What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks

And so it is, opening with yet another horrible Shakespeare pun, that I pen this first post of 2013.  Happy New Year to you all.

Amazing, really, how the years go by.  It had been five years since my last custom PC build, and with the release of Windows 8 back in October 2012, I started getting the itch.  The casual browsing of PC components quickly turned into hours of research.  Today, I write this from an all-new custom rig, and yes, it’s running Windows 8.  Let me begin by stating I am a huge Windows 7 fan.  That was Microsoft’s flag-ship OS, and anyone who claims NT or XP hasn’t spent enough time on Windows 7.  There is no comparing the products.

So it was that after the first 20 minutes or so on Windows 8, I was pretty sure that it was going to have to go, and I would install 7 back on my computer.  No “Start Button” threw me.  I just couldn’t get over it, and the inability to close the Windows apps was mildly infuriating.  In other words, it was totally new, and I’m getting old and change is bad.  Fast-forward a few hours later…

I can’t imagine ever going back to Windows 7.  I’m not saying 8 is better, since it’s far too early in my experience with it to make that sort of a claim.  I am, however, saying that I’m enjoying several of the new features Windows 8 brings to the PC, and that even though I’m by-no-means a master, I’m enjoying learning about them and exploring once again.


In summary, here’s a few reasons why – so far – I think Windows 8 is awesome:

  • Live Tiles: Far more visually engaging than an icon, and less obtrusive than push notifications.  They’re basically little RSS feeds encapsulated in small graphical tile.  Basically, when aggregated on the Start Screen, you get a nice real-time dashboard.
  • Social Integration: Much better than in previous versions of Windows or Office… Suppose I should mention I’m using the Office 2013 Customer Preview.  Basically, your contacts are pulled directly from your social networks (Twitter, Linkedin & Facebook).  Even the messaging is integrated with folks who may be online in various social sites.  The Outlook integration with LinkedIn and Facebook is also improved and easier to configure than in previous versions.
  • Desktop: Yep… Pretty much the same, with the notable absence of the “Start Button”.  Otherwise, everything that made Windows 7 great has been kept with Windows 8.  Been running for a week now, and no stability or performance issues.  Fingers are crossed here.
  • Cloud: Okay, I admit SkyDrive doesn’t have the press that iCloud has received.  Although, based on what I’ve seen so far, cloud integration with this OS blows anything else on the market away.  Even your Photos app pulls from social and SkyDrive.  All Office Documents automatically get kept in SkyDrive, and it appears as just another “Favorite” (along with Downloads and Desktop) in Windows Explorer, as well as having a custom app in the Start Screen.

PRO TIP – I know the graphic is abysmally small when viewed natively.  Just click for an enlarged image.


Technology In 2010 – What To Watch

I won’t for a minute profess to having any special insights about what will become the most prolific technology in 2010 or what will end-up failing miserably.  What I can say is I’m watching a few companies and technologies in 2010, and I will be happy to share some things to watch out for with you.

  1. Microsoft’s Project Natal – Will probably ship near the end of 2010.  While it makes some lofty assertions about how it will change the face of gaming forever, whether it actually works well remains to be seen (and is the topic of much discussion already on the internet).  Still, it does have serious implications to the future of home computing and Human Computer Interaction (HCI).  A great example of this is Milo and Claire.
  2. Tablets – I think the tablet form factor is going to really explode in 2010, as wireless networking continues to improve with 802.11n and more and more Operating Systems and applications considering mobility as a key vector.  In particular, keep tabs on the JooJoo (Picture embedded below).  Its sales performance could impact whether the widely-speculated Microsoft and Apple tablets actually get launched in the coming year.
  3. Microsoft Office 2010 – If you’re not already using Office 2007, might as well hold-off on that upgrade because Office 2010 is already in beta, and we can safely assume its launch in the sometime in the next twelve months.  While Office 2007 introduced a new (and vastly improved) UI, Office 2010 is set to build on the Ribbon functionality, while also providing Microsoft Office Web Applications for both home and business users.
  4. Aggregation – This point is highly speculative, but I just don’t think the killer app is out there yet for aggregating and managing social media for end users (or corporations for that matter).  There are many aggregation services, but I don’t see one that offers a scalable and tailored UX, depending on your social media objectives.  I think 2010 is the year this service will materialize.

2009 was a crazy year in technology with an explosion in mobility and mobile applications; 3 major OS’ released – Windows 7, Snow Leopard and Chrome OS; and an immense proliferation of cloud services for both consumers and the enterprise.  There will be numerous surprises I’m sure in 2010, and you can count on me to blog about them.  Any of your own predictions?  Leave a comment, and let’s start a conversation.

