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My opinion about Windows 8 RTM

What's changed in Windows 8? What makes it better than the previous versions?

Posted in Reviews, News, Metro, Windows

I’ve been using Windows 8 RTM since its release (August 15th) as main OS on my notebook due my TechNet subscription. That means: I have installed everything I need to “survive” in my computer. I mean things like Office, Visual Studio, SQL Server, few games (The Sims 3) and few other utilities. So, what do I think about Windows 8 so far? Let’s start from the beginning.

Installation

First of all: If you plan to make a clean installation it’s better to keep the serial key in a piece of paper beside you. The reason is that Windows 8 asks for the serial during the installation process but, unlike Windows 7, it doesn’t allow us to skip.

I have chosen to make a clean install and it ran very nicely except by one thing: When I was creating the disk partitions the installer threw me an error related with UEFI. As result I couldn’t format them. To solve this problem I had to restart my notebook, go to the BIOS and disable the UEFI. After the installation I turned that on and everything is working perfectly fine. I don’t really know how and what that would affect the installation but… It’s working without any problems here.

At the end of the installation process you are required to enter your Windows Live ID or create one if you don't have. It’s important since some apps will need the information stored there. But be aware that you can’t change the Windows Live ID you entered there at first unless you create another user in your computer.

Lock screen

We've got a very beautiful lock screen which shows the battery status , email/messages counter and other things if we want (it's customizable!). And it’s really "locked" since there is no button to press, absolutely nothing. Windows Phone users will naturally swipe to type the password, but it isn’t necessary: We can just click or type to make the lock screen slides up right away.

Start Menu aka Modern UI (former Metro)

The classic Start button we all know and love is gone for good. Microsoft has replaced the Start Menu by a very cool UI called Modern UI (before called Metro, but changed due legal problems). The Modern UI is much more than a fancy menu, it is a whole system which works in parallel with the classic desktop we are used to know (let’s call it “Desktop mode”). It comes with its own applications (Weather App, News App, Sports App, etc.) and we can install much more through the Windows Store (which is growing).

Of course nothing is going to prevent you to install your favorite software, even if they seem redundant with the apps Windows 8 has by default. For example the Photos app (images). It’s very limited if we compare with XnView since I can’t resize or convert the images I need. Or the Reader app (pdf) in comparison with Adobe Reader or Foxit Reader.

And why do we have such limited apps?

Remember few lines above when I said that Modern UI is a system which works in parallel with the classic desktop? The Windows 8 will come in 3 flavors: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 RT. The RT version carries only the Modern UI (and all of its apps) installed in the Surface, the tablet Microsoft is bringing to the market until the end of this year. It basically means that we will have the basic of everything we need to use the tablet. But I believe that soon or later the companies with desktop version of their productivity softwares are going to create apps for the tablet.

Changes in the Desktop mode

The Desktop mode has got some nice changes as well. One of them was the drop of Aero Glass. For those who are unaware of the name, the Aero Glass is that translucent effect which Windows 7 had. This gives you a much more flat impression, which fits quite well with the Modern UI. We also got the menus and toolbars changed by the ribbon, which was seen for the first time in the Office 2007. It was a very nice change, indeed.

But one of the things I really appreciated was the new Task Manager. Now it shows the processes in a much more detailed way, highlighting which process is using more memory or processor with different colors. I would like also to point the addition to the tab App history which shows all apps you have used so far.

The gadgets we had on Windows Vista and 7 were dropped. The reason seems logical: Since we now have the Apps used in Modern UI there was no need to pollute the desktop with things which would do basically the same thing (Weather App, for example).

Compatibility and Administrator mode

So far everything I am using is working but let’s keep in mind that we don’t have anything for Windows 8 yet. For the very few applications which don’t work properly on the fly we have 2 options:

  • Use the Windows 7 compatibility mode: Right-click on the shortcut, go to Properties, choose the tab Compatibility, tick “Run this program in compatibility mode for” and choose Windows 7;
  • Run the program as Administrator: Right-click on the shortcut, click on “Run this program as Administrator”.

I’ve used both solutions to run HostsMan and The Sims 3 on Windows 8. For the first, I couldn’t access the HOSTS file to make the changes I needed. For the second, I couldn’t load and save the configurations. I am not sure if the Administrator thing is intentional (I hope so) but I couldn’t find any article talking about this.

