If you bought a new Windows 8 laptop recently, there’s probably already third party support for DVD playback. However, if you upgraded to Windows 8 on your current laptop or desktop, there’s no way to play your collection of DVDs. That’s because Microsoft removed both the ability to play DVD in Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center from Windows 8.
The only way to get back official DVD playback support from Microsoft is to purchase the Windows Media Center Pack separately for $9.99. Maybe that’s how Microsoft is selling Windows 8 for cheap. Not everyone uses DVD anymore nor do their ultrabooks have a DVD drive.
But luckily you won’t have to pay the $9.99 until after January 31st next year if you need DVD support on your Windows machine. Microsoft has been offering the Windows Media Center Pack for free since they released Windows 8 last October. Head over to their promotion page and register with your email. It will take a couple days for Microsoft to send you a product key and instructions on how to add Windows Media Center Pack to your Windows 8 machine.
Note that this offer is only for the Windows 8 Pro edition.
Link: WMC promotion page
Source: Windows Blog
Although the adoption rate of OS X has been rising considerably, to the point that Mac growth is outpacing PCs, gamers are still sticking to the Windows platform for their gaming needs. Steam has released its hardware and software survey for November, with Windows 8 claiming a 4.25 percent stake among the most popular operating system versions. That percentage sits the 64 bit version of Windows 8 at fourth-place, trailing significantly behind Windows 7 64 bit, Windows 7 and Windows XP 32 bit at 58.58 percent, 13.98 percent and 10.36 percent respectively.
But more importantly, Windows 8 saw 2.4 percent month-over-month growth because of its release in late October. According to the survey, OS X 10.8.2 64 bit had a 1.49 percent share, 10.6.8 64 bit held a 0.78 percent stake and 10.7.5 64 bit accounted for a 0.72 percent share. Gaming has never been regarded as a strong point for the Mac, evident by 8 of the top 12 operating system versions being Windows-based. Linux was not particularly strong, either, accounting for less than 1 percent of operating systems being used to power Steam. Are you a Windows gamer?
[Steam via PCGamer]
Traditionally, you would have to install different operating systems to separate partitions on your hard drive if you boot multiple OS platforms. The disadvantage is that malwares and viruses can spread among different partitions.
Another disadvantage is that it takes a considerable amount of time to create, delete or merge partitions when you need to. Since the advent of Windows 7, Microsoft has offered a new way to easily install and boot Windows from a Virtual Hard Disk (.vhd) file. This feature is even better in Windows 8.
What is a VHD file you ask? It’s a file format that emulates a real physical hard drive. It’s a hard drive within a hard drive—inception! In fact, you can even create and mount virtual hard drives within Windows 7 or 8 running from a VHD. I have yet to try an OS within an OS that runs from a virtual hard drive, but it’s possible with virtualization software like Virtual Box.
One of the benefits of a VHD compared to a physical partition is that it is a portable format. You can easily back up or restore it. Another benefit is security protection. If your other operating systems on the same hard drive get infected with malware, your OS on a VHD file will be isolated from that infection.
There are some minor disadvantages with running an OS from a VHD. Performance decreases about 3 percent, and you will lose the Hibernation and Bitlocker features. Moreover, only Windows 8 Pro/Enterprise and Windows 7 Ultimate/Enterprise support VHD booting.
Let’s create a VHD file so that you can install Windows 8 to it. You can do this during the install process, but it’s easier to demonstrate it using the tools available on Windows 7; that is, assuming you are running Windows 7. Step-by-step instructions are just ahead. Continue reading
A new report on Bloomberg, citing sources familiar with the matter, claims that Microsoft is planning on increasing the frequency of its upgrade cycle for Windows by updating the software about once per year. In the past, Microsoft has updated its Windows platform on a more spread out two or three year basis. For instance, Windows Vista was released in January 2007, Windows 7 followed in June 2009 and Windows 8 mos recently launched in late October.
Microsoft is hoping that by updating its Windows software more frequently, it will be able to better compete with Apple and Google in the ultra-competitive consumer electronics industry. Apple and Google have been largely at hand for a decline in notebook sales over the past few years, as smartphones and tablets like the iPhone, iPad and those running Android have eaten away at traditional PC market share.
“U.S. retail sales of PCs running Windows have declined 21 percent since the company released the latest version of the operating system, Windows 8, according to a report by NPD Group Inc… The report compared sales from Oct. 21 to Nov. 17 of this year to the same period of 2011. It was based on a sampling of retailers and excluded Microsoft’s own stores, where the company’s Surface tablet is sold.”
