Archive for March, 2013

Windows Blue build with minor improvements leaks

March 29, 2013 1 comment

Original Post:

By on March 24, 2013

Rumors about Microsoft’s strategy for the next version of Windows was all we had until recently. Some job postings highlighted that Microsoft is working on Windows 9 and Windows Blue. From the meager information that we have, it looks as if Windows Blue will be an update to Windows 8 while Windows 9 will be the next operating system the company plans to release. As always, Windows 9 is only a codename used during development. While it is unlikely that Microsoft will change the name, it is in the realm of possibility that the company will nevertheless.

Various Internet sites and forums indicate that a build of Windows Blue leaked on the Internet. If you have expected major changes in Windows Blue you will probably be disappointed as it seems to offer only gradual improvements over Windows 8. While it is too early to say if it will be an update – like a service pack with additional features – for Windows 8 or introduce major changes to Windows 8 that are implemented into later builds, it is clear for now at least that users should not expect too much from it.

A video was released on YouTube a couple of hours ago that walks you through Windows Blue build 9364.

The first thing that you will notice is that there is no start menu, and that the start screen is still there. If you had hopes that Microsoft would somehow reconsider some of its decisions that it made for Windows 8 you will certainly be disappointed by this. So what is new in Windows Blue?

  • Ships with Internet Explorer 11, the next installment of Microsoft’s web browser.
  • Additional personalization options for the start screen. Direct access to personalization, more colors mostly

windows blue personalization

  • SkyDrive integration into the Start Screen control panel including Device backup option which can be configured to automatically backup OS settings and app data.
  • New Sync feature under Accounts, currently not implemented and not clear what it will do.
  • Additional privacy options, including webcam, microphone and custom peripherals listings that detail which apps are allowed to use them. With option to disallow the use.
  • Apps can now be displayed in a 50/50 ratio on the screen next to each other instead of the current option to display them in a 1/3 to 2/3 ratio on the screen. Also options to display more than two apps on the screen at the same time including three or four with them sharing the screen equally.
  • Different live tile sizes on the start screen. The new size that you can see in the videos is small, which lets you add more tiles to the visible area of the start screen. That’s good I guess.

Many of the changes make sense and users of the operating system will likely welcome them with open arms. Critics of Windows 8 on the other hand won’t be convinced by the changes to give the operating system a(nother) try as the current build is not changing any of the major points of criticism.

What’s your take on the changes introduced in Windows Blue so far?


Windows 7 SP1 will be distributed via automatic update

March 29, 2013 Leave a comment

Original Post:

By on March 19, 2013

The end of support for the original version of Windows 7 is near – it ends on April 9, 2013 – and Microsoft as a consequence decided to distribute the first service pack for the operating system via Windows Update as an automatic update. You are probably wondering why support is ending. Microsoft has a policy in place that specifies that support for a product ends 24 months after the released of a service pack for it.

What this means is that support for all versions of Windows 7 will run out in the beginning of April since Windows 7 SP1 was released two years ago. Support for the service pack version of the operating system continues however, with the mainstream support date set to end on January 13, 2015 and the extended support date ending January 14, 2020.

The differences between both support phases may need explanation as well. When a product enters its extended support phase, it will receive security updates as usual. It won’t receive other hotfixes and users can’t use no-charge support programs anymore.

You can download the Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 here if you do not want to wait until it is automatically distributed. Most Ghacks users who run Windows 7 have probably upgraded a long time ago anyway. Microsoft plans to roll out the service pack to all users of the operating system who have not upgraded yet over the coming weeks. The company notes that this update will only be applied to consumer PCs and not PCs that are managed by a Microsoft management tool such as SCCM or WSUS Server.

What happens if you fail to upgrade to service pack 1? You won’t receive any security updates or other updates anymore after the support end date as confirmed on the Microsoft Support Lifecycle page:

Both the Mainstream Support and Extended Support phases for software require a product’s supported service pack be installed to continue to receive full support (including security and DST updates).

Security updates released with bulletins from the Microsoft Security Response Center will be reviewed and built for the supported service packs only.

If you do not install the service pack for Windows 7, your PC will not receive these updates anymore after April 9, 2013.

Microsoft recommends that you make sure that you have sufficient free disk space on your system before you install the service pack for Windows 7.  The service pack requires about 750 Megabyte of space on 32-bit systems and 1050 Megabyte of space on 64-bit systems if installed via Windows Update.

Dropbox Torrent uses Dropbox to load torrents on local PCs

March 15, 2013 2 comments

Original Post:

By on March 14, 2013


If you work on multiple computer systems, some local some remote, you may have encountered situations where you’d want one of your remote machines to handle a task. Maybe you discovered a torrent that you want to download, but since you are not at the right location to do so, you may have come up with a workaround. Maybe you have attached the torrents to emails for safekeeping or loaded them into online storage.

