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How to make your move to Windows 8
Is your business ready for the move to Windows 8? You might want to start moving users to Windows 8 to get the better security, or the option of running Windows from a USB stick with Windows To Go; they might ask for Windows 8 to get the extra battery life on a notebook. Even if you're not planning on switching immediately, given the popularity of Microsoft's Surface tablet, you can expect users to start bringing Windows RT devices to work soon and the PCs you buy will soon start coming with Windows 8.
You don't need a new PC for Windows 8. Almost any PC that runs Windows 7 – or even Windows XP – can run Windows 8; as long as you have 1GB of RAM (2GB for a 64-bit system), 16-20GB of free disk space and a DirectX 9 GPU with a WDDM 1.0 driver or better. What you need to bear in mind is the screen resolution and whether the CPU supports Physical Address Extension (PAE) and the NX (No eXecute) bit.
PAE is required for NX to work correctly, and NX is what Windows uses to mark sections of memory that are only used to store data. That tells Windows not to run any instructions from those areas of memory, which stops the most common type of security exploit – filling an area of memory with instructions that are too big to fit and 'overflow' in such a way that they get run as code.
Insisting that you have to have a PAE-NX-capable CPU means you can't install on systems with some CPUs that actually meet the 1GHz minimum speed to run Windows 8 – like the Pentium M with 400MHz Front Side Bus – but it also improves security for Windows 8.
If you want to use Hyper-V in Windows 8, you need a 64-bit CPU with second-level address translation (SLAT) and another 2GB of RAM to run the hypervisor. Most PCs manufactured before Windows Vista aren't able to boot from a USB; and that won't stop you running Windows 8, but it does mean you have to install from DVD rather than a USB drive.
The screen resolution won't stop you installing Windows 8 either (even the 800 by 600 of a netbook), but it might stop you using some of the features. You can't run any WinRT apps – including the Windows Store you need to get WinRT apps – unless the resolution is at least 1024 by 768. And if you want to snap two WinRT apps side by side on screen, you need a screen that has at least 1366 by 768 resolution.
You don't have to have a touch screen, although Windows 8 is certainly easier to use if you do. Only newer touch pads support the touch gestures for opening the charm bar, bringing up the app bar and switching applications; you need the right drivers as well. The latest drivers for the Microsoft Touch Mouse give it the Windows 8 gestures, which is probably the easiest way to add touch functionality to existing desktop PCs.
While most keyboards have the Windows key, you'll need to have a Windows 8 compatible keyboard to get the most out of the new OS, particularly if you're not going to splash out on a touch screen. Keyboards designed for Windows 8 come with keys for the different charm bar icons like Settings and Devices; new Microsoft keyboards like the Sculpt Comfort also have buttons for opening the app switching pane, snapping apps side by side and swapping them around on screen. Again, this makes actually using many of the new Windows 8 features rather easier.
There's one feature in Windows 8 you do need a new PC for; Connected Standby only works on Windows RT devices or on PCs and tablets powered by a System on Chip processor like the Intel Atom Z2760 or forthcoming AMD APUs.
Connected Standby is designed to save power by putting the PC hardware to sleep while the screen is off and using Wi-Fi or mobile broadband to receive incoming messages like email and VoIP calls so you stay up to date without running out of power. There is no way to turn on Connected Standby on existing PCs as the hardware doesn't support the low-power states and the Wi-Fi offload.
Upgrade options and upgrade help
What you can keep when you upgrade to Windows 8 depends on what you're starting with. You can keep installed applications that are compatible with Windows 8 if you're upgrading from Windows 7 – as long as you're upgrading to the same edition or higher.
So if you have Windows 7 Ultimate you have to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro to keep installed programs and if you have a volume licence for Windows 7 Professional or Enterprise, you have to upgrade to Windows Enterprise. If you upgrade from XP (SP3) you can only keep your files; whereas an upgrade from Vista means you can keep settings and accounts as well.
For simplicity, you can use the built-in Windows Easy Transfer wizard in Windows to back up files and settings to reapply after the upgrade (or to migrate a user to a new PC that feels like their old PC). If you're upgrading more than a few PCs, look at the User State Migration Tool; this command line tool captures user accounts, user files, operating system settings, and application settings, using XML configuration rules to control what gets migrated and how.
