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protonic.com Newsletter
Issue 31 - October 13, 2009
Table of contents:
Windows 7 Explained
Microsoft Bing & thinking outside the Google box
Software Review: Microsoft Security Essentials [1]
Google Wave whats all the fuss?
Website of the month: Lifehacker
Credits

Windows 7 Explained[ TOP ]
By now many readers will have heard of Microsofts latest operating system. Windows 7 will be released on October 22nd and, at the time of writing, is available on amazon UK for a much reduced price of 65. Microsoft released Beta versions of the product for people to test so Im pleased to be able to give you an in depth guide based on my own experience with the operating system.

Firstly Ill run through a brief history of windows. The first operating system most readers will remember is Windows 95. After this came Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Windows ME. These were good products and widely used but the improvements made in each version did not catch much attention from the standard home user. Then came Windows XP which, in part due to the hardware improvements that came at a similar time to its release, was a huge step forward. Not only were there many under the hood changes but the user interface and experience was greatly improved. Windows XP also collided with Web 2.0 which, broadly defined is the movement away from standard text, media and links kind of web design to feature-rich sites that were almost programs in themselves. Examples include webmail and social networking sites. Anyway, Windows XP was a hit.

Next came Windows Vista which received some highly critical reviews. In its defence, Windows Vista was by a long way the shiniest and prettiest operating system yet but this came at a cost. In order to cope with the new features such as Windows Aero, computers required a dramatic increase in processing power than that which was suitable for Windows XP systems. Windows XP ran reasonably well with 256mb of memory whilst Vista struggles to function with four times that amount. Any improvements that Microsoft had made were drowned in a sea of complaints. If you buy a computer now, or have bought one within the past couple of years, it will likely be have Windows Vista installed. With the right hardware it can run just fine and many users have no big issues with the software.

Then we have Windows 7. Essentially Microsoft has dealt with the majority of the issues there were with Vista and added some extra features. There are also some changes to the user interface. The best thing about Windows 7 is that it is considerably faster than Vista. In fact, it probably doesnt use much more resources than Windows XP, an impressive feat considering it still looks as nice as Windows Vista. All the nice aero effects are still there.

Ill now run through the new features in Windows 7. Since a large number of them are user-interface changes Ive made this a screenshot guide.


Taskbar
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmcmahon/3991450248

Jump Lists
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmcmahon/3990683123/

Start Menu
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmcmahon/3991450246/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmcmahon/3991450268/

Libraries
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmcmahon/3990683127/

Window Management
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmcmahon/3990697577/

There are also a number of other new features. Aero shake lets you minimize all but the current window by shaking it. Aero peek accessed from the button in the bottom right allows you to see your desktop without minimizing the current window. I am as yet to find a use for this feature though it might be good if you want to look at a desktop gadget. Clicking this button has the same effect as the show desktop button in XP and Vista.

A cool feature of Windows 7 is the new themes manager. Themes consist of backgrounds (which smoothly rotate automatically), sounds, the screensaver and the window colour.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmcmahon/3990683131/

In conclusion, theres nothing groundbreaking about Windows 7. Its not something you just wont be able to live without post-October 22nd. Its an improvement on Vista and XP but thats about as much as can be said for it. My advice would be this. If you buy a computer over the next 6months, make sure its running windows 7 (after this point it will most likely be installed by default). If youre currently using Windows Vista and having problems, Windows 7 might be worth a try but order now and get it for the discount price. If youre using Windows XP and have passed the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisors tests then its more or less up to you.

Note that students can upgrade to Windows 7 from XP/Vista for the reduced price of 30/$30. Id say that Windows 7 is the best system Microsoft has released so far but its not an essential upgrade. Who knows, maybe Windows 8 will be more your thing!

Links: (Rather than you flicking backwards and forwards between [#] references, heres a list with descriptions!

Windows 7 on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Windows-7-Home-Premium/dp/B002DHGMK0/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=software&qid=1254948666&sr=8-6

Student offer: http://www.win741.com/

Windows 8 Rumours: http://windows8center.com/

Engadget Windows 7 Review (MUCH more detailed than mine!): http://www.engadget.com/2009/08/12/windows-7-review/

Lifehacker Windows 7 Tips:
-Jump lists: https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&view=bsp&ver=1qygpcgurkovy
-Top features: http://lifehacker.com/5254211/windows-7s-best-underhyped-features http://lifehacker.com/5078582/top-10-things-to-look-forward-to-in-windows-7

Note: Theres loads of useful windows 7 content on lifehacker so if youre interested have a good look around!

