Microsoft SkyDrive’s ‘Secret Sauce’ Makes it Storage-Friendly

SkyDrive

SkyDrive in Windows 8.1 has a secret weapon no one’s talked very much about. It’s actually pretty amazing, in that small sort of way that doesn’t change much, but still manages to completely alter how you use something. In fact, it might just make SkyDrive the best cloud service around. If you install Dropbox, SkyDrive, or even Google Drive on your desktop today, you’re going to sync the whole of your folder to your drive, at once, and keep all the files there whenever they’re synced. If you don’t have enough space, tough. Delete something you don’t have synced to the cloud, or just stop syncing. SkyDrive has a different solution. Microsoft calls this its “secret sauce”. Basically, SkyDrive makes files and folders you store in the cloud behave as though they’re stored there anyway, without taking up space on your computer. You can browse, inspect, and even preview them, even though the whole file isn’t taking up space on your drive.

Read the full story at Gizmodo.

VideoLan launches Kickstarter to make VLC for Windows 8

VLC player is an incredibly powerful tool, usually one of the first things many people install on a new computer. With Windows 8 growing at its current rate, developers are beginning to realize that they might actually have to supportit.

The VideoLan project is comprised mostly of developers who contribute in their free time, and since the release of the VLC for Windows 8 demo it has become clear that more help is needed. In order to support Modern UI (aka Metro) in a timely fashion, the VideoLan team have taken to Kickstarter in order to fund the development of VLC for Windows 8.

“The current application has more than 15,000 forbidden calls. Fixing that will take a lot of time (or money).” – VideoLan CTO Jean-Baptiste Kempf

According to the VideoLan team, VLC media player is installed on over 100,000,000 machines across the world. The project supports Linux, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and more. Instead of having a program that forces the user to Desktop Mode to use VLC (as it’s currently designed), the goal is to release a native Windows 8 app. Unfortunately, in order to support Windows 8 and the Modern UI, a lot has to change. Since the team wants to get Windows 8 support up and running as fast as possible, they have turned to Kickstarter.

The 40,000 ($51,975) project will allow the VideoLan team to hire professional graphic designers and developers to create a functional UI that supports Windows 8′s design language. Initially the plan is to support x86 versions of Windows 8, but Windows RT support is in the pipeline as well.

The Kickstarter features multiple levels of participation, offering everything from small gifts with the VLC logo on it to banners on the VideoLan website announcing your contribution . Every contribution includes acknowledgment inside the Windows 8 app itself, separated by participation level.

VLC media player for Windows 8 would provide a usable alternative to Windows Media Center, which is something users will need to pay extra for if they haven’t purchased Windows 8 Pro. Media Center is needed in order to watch DVD or BluRay discs in a Windows 8 computer. While Microsoft is including Media Center for free to early adopters of Windows 8, the $10 add on will be a requirement to users who want to watch movies on their computers. With VLC for Windows 8, users will not need to ever purchase the add on, and instead enjoy the massive list of supported codecs from VideoLan.

Read more at Kickstarter

10 reasons to embrace Windows 8 now

Windows 8

The switch has been flipped, Windows 8 is now upon us. Manufacturers will soon fill the shelves of your local big box store with new computers of every shape, size, and orientation running Windows 8. The holiday season will no doubt be filled with incredible deals on machines to encourage you to make the upgrade to some new hardware. Of course, if you don’t need new hardware, Microsoft offers a Windows 8 upgrade tool on their website. With everything Microsoft is offering to encourage uptake, it’s pretty easy to see why you would want to embrace Windows 8 now. If you’re not convinced, here’s a few reasons why it’s worth considering.

Inexpensive, for now

Historically, Windows upgrades have been a little on the pricey side. If the next version didn’t offer some killer feature, chances are it wasn’t worth shelling out the cash for the update on the day it came out. Windows 8, however, is starting out at $39.99 for anyone running Windows 7. All you need to do is download the update tool from Microsoft, send them some money, and when your PC reboots it will be running Winodws 8 with all of your files still intact. The $39.99 price tag is something of an early adopter rate, in January the $70 price tag you see in stores will apply for the download version, too.

Free Media Center Pack

One of the increasingly common uses of Windows machines is to have a Home Theater PC setup. If you aren’t running something like XBMC, chances are you’re running Windows Media Center. If you want things like DVD and Blu-ray codecs, you need Media Center on your Windows 8 machine. In Windows 8, you’ll need to pay a little extra for the Media Center Pack, unless you go with the Pro version. If you don’t feel like the Pro version is necessary, but still would like to grab Media Center, the pack will be free until January. This offer is available to both digital and physical disk upgrade users.

