Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has Large and Small Rumors, Many Critics Saying Microsoft will Release Surface Mini Next Year

November 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

The Surface Pro 4 is an eagerly awaited tablet from Microsoft. Many people are excited for this new device because the Surface line of “laplets” from Microsoft has finally started to take off. Reviewers starting calling the Surface Pro series (and other laptops like it) a laplet, or combination of the words tablet and laptop because of the devices functionality.

The Surface Pro series from Microsoft can run both desktop apps as well as tablet apps. It comes with a touchscreen and detachable keyboard. The combination of all these things made the Surface Pro 3 a big hit among reviewers. It was particularly liked by graphic designers and artists who were able to use the full version of Photoshop on the go. Adobe has released versions of Photoshop and their other graphic suite programs for smartphones and tablets, but they lack the functionality of the full version of Photoshop.

Microsoft has hinted that the Surface Pro 4 is likely to come out soon. In a blog post, they stated that they were happy to announce that the accessories from the Surface Pro 3 would work in upcoming versions of the Surface line. This means that a Surface Pro 4 is definitely in development. Microsoft made the blog post to help relieve businesses that were wondering if the current Surface’s accessories would work with the next generation of Surface computer.

Microsoft specifically said that the docking station, the Surface Pro 3 Type Covers, and the power cables would all stay the same in upcoming Surface devices. These accessories can be a bit more expensive than many people would expect, so it’s nice to know they will not become useless whenever Microsoft releases the Surface Pro 4. As for Surface Pro 4 hardware rumors, there is a rumor that Microsoft will release both smaller and larger versions of the Surface.

A smaller version of the Surface could be released called the Surface Pro Mini. It is supposed to be around eight inches, which is also the size of many of the current smaller Windows tablets. There is also another rumor that Microsoft could release an even larger version of the Surface Pro which would be 13 or 14 inches. The bigger size would make it more like a small laptop, but, it would be too big of a hassle to use like a tablet if it was light enough.


Time is running out for Windows Server 2003 migration

November 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

Support for Windows Server 2003 will end next year, but careful planning can ease operating system migration.

With Windows Server 2003 support ending next year, there is a pressing need for organisations to move their applications and servers to a newer version of Windows Server.

This is something a lot of companies will have to deal with over the next 12 months. Many organisations have already migrated, since the end of support for Windows Server 2003 was first announced in September 2009.

But according to figures from IT professional network Spiceworks, 67% of UK firms still have Windows Server 2003 running somewhere in their organisation.

Within those companies, on average nearly one-third (30.2%) of their servers are running that venerable operating system (OS).

According to a survey by managed service provider Avanade, four out of five businesses that are still using Windows Server 2003 plan to move from the platform before the end-of-life deadline in July 2015. Some 40% will migrate this year and 41% will do so between January and July 2015.

Once support is no longer available, servers running Windows Server 2003 will be vulnerable with no security updates – unless firms pay eye-wateringly expensive fees to Microsoft, at about $200,000 each.

With that in mind, what is the best course of action for companies needing to move to a newer, supported platform?

Lee Norvall, CTO of Fusion Media Networks, says one strategy is to continue to run some applications on the outdated 2003 and move important data and systems management to Windows 2012 R2, protecting both with a managed doubled-tiered firewall system.

“There are some cases where it is not possible to migrate applications,” he says. “It might also be the case that some files on the system are no longer live or required for ongoing business processes. These applications and files can be left as they are, moved to another server and put behind a firewall for safe storage, rather like locking them in a cupboard where you can see them through the keyhole and access them for reference when required.”

Legacy issues
Ed Shepley, solutions architect at Camwood, says that for some legacy applications, making the move to a newer OS, such as Windows Server 2012 R2, may put older applications at the greatest risk of failure.

“They may well have been ported to 2003 from 2000,” he says. “Also complex apps that integrate with a lot of systems, as not only may their dependencies be incompatible, but their communication transports may have been deprecated on the new platform. Knowing upfront provides the information an enterprise needs to plan effectively around this risk.”

Quocirca analyst Clive Longbottom says applications could fail if they have been written with particular hardware in mind. “Some systems would access a SCSI device, such as a scanner or specific disk array,” he says. “As SCSI has been deprecated, it may be necessary to rewrite these areas of code to be more abstracted so as to enable USB, iSCSI, Sata or whatever device is to be embraced.”

