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Posts from the ‘Buying Hardware and Software’ Category

Don’t let False Economy spoil your Christmas laptop purchase

November 17th, 2015


I’ve done laptop buying guides before. The last guide showed you what to look for in a new computer, depending on what you needed it for.

Well, in many ways that advice still stands, though the ‘Core’ processors from Intel are now into their 5th generation. The amount of RAM you need hasn’t really changed either, especially as Windows 10 is meant to be friendly to machines with low amounts of RAM (working memory). Read more

Get Your Shiny New Windows 10!

July 29th, 2015


Editor’s Note: It’s Windows 10 Day! No, not national holiday (yet) but the day Microsoft releases its next operating system, Windows 10, into the world. Below, I’ve reprinted an article you may have seen in Bristol’s Direct Local magazine.

You may have heard that a new version of Microsoft Windows is soon to hit the shelves. It’s the follow-up to Windows 8.1, but Microsoft have, rather oddly, decided to call it Windows 10.

Windows 8 was widely hated, with many customers sticking with tried and trusted earlier versions like Windows 7 and Windows XP. Can Windows finally convince these users to upgrade? And will it be worth updating from Windows 8?

If you’ve got Windows 7 or 8 you’ll have seen a little pop-up message in the taskbar asking if you want to register to download the update when it’s released on 29th July. Should you take the plunge?


What’s new in Windows 10?

Windows 10 needs to make up for all the mistakes Windows 8 made. Here are the new features Microsoft are offering to get you to upgrade:

  1. The Start Menu returns: controversially, the Start Menu was removed from Windows 8, and replaced with the Start Screen, covered in ‘live tiles’ which showed you everything from breaking news to weather reports and social media updates. It was no longer easy to browse through all your installed programs, and your PC started to pretend it was a touch-screen phone. After much outcry, Windows 10 brings back the Start Menu, though it gives you the option to include Live Tiles in there. The menu will also adapt to your screen size, and let you make it full-screen again if you were keen on the Windows 8 way of doing things. This is a great improvement, and almost a reason in itself to upgrade to 10 if you’re using Windows 8.startmenu
  2. Windows 8’s ‘Modern’ apps will be in a window: The full screen ‘Modern’ apps of Windows 8 which jump out at you when you tap a Live Tile were another example of Microsoft trying to catch up with Apple and other companies. They’re nearly useless on a proper computer, and look ridiculous on a 20″ monitor. Windows 10 sensibly puts these apps in a window on larger screens, so that they stay a usable size. They make much better use of the space compared to the Windows 8 predecessors.
  3. The Notification Centre: This is another feature that began life on phones, but this one is a Good Thing. It shows messages about social media updates, information about your computer, and info from different apps you’ve got installed. It’s a great way to keep on top of what’s going on, and you’ll be able to control which apps can use this tool – just in case you’re worried that it’ll be just another inbox to get snowed under. It’ll make Windows 10 easier to stay in control of.
  4. Continuum: if you thought Windows 8 made a total hash of pretending it was on a trendy tablet, then Continuum will be there to ease your woes. Continuum will help Windows 10 adapt to different screen sizes, so you’ll get your Live Tiles if you’ve got a small screen, but a larger screen will see the interface look more like the desktop you know and love. If you remove the keyboard from a 2-in-1 device, the full Start Screen will appear. And best of all, Windows 10 will automatically detect which kind of screen is present. No more mis-placed touch-screen interfaces on your widescreen monitor.
  5. Cortana: Microsoft’s voice activated assistant is its answer to Apple’s Siri. But as well as being your personal assistant, Cortana will sit on the taskbar next to the Start Button and allow you to quickly search through your computer and the internet, and ask questions like “what’s 45 times 12?” or “what’s the capital of Peru” – so called ‘natural language’ questions. You’ll also be able to search your OneDrive files if you keep some of them on Microsoft’s cloud storage service. Cortana will turn your PC or laptop into a super-useful digital assistant.
  6. Spartan Web Browser: Internet Explorer was the web browser everyone loved to hate. Microsoft managed to make it the most popular browser in the world, and then development on it stagnated for a decade. It’s still trying to catch up with better browsers like Firefox and Chrome. While IE will still be available on Windows 10, a new web browser known as Spartan will be much more prominent. Microsoft hopes that, like Window 10 itself, Spartan can erase the memory of its predecessor in consumers’ minds. It should be faster, render websites more accurately, and be less memory intensive.
  7. Virtual desktops: This might be a difficult thing to picture until you’ve actually used them, but virtual desktops are like running two more computers side by side. You can have one desktop where all your Office windows are open, another with a music player, and a third dedicated to web stuff and online videos. Instead of having all thirty windows open and cluttering the space, you can sort them onto different desktops and keep less-used ones out of the way. Macs and Linux computers have had these for some years now, and if you make the most of them you’ll start to wonder how you ever managed without.virtualdesktops
  8. Settings: OK, not the most glamorous of topics, but if Windows 8’s main problem was its split personality, the Control Panel was the worst example. There were effectively two in Windows 8 (the usual one and another for the Start Screen), with settings randomly spread across the two. Sometimes the same setting was there on both sides. Now, there will just be one Settings screen, with all the control panel elements in one place. Windows 10 should be much easier to manage than 8.

So, what do I recommend? If you’ve seen the message asking about reserving Windows 10, should you accept or not?

Well, whatever older version of Windows you’re using, there are reasons to upgrade. The system should be faster, notifications will tell you what’s going on in the world (and on your PC), and the much loved Start Menu is more flexible than ever. And at the low low price of Free, anyone who wants to keep up to date with the latest from Microsoft should certainly consider it.

However, if you’re using Windows 7 and your computer is running smoothly, then I’d wait a while. Find out the public reaction to the system from July 29th onwards. Do people like the new software, or is it further frustration from the Seattle company? There’s also the common advice to always avoid software when it’s brand new, until the final few bugs are ironed out.

Windows 10 fixes a lot which is wrong with Windows 8, but Windows 7 was a perfectly good operating system, so if the new features outlined above don’t catch your attention, I’d wait.

Those on Windows 8 machines, however, will probably want to have a serious look at Windows 10. Windows 8 was a mess, and Windows 10 might be the very thing users of that poor operating system have been waiting for.

More questions? I’m always here at the end of the phone to answer questions on this and any other computer questions, so pick up the phone or get in touch via Twitter and Facebook.

And the ultimate question: will I be upgrading? Well, I’ve been on Windows 8 for the last few months, and personally can’t wait to move off it onto something better…

Need more advice on whether to upgrade? Want help doing it when it arrives? Ship Shape Computers can help with this and all sorts of other computer problems. Just pick up the phone!

Laptop Buying Guide 2013

February 13th, 2013


Update: Amazon UK are currently offering a range of laptops for under £400, so if how about using your new knowledge to grab a bargain today!

I’ve been asked a few times recently to help friends choose a laptop, and so it seems there’s a need out there for a simple guide.

The problem seems to be that there are a million laptops out there, all much the same as each other. It’s just too hard to choose! This laptop buying guide tells you what you’ll need, and more importantly what you don’t need. There’s no point spending more money for stuff you won’t feel t’benefit of, so not only will you be more informed, you’ll also save money and be able to tell any pesky shop assistants where to extend their warranty! Read more