Posts by James Hardy

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Windows 8 not such a flop after all, selling at similar rate to Windows 7

Listen to certain sections of the media and you would be led to believe that Windows 8 has been a massive failure for Microsoft, on the levels of Vista. However, the figures Microsoft have just released tell quite a different story.

It took 183 days for Windows 7 to reach the 100 million licenses mark. Windows 8 has just hit the same milestone. How long did it take? 192 days. That’s just 9 days long than its predecessor, so it is selling at a very similar rate. This shows that consumers are willing to take plunge with Microsoft’s latest operating system, despite there being bigger changes to it than there have been since the last century, and despite certain outlets around the web suggesting that there are many issues still with it and that consumers are responding badly to new style.

Yes, Windows 8 needs some work to bring it up to the standards we expect from Microsoft, but it is a step in the right direction, and hopefully with the now confirmed Blue update we will see a much smoother and more coherent feel to the OS with both the familiar desktop and the brand new start screen.

Microsoft has also released some more figures relating to Windows 8:

  • There are now 700 million Microsoft accounts
  • There are 400 million active Outlook.com accounts
  • There are 250 million active SkyDrive users
  • There have been 250 million Windows Store downloads

Via Windows Phone Central

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First Xbox Live game for both Windows Phone and Windows 8 quietly released

galactic_reign2When Windows Phone 8 was released way back in October last year, much was made of the relationship prospective Windows Phone 8 purchasers would have between their mobile and their PCs. Since then, nothing much to that side of things has materialised, but yesterday that all changed.

Galactic Reign was teased by Microsoft last October, but there was no mention of platforms, nor was there a release date, but yesterday the game quietly slipped into both the Windows 8 Store and the Windows Phone Store as an Xbox Live title. Microsoft used to always announce upcoming Windows Phone games well in advance, but they haven’t done so much of that recently, and it seems crazy that such a huge milestone for the OS was released with so little fanfare, but hey, at least it’s here now.

galactic_reign3As you might have guessed from its name, the game is a sci-fi strategy number. You have to find the right balance between spaceships and weapons and hope your fleet is good enough to beat your opponents, and we won’t go into too much detail here, but there’s a single player mode with 60 challenges and a multiplayer side of things where you battle people online. There a bunch of Xbox achievements to aim for as well.

It’s great to finally see a game which bridges the Windows Phone 8/ Windows 8 divide. With the multiplayer game, you can play with different hardware to your opponent, i.e. it doesn’t matter whether you use a PC, Windows Phone or Surface. Galactic reign will cost $4.99 for Windows 8 or for Windows Phone 7 and 8. The best bit of all? You only need to purchase one version to have access to it on both platforms.

Source: Windows Phone Central

Mozilla shows off developer phones for Firefox OS

firefoxphone Mozilla has just announced that they’ve got two “Developer Preview Phones” in the works which will run on their own Firefox OS. Both are made by relatively unknown Spanish company Geeksphone. The orange phone above is known as the Keon, and has 3.5-inch touchscreen and has a 3-megapixel camera on the back. It comes with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage, and runs one of Qualcomm’s 1Ghz Snapdragon CPUs. The white model is called the Peak, and has higher specs than the Keon, with a 4.3-inch screen, 1.2Ghz dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU and an 8-megapixel camera, though it has the same storage and RAM. It runs on a 1800mAh battery, slightly larger than the Keon’s 1580mAh cell.

Mozilla didn’t mention anything to do with price or  a specific release date, but Digixav understands that the Keon will start shipping next month.

These handsets clearly aren’t going to set the world alight, and it seems as though Firefox might be targeting developing markets with cheaper smartphones. Software-wise, from a purely visual perspective the home screen looks very similar to the iOS one, simply with circular icons instead of Apple’s square ones. We have to say that it is a big disappointment that Mozilla couldn’t have found a fresh or innovative design rather than slightly altering one which is five years old.

Firefox OS works very differently to current mobile operating systems. The processors might seem tiny compared to the quad-core beasts powering the latest phones, but Mozilla have tried to make it so the phones don’t need huge processors to run smoothly. The big thing that sets it apart from rivals, however, is that Firefox OS doesn’t do native apps. What might look like native apps on the phone are actually website bookmarks. This means it can all be written in HTML5, which could be a big boost for some developers. This is a certainly a huge step Mozilla have taken, and it will be interesting to see how the consumer market responds. Mozilla reckons that we’re not doing apps right at present, and we could lose the wonderful open web we currently take for granted.

Here at Digixav we’ll certainly be watching closely to see whether Firefox OS can make a significant impact on the smartphone audience. With an Ubuntu mobile operating system on the way, it will be very interesting to see whether this new breed of open source software can have the desired impact on the iOS and Android dominated market.

Via Wired

Microsoft finally announces release date and pricing for Surface Pro

Surface-Pro-with-penThe Surface Pro, the big brother to Microsoft’s Surface RT which was released in October last year, won’t go on sale in January as originally planned, but you will be able to have one in your hands by February 9th. On the bright side, Microsoft do seem to have admitted defeat with their Surface RT retail strategy, which was so bad that it was nominated for our biggest failure award – the Seattle-based company says that the Surface Pro will have wide retail availability beyond just Microsoft.com and Microsoft Stores.