Services like Iffft may have improved the handling for you, by automating the task so that you do not have to load that torrent manually on a system once you got access to it locally. And some clients, like uTorrent, can monitor locations on a computer systems for new torrents that you add to it.

The basic idea behind Dropbox Torrent is very similar. It is a program that monitors your Dropbox folder for new torrents, and when it finds any, it will start to add those torrents to its internal client and start the downloading right away.

Here is how it works in detail:

  1. You install Dropbox Torrent on a local Windows system and run it from C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\PhrozenSoft\PDBOXTORRENT afterwards.
  2. A click on Settings displays the Dropbox path, device name, the number of tasks that you want the program to run at the same time, and the logs count you want displayed. Make sure the Dropbox path is set correctly here. There does not seem to be an option to change it though.
  3. All you need to do now is save torrent files you want to download on the computer Dropbox Torrent is running on into the main Dropbox directory.

dropbox torrent

You do not really have control over the downloading itself. You can’t for instance specify upload or download limits, remove broken or non-working downloads from the finalized work table, or change other torrent related settings such as ports.

You can configure the uTorrent client for pretty much the same task. The main benefit here is that you get better controls over the process.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Open uTorrent and click on Options > Preferences or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-P.
  2. Switch to Directories on the left and locate the “automatically load .torrents from” section here.
  3. Select a Dropbox folder, or any other file hosting folder, e.g. SkyDrive or Google Drive, here.
  4. Torrents that you move into that folder will be loaded into uTorrent automatically, provided that the system uTorrent is running on is up and connected to the Internet.

utorrent load remote torrents dropbox

I do prefer uTorrent for this right now as it is offering better controls over the whole process.

How to create photo slideshows on YouTube

March 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Original Post:

By on March 13, 2013


YouTube is best know for its video hosting capabilities which have been improved a lot by Google in recent years. The site is supporting higher resolutions now for instance or making available a video editor to its users and while that is certainly basic in comparison to high end video editing tools, it makes available a set of interesting features on the site directly.

What many YouTube users do not know is that it is also possible to use YouTube to create photo slideshows. Most users are probably creating the slideshows in programs like Windows Movie Maker before they upload the resulting videos to YouTube. This is however no longer necessary as YouTube is supporting the creation of photo slideshows now as well.

Here is what you need to do to create a photo slideshow on YouTube.

  • Open the YouTube website and click on the upload button after you have signed in to your account.
  • Here you can add videos either via drag and drop, or by clicking on the button in the middle of the page.
  • You find the photo slideshow option on the right. Just click on the create button here to get started.

youtube photo slideshow

  • This opens the photo selection window. Here you can pick photos that you have already uploaded to various Google services, or use the upload photos option to add new photos from your local system.

photos youtube

  • A preview of the photos that you have selected are then displayed as thumbnail previews on the upload page. You can rearrange them here or remove photos that you do not want to include in the slideshow.
  • Once you are satisfied with the selection, scroll down to the very bottom of the page and select next there.
  • The next page displays a preview of the photo slideshow in video format.

youtube slideshows

  • Here you can preview the video and modify a couple of effects including the slide duration, the slide effect and the transition effect.
  • You can also select an audio track here that you want played while the video is playing.
  • Once you are satisfied with the selection, click on upload to upload the video to YouTube.
  • This redirects you to the last page of the process where you need to add a title, description and tags to the video. Here you can also select a category for the video, and set its privacy settings.


YouTube’s photo slideshow creation feature is a great addition to the site, even though it is a bit basic in some regards. You can’t add your own music to the slideshow for instance, and there is no option to add custom text to the slideshow. If you just want to create a slideshow though and do not mind that, then it is certainly an interesting option for that. (via Labnol)

Microsoft to turn on Flash by default in Windows 8

March 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Original Post:

By on March 11, 2013


One of the new features of Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 is that Microsoft integrated Adobe’s Flash Player natively into the start screen version of the web browser. This native integration, much like Google does when it comes to the company’s Chrome browser enabled Microsoft to integrate Flash in a way that it is technical no longer a plugin that needs to be loaded from external sources. By doing so, Microsoft bypassed the operating system’s limitation on the start screen that would prevent the Flash plugin from being loaded otherwise.

The company made the decision to limit Flash contents to a list of whitelisted websites. If the site was on the list, Flash would run just fine, if the site was not on it, Flash would not be loaded. It was not really difficult to edit the site list and many users did so that used the app version of Internet Explorer 10.

Today Microsoft announced that it made the decision to change that behavior in Windows 8. Instead of using a whitelist approach, Microsoft from tomorrow’s patch day on will use a blacklist approach instead. This means that Internet Explorer 10 will support Flash on all websites except for those that are on Microsoft’s compatibility view list.