By releasing a new Windows version each year, Microsoft will be following a similar release pattern as OS X for Mac. Apple too appears to have switched to an annual upgrade cycle, having introduced OS X Lion in 2011 and OS X Mountain Lion just a year later; moreover, another new OS X version is expected to drop in 2013. Hopefully we’ll see some strong improvements to Windows 8 next year, which hasn’t exactly garnered the greatest consumer response.
Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that it distributed over 40 million Windows 8 licenses since the operating system’s release on the 26th of October. Despite these impressive numbers, new figures from StatCounter show that users are not actually using the operating system for browsing the Internet as much as Windows 7 users did in 2009.
The statistics service shows that Microsoft’s latest desktop and tablet venture has not occupied as many users of the Internet (people that browse, play games, chat on Facebook, and do other productive things) as before — and the numbers differ greatly. By November 2009, Windows 7 had reached a 4.93 percentage share in usage after starting at 2.21 percent on launch date. Windows 8 had a much weaker start at just 0.38 percent, but grew to 1.31 percent by the 26th of this month.
The Next Web spoke with Aodhan Cullen, the CEO of StatCounter, about these new statistics and he said that “This [difference in numbers] may be due to sales to manufacturers rather than to end users so Windows 8 may well get a boost over the December holiday buying season.” The full text is below.
“Microsoft has reported license sales of 40 million for Windows 8, however this has not yet translated into significant usage figures,” StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen said in a statement. “This may be due to sales to manufacturers rather than to end users so Windows 8 may well get a boost over the December holiday buying season.”
Cullen has a good point as it is unlikely for a device that resides on a shelf in Costco or another retailer to visit Web sites on its own. However, the statistics do show that Microsoft’s new OS may not be getting adopted as fast as Windows 7 was three years ago.
StatCounter does further note that the above statistics are absolute, and in relative terms the operating system is doing well: 345 percent up, compared to Windows 7′s 223 percent at the same time in its lifeline. It’s too early to tell whether or not this is good news, but hopefully the operating system’s usage statistics increase Christmas day and following. There will be most statistics from different sources in the future as well.
[The Next Web]
There are now more than a handful of Start menu replicas out there for people that need their daily Start menu fix on their Windows 8 machines. From classic ones such as Classic Shell and StartMenu8 to experimental ones such as Pokki and RetroUI Pro. There are just no shortages of what type of Start menu one might need.
We reviewed Start8 from Stardock recently. It is probably one of the better replicas out there. It works almost exactly like the Start menu from Windows 7 and can be switched to the fancier metro Start screen mode that it scales down to size. The problem with all these clones is that they’re all still third-party solutions and require extra processes running in the background and taking up resources.
If people wanted the original no-fuss Start menu, then they were out of luck. Microsoft replaced the traditional Start menu in Windows 8 and offers no solution to re-enable it, even in the corporate Windows Server 2012. Long-time Windows users and angry critics have been calling for the death of Microsoft because of it.
While third-parties have been hard at coding to satisfy the needs of those angry users, nobody asked if the native Start menu is really gone or just deeply hidden inside Windows 8? They’d be happy to know it’s the latter, but just some of it. Programmer Tihiy successfully worked on a solution to bring back the original Windows 7 Start menu to Windows 8.
According to Tihiy, some Start menu codes are still present in the explorer.exe process of Windows 8. Those codes are shared with the Jump Lists function and thus are essential and were not removed. The Start menu shell interfaces, start button, and Windows key codes are removed however. The exact method is not clear but it’s possible to speculate that Tihiy ported the required codes from the Windows 7 and re-implemented them in Windows 8 through private APIs access. Whatever the case is, the final product — StartIsBack — is exactly what it claims and includes some extra features.
After running a rather small install file, you’ll find that this is the very same Start menu from Windows 7. You won’t find any StartIsBack processes in task manager because there is no startisback.exe. The installed codes will hook itself to the native explorer.exe in the memory at boot up, thus does not modified the actual system file. You can search, pin programs, and drag&drop files to the Start menu as you could in Windows 7. There’s even the hidden “Exit Explorer” menu item that shows up by Shift+Ctrl and right clicking the Start menu. Remember the Customize Start menu setting that was in the Windows 7 Taskbar Properties? It’s no longer in Windows 8, but it’s brought back in its own Properties box. You can get to it by right click the start button, select Properties and see that all the options are exactly the same to Windows 7. Continue reading