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Google Chromebit Review

You might have heard the good news.

Google released the Chromebit. Last month Asus, their original equipment manufacturer (OEM), released what is basically a computer on a stick.

Think: a Chromebox, but a little bigger than a flash drive that you can carry in your pocket and plug into any display, effectively turning it into a computer.

I participated in Google’s early Trusted Tester Program for the Chromebit and tried it out as a digital signage player for the Skykit digital signage service and as an end-user computing device.

I was very impressed.

What Does the Chromebit Mean for Digital Signage?

In the digital signage world, a player that’s truly enterprise-grade (security, manageability, scalability) can cost $800 each or more.

The enterprise-class Chromebit is a game changer at $85.

The Chromebit is a very capable device that performs as well as the larger Asus Chromebox. You can’t tell a difference in performance while playing any type of digital signage content (from videos to images). And it’s half the price compared to the Chromebox.

The Chromebit makes for the perfect digital signage player where wireless networking is a requirement. The low-cost, small form factor, and enterprise manageability make the Chromebit the clear leader in terms of price/performance/management/size.

The Chromebit includes both bluetooth and USB support which enables the connection of a keyboard/mouse combo.

It is the least expensive stick-PC in history.

 

Performance

The Chromebit has 16gb of storage and 2gb of RAM (same as the Chromebox). It’s powered by a 1.8GHz Rockchip RK3288-C CPU with a separate ARM® Mali™-T624 GPU.

I tested the Chromebit side-by-side with the Asus M004U Chromebox with an Intel Celeron 2955U CPU and embedded Intel HD Graphics 4000/4400. The Chromebox is also configured with 16gb of storage and 2gb of RAM.

While not a true scientific performance analysis, the two devices running a digital signage application with the same content – still images, 1080p full motion video and stereo sound performed identically in terms of playback.

The Chromebit warmed up more than the Chromebox, most likely due to a smaller heatsink in the Chromebit form factor. Any performance differences were imperceptible watching both devices side-by-side.

 

Networking and USB Connectivity

The Chromebit includes 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi. Connectivity is rock-solid and there were no perceptible performance differences between the Chromebit and the M004U Chromebox unit. Networking performance was also very good when running the Chromebit as a computing device, browsing the internet and/or working with Google Apps.

The Chromebit was also tested with a USB Ethernet connection, turning off the WiFi through chrome management. Functionally, this worked just fine but the extended device may be more cumbersome to physically manage in this configuration.

A keyboard/mouse combo connected with a small RFI USB adapter worked very well, as did the Bluetooth connection (Bluetooth V4.0 included).

 

Enterprise-Enabled Chrome Management

The Chromebit is an impressive computing device. But it truly stands apart from other stick-based PCs when it comes to enterprise management. The Chromebit is a Chrome OS device, meaning it can be fully managed, remotely, in enterprise environments via Google’s Chrome Management Console and enterprise enrollment.

 

Power and Display Connectivity

The Chromebit plugs directly into a display’s HDMI port, or alternatively connects via included HDMI extension cable for tight connection locations.

The Chromebit includes a small separate 18w power supply that requires an AC power connection. A USB-powered device would be ideal, but the Chromebit requires a little more power than that to operate.

 

Price

All the features available in the Chromebit are matched by many other devices.  It’s the price and form factor that make the difference. This is an $85 stick computer that can be enterprise-enabled and managed as a computing device, or it can be used as an enterprise-class digital player for a your digital signage solution.

That’s pretty hard to beat!

Note:  This is a re-post of a blog entry I submitted here.

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Windows 10 – Winner!

Windows 10 is out, it’s free, and it’s pretty good!  The upgrade process works really well – choose the .iso method where you create an installation DVD (or USB) for the most trouble-free upgrade process.

I have updated five computers running Win 7 and Win 8 and one VMware Fusion-based virtual machine running Win 7 and all upgrades worked flawlessly.  Only one application on one computer was flagged as incompatible and this was a 2010 version Acronis backup.  Other computers had new versions of Acronis and worked just fine.

Once running, Win 10 moves the previous Win 8 “metro” tiles interface into the familiar start menu, making it really easy to access your applications.  Cortana is really good – maybe better than Siri…?

This is a better Windows.  Give it a try!

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The Cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT)

“The Cloud” has been a buzzword for nearly a decade.  But what does it really mean?

I recall back in the mid-1990’s, the buzzword then was “data warehouse.”  At the “enterprise” level, all relevant data was consolidated, cleansed and organized so that we could ask questions and rapidly receive fact-based answers.  Company’s spent millions of dollars to build enterprise data warehouses.   Many with great success.

The cloud today, in my mind, is an ability to put together really massive data warehouses, with data that spans the enterprise and beyond, in a more economical fashion, and make the data actionable (not just for reporting purposes, actually trigger some automated action as a result).    I can recall a really large data warehouse with one client exceeding two terabytes.  There was talk of someday supporting petabytes. Teradata’s massively parallel database was the top-end of the market – scale and compute power – and very expensive.

