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Getting the Start Button Back on Windows 8

Monday, December 31, 2012 by Charlie Nadler

windows 8 start screen

(image courtesy of windows.microsoft.com)

With the rollout of Windows 8, there are a number of people asking the same question: Where's the Start Menu? Rather than including the familiar start button that Windows users are accustomed to, Windows 8 has made ambitious changes to several different aspects of Windows, and it now features the Start Screen instead of the old Start Menu.

While the Start screen has its advantages and plenty of proponents, some users will invariably prefer the familiarity and ease of the good old start button. For those who want to get the Window Start Menu back, you're in luck - and you have options.

Below are a number of free and cheap downloads that will let you customize your Windows 8experience, including the Start Screen and Start Menu.

Start 8

Stardock's Start 8 software allows you to bypass the Windows 8 Start Screen completely and go straight to the desktop. Start8 has received great reviews from the likes of Forbes, and with a free trial, there's no risk in taking it for a spin.

Pokki

Developed by SweetLabs, Pokki for Windows 8 lets you access all files, folders, and programs from a nicely designed start menu. Pokki is free to download, and the developers are continuing to release new updates to the software.

Classic Shell

Along with the classic start menu, Classic Shell brings back several features from previous versions of Windows. This free download gives users the familiar shortcuts, search fields, Run command, and shut down and hibernate icons. There are basic and advanced versions available - depending on how much you are looking to customize your Windows experience.

Power8

Another option for replacing the Start menu on Windows 8 is Power8. Power8 gives the usual start menu at the lower left on Windows 8, letting you access all programs, applications, and folders. By right-clicking on the menu icon, you are able to choose among a number of options that allow you to customize the software.

These are just a few of the available downloads; users can also replace the Start Menu on Windows 8 with software such as StartMenu7, ViStart, StartW8, Win8 StartButton, and others. As more people continue to adopt the Windows 8 platform, there will certainly be more options popping up - and more ways to customize the interface.

If you have Windows 8, what are your feelings about the new Start Screen? Do you prefer the Start Menu, and would you try one of these replacers?

Beware Fake E-mail Complaints Claiming to be from Better Business Bureau

Thursday, November 8, 2012 by Charlie Nadler

In recent days, we have been made aware of malicious emails posing as complaints against Comset and other business from the Better Business Bureau. We have already seen that opening these emails and their attachments leaves the computer vulnerable to viruses and hacking.

The Chicago BBB website has issued a warning to businesses and customers regarding these fake emails; you can read the warning here: http://chicago.bbb.org/article/urgent-scam-alert-beware-of-fake-complaint-e-mail-claiming-to-be-from-better-business-bureau-37660.

If you receive one of these emails, you are advised to delete the message immediately. If you have clicked on any links or attachments, you should run a virus scan on your computer as soon as possible. Do not hesitate to contact Comset if you have any further questions or if you think your computer may have become infected.

Phone: 773-327-6893
comset@comsetcomputers.com

Making Sense of Your Tablet Choices

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 by Michael Lewis

This post started out very differently. It was going to at look the iPad and its three primary competitors. Then, out of nowhere, HP announced it was going to discontinue the TouchPad after a month and a half on the market and it was going to shutdown its entire mobile unit. How bad was it? AllThingsD reported that Best Buy had only sold 25,000 units of the 270,000 in their inventory. On August 16th Arik Hesseldahl reported:

Best Buy, sources tell us, is so unhappy that it has told HP it is unwilling to pay for all the TouchPads taking up expensive space in its stores and warehouses, and wants HP to take them back.

Two days later, HP said that it would be shutting down its mobile unit.

So what is left? The Register, a UK based tech blog, has been reporting that there is little interest in Europe for Tablets that are not iPads. With so much uncertainty, is getting any tablet that is not the iPad a safe bet? Can you trust that the other tablets are going to be supported after purchase?

iPad

In my opinion, there are really only two options left: The iPad and Android-based tablets. Clearly, the iPad is the benchmark that all other tablet makers see as the biggest competition. Apple sold 500,000 iPad 2s during the first weekend -- twice the number TouchPads that HP shipped. Apple has sold 25 million total iPads. With that many units sold, it is hard to ignore its success. The iPad had a lot going for it even before it shipped in 2010.  Additionally, the iPhone and iOS brought mobile computing and smart phones to a wide audience. Developers flocked to the phone's huge audience and robust development tools. Apple is the second largest company in the world. So it's safe to say that the iPad is not going anywhere.