As for the drivers, the Windows 7 version works perfectly fine. No voodoo necessary to make it work.

Less battery usage

It’s important to mention that everything which isn’t used ends up suspended. In practical terms the app or software is still open and running, but not using any of the system resources. This, among the end of Aero Glass, helps the OS to use less battery than the others which is very important these days.

Verdict

It takes some time to get used to the whole Modern UI/Desktop thing but everything becomes very smoothly after 1 week using non-stop. And since some keyboard shortcuts will help you to be as productive as with any Windows version I would recommend you to take a look at them.

There are few small bugs but it’s expected since it’s the very first version. Not even Windows 7 was perfect on its release. But still, the idea of integrating all of systems (videogame, mobile phone, computer and tablet) is amazing. Those who have Windows Phone and Xbox will enjoy a lot. As I do.

One tiny addition: Credits to Alena who discovered and taught me about clicking on the lock screen, change the temperature of the Weather App to Celsius (right-click inside the app, bottom bar) and also define a picture standard for the Photos App (right-click on the open image, Set as, App tile).

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Review: Notebook Lenovo IdeaPad Z580

I got this new notebook with a fair price. But what about its quality? Is it a good one?

Posted in Reviews

It has been a long time since I wanted to replace my old MSI EX620 by something new. My plan was to do it as soon I got back to Czech Republic since the prices in Brazil aren’t so good if we compare with the prices here in Europe. After few weeks reading reviews, comparing prices and looking for the best option which my wallet would handle, I’ve stumbled upon the Lenovo IdeaPad Z580.

Update: I do not intend to make a professional review. It's just my opinion about something I have bought for myself.

This notebook has very good specifications and an affordable price. Here in Czech Republic I paid 16.000 CZK (640 EUR) in Alza, which is one of the best shops around here.

Specifications

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 3210 with a frequency of 2.5 GHz; 3 MB L3 Cache
  • Memory: 2x 4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz; Up to 8 GB in 2 slots
  • Display: 15.6" LED; 1366 x 768 pixels
  • Graphic card: NVIDIA GeForce GT630M own 2 GB of GDDR3 memory
  • Hard Drive: 1TB; 5400 RPM
  • Optical drive: DVD SuperMulti DL
  • Multimedia: Support High-definition audio, 2x 2 Watt speakers (SRS Premium Sound), built-in microphone, 1 megapixel Webcam
  • Communication: WiFi 802nd11b/g/n, LAN Ethernet 10/100 Mbps, bluetooth fourth0
  • Control: Multitouch Pad, Keyboard with numeric keypad
  • Interface: 2x USB third0, 2x USB 20, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, 1x Headphone/Microphone, 1x RJ-45, 1x Card Reader 5V1
  • Power: Li-Ion battery, 6 cells; Battery life up to 4 hours
  • Dimensions: 376 x 250 x 20-34 mm
  • Weight: approximately 2.65 kg

Processor

My notebook came with an Intel Core i5 3210 (Ivy Bridge) which is one of the most recent series. Its performance is amazing and I wouldn’t be able to ask for more. This notebook really fits my personal use well. Oh, my personal use is basically Visual Studio, SQL Server, web browsers, music and HD movies. I made a test with Football Manager 2012 as well and it ran perfectly fine!

Memory

The notebook came with 8 GB of RAM (twice DDR3 1333 MHz of 4GB). Since my previous one had 4GB I felt a huge difference, mainly when I need to open lots of applications.

Display

So, I am a guy who loves movies. And since the IdeaPad Z580 comes with a LED display I am really happy! It’s a 15.6” display with 1366x768 resolution which performs amazingly while playing HD movies. One very interesting thing which I’ve noticed but should be better tested is how this screen would perform outside, in a sunny day. I made a small test sitting with my backs to the window while using the notebook and it worked pretty well with the brightness in the maximum. But outside might be something different.

Graphic card

The Z580 comes with 2 graphic cards: One onboard (Intel HD Graphics 4000) and the NVIDIA GeForce GT630M. Both of them are very good, I have zero complaints about any of them. And, since you can choose which program will run with which graphic card, the GeForce ends up not being used so much. But I made a test with Football Manager and the images are great for the game. I should test with a more advanced game, though.

