Windows 7 Choices

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Grumbling in the user ranks. . . that has been a common reaction to last year's latest addition to the Windows lineup, with Windows 8 now calling the shots. A number of unpopular changes, including the loss of the very popular start button, has not enamored Windows 8 with users. Although the release of Windows 8.1 is upon us with some needed improvements, that's not the entirety of the good news today.
Those of you who would like to have Windows 7 back can certainly get it back. It's not only available, you can get it installed on a new PC.

Windows XP Support Ends April 2014

Many of you who don't like making decisions will be forced to make one in the not-too-distant-future. Microsoft will be ending Windows XP support in April 2014. What that means is XP will no longer receive updates, including those critical security updates that keep it secure. At that point, you will have to make a decision on how you will get your next Windows 7 version, if Windows 7 is what you prefer over Windows 8.  You have two choices: keep your current PC and upgrade to Windows 7 or purchase a new PC with Windows 7 installed.

New PC with Windows 7 Option

Buying a new PC with Windows 7 installed is available through October. A number of vendors including Dell and Lenovo offer this choice on their web sites. If you do a Google search, you'll find it available for laptops and desktop PCs. Those of you on a budget can also get a refurbished PC at Walmart for around $150. 

Windows 7 Upgrade Option

If you want to keep your current PC and upgrade from Windows XP, select the Windows 8 Buy link here, and select the "Can my PC run Windows 8" button. Don't worry, if it says your PC can run Windows 8, it also means it can run Windows 7. If your PC is a candidate for Windows 7, select the Windows XP to Windows 7 upgrade link here, which will guide you through the process.

Windows 7 Considerations

  • One positive aspect of choosing Windows 7 is that although Windows 7 support ends in early 2015, it's extended support will last up through 2020. 
  • If you run the Windows 8 buy link shown above which tests your PC for Windows 8/7 compatibility, it may tell you that you can use it but only if you purchase the clean-install version, which is more expensive than the upgrade version. You could be looking at close to $200 depending on who you buy from.
  • Windows 7 has a Windows XP Compatibility Mode, which enables you to run Windows XP applications on Windows 7. However, this is not rocket-science and some of your applications may not run on Windows 7, forcing you to purchase a Windows 7 version if the software is in your "gotta have" category of apps.

Like many things in high-tech, the answer is not always crystal clear as to which way to go, but hopefully some of the above will help in giving you some basic guidelines for making your next Windows OS choice. The key is to shop around online and get some pricing numbers and then go from there. Good luck!

Haswell: Intel 4th Generation Processor – Marketplace Effect

Intel has recently released the Haswell, their 4th generation of the Core i series processor, and it has occurred at an interesting time. Some are viewing it as a factor in furthering the PC industry's sagging sales. I see that as a short term effect; let's also look at this from a more long-term view.

Yes, it's true the price point on the laptop low-end will be in the $700 range and $1300-1600 on the high-end. However, it is also true that with a new generation release (tock), the price will be higher. . . somewhat. Looking beneath the surface of that, let's consider what has occurred with the Haswell release in terms of it's features (or lack of) that are narrowing the gap between laptops (more distinctly Ultrabooks) and the tablets.

Let's consider the changes that have occurred from this 4th generation release:

  • Energy usage has become much more efficient. Longer battery life is the top feature; 7-9 hours are possible now. Users that have considered going to tablets because of their much longer battery life now have a viable option with a Haswell laptop/ultrabook. 
  • Enhanced Graphics capability will be a joy to many users. Users that opted for a tablet because of graphics support may now want to think twice about converting to a tablet.
  • Intel Ultrabook touchscreen mandate; the machine must now have a touchscreen or it is not considered an Ultrabook. Users that love the tablet touchscreen now understand all Ultrabooks will in fact have that capability; no exceptions.

The long-term laptop/tablet marketplace pricing will follow the features users desire for their computing. The features that were so attractive to tablets; long battery life, user interaction, good graphics capabilities, are now available to laptops/ultrabooks. As demand increases, prices should come down. This should drive laptop sales up and stabilize that industry sector.  That sector definitely can use a boost.

It will also be interesting to see the overall PC industry effect from the 4th generation Haswell. Intel has earmarked all sectors; tablet-laptop-desktop-server as candidates for this processor. This Fall, we will see more of the higher-end desktops available with this processor. Desktops with the Haswell will no longer have legacy PCI support on expansion cards. PCI Express is the only game in town now.