If you want to preserve programs from older versions of Windows, try Laplink PC Mover; this copies and reinstalls the applications along with files, settings and accounts – but you need to be sure all your applications will actually run correctly.
Collect data, check compatibility
There are some system tools, low-level utilities and security applications you will definitely need to upgrade for Windows 8. Defender anti-virus software is built in to Windows 8 but if you're installing third-party security software make sure it supports the Early Load Anti Malware (ELAM option) so your PC is protected earlier in the boot process. If you use XP Mode or MEDV to virtualise Windows XP programs, that won't work in Windows 8.
To see if other software is compatible before the Upgrade Assistant in the Windows installer runs, start by taking an audit of the programs in use in your business.
If you have Software Assurance, you can do that with the Asset Inventory Service in the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack although this is used so infrequently that Microsoft will take it out of MDOP in April 2013.
Using Microsoft Assessment and Planning toolkit to move to Windows 8
MAP can look at your entire infrastructure and help you plan server virtualisation and cloud migration, and you certainly won't need to use the entire toolkit to prepare for Windows 8 but you can use the Inventory and Assessment Wizard to generate a Windows 8 Hardware Assessment report that will tell you which of your PCs can be upgraded.
You can see details of which applications are in use as well as PC specs in the Hardware and Software Summary report and the Performance Metrics Wizard gives you information about processor, memory, disk and network usage.
To use MAP, you'll need to have the account name and passwords for accounts with local machine administrative rights on each PC, and you'll need to enable the WMI collector that gathers the information about PCs by hand, through Group Policy or with logon scripts.
MAP will still work if you don't have Active Directory but if any of the PCs you're assessing are behind a firewall you'll need to open the relevant ports and you may need to configure Windows Firewall to allow WMI (again you can do that using logon scripts if you don't have AD to push out Group Policy).
Check a selection of your current hardware for Windows 8 compatibility by running a pilot deployment. This also lets you see program compatibility first hand; remember to try the Program Compatibility Troubleshooter or the Compatibility settings in file properties to get them working correctly. You can check the performance of your test PCs at common tasks like copying files and browsing with the Windows Assessment Services in the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit.
Are your apps Windows 8 compatible?
As well testing software as part of your pilot deployment, you can look at the Windows 8 Compatibility Center. This covers software, peripherals and devices that Microsoft has tested with Windows 8; you can also see if other users have seen compatibility issues with particular products. Much of the information is based on preview versions of Windows 8 but Microsoft is updating the database with compatibility information for RTM.
If you need to do more formal compatibility testing of applications (especially if you have custom applications that your business relies on), use the latest versions of the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (which is also in the Windows 8 version of the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit).
Rather than running applications on your current version of Windows and trying to predict issues, this now lets you test applications (and key websites or web apps) on Windows 8 and collect compatibility information as they run, so you'll need either a test lab or a pilot deployment that you can monitor.
ACT will do system, device and software inventories for you but you need to create inventory collection and runtime-analysis packages as MSI files that you install on individual PCs, run the Compatibility Monitor and then run your applications and analyse the results (which are stored in a SQL Server database) with the Application Compatibility Manager. If you're a smaller business using off-the-shelf software, simpler compatibility testing may be all you need.
UK's digital switchover is complete, Ofcom confirms
Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in the future: the UK's digital switchover is now complete.
Northern Ireland was the last area to make the switch from analogue to digital television and when its analogue broadcast signal was turned off today, it ended over 70 years of digital-less broadcasting and eight years of switch-over action.
Everyone in the UK should now have access to digital terrestrial television like Freeview or Freesat.
Unfortunately it also means we've had to bid a fond farewell to unique Britishisms like Ceefax and fuzzy television reception when it's a bit drizzly and the wind is blowing at exactly 16.8 miles per hour in a north-westerly direction.
However! It's not all doom and hipster gloom; the spectrum freed-up by the switchover is to be put to good use delivering 4G mobile networks.
Ofcom is all set to auction this spare spectrum off at the end of 2012, in a controversial auction that has Vodafone, O2, Three and EE in a bit of a tizz and should already have taken place earlier this year.