Longbottom adds that anything based on completely physical constructs, such as the storage being in a particular location or the network card configuration, will struggle to move to a new server with a new OS. “The world has moved on so much since then,” he says.

Some applications had specific installation routines that were OS-specific, Longbottom points out. “As 2012 will report itself in a different way to the routine than 2003, you could end up with the dreaded ‘This application is not suitable for your OS’, or just ‘Incorrect OS found’, message. There are tools around that will run through the installation routine of an application and correct it wherever possible to make it more likely to install.”

Shepley says organisations should consider what business function these applications provide and break them down into component functions. “You are likely to be surprised how quick and easy it is to replicate, not the whole application, but just the parts the business needs, as a web app,” he says.

“To achieve this, the application needs reverse-engineering, its technologies identified, their communication transports determined, the data quantified and the use cases mapped. This information should be passed to the chosen development team to implement,” says Shepley.

“Old-school self-contained software development could be leveraged to answer this requirement, but consideration should be given to leveraging whatever technologies are supplied as services from cloud providers, that meet the needs identified in the reverse engineering.”

He adds that by hosting an application in the cloud, significant cost savings can be realised, not only in operational expenditure, but in the development cycle too.

New hardware
There is no denying that the shift away from Windows Server 2003 could entail a shift away from the hardware that ran it.

Dan Simmons, technical architect at Trustmarque, says: “Windows Server 2012 R2 is a 64-bit only operating system and this should be taken into consideration if an organisation is currently using a 32-bit OS. It could throw up compatibility issues with older hardware or applications.”

Of course, Windows Server 2003 was also available in a 64-bit version, so this could give organisations a few more options for upgrading their datacentre with less risk. Longbottom points out it is likely that 2012 will have less of a resource requirement than 2003, due to improvements in coding.

“This is not to say that I recommend trying to shoehorn 2012 onto a Pentium Pro server, however,” he adds.

An upgrade to 2012 brings the opportunity to look to more modern and efficient hardware as well, with less power and cooling required, says Longbottom, and better in-built system management and automation, where patches and updates to outdated hardware items are available and maintained. “It also means a more virtualised approach can be brought in, giving better performance and higher levels of system availability,” he says.

Tooling up
Another aspect to migration is what tools an organisation will use to shift infrastructure onto a new OS. AppDNA and ChangeBASE can help move applications from 2003 to 2012 R2, and Shepley says organisations should be aware how these apps would be supported if they are manipulated to work where they are not designed to do so.

“It’s fine as a stop-gap, but nothing is as reliable as an application running on the platform it was designed for,” he says. “Lift and shift if you have to, but plan to upgrade to the supported version as soon as logistically possible.”

Tools such as AppZero will help in the migration process and BDNA could assist in application assessment, identifying the best migration approach.

Of course, the next version of Windows Server may well have a different name, but the same issues will probably still apply in dealing with compatibility and legacy of applications. Shepley says more forward-thinking enterprises will already have sorted out their migration plans and are looking at their next move as the stepping stone to the one after.


Full-blown Photoshop on a Chromebook

November 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

Adobe has demonstrated a new version of Photoshop that works on devices as rudimentary as a Google Chromebook.

Photoshop is one of the most demanding applications available, which is why it forms part of the PC Pro Real World Benchmarks suite for testing new PCs. Yet, Adobe has demonstrated that it’s possible to run full-blown Photoshop on hardware as limited as Google’s browser-based Chromebooks, which normally use low-powered ARM-based processors and no more than 2GB of RAM. Not to mention the fact that Chromebooks don’t have an operating system that supports Photoshop in the first place.

Instead, Photoshop Streaming is a hosted application that is run on Adobe’s servers and streamed to the browser using an adaptation of the Remote Desktop extension for Chrome. All of the processing grunt is done at Adobe’s end, making the spec of the “receiving” Chromebook largely irrelevant. Photoshop Streaming will thus work on almost any Chromebook or Windows/Mac computer running the Chrome browser.

Performance is comparable to running Photoshop locally on a suitably specced PC, according to reports from Ars Technica and other US publications who were invited to an Adobe demo. However, there are some limitations. There’s no GPU support on the remote computer, so many of the 3D functions are off limits. Files can currently only be saved to Google Drive, although Adobe says it’s adding support for other cloud storage services, presumably including its own. And, of course, there’s no offline support if the internet connection fails.