Windows 8

SkyDrive Integration

With smartphones, tablets, and PCs connected all the time, it feels natural to want access to all of your files from all of these devices. With the centralized user experience Microsoft has been pushing out to their products, the easiest way to complete that experience would be to allow your documents and photos to exist seamlessly across the platform. Microsoft’s SkyDrive has been deeply integrated into both Windows Phone and Windows 8 to offer exactly this. You can store all of your documents, photos, even game save data to your SkyDrive and access the information from anything that can connect to Microsoft’s cloud storage service.

Centralized User Experience

Price and free things are always a good reason to upgrade if you are on the fence, but the truth is Microsoft is putting all of their eggs into this new basket. If you are a Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, or Xbox 360 user, you’re going to see the new user interface that Microsoft has implemented. Microsoft has made their user experience across all of their devices as seamless as possible. The tiled UI has been slowly making its way across Microsoft’s product line, finally ending with Windows 8. If you own multiple Microsoft products, the entire experience will look and feel the same.

Windows 8

Surface

Windows 8 is more than just a step forward for Microsoft software, it also marks the very first computer that has been built by the company. Surface was designed around Windows 8 to create a unique experience for the new OS. The $399 price point for a Surface RT is a steal for anyone looking for a new way to compute, and the soon to be released Surface Pro offers a no compromise solution for any user looking to get the best of both the PC and tablet worlds right now. The Surface hardware is incredibly high quality and a good first step into Windows 8, as well as the best way to enjoy the new OS the way Microsoft intended.

Performance

In theory, each version of Windows is going to offer a performance boost of some kind over the previous version of the OS. This isn’t always the case, as Windows Vista users can attest, but with Windows 8 the difference is all too clear. Everything from boot time to complex multitasking operations are noticeably faster on Windows 8. The OS breathes life into older machines, and the startup time on more recent machines alone is often reason enough to make the switch. Everything that has been tested so far has been much faster.

Windows 8 Exclusives

As is the case with any new OS, there will be Windows 8 software exclusives. Microsoft has accomplished this with the Windows Store, which serves as a destination for Windows 8 specific apps as well as interactive live tiles for the home screen. Especially if you have a touch enabled device, Windows 8 will grant you access to a significant number of apps that are exclusive to the platform.

If the apps aren’t exclusive, they are highly stylized to take advantage of the Windows 8 UI. The Netflix app for Windows 8 is a perfect example, and the design for this app is significantly improved over the UI used on iOS or Android. There are many apps that flow nicely and just plain look better on Windows 8 as a result of the new UI.

Backwards Compatibility

Windows 8 looks and feels very different from previous versions of Windows at first glance. Once you tap that Desktop tile, though, it’s like you never left Windows 7. The Desktop UI allows you to use all of your software from previous versions of Windows. On top of that, Microsoft has added compatibility modes to make sure the programs behave as close to their original design as intended.

This is only available on Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, however. Windows RT, being an ARM based version of the OS, isn’t quite as backwards compatible. Windows RT is limited to apps from the Microsoft Store, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Security

For a number of reasons, Windows has a reputation for being the least secure of the PC operating systems. Many users run everything as Administrator, and the volume of users makes the platform a huge target for malicious software. Over the last few years, Microsoft has been developing tools like the User Account Control system to help prevent crippling OS damage. With Windows 8, security was clearly a priority.

Aside from UAC, Microsoft has included services like Windows Defender by default. This is the first version of Windows to come pre-installed with antivirus software, and Microsoft has developed their own tools instead of relying on a third party to protect the OS. Windows 8 is far from impenetrable, and you can install other services if you feel they would be more effective, but the platform as a whole will hopefully be much more secure moving forward.

Windows 8

Xbox Live and Smart Glass

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console has grown significantly since its release. The gaming console almost doubles as a set top box now, offering streaming content and social interaction as well as access to massive digital content libraries. Windows 8 scoops up the best of these add-ons and makes them available on your PC with the same interface. Xbox Live social features, like chatting with friends or playing games against one another for achievements, are integrated into Windows 8 as well.

Then there’s Smart Glass, which allows you to control your Xbox 360 from your Windows 8 computer. You can push videos, music, and websites to the service as long as you and the Xbox are on the same network. Smart Glass is available on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, so you can sync this content across the entire product line.

Final Thoughts

Windows 8 is well worth the upgrade, and there are some pretty great incentives for pulling the trigger sooner rather than later. As Microsoft moves forward with this new user experience, there will only be more reasons to upgrade, with the eventual goal of everyone moving to the new platform.

As we look back at the now 11 year old Windows XP, moving to the wildly different Windows 8 forces you to embrace a lot of changes all at one. Once you move in, however, you see that most of the changes are undeniably for the better.