Microsoft Bing & thinking outside the Google box[ TOP ]
In my short time writing this newsletter, Ive definitely told readers to google something or other. There cant be many cases where a company has managed to get its own entry in the dictionary, which is a credit to the success of the worlds favourite search engine. The Google of today provides much more than search theyve a full suite of applications available, everything from email [1](in my opinion the best webmail service ever) to flu trends [2]. Before we begin, Id like to make it clear that I have enormous respect for google and its products.

Google has an 84% global market share. Its biggest competitor by a pinch is Yahoo, at 7%. Big deal google provides fast search and generally finds the content youre searching for, perhaps they deserve to have such a massive market share. On the other hand, your search engine knows a huge amount about you everything youve typed into that search box ranging from research on ostriches to medical symptoms is information they have about you and can use accordingly to sell adverts, amongst other things.

There are alternative search engines if youd like to take that power away from google, and this is where the review begins! Many readers will have seen or heard of Microsofts new search engine, particularly as its the default search engine in internet explorer but Id like to introduce some of its best features here.

Google is renowned for the simplicity of its homepage in the days of dial-up connections it loaded quickly and even with the greater speeds we have today simplicity is in many ways what you want in a search engine its a means to an end, you dont want to be sticking around as the search engine in itself isnt useful, its the content it directs you to*. However, if you visit bing.com you may just be swayed away from simplicity towards beauty. Every day a different picture is chosen, and moving your mouse over the picture will bring up interesting pieces of information about the location in which it was taken.

Having admired todays picture, we move onto the actual search results. From the early days of Windows Live Search, Microsoft has dramatically improved the quality and relevance of results obtained from their search engine. Its a matter of personal preference really but I dont think the results themselves will put you off using this search engine unless you frequently use google hacks such as the filetype:pdf of intitle:index.of search terms. Bing, like google, has universal search features so will bring up relevant news, video and image results. It also displays a list of related searches which can come in handy if youre not quite sure what youre looking for. A really great tool is the website preview if you hover over the right hand side of a result (Wikipedia ones are the perfect example but anything with text works) a More on this page box comes up with a paragraph or so from that page. This is good if youre just looking for something specific in the first line like a place of birth, or if youre looking to see if its worth opening the link. I didnt think Id find much use for this but it turns out to be a rather useful feature.

Next we have bing image and video search. Whilst google owns one of the best video sharing sites around youtube youve got to hand it to Microsoft here. Rather than clicking through pages and pages of images on google searching for the right one, Bing has an endless scrollbar, that is, you can scroll through all the images the search retrieves in one go. The same applies to videos, and you can watch the videos without leaving bing.

Bings shopping search is unrivalled due to the cashback features it offers. Currently only available in the US, bing cashback finds cashback deals for the products you search for. Go ahead and try it out, or find out more [3].

Bing news and maps are good products though I have to say I still prefer google maps for its ease of use, though this could be just because Ive gotten used to it. Bing news has the same features as bing video, allowing you to watch videos simply by rolling your mouse over them.

Bing travel is one of the best features of Microsofts search engine. It is the one stop shop for travel planning, allowing you to narrow your search down by a huge number of options. Its no good if you want to book a campsite or a caravan but if youre looking for flights and hotels bing travel probably will have all the information you need. Theres also a map with pictures and information of destinations around the world and a travel blog, with articles written by experts specifically for bing travel.

Bing visual search allows you to search using images instead of keywords. I found this to be quite slow but it is an innovative feature nevertheless. The best way of learning about this tool is to try it out [4]. Its this kind of thing that makes bing exciting theyve got a huge amount of work to do if theyre to compete realistically with google so theyre constantly bringing out new features.

One of the biggest things in search at the moment is real-time search. If youve ever used twitter youll know something about this essentially real time search means searching for information that is only a few seconds old what people are talking about right now. You can try this out using twitter search [5] the most active items are listed on the homepage as trending topics. Bing and google are both working hard to bring real time search to their own results. Bing already incorporates tweets (140 character messages) from the most popular twitter users into search results whilst Bing Tweets [6] brings together twitter trends and the power of bing search into a quality product, offering a twitter feed that automatically shows new tweets and the bing search results for your search.