While Apple is a huge player, there are reasons to look at Android Tablets. Apple keeps tight control over what can be installed on the device. In recent months, Apple has even clamped down on in-app sales. The message to developers: It is Apple's world and their word is final. This philosophy makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

Android

Google's Android takes an opposite approach to development. The mobile OS is based on an open source platform that tablet and handset makers can adapt as they see fit. Hardware makers and retails have all launched competing app marketplaces to compete alongside the official Android Market. Over the past three years Android-based smart phones and handset makers have shaped Android to fit their own image. In the more mature smart phone market, there are a lot of choices. The tablet market is still developing. To keep up with the shifting demands of the Android-based tablet market, Google plans on releasing two more major versions of the OS before the end of 2011.

Currently, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the clear front runner. Based on the popular Galaxy S (Samsung's flagship handset) the Tab has a pretty strong pedigree. Barnes and Noble's Nook Color takes a radically different approach to the tablet space. Instead of scaling up a cell phone, the Nook Color centers its interface on ebook consumption. The third option is Motorola Xoom. The Xoom is the only Android tablet based on version 3 of the OS. Most reviews gave the hardware high marks, but pointed out that the software design did not feel ready for prime time.

The Others

There is also the BlackBerry PlayBook. It has some major limitations. People buy BlackBerries for email and the Playbook (currently) does not have an email application1. You can only get email through the browsers or when it is paired with a Blackberry phone. There were some third party apps, but RIM, the company that owns Blackberry, shut down its app store because of security issues. If you are a hardcore Blackberry user and are strongly committed to BIS (BlackBerry Internet Server) the Playbook should work for you.

Where is Microsoft in all of this? They have stated that Windows Phone 7 is a phone OS. Windows 7 and Windows 8 are going to be the focus of their tablet strategy. Windows 8 is still at least a year away.

Overall, the tablet that will work best for you will depend upon the price, features, and brand loyalty you have towards one of these technology giants.


  1. It is not just email. The PlayBook does not have a calendar app either.

Tech Podcast Roundup

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 by Michael Lewis

 

No one listens to radio anymore. Everyone has an iPod or a smart phone or satellite radio. Like music, news and talk programing have migrated to digital distribution. NPR has reported an increase in listenership since they launched their iPhone App in 2009. In addition to its stand along mobile app, NPR and its public radio affiliates have started releasing programming as podcast.

Like a blog, a podcast is an audio file that is delivered to iTunes or other audio programs via RSS feeds. These files sync to audio players as new episodes are delivered. As with other digital media distribution methods, podcasts have opened the door to small or niche content producers. Podcasting has given a space for programming focusing on any range of topics that would never find their way onto traditional talk radio formats (or television for that matter).

Tech related programing has been at the forefront of podcasting. Here are a few really good examples to get you started.

Buzz Out Loud: BoL is CNet's flagship daily tech news podcast. The show is hosted by CNet's executive editor Molly Wood and Brian Tong. Each weekday they discuss trends, industry news and product launches. Wood and Tong are outspoken advocates for software patant control and open media culture.  Taping of each episode is live online 1:30pm. The podcast is available as both audio and video.

Tech News Today: Like Buzz Out Loud, Tech News Today is a daily show that covers breaking tech news. Because of its later record time, it can cover afternoon news. TnT is anchored Tom Merritt and a rotating cast of industry co-hosts. The podcast is available as both audio and video.

The Talk Show: The Talk Show, on the growing 5by5 network, is a weekly show that covers Apple, mobile and web design. The show is hosted by Dan Benjamin (software developer and UI designer) and John Grubar (daringfireball.net). Each week they discuss news related to the Mac, iPhones & iPads, and mobile web technology.