will take a bit of time, so it is best to step away from the computer and take a break until it is done. Anything you do with the computer while it is running can affect the outcome.
Once the assessment is over, your score will either stay the same, upgrade or downgrade. Very rarely will your score downgrade, if it does, you may be having hardware issues and should look into getting your computer checked out to ensure it is working properly.
New assessment score
You will see which score is the lowest and you will see where your computer is failing to perform.
If you make any hardware upgrades, you always want to re-run the assessment to see how it has improved Windows 7’s performance.

What does your score mean on the Windows Experience Index?

Depending on your sub score, your computer will only be able to truly function in Windows 7 by improving on it.
For office work, you want to ensure your sub score is 2.0 or higher. For gaming and other graphic-based programs, you want a sub score of 3.0 or higher. If you want to use your computer as a media center, you want to ensure it has a sub score of 4.0 or higher.
Some ways to improve your base score in Windows 7 include:

  • Make sure you are plugged into the wall instead of running on batteries

  • Ensure you have enough space on your hard drive for the assessment tool to run

  • Check that your display drivers and memory drivers are up to date

Some hardware upgrades that will improve your base score in Windows 7 include:

  • Upgrading RAM

  • Installing a new hard drive disk

  • Utilizing an off-board video or graphics card with fan

The Windows Experience Index can help you determine if your computer needs upgrades, might be running slowly or it is time for a whole new system or set-up.

Can the Windows Experience Index indicate if you need a new computer?

The Windows Experience Index is a great built-in tool for the operating system, because it can tell you what areas of your operating system need improvement. If you buy a computer, it may not always live up to your expectations but there are steps you can take to make it better. The Windows Experience Index is a great way to start figuring out what areas of your computer might be in trouble. Start with your base score and see what area needs improvement, from there you can gauge what you can and cannot do to make your computer even better.
Run the Windows Experience Index today and see what score you receive. If you have upgraded your computer’s components since the last time you installed new hardware, run it again. See if your score has improved and what else you can do to get the absolute most out of Windows 7. Depending on what you want to do with your computer, it may guide you to improve your operating system.

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