Adobe is currently offering Photoshop Streaming as a closed beta in the US, although eventually aims to make it part of its Creative Cloud package, potentially allowing subscribers to edit photos/images from any internet-connected computer. It’s a similar concept (if a different technology) to Microsoft’s Office on Demand, which allowed Office 365 subscribers to download and run any of the Office apps from any PC. However, the little-used feature was discontinued earlier this month.

Adobe says education customers are the primary target for Photoshop Streaming, with schools not having to worry about upgrading PCs to cope with Photoshop or keeping client software updated.


Our Favorite Android, IOS, And Windows Phone Apps Of The Week

November 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

This week some of the world’s biggest apps just got better. Snapchat introduced an in-app payment system, powered by Square, called Snapcash, and WhatsApp began rolling out the largest implementation of end-to-end encryption ever. Oh yeah, and Facebook released a thing.

But amidst all these blockbuster headlines, lots of great apps joined iOS and Android, not to mention two official apps for Windows Phone in its ongoing quest to close the app gap. Here are the best apps of the week.

Grabbing headlines with its return to the hardware game with the N1 Android tablet, Nokia also launched an Android launcher meant to make Google fans lives a little bit easier. This app was originally announced in June but Nokia released the Z Launcher beta earlier this week. Perhaps its most interesting feature is letting you quickly search your app drawer by physically drawing letters on the screen with your finger. It’s a little quirky and has a few rough edges that need smoothing, but it’s worth the test drive considering it requires no monetary commitment.

The Hunt has been a popular iOS app for improving your wardrobe, and now it comes to Android. It doesn’t hide behind the fact that it’s geared toward young women, but you can also find a men’s tab as well as finding matches for other odds and ends you may be looking for. I know for certain that I could use some clothing assistance. Maybe there really is an app for that.

My version of The Hunt works fine, but some have reported issues signing in or seeing their profiles, so this release might need a little bit more work before it’s running optimally.


Intel India sees rising adoption of internet-based devices here

November 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

The research and development (R&D) centre of Intel India here, the arm of the California-headquartered information technology (IT) giant, is looking at developing system-on-chips (SoCs), used in the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and wearables.

IoT technology enables device-to-device communication, without human intervention. SoC is an integrated circuit, wherein all components of a computer or electronic system are converged into a single processor.

The centre here is the chip maker’s third largest R&D site globally. This step comes in the wake of the Indian IT market showing signs of maturity, backed by government initiatives such as Digital India.

Traditionally, Intel India R&D has been focused on developing software and hardware graphics, and the central processing units for servers. Intel India president Kumud Srinivasan says the focus on these core R&D works would continue. However, the company would also look at developing solutions in the IoT space, to be developed into a product for the India market. And, then be taken to other markets.

“What we expect to be doing in 2015 is to develop the SoCs that go into wearables, develop the SoCs going to IoT devices, and also potentially look at solutions that we could bring into the local market,” Srinivasan told Business Standard.

Intel India demonstrated its capability in the IoT space earlier this year. Chief executive Brian Krzanich had demonstrated the reference design of a smart watch at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The smart watch in question is capable of keeping track of several health-related data points such as steps, calories, heart rate, perspiration, skin temperature and sleep habits, among others. It was conceived, designed and developed out of India.

During the CeBIT India conference here, in the second week of this month, Intel India had unveiled a sensing platform as one in sync with its strategy to come out with consumer IoT devices, focusing on local and frugal innovation. The platform can find applications in various industry segments and is a combination of three technologies – a sensing device, a gateway and cloud. The gateway (which can even be your smartphone) essentially aggregates all the data the sensing device collects and send it to the cloud after filtering it. The idea is to collect the data, analyse it and come to a logical conclusion before responding to it.

Intel has already made a product of one such platform, meant for the health care segment, in partnership with a local original equipment manufacturer. It has applications such as measuring glucose levels and ECG, and has a pedometer. Similarly, in the automotive environment, the platform is capable of collecting data about drivers’ habits or parameters about a car which could be useful for things like predictive analytics and preventive maintenance.

According to Srinivasan, the acceptance of such innovations in the Indian market is expected to be greater in the future, especially after the government’s intent to make Digital India a success. “Digital India is very comprehensive in its scope; that is very encouraging. Solutions like IoT will accelerate the rate of growth here. So, the need, willpower and focus are there. All these put together is making me quite optimistic (about India),” she added.