Anyway, if you havent already I strongly suggest you try out this search engine, I dont think youll be disappointed. Its the default search engine in IE8 but Firefox that have become bing fans can change the search engine by clicking on the icon to the left of the search box, selecting Manage search engines then going to the link get more search engines this will bring up the Mozilla extensions page and you can search for bing. Alternatively just install it direct from this link [7].
*Though this is changing, more on this in the next edition.

[1] http://mail.google.com
[2] http://www.google.org/flutrends/
[3] http://www.bing.com/shopping/pages/howtouse.aspx
[4] http://www.bing.com/visualsearch?FORM=Z9LH11
[5] http://search.twitter.com
[6] http://bingtweets.com/
[7] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/10434

Software Review: Microsoft Security Essentials [1][ TOP ]
At the end of September Microsoft released a new antivirus product - Microsoft Security Essentials (MSSE hereafter). Previously Microsoft offeredWindows Live OneCare, a commercial product, whereas this latest software is free. Microsoft is trying to tackle the problem of PC security - vast numbers of computers remain entirely unprotected against malicious viruses despite therange of both free and commercial products on offer. On top of this they're competing with apple's Mac OSX operating system which has long claimed to be much more secure (though don't believe the myth that Macs can't get viruses!).

Microsoft is not allowed to integrate antivirus software into Windows as this would essentially put Norton, Mcafee and all the various other security software providers out of business. MSSE does the next best thing, providing quality protection for no charge.

I've been using this software since its release and, in all honesty, I've almost forgotten of its existence. Once you've installed the software and run a preliminary scan it disappears, protecting your system in the background and letting you get on with your work in peace. This alone is enough to make it my favourite antivirus software but it also has a 98% detection rate*, placing it fourth amongst other free Antivirus providers. It also managed well tackling unknown threats, achieving second place behind Avira Antivir Personal. [2]
A reported issue with the software is its slow scan speed which could be an issue if you regularly run scans. The software also lacks any additional features that some Internet Security suites provide - its sole purpose is to protect.

Overall Microsoft Security Essentials is a great product which I would strongly suggest you try out if you're looking for a good antivirus solution. Whilst there are products that achieve slightly better detection rates the complete unobtrusiveness of MSSE makes up for the tiny difference. It's also nice to know that youre being kept secure by one of the biggest tech companies in the world.

[1] http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/default.aspx?mkt=en-us#dlbutton
*http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews/index.cfm?reviewid=117961
[2]http://www.free-av.com/

Google Wave whats all the fuss?[ TOP ]
On September 30th the internet went mad over Google Wave...at least amongst technical news subscribers. Wave, according to google is email as if it were made today and it essentially brings together social networking, instant messaging, real time communication and a whole lot of other features into one product. Its hard to explain exactly how it works and, since I wasnt one of the lucky 100000 people to get an invite, I cant provide much more information than what Ive read personally. Therefore, at least until Ive tried Google Wave out for myself, Im going to suggest that you check out lifehackers Google Wave highlight reel or this 2minute video [2]. Of course if youre feeling brave you could always check out the 80 minute long video of the products debut at the Google I/O conference [3].

[1] http://lifehacker.com/5285944/the-google-wave-highlight-reel
[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDu2A3WzQpo
[3] http://wave.google.com/help/wave/about.html#video

Website of the month: Lifehacker[ TOP ]
In the short space of time that Ive been writing this newsletter I must have included a dozen or so lifehacker links. Its one of my favourite blogs, providing a huge number of articles on everything from pest control to the latest iphone hack. The emphasis is, however, on technical news and software.

If youre interested in free software, getting things done (to do lists, time management software etc), desktop customization or a general interest in computers Id strongly recommend that you subscribe to their email updates (far left on the homepage, scroll down a bit). They send emails every day and I tend to find something interesting in 70-80% of them which really isnt bad going. Its very easy to unsubscribe so youve nothing to lose!

http://lifehacker.com/

Credits[ TOP ]
Newsletter Administrator - Ross Connor (ross@protonic.com)

This issue has been entirely written by Philip McMahon (philip@protonic.com)





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