5 Reasons To Install Microsoft Security Essentials

It was only a matter of time, I suppose, until they actually got it right.  Microsoft has finally entered into the anti-virus and anti-malware fray, in a meaningful way, with the Security Essentials solution.  The Beta was launched earlier this year, and it is now in full production.  The CNET Reviews are promising, and I decided to install it on my own home machine.

Thank God.

My previous AV program was Alwil’s Avast! Home Edition.  A free and functional AV solution, that I really didn’t have too many complaints about, other than that it created two system tray icons; the fact that it actually talked was somewhat annoying (don’t leave comments about how this could be turned-off.  I know, and it’s not the main point); and finally, the User Interface was lacking…

Despite these drawbacks, don’t get me wrong.  Avast! worked well, it was not a CPU or memory hog, and it never caused any problems on my machine.  I just wanted to try something new, and now I’m glad I did.  Instead of going into lengthy detail about Security Essential’s advantages, here’s 5 reasons why I recommend installing it on your PC.

  1. A tremendously easy and fast installer with no guesswork.  Downloading took about 5 seconds as it was only about 4.8 Mb.  After completing download, I selected ‘Run’, and the install itself was less than one minute to have the software actually running on my computer.
  2. Lightweight and not resource intensive.  During the first scan, I made sure to run all sorts of programs.  I couldn’t even gauge a negative performance impact.  I have restarted my machine several times, and believe startup may actually be a bit faster than when I was running Avast!
  3. Intuitive and Easy-To-Navigate User Interface.  To be honest, who needs bells and whistles with an AV?  Just some modicum of effective protection is required.  This is a really easy program to run and configure.  I provide a snapshot below of the main dashboard.
  4. Potential for scalability and integration.  My office productivity suite is Microsoft Office 2007, my browser is IE 8, and my OS is Windows 7 64-bit.  Why wouldn’t I employ AV from Microsoft?
  5. Pricepoint.  It’s free, so go install it.


I purposefully did not mention effectiveness, as it has not yet found any viruses or malware on my machine.  Third party research indicates it does an admirable job, but I couldn’t in good conscience list it as an advantage.  I’ve not experienced it’s deletion or quarantine functions first-hand.  But don’t worry, I pledge to you all to surf all kinds of porn sites (in the name of research) to put its effectiveness to the test.

In summary, I guess I just believe that if you develop and distribute software, it’s really up to you to secure it effectively,  To date, this has been a recurring and rather harsh criticism of Microsoft.  But  now, they’ve done the right thing by making it available for free (to valid “Genuine” Windows users).  If you plan on buying an AV solution, don’t.  Just like the music industry, those companies have had it too good for way too long.  Try this, and of course, let me know what you think!

Why Standing Stones?

Standing Stones is meant to be a blog about technology.  Just as the ring at Stonehenge was a marvel of technology for its time, so too, the internet’s impact on modern society.  I can’t help but want to contribute in some small way to this phenomenon.  What then, of this blog?  Well, building on the Standing Stones theme, I thought I would write a quick note about a brick-and-mortar, but not just any store.  The store… You know the one everyone has talked about.  The Microsoft Store at the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall.

From A Blackberry Camera

I actually had the opportunity to travel to Phoenix last week for a business conference.  Upon hopping off the plane from Toronto, I headed to the Scottsdale Fashion Square.  After all, business could wait.  Anyhow, the store itself is pretty non-descript.  If it weren’t filled with PC’s, Zunes and Windows 7 versions, you’d think you were in an Apple Store.  Honestly, the stuff and the staff were nice, and if you’re in the area it’s worth checking out, but don’t make any special trips.  Everything there is available online or at some other computer retailer. 

One thing worth noting is that if you do make the trip, take some time to familiarize yourself with the Microsoft Surface technology.  It’s worth it, and I believe as the novelty diminishes, so too might the price point.  As a result, this technology will only become more pervasive in a short period of time, and the fancy touchscreen-tables are there at the Microsoft store in abundance.  The only thing I was tempted to buy was the Zune HD.  It would be a bit of a showpiece in Canada, since they’re not sold here.  Ultimately, I decided not to pick it up.  The Zune Marketplace in Canada leaves too much to be desired.

Lastly, I just finished reading “Six Pixels Of Separation” by Mitch Joel.  Standing Stones is the result.  Thank you.