Many of you opting for a laptop to tablet conversion may find this is a good time to get a tablet, with the great prices available. However, I believe we will see in the not too distant future, the public being in an interesting position to consider two choices: the tablet, and the good ole tried and true laptop, that can also successfully meet your portable computing needs with similar features.  I see that as a great place to be.

 To get more information about the Hawell 4th generation processor from Intel, you can view it here.

Apple Computer’s Thunderbolt

Are you looking for a Windows PC that has the fastest external data transfer speed in home computing? Orginally desgined by Intel and Apple Computer for their computers, the Thunderbolt technology  has been licensed to a few companies, including Acer, for one of its higher-end laptops. Thunderbolt's speed is 10 Gbps; to understand just how fast this is, you can download a full-length HD movie in under 30 seconds. Yep, that's pretty quick. 

Thunderbolt vs USB

To put it in perspective to other data transfer technologies, USB version 3.0 is 5 Gbps, so Thunderbolt is twice as fast, although replacing copper with fiber-optic wiring in the interface cables will significantly add to the speed.

Acer Aspire and Lenovo ThinkPad Ege

The Acer Aspire S5 laptop is selling with the Thunderbolt port for about $1300. The Aspire is ultra-thin and light, at 2.6 lbs,  and all of the ports are contained behind a motorized door. Other PC makers on the Thunderbolt bandwagon include the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge laptop, and Asus has added it to a few of their laptops as well.  The issue right now is that only a handful of companies make peripherals that are compatible with the Thunderbolt standard, although many believe it will be a different story by the end of 2012.  Time will tell. 

More information about Thunderbolt vs. USB can be viewed here.

USB Superspeed+ vs Thunderbolt

Can you say "Speed War?" The USB vs Thunderbolt speed war escalates as the latest USB standard has been upped to version 3.1. It is unofficially known at Superspeed+ and doubles the data bandwidth for USB devices to 10Gbps (gigabits per second).

Thunderbolt Bandwidth

Thunderbolt, the competing technology used for data transfer on Apple machines, already has comparable 10Gbps bandwidth capability.  Released back in 2011 with the MacBook Pro, Thunderbolt uses a Mini DisplayPort connector, different from the standard USB waferish style of connector that PC compatible machines have used since USB's inception. 

Thunderbolt Support

It will be some time before we see Superspeed+ hit the stores however. Two things need to take place first. Intel, AMD, and other chipset manufacturers will have to produce support chips to accomodate the new technology. Second, manufacturers of products that use USB will have to revise their products to accomodate the new standard. 3.1 will be fully backwards-compatible with devices using the older USB 3.0 technology, so it will not be a problem with PCs using the superspeed+ with devices built for 3.0; they will simply run in accordance with the 3.0 standard speed. 

Thunderbolt Availability

It will be late 2014 before we see Superspeed+ on machines. And it most likely will be early 2015 before we see it being offered on a large-scale with a plentiful supply of vendors supporting it. It is exciting to see it here. This speed war does have a beneficiary; the consumer. Who says a war has to be nasty?

To get more information about the Thunderbolt vs. USB speed war, you can check it out here.

Apple vs Samsung Landmark Case Verdict

Well, a verdict was reached in a San Jose, CA courtroom about an hour ago. The verdict was an overwhelming victory for Apple. Frankly, I would have preferred a more balanced verdict. 

Verdict of the Case

  • Jury finds Samsung infringement of Apple utility, design patents for some (though not all) products
  • Jury upholds Apple utility, design patents
  • Jury upholds Apple trade dress '983
  • Jury finds Samsung "diluted" Apple's registered iPhone, iPhone 3 and "Combination iPhone" trade dress on some products, not on others
  • No Apple infringement of Samsung utility patents
  • Jury found Samsung violated antitrust law by monopolizing markets related to the UMTS standard

Damages

  • $1.05 billion in TOTAL damages assessed to Samsung
  • No damages against Apple from Samsung's countersuit

It is virtually impossible for ANY Smartphone manufacturer to not infridge on one of Apple's patents. To avoid killing all competition in the phone market, this is something that should be overlooked, but with this condition: the phone manufacturer uses INNOVATION in designing their product. Samsung certainly should have been more innovative and Apple should have been more forgiving.

I believe the verdict is a loss for the competitive market for Smartphones. Apple will now use this case as a precedence for future litigation against the other Smartphone manufacturers.  This is not a good day for the future innovativeness of the Smartphone market.