Updated: EE 4G tariffs unveiled - £56 each month for 8GB of data
EE has finally lifted the lid on its impending 4G prices, revealing some pretty eye-watering costs.
The new service will be launched on 30 October, and will feature other treats such as free films weekly and fixed line fibre optic broadband.
The pricing for the new 4G service is the subject most people want to know about, and while it's not going to cause you to need a new mortgage to get involved, it's not exactly cheap either.
For just 500MB of data you'll need to fork out £36 per month, with 1GB costing £41 for the same term. 3GB will come in at £46, 5GB £51 and the top end tariff offering 8GB for 56 pound coins each payday.
As if the monthly costs weren't already enough, you may need to brace yourself when you cast your eye over the handset costs.
The cheapest, by a country mile, is the Huawei Ascend P1 LTE, which will set you back just £19.99 on the £36 per month contract, while you'll be able to get it for free on anything higher.
That's about it for the good news though, as the next cheapest handsets at the £36 per month level are the HTC One XL and Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE, both of which require you to shell out £149.99, with the most expensive being the iPhone 5 64GB, which costs £379.99.
Other than the Ascend P1, none of the other handsets can be picked up for free, even on the highest, £56 per month contract. The full details can be found in the table below.
12 month contracts
If you don't like the idea of being tied down for a whole two years, you can opt for a 12 month contract, which will see you pay slightly more each month, but the handset prices stay the same as shown in the table above.
Each tariff level on a 12 month contract will be £10 dearer than its 24 month equivalent, so the cheapest option with 500MB of data will set you back £46 per month, while the most expensive is £66 per month, giving you 8GB of data.
It's worth noting that all these tariffs come with unlimited phone calls and texts, but when you consider you get unlimited data with T-Mobile's Full Monty plan for the same cost as 500MB on 4G, you have to wonder where the extra cash comes in.
Of course, with greater speed comes larger downloads, so unlimited data on 4G isn't something that would make a lot of sense at this stage, and of course this new billion pound equipment has to be paid for somehow.
But there will be a lot of consumers wondering why their data costs so much more for a faster connection – at least EE is going to give a free film to download or stream each week, without affecting their data allowance, and other films will start at 79p, rising to £3.99 for the most expensive.
Users will have the choice of 700 films at launch, with 200 new releases, however it's worth noting that all films will only be available in standard definition, slightly disappointing as the 4G handsets sport full HD displays.
On top of the 24 month contract, EE will also be offering 12 month SIM-only plans from November 9, starting at £21 per month all SIM-only deals include unlimited calls and texts.
Prises for the SIM-only plans will rise depending on how much data you want coupled with your tariff, more details on this will become available in due course.
If you're concerned about blazing through your new found 4G data allowance in a matter of days, EE has your back, as the network will send you a text once you've ploughed through 80% of your monthly allowance.
You'll receive another alert once you've used all your data, and it will offer you various data add-ons to see you til the end of the month - or you can opt out and stay data free until your balance resets.
Fibre optic broadband will also be on offer, with speeds up to 10 times faster than currently available in homes and offices.
The 4G service will also support tethering and VoIP telephony, although we can see most consumers veering away from these services if they don't want to impact their data allowance each month.
If you fancy taking EE's home broadband package and a 4G phone plan together you will be offered a discount of up to £120 on your phone plan.
All those that have taken out an Orange or T-Mobile contract in the last six months can jump onto the new network, with the option to upgrade to a 4G phone.
In depth: Why Renault's Android-powered R-Link doesn't make new Clio clever
Renault R-Link: Everything you need to know
Ever since Renault announced its intention to base its next infotainment platform on Android, we've been busting to give R-Link a go. And now we have. But is it any good?
Firstly, we should qualify everything that's about to follow with the proviso that R-Link isn't quite finalised. It's currently going through final testing and validation so things could change.
However, what we've seen in the new Clio is certainly representative in terms of look and feel if not full functionality. What's more, we've got a much better idea of Renault's intentions and attitudes when it comes to R-Link.
In other words, how does R-Link fit into the broader in-car infotainment landscape, what's it like to use, how does it compare to and perhaps function with more conventional Android devices, like phones and tablets? We can begin to answer questions like these.
First up, in the new Clio R-Link is presented via a 7-inch touchscreen mounted in what Renault is calling a "tablet". That's actually a little misleading.