We knew that Microsoft were targeting the high-end market with the Surface Pro, but even so the prices they’ve announced do seem extortionate. The minimum you’ll find yourself paying for one is $899, for the 64GB version with no covers included. The 128GB model will add $100 on to that price. The Surface RT 32GB tablet, the cheapest member of the Surface family you’ll find, would set you back $499, so there is obviously a significant difference between the RT and the Pro. Like with the its little brother, if you want to buy a keyboard cover for your Surface Pro it will cost $119 for the Touch Cover or $129 for the Type one. Microsoft will throw in a free pressure-sensitive pen in the box too.

On the same date as the Surface Pro is released, Microsoft have announced that a standalone 64GB will be made available for $599 – previously you could only buy it as a package with the black Touch Cover for $699.

It’s nice to finally get some genuine information on the Surface Pro, but we really feel that the large price tag will put a lot of potential consumers off buying one. Mind you, Microsoft do seem to be aiming here to make something which will completely replace your laptop or desktop PC, whereas previous tablets have only really been able to be used in conjunction with another device, to do all the ‘serious’ stuff on. The Surface Pro will certainly be an interesting one to watch, but personally we can’t see it taking off.

Via Engadget

Sony announces Xperia Tablet Z as the world’s thinnest and lightest tablet

Sony-Launches-Xperia-Tablet-Z-Tablet-with-Android-4-1-Jelly-Bean-5 Today Sony announced the successor to their Xperia Tablet Z, a 10.1 inch machine running Android 4.1 and boasting some impressive specs. Design-wise Sony seem to have finally conceded defeat with the rolled-over magazine look that plagued their last couple of tablets being mercifully killed off. While it wasn’t as pronounced on the Xperia Tablet S as on its predecessor the Tablet S, which won our award for worst design back in 2011, we still feel that it drew away from the whole design. This time round Sony have given their new tablet a similar look to its upcoming smartphone sibling, the Xperia Z, and have come up with a classy, minimalist design which has been met with approval throughout the Digixav office.*

At a staggering 6.9mm thick, the Xperia Tablet Z is thinner than the iPad mini, and is the lightest 10-inch tablet in the world, weighing in at just under half a kilo. Like the Xperia Z, Sony says that the Xperia Tablet Z is waterproof for half an hour, up to a depth of one metre, and dustproof too. We only hope that these claims don’t prove to be as unfounded as those of the Xperia Tablet S.

xperia-tablet-z-1358733859Software is where this tablet really excels. The screen is 1920 x 1200, significantly better than the 1280 x 800 of the last Xperia tablet incarnation, and should rival the stunning display on the Apple’s 4th generation iPad. It packs Qualcomm’s 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chip, and comes with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. It’s quite likely that, as with the Xperia Tablet S, we will see Xperia Tablet Z SKUs with varying amounts of onboard storage at varying prices although, unlike the Nexus 10, there is a microSD slot for those who want a little extra storage. The tablet comes with a solid 8.1 megapixel camera on the back, but no details have been released for the front-facing camera yet. The 6000mAh battery isn’t anything to get too excited about, but it will suffice. It also has LTE and NFC support.

No details to do with price have been released, but with those figures we’re looking at £400+. We have no idea how they managed to fit all of those specs into a 6.9mm 495g slab. It’s interesting that the Xperia Tablet Z wasn’t announced along with its smartphone cousin at CES, but we’re sure that Sony have their reasons. No release date has been announced either, but we can presume that it will come out around the same time as the Xperia Z, sometime this first quarter. We’d have also thought that Sony might have wanted to wait for the imminent release of Android Key Lime Pie to release the Xperia Z family, what with the state of Android updates. All in all though, this will surely be the best 10 inch Android tablet on the market when it comes out, and will be the tablet to beat for Sony’s rivals.

*Only joking. We can’t afford an office at Digixav.

Via Engadget
Source Sony

Technophobia: Orwell was 28 years too early

Technophobia is a column by James Hardy. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

Welcome to China everybody! Yep, renowned file-sharing site The Pirate Bay is being blocked in the UK by five of Britain’s biggest internet service providers: O2, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and Everything Everywhere (aka T-Mobile and Orange or T-Morange). BT requested ‘a couple more weeks’ before announcing their position on blocking the website, but they are under no obligation to do so.

I can’t help but think that this is the beginning of a slippery slope. The government won’t know when to stop. They’ll block all file sharing sites, websites which have links to them, any search engines through which you can access these sites and, while they’re at it, why don’t they just block any anti-government websites? Oh snap, they just killed free speech!

They say that these sites take millions of pounds from the entertainment industry, but the truth is the money the industry loses is minimal. I download American TV shows from file sharing sites. Why? Because I can’t get them here in the UK. Show them over here, get more views, get more money from advertising, everyone wins. Simples.

Often the reason people download games from these websites is because they come out earlier in the US. People want things ASAP. Say a game is released in the US two weeks before Europe, and someone across the pond uploads to The Pirate Bay. So, if you live in the UK, you can have it now, or you can wait a fortnight to get it. I wonder what you’re going to choose? The same goes for films and music – release at the same time around the world and more people will pay for them. Fact.