Multi-touch panel and Keyboard

Like the MacBook Pro, this Lenovo IdeaPad Z580 came with a multi-touch gesture touchpad which, in my humble opinion, sucks. First of all, it doesn’t have physical buttons and the place we should click can be also used as touchable area. During my first week using it I made lots of mistakes, clicked in the wrong places, dragged things instead of open them… Only now, during the 3rd week, I am getting used to this thing. But I still miss the good old touchpad with physical buttons.

The keyboard, in another hand, is very good. The keys are slightly spread and it gives a very good impression, although it also makes the typos be much more frequent than my previous notebook. Ok, ok... I am getting used to it... And the keys are a slightly noisy. But that's fine. They are physical, at least, differently than the multi-touch panel!

Battery

While my previous notebook was able to handle my activities without power during 1h40, the Lenovo IdeaPad Z580 is able to handle it for 4h. This thanks to its Li-Ion battery with 6 cells. For me was a great advance, taking in to account that from now on I would be able to spend much more time outside doing my stuff.

Temperature and noise

One of the issues I had with my previous notebook was the noise and the temperature. In order to keep it between 50C and 60C the noise was very bothering, even when I was doing absolutely nothing. But with this IdeaPad Z580 the noise is unbelievable ZERO. And I don’t know whether the new Ivy Bridge which is cool enough or the internal layout of the notebook but this machine keeps running between 43C and 47C. In rare moments (multimedia, games) I see some temperature peaks. Ah, for measuring the temperature I use CoreTemp 1.0 RC3. Very good software, by the way.

Verdict

  • Pros: Its price, light weight (2.65kg), beautiful screen, battery lifespan, fast and modern processor, amount of memory and very good for multimedia.
  • Cons: This strange multi-touch pad, the slightly noisy keyboard, the “mute” soundcard when the computer is recovered from the “sleep mode” and no E-SATA port to connect external HDs.

As a final word I would say that I really needed a new notebook to keep my routine of developer so, despite the cons mentioned above, I think this notebook was a great acquisition. First because some things are just a matter of getting used to. Second, I don't use E-SATA all the time anyway. In the end this machine is great for general use, great for software development, great for multimedia and might be great for a good amount of games.

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Review: Amazon Kindle 4

Is the kindle 4 so good as everybody says? I got one for myself and I am gonna review it!

Posted in Reviews, Gadgets

Few months ago I thought about start reading more books but, since the notebook isn’t so comfortable for e-books and real books would give me some problems with space, I have decided to go for the Kindle. So I got the Kindle 3 (with keyboard), which was the newest one at that time. About 1 month later Amazon has released the Kindle 4 (without keyboard), I sold the one I had and yesterday, finally, I got the newest version.

Update: I do not intend to make a professional review. It's just my opinion about something I have bought for myself.

Display

The e-ink display is amazing and nobody can say otherwise. The absence of backlight makes it very comfortable to read but the “refresh” when changing the pages is a bit inconsistent. I mean, on the previous version the screen’s animation (fade to black, fade to normal) was happening whenever the person would turns the page. With the current version this seems kinda random, but nothing which would disturb the usage.

Size


Kindle 4 and Kindle 3 size comparison

One of the things which initially got me on this kindle is its reduced size when compared with the previous version since the keyboard was removed. And as this version is smaller it would fit much better into bags and jacket’s pockets, making it easier to carry it around.

Internet connection

The Kindle 4 doesn’t have 3G, only Wi-Fi. Some people might not like the lack of 3G but that doesn’t affect me at all since I usually sync and connect with the internet at home. In case anyone wants a Kindle with 3G, it’s recommended to get the Kindle 3 or the Kindle Touch.

Audio

This version doesn’t have audio, which can be a bad thing for those who are avid “readers” of audiobooks or those who would like to use the Kindle as mp3 player.

Battery

With this version you are only able to recharge your device when connected with the computer via USB. Before, you would have a small adapter which would enable the Kindle to be connected on the wall. But, apart from that, if you plan on taking the whole Library of Alexandria with you during a trip the Kindle is a nice choice since its battery takes around 1 month to be completely uncharged.

Verdict

  • Pros: The amazing e-ink display, the long battery’s lifespan, the lighter weight, the smaller size and the ease to buy/download books into the device.
  • Cons: No audio, no 3G, no keyboard… But these cons are only for those who like these things.

As final word I would say that the things which were removed from the Kindle don’t bother at all since the device is exclusively for reading. So, if you want to get a device exclusively for reading, the Kindle 4 is ideal for you.

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