What we're really dealing with is a conventional infotainment screen located front and centre in the dash. The binnacle or pod it's mounted in has a somewhat floating appearance. But it's entirely fixed and houses various other functions, including ventilation.
Anyway, fire up R-Link and you're initially presented with a default home screen with six icons: Navigation, Multimedia, Phone, Vehicle, Services and System.
Poke and a prod
The screen itself is of tolerable quality and resolution (we're still trying to confirm the pixel count, but subjectively we wouldn't call it HD). Although we haven't had this confirmed, we're sure it's based on resistive rather than capacitive touch technology.
Consequently, you often need to give it a pretty deliberate stab to garner a response. That's the way it rolls with resistive touch - welcome to 2009.
Much of R-Link's functionality mirrors that of more conventional in-car systems. The built-in navigation, the music playback, the trip computer, that sort of thing.
Where things get interesting is when you hit the Services button and access the apps. At launch, Renault reckons around 20 apps will be available. You purchase them via the R-Link app store which you access exclusively in-car.
Android, but not as you know it
To be clear, Android in R-Link form is far removed from Android on your phone. You cannot, for instance, buy an app on your phone and transfer it to R-Link. It's effectively an entirely separate ecosystem.
Intriguingly, there is also no such thing as a free R-Link application, though buyers of R-Link equipped Renaults will get a free "discovery" app pack that lasts for three months.
The reasoning is that R-Link does not come with any data charges. It has a built in SIM and 3G connection. But as an end user, you'll never have to pick up the bill.
If you don't install any R-Link apps, that's fine as without apps, there are no internet connected features. But by making all apps come at a price, Renault is able to generate revenue to cover cellular access.
Exactly how this works with an app that doesn't require internet access isn't clear. However, we do know that at launch internet access will be restricted to your home territory or nation. Roaming isn't offered.
It's also worth appreciating that R-Link is in general a much more closed system than you'll be used to with Android. There are some fairly serious safety and security implications of running apps in a car.
Driver distraction is one obvious example. But simply running an unstable app or an app that opens up the car to hackers or malicious code has some pretty terrifying implications.
So, R-Link is very much locked down. Nothing will appear on the app store without thorough validation and Renault will not be providing open access to R-Link's code base.
As for pricing, Renault says apps will start from around four to five Euros and extend up to 50 Euros or more. The only hard example Renault is currently giving is the Coyote Series alerts system which is a partially crowd sourced database of road hazards that plugs into the navigation system.
Setting sights on SYNC
In use, the early versions of R-Link we've tried were not fully functional, but our early impressions are of modest hardware that's not designed to wow with swishy graphics and animations.
Indeed, if you didn't know it was Android based, you probably wouldn't have guessed. Perhaps the closest competitor system is Ford SYNC, which offers a pretty similar overall feature set but more contemporary graphics.
In fact, at this early stage, it's not entirely clear what advantages, if any, Renault is getting from using R-Link over, say, Windows CE. Renault confirmed to TechRadar, for instance, that R-Link will not sync in any special way or offer extended functionality with Android handsets.
Putting a price on technology
More generally, the problem for Renault is going to be a relatively tiny installed base. It reckons just 20 per cent of Clio buyers will tick the R-Link box.
Incidentally, Renault isn't ready to reveal how much that box tick will cost, but emphasises that it wants to makes R-Link broadly accessible – read cheap. Whatever the price, you're talking about a version of Android that will only appear on a fraction of one auto manufacturer's cars.
If Microsoft is having trouble getting developers to code apps for Windows 8, what hope for Renault? It says it is working proactively to bring developers on board and has a Paris based incubator to help do just that.But we foresee a major challenge so long as R-Link remains a walled garden.
If all that sounds a little negative, we remain essentially well disposed towards R-Link and indeed the new Clio. The latter is a cracking little car, especially in TCe 90 trim with zingy three-cylinder 0.9l petrol engine.
Moreover, even if all of our fears regarding R-Link's limitations come true, it will still be a big step forward for Renault and in with a fighting chance of being one of if not the best in-car systems in the mainstream hatchback segment.
But what R-Link doesn't look like is the really dramatic step change for the car industry that its Android roots might lead you to expect.