The movies I download from file sharing sites are ones I wouldn’t go to the cinema to see. They’re ones I would wait to see on TV. I’m going to see The Avengers in the cinema because it’s going to be awesome. If I can be bothered, I might even write a review on STR. But other movies, ones which tend to get a resounding ‘meh’ from critics, I would download. So, film industry: make good movies and I will pay to see them. Cinemas are overpriced, too. It can cost me £20 for a movie and some popcorn. That’s too much.

The entertainment industry needs to get with the times. Services like iTunes, Netflix and Spotify are doing brilliantly for themselves. That is what the people want. Whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. The entertainment industry wants you to go to a real shop and buy a DVD. Sad though it is, human beings are lazy. They don’t want to do that. The entertainment industry needs to make things downloadable. Why not have file sharing sites where you have to pay some money which the industry gets to download something? Everyone wins.

Blocking The Pirate Bay won’t work. People will use things like proxies, *insert more technological terms here* etc. to get round it. And blocking it will just mean more sites like it will appear. It isn’t the answer.

File sharing sites aren’t losing the entertainment industry money. It’s bringing about its own downfall.

Another news story that came out last month was that of the government introducing a new law so they can monitor our email, phone and web use. Whenever they feel like it. Just like that. Which, according to the Home Office, will be used to tackle crime and terrorism. Of course. It’s interesting to note that Labour tried to introduce similar plans when they were last in power, but they failed due to massive opposition to the proposals, mainly from the Tories. But it’s fine now they’re in power, erm, why exactly, Mr Cameron?

The government will be able to look at any website you’ve visited, group you’re in contact with or email, text or phone call you have made from the last two years. Without needing permission from anyone. And to those people who make the ‘I have nothing to hide’ argument, you are unbelievably naïve. Would you want someone to be able to open your post and reseal it? I think not.

So while the government criticises China, Iran and other countries with similar regimes for taking similar measures, they do exactly the same back here. That’s fair. At this rate, it won’t be long before they control exactly what we can and can’t do with the internet. They’re not far away from controlling our thoughts.

Anyway, seeing as how the government could block this site if they wanted to, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to call them lying, hypocritical bastards. Turns out George Orwell predicted what was to come pretty damn well.

Enjoy the future, people!

This article was originally published on Stuff Things Rants

Technophobia: The future of television

Technophobia is a column by James Hardy. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

Recently, as services such as Hulu and Netflix have taken off, and as consumers gradually move over to online TV services, is there a future for the television? Admittedly Hulu hasn’t yet hopped the pond to make the service available in the UK, but I’m sure it will only be a matter of time.

I live in Hastings, where a certain John Logie Baird lived, he being the one famed for creating television in 1925. Television has come a long way since then. We have colour TV, for starters, hundreds of channels, and many thousands of shows.

The television is still very popular. 50 million are sold each year. The average North American has three TVs in their house.

I have noticed that I don’t watch as much telly as I used to. One service I find fantastic is TVCatchup, a site where you can watch live TV, with around a ten second delay.

I do like American TV. For instance, in my opinion Community is the best, funniest show on TV right now. Bar none. But living in the UK, I can’t get access to it. So I may or may not allegedly possibly maybe download it a little bit illegally from sites such as isohunt and the now defunct btjunkie. Ahem. I won’t provide links to them due to laws which are trying to be pushed through by certain governments, but there is a thing called Google.

I do find services like iPlayer to be very useful. For instance, when I’ve missed the latest episode of The Apprentice, which seems to be most weeks. Side note – why does Match of the Day never go up on iPlayer? And 4oD is good, but why do they stop you seeing things after 30 days from when they are broadcast? I’m still not sure if I’ve seen the last episode of Peep Show! And as for Demand 5…

I personally don’t have an account to Hulu, Lovefilm or anything like that. I have tried out Netflix at someone else’s house, and I have to say, I like it. I like being able to watch that many shows and films whenever I want. Of course, Netflix also do a delivery service, though not in Britain, probably due to competition from Lovefilm, but I reckon that will die out quite soon.

It’s nice having shows whenever, because it is unbearable waiting til Thursday for the next Community episode (or Friday when I can download the thing). But at the same time that’s part of the fun. I think it just shows how lazy we humans are getting. We want everything whenever we feel like it, we don’t won’t to have to wait. Is that a good thing?

At the moment, in the US the rate of people moving from TV to internet services like Netflix is less than 1% per year. It isn’t a massive change. Yet.

I think Netflix and Hulu need to get bigger and better before they will become massive. They need a larger selection of films and TV shows, and they need them quicker – as the series is happening, for instance.

Recently companies have started to produce smart TVs, where you can connect to the internet and get apps through them, but for me while they’re trying to make a television that can also do more, I think it is more like a computer that doubles as a television. With a bigger screen.

I think the humble TV will go on fighting for a while yet. It will take time to completely kill it off.

Some flies are too awesome for the wall. (I know it doesn’t really make sense, I just wanted to end with a Community quote.)

This article was originally published on Stuff Things Rants