Gartner, the IT research and advisory firm forecasts that 4.9 billion connected IoT devices will be in use in 2015, up 30 per cent from 2014. And, this is expected to reach 25 billion by 2020, globally.

Intel has around 6,500 employees in India, including that of McAfee, its subsidiary (around 1,500). Almost 70 per cent of these employees in the country are into core R&D work. Intel India is also looking at hiring critical skills from outside, apart from building those internally.

“India, with its growing software community and growing and healthy system integrators’ ecosystem, is a great place for R&D operations. While we are already the third most important R&D site for Intel, we see us to becoming stronger and stronger,” said Srinivasan.


Lenovo Erazer X315 review: Gaming for all

November 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

There’s one thing Lenovo is exceedingly good at: making excellent products at approachable price points. At CES this year, we became enamored with their 4K monitor, which had impressive resolution and a then jaw-dropping low price tag. Keeping in line with their high-end/low-cost desktop ambitions, Lenovo has the Erazer X315, which — for a gaming desktop computer — holds a very slim starting price. Does a low price mean Lenovo’s Erazer is cheap? We give it the gaming go-round to find out.


As gaming PCs go, the X315 toes the line. It’s got flashy accents, with a lone blue light staring you down face-on. The DVD RW and card reader are tucked away, shielded from view, almost begging you to look at your screen instead of the computer.

Two generous mesh vents adorn the sides of the X315. Around back, you have the usual host of ports and such. Two USB 3.0 ports, Two USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, Care reader, Microphone, Headphone, and LAN are all included.

Buy an X315, and Lenovo includes a keyboard and mouse to get you started. They’re very standard fare, so we’d suggest you upgrade if you’re a serious gamer. Luckily, Lenovo has some upgrades you can take advantage of.

Both the Logitech G710 keyboard and G602 mouse are upgrades for the X315, and probably ones you should strongly consider. For gaming enthusiasts, the mechanical keyboard will be a nice addition, and a more robust mouse is also something we prefer for longer gaming sessions.


Surface Pro 3 firmware patch solves some glitches, but Wi-Fi problems persist

November 21st, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

Microsoft announced a firmware update for the Surface Pro 3 on Thursday. It’s the ninth firmware patch in the five months the Surface Pro 3 has been on the market. Initial reports on the Microsoft Answers forum are encouraging for some peripherals — Bluetooth seems to be getting better — but many people report the Wi-Fi problems are still there. Some say they’re getting worse.

Microsoft has yet to officially respond on the forums.

On the bright side, there are several reports that Bluetooth-connected devices are working properly after this latest update. Poster Dean Blakely, for example, says this patch finally allowed him to pair his Logitech K810 Bluetooth keyboard to his SP3.

Wi-Fi is another story altogether. The long-running “slow Wi-Fi” thread on the Answers forum has good news about better Wi-Fi connections — poster ScumdogMillionaire says “much better after today’s firmware update!!! FINALLY!” — and bad news as well. Randy31416 reports:

After today’s (November 19) update, wifi performance remains dreadful and it is even slower than after the late October firmware update. Transferring a folder with two files contaning rougly 1GB from desktop to Surface takes 42 minutes 53 seconds. (It was 37 minutes 16 seconds with the late October firmware.) A cheap Patriot dongle takes 1 minute 20 seconds. An old Dell laptop takes 2 minutes roughly. The Surface is now 26 times slower than the Patriot dongle.

Poster Wildsoldier tells a similar tale of woe in a different forum.

Microsoft MVP and forum moderator Barb Bowman has an excellent, technical review of possible tweaks on her blog. In the end, she surmises, “It’s up to Microsoft to fix.”

I’ve been covering Surface Pro 3 Wi-Fi problems since the machine was first released in June. With each iteration, some Wi-Fi problems seem to get fixed while others get worse. Microsoft clearly hasn’t solved the problem — which points to the possibility that the Marvell Avastar Wireless AC Network Controller inside the Surface Pro 3 is having intractable problems.

If the Marvell Network Controller is the source of the problem, and if the problem can’t be solved with software, Microsoft’s caught between a rock and a hard place. Should all Surface Pro 3 machines be recalled to replace the faulty chip? Should a new version of the Surface Pro 3 be released with a network controller that works? Perhaps Microsoft will slipstream the change, without making a big deal of it? Or should Microsoft do the best it can with the cards it’s been dealt?


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