Windows Vista

A sample of the WIN 8 Metro Interface

In case you haven’t been listening, the users’ howl over the new Metro Interface in Windows 8 is getting louder by the day. The consumer preview has been out for a while now and folks are discovering that they can’t disable the Metro Interface like the could in the earlier Developer Preview. The much maligned Metro Interface is geared more to smart phones & tablets but requires a HUGE shift in thinking if you’re a traditional desktop user like Dr. Data. The interface will be great for those of us with touch screens but if you’re a mouse & keyboard person, not so much.

Early reports on Win 8 indicated that Microsoft was going to offer both Metro and the classic Windows desktop that many of us know and love but this choice has yet to materialise in any of the preview versions. While it is still early days in one sense, there’s a bit less than six months between now and the official release sometime in October, 2012. Add in the fact that Win. 8 will be released to manufacturing most likely in August and suddenly it’s later than we think.

Some commentators have argued that Microsoft is more intent on giving Metro a test drive than putting a tried and true interface out on the road for a spin and Dr. Data is somewhat inclined to agree with them. On the other hand, the folks in Redmond have had a habit over the past 15 years of alternating good and bad releases. Remember Windows XP? Remember Vista? Windows 7 was a big hit so it’s now time for another Vista-esque debacle.

Other commentators have said that they’re going to move to Linux or a Mac. These may be folks who have been looking for a good – or any – excuse to move to a different platform but where does that leave the rest of us? If you’re like Dr. Data who has scads of Win applications that he does not want to run under WINE on his Ubuntu machine, you may find yourself sticking with Windows 7. This is OK but we will have to hope that Microsoft releases a “good” OS to follow Windows 8 before support ends for Windows 7.

In the meantime, we can draw comfort from the fact that there is something that we can do to get around this potential impasse and I’m not talking about complaining to Microsoft. A software package called “Classic Shell” is available to all right-thinking people who don’t want to go Metro. This software was introduced back in the bad old days of Vista to get around the changes/problems introduced in that operating system. The software is FREE but Dr. Data is concerned about those Windows users out there who boot up mainly to check e-mail or go on Facebook, Many of this segment may be better served by migrating to a tablet but the rest may be hard pressed when it comes time to decide.

There is some more commentary at Tom’s Hardware and ZDNet.

And just for fun, have a look at this video of a real live person trying to figure out Windows 8:

[tube]v4boTbv9_nU [/tube]

 

A number of my recent TechnoRants© have dealt with computer security. This latest threat deals with the Domain Changer virus which will impact PC’s , MAC’s and probably Linux machines as well so listen up!

The FBI recently broke up a hacker ring based in Estonia that was responsible for unleashing the Domain Changer virus. The concept for this new bit of nastiness originally turned up in January ’07,  has been perfected in this most recent release and is based on a long-postulated threat to Domain Name servers. So, what does it do?

First of all, I’m not going to try to explain Domain Names. Instead, have a look at the Wikipaedia article on the Domain Name System. The Domain Changer virus has infected at least 86,000 computers and is lying dormant until July 9th of this year. On that day, it will “wake up”,  redirect your browser to “fake” versions of actual websites, slow down your internet speed and disable your anti-virus & other security software. The hackers would then make money from ads on those fake websites, many of which are probably for software to “clean up” your PC and get rid of whatever is slowing it down. The hackers would win two ways:

  1. They would obtain your credit card information
  2. The “software” would load more viruses/malware on your system.
In other words, this is the internet equivalent of “Thank you sir! May I have another?”
How do you know if you’re infected? Go to the Domain Changer Working Group website and read the brief information about the Domain Changer virus. There will also be a link at the top of the home page
that will direct you to instructions on how to Detect an infection. The detection bit is all done via the internet and you won’t have to download any software, etc. There are instructions for Windows XP, 7 and MAC OS X.
If you are infected, there is information about tools  to disinfect your system. Finally, there is general information on how to protect your system from being infected.
If you’re a Windows user and have questions, need additional help, etc. Drop Dr. Data a line and I’ll try to give you a hand.

 

One of the most controversial things about Windows 8 is the absence of something that we were able – believe it or not – to live without prior to Windows 95: The “Start” Button.  You know, that little thingy in the lower left-hand corner of your screen. Though it has been maligned because you have to click “Start” to stop (shut down) your PC, most of us have come to rely upon it in the 17 years since Windows 95 came on the scene. Now, because Microsoft is re-imagining the desktop and the way you interact with your machine, “Start” has been relegated to things of the past.

There are plenty of tools – free and otherwise – to make your Windows XP, Vista, or 7 desktop look and act like most anything you’d want. If I had started this blog before the Consumer Preview of  Windows 8 was released, I would have immediately told my faithful followers not to fret; there would be plenty of third-party apps available to make Window 8 look like home.

Well, my famous non-prediction has already begun to come to pass. Stardock Corp. has released a new gizmo named Start8 that enables you to have your cake and eat it too. What’s more, Start8 is absolutely free! Stardock produces games as well as a range of tools to customise your Windows PC. Their offerings are well worth a look.

 

Disclaimer: The author of this blog is not an employee of Stardock nor does he receive any sort of compensation from Stardock Corp. He does, however, use a number of Stardock’s customisation tools and finds them quite handy,

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