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Tag Archives: Windows

Will Kinect For Windows change the way you use your PC?

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One of the more interesting things to come out of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was Microsoft’s official announcement of a Windows-compatible version of its Kinect camera. Kinect, if you’re not familiar with it, is a camera array with 3D sensing capabilities that Microsoft first launched for its Xbox 360 games console. The cameras within the Kinect sensor track your body movements in real time, and this allows the Xbox 360 to offer both physical screen selections — swiping your arms around to select things or change pages — as well as more “physical” gaming experiences, including a number of fitness titles.

Kinect might have its roots in gaming, but it didn’t take long for keen hackers to see the potential in hooking up the sensor to a regular PC and use its 3D modelling capabilities for other purposes. To Microsoft’s credit, it didn’t shy away from or try to block the hackers; there was (in effect) unofficial “support” for Kinect hacking; Microsoft didn’t specifically sell the sensor to do anything but gaming, but was happy enough with some of the side efforts that came out of it. If the hackers broke a Kinect sensor or two along the way, Microsoft was more than happy to sell them another.

Kinect for Windows changes that arrangement somewhat. For a start, the “official” Windows Kinect (which will launch in Australia on February 1st) is more expensive than the Xbox version; a sensor and software will cost $299, something Microsoft puts down to the Windows Kinect sensor being a standalone product; it figures that money can be made with Kinect games on the Xbox 360, whereas the PC version may not generate any more income directly.

It’s also somewhat annoying to note that the official CES announcement pegged the price at $US249, but the Australian price is a chunky $50 more; while there are some tax considerations to take in mind, not to mention shipping, that kind of price difference does sting a bit.
The really interesting question for Kinect For Windows is what it’ll be good for. Clearly there’ll be some cross-porting of existing games titles, but that leaves the Kinect as only a rather expensive games controller.

There’s all sorts of potential for a touch-free navigation environment on the PC, albeit one that’d work a lot better for a PC connected like a home media centre than one connected to a notebook that’s sitting right in front of you. Microsoft’s claim for the Windows sensor (and not the cheaper Xbox one) is that it’s optimised for close up work of this kind, but I’m a little lost to work out what’ll make the most sense for that kind of interaction (outside of certain mobility limited scenarios) that couldn’t be done just as well with the tap of a mouse button or click of a keyboard. The new Windows 8 “Metro” user interface is built on Microsoft’s experiences with touch on the Windows Phone platform, and I can see how that could work with Kinect, but at the same time interface designers will have to work around implementing both Kinect and standard interfaces; at a $299 per user price point I’m not totally convinced that many will.


Twenty Five Years Of Windows

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The chances are pretty good that you’re reading this on a Windows-based computer. Rough estimates suggest there are around billion personal computers on the planet, and Windows accounts for around ninety percent of those systems. Even if you are using a Linux or Mac OS based system, you’ll have felt the impact of Microsoft’s market-leading operating system.

A quarter of a century ago as I write this, if you were using a computer, the odds are quite high that you weren’t running a version of Windows, even though that was when Windows 1.0 was brand spanking new and on the software seller’s shelves after a couple of years of development. The cutting edge system you’d need to run it required MS-DOS 2.0, two double-sided disk drives, 256K of memory and a graphics adaptor. If there’s a lift where you work, it’s probably over the minimum specification to run Windows 1.0 now.

By what you’d expect from an operating system Windows 1.0 wasn’t much to get excited about, and the DOS (Disk Operating System) it ran on was arguably a bit more interesting than what Microsoft referred to as an “operating environment” than an operating system.

At the time, IBM-compatible PCs were solid business tools, but at the smaller business end of things plenty of users got by on systems as simple as the Commodore 64 and its 8-bit ilk. Microsoft couldn’t even make particularly good advertisements if this pitch for Windows 1.0 (featuring current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer doing his best dodgy car-salesman impersonation) is anything to go by: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl5a9qUX_D4

It wasn’t until the third release of Windows, and its network capable upgrade, Windows 3.11, that Windows really picked up steam and became a truly competitive operating system. Microsoft continued with DOS-based Windows operating systems through Windows 95, 98, 98SE and the particularly poor Windows Millennium Edition before switching over for Windows XP to the codebase used for its more business-centric Windows NT lines. While Windows XP has its problems, it’s a note of its success that nearly a decade after its release, there’s still plenty of systems running Windows XP quite happily. It’s quite likely that its successor, the much derided Windows Vista, won’t be seen much in a decade, although the much more stable Windows 7 just might have that chance.


Windows 7 Preview

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We have seen many version and transformations of the Windows operating system over the years. Some computer users have faithfully upgraded their computers with every version Microsoft operating system. Others users have been more conservative and have skipped a release or two. In the opinion of many, Windows Vista was an operating system to skip completely. Many users were dissatisfied with Vista. This makes Windows 7 an important release because it is important for Microsoft to release an operating system that is an improvement upon Vista.

Already Windows 7 has begun to receive positive reviews. It is naturally being compared to Windows Vista and in most reviews is coming out on top. There are many changes in Windows 7 that will require a learning curve even since Vista. They will at least require an adjustment in the way that you interact with Windows operating system.

Many changes have been made in Windows 7. The taskbar and the start menu is where traditional Windows users will need to get used to. The changes are not complicated but you will have to know where to look for the features that you may have always found in the same place in the past. One feature that no longer exists is the Quick Launch menu. Personally, I will miss this feature dearly as it has been the staple of my own computer use throughout the years.

The Desktop is much easier to access with Windows 7. You will find to the right of the Taskbar a short nub that when hovered over causes all open windows to become transparent. The desktop can then be seen through the open windows. Alternatively, you can click on the nub and all of the open windows will be moved aside, allowing you quick access to the Desktop and its contents.

Windows 7 eliminates the frustrating balloon notifications that were prevalent in older versions of Windows. Alerts related to unused icons on the desktop, notifications that your computer might be at risk and any other issues are all banished to an area called the Action Center. This is a notification area that you can go to at your convenience to review the alerts that have been raised. Issues that Windows 7 has identified are placed in a queue that you can review at your convenience.

All in all, Windows 7 seems to be a step in the write direction for Windows. I did not like Windows Vista and it seems that I am not alone in that sentiment. Microsoft quickly recognized how disgruntled many loyal Windows users felt about Vista and quickly provided an improved offering. For all intents and purposes, Windows 7 is a marked improvement over Windows Vista. Now it is for the public to give offer their vote of approval.


Recent News

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