  Windows 8 Windows RT
Immersive IE Enabled unless on CV list Enabled unless on CV list
Desktop IE Enabled for all sites Enabled unless on CV list

It needs to be noted that this affects only Flash in the app version of Internet Explorer 10, and not Flash on the desktop in Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro. That version of Flash still needs to be installed separately and will run on all sites automatically.

Microsoft notes that the update will be made available via Windows Update tomorrow with this month’s Patch Tuesday.

You are probably wondering why Microsoft made the decision to make a 180° degree turn in regards to Flash in Windows 8. The reason that Microsoft provides us with is that it has tested thousands of sites and discovered that only a small fraction of sites are not compatible with the Windows experience goals.

If you are asking me, it may have just realized that limiting Flash contents in IE10 is too limiting for users of the operating system. If your favorite sites do not work because of that, it is likely that users will blame Microsoft in the end and switch browsers if they can. On Windows RT though, they can’t.

Dropbox 2.0 client update brings a new desktop menu

March 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Original Post:

By on March 12, 2013//

Dropbox has just released version 2.0 of its desktop client for all supported operating systems. For some, it may be a disappointing update especially so if the latest experimental version of Dropbox is already installed on the system.

Dropbox 2.0 brings a new desktop menu to all versions of the file synchronization client that improves your interaction with files that have been recently changed, uploaded or shared.

When you click on the desktop icon on your system right now, you are presented with a list of recent changes and shares. This is helpful if the count is three or less, and not so much if you receive dozens or more files at a time as only the last three are displayed here.

dropbox 2.0

One of the new features of the menu is the share button that is displayed when you hover your mouse over a recently changed item in your Dropbox. A click on the share button opens the Dropbox website in the default system browser. Here you are then taken to the sharing screen to share the file with email, Facebook or Twitter contacts.

The second new feature is the list of recent team or sharing activity right in the menu. Here you see the most recent invites that you may have received as well as the latest files that someone shared with you.

dropbox sharing

If someone invites you to share a folder, you can use the menu to accept or decline that invitation right from the desktop.

The Dropbox 2.0 update will roll our slowly as usual, and if you want to get it right now, you should grab the installer from the official Dropbox website and install the new version manually on your system. Note that I ran into issues doing so and had to uninstall the existing desktop client of Dropbox before I was able to install the new version on my Windows 7 system.

The new desktop menu seems to be the only change that Dropbox implemented into version 2.0 of their client.

FMGem: music video player with YouTube integration

March 9, 2013 2 comments

Original Post:

By on March 7, 2013 – Tags:


YouTube is without doubt one of the largest online repositories in regards to music and music videos that is available on today’s Internet. While it is likely that you find nearly every artist and song imaginable on the video hosting site if only you look long enough for it, it needs to be mentioned that the search capabilities are not really the best on the site itself. While you can type in the name of a song or artist, you often end up with unrelated videos thrown into the mix and combing through all results often takes longer than it should.

FMGem is a relative new service available on the Internet that makes available YouTube’s vast music archive on its own website. That in itself would not be really spectacular, but the integration of a music database that provides you with detailed information about bands, their albums and songs, is.

fmgem music

Here is how it works. You type the name of a song, artist or album you are interested in to the search form on top and wait for the results to be populated. Depending on that, you are either presented with a list of videos right away displayed on the left side of the screen, or a selection menu where you are asked to pick the name of the band or album from a list of results.

You can switch to albums search mode instead which is where most of the magic happens. If you enter Abba for instance here or any other band name, you are presented with a list of albums that were released by that band. A click on an album displays the list of songs included in that album, and a click on any of the songs here displays matching videos on the left again.

You can also use the add all button to add all of the songs to a playlist that is then automatically played while you are on the site. The site is also displaying related music on the right which you can also add to your playlist if you like.

music youtube

What’s excellent about FMGem is that it is really working well in combining music information, e.g. band names, songs or albums, with content that you find on YouTube. While you sometimes find a dud in the results listing, those seem to be less frequently there than if you would be searching for music directly on YouTube.

A couple of options are displayed right above the playlist section on the site. Here you can for instance navigate between items easily, remove the sidebars and playlist area to make more room for the actual video, or share what you have discovered on sites like Reddit or Facebook.

You can use the site to create your own playlist of music that brings you through the day. Just search for artists and albums you want to listen to and add those that you find to the playlist. Everything else happens automatic from that moment on and you can theoretically minimize the browser window or switch tabs while continuing to listen to music in the background.

The interface itself looks a bit messy, but it should not take long to get used to it. All in all an excellent site for Internet users who like to listen to music while they are on the Internet.

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