The cloud removes the concept of size as an issue.  The cloud removes the concept of compute power as an issue.  The cloud makes “massive” affordable.  The cloud is better, faster, cheaper and it allows us to ponder questions the previously could not economically be addressed:

– How can I determine that a tire is about to fail and how can I schedule that truck to stop at its next fuel stop to also have that tire changed before it does fail?

– how can I analyze millions of possible combinations of compounds to identify new life-saving drugs?

– how can I recognize a pattern of behavior that may indicate a crime is about to occur?

The above all have in common the need to analyze massive amounts of data, data that can change rapidly in a small amount of time, in order to direct some action.  The ability to successfully answer questions like the above is enabled by a new paradigm of data processing.

Everything we can think of in our daily lives, in some way, generates data – massive amounts.  If we can capture that data, analyze it and understand it, it can help us in our daily lives in ways we are only just now beginning to understand.  The cloud provides the infrastructure and economies of scale to begin addressing these types of questions, broadly.

We’ve spent the last 20 years “surfing” internet.  The internet has helped us to grasp information more efficiently.  The next wave is the “internet of things.”  The ability to plug “things” into the internet to deliver and capture data and understand it better – how it affects our lives.

IoT – Internet of Things.  This is the buzzword to watch, delivered by the cloud.

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Leap Motion – Controller Ships – Welcome to the Future of the Computer’s Human Interface!

Minority Report, Iron Man’s Jarvis, Avatar…    These movies all provide a vision of the computing future with beautiful displays and interaction with our hands via gestures.   It’s pretty compelling (hand gestures) and intuitive in terms of working with the computer.  I wrote in February about the pending launch of Leap Motion’s new controller and after a couple of short delays, it has shipped.

I received the Leap Motion controller this week and it was installed on my Windows Laptop and running in 5 minutes – plug it into a USB port, place it in front of your computer, download the driver and…   Windows 8 is now controlled by hand gestures in thin air!  It comes with its own app store of gesture enabled applications, many of which are designed to help you learn how to use gestures to control your computer.  It takes some practice to learn where to place your hands, but I have to say, it’s a pretty slick way of interacting.

This is essentially Kinect for a PC or Mac.   This is the future!  I can foresee an OEM purchasing Leap and embedding this capability in every computer they manufacture.

 

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It’s About Your Data – Redux!

I recently attended the Microsoft World Partner Conference (WPC).   This is Microsoft’s forum to promote and educate their partners (resellers, solution providers, consultants, etc).  It’s also their opportunity to “thump their chests” and tell everyone why they’re so great.

In my previous blog on this subject, I discussed why Microsoft, via MS Office, is ultimately the winner over Apple and Google.   WPC was a demonstration – case in point.

One perk for the attendees was an ability to purchase a Microsoft Surface RT and a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet, at significant discounts.  One could say that they are selling so badly that this is the only way they can get rid of them and that person might be right, but for the wrong reasons.  If their sales are lagging, it’s not because of what they’ve built which is ground-breaking and my personal opinion is that the every-day user just doesn’t “get it” yet.   They will soon.

Point number 1:   Microsoft has out-executed everyone on a common user interface across all devices:   Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, Phone – it’s the same.  If you can use one, you can use them all.   Windows 8 brings them all together.

Point number 2:  Microsoft Office is ubiquitous:  You can create, add/change/delete information into Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, Word and OneNote across all the devices.

Point number 3:  Microsoft IS the cloud in terms of the original end user vision:   SkyDrive and it’s tight integration with Windows 8 and Office 15 (2013) is simply amazing and it’s what the original vision of cloud computing for end users was supposed to be.  Microsoft has delivered.  With the automatic link to SkyDrive, edit any of your office documents on one device, and they are instantly available on every Microsoft device.  It no longer matters what computer you have with you (as long as it’s a Windows-based computer or contains Microsoft Office) because your information is there with Office and SkyDrive.  Link your Windows 8 tablet to the same Microsoft Live cloud account as your Windows 8 laptop, and the user interface picks up all the laptop’s configuration information – they look the same.

Point number 4:  Enterprise management and integration is there:  enterprise class security is a requirement.  It’s there on all devices.   Want to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to work?  Microsoft’s IT management functionality allows the IT folks to control the business data without harming your personal data.  They can remote wipe all your work data if required (e.g. leave the organization) and your personal data and configuration information remains.  Try to do that with a Mac, iPhone/iPad or Android device.

The challenge for Microsoft is getting this message out.  Steve Ballmer’s keynote address hinted at these capabilities, but fell way short in getting the points across.   Subsequent presentations did a little better.   The demonstrations showed these capabilities, but the message still didn’t hit home.

What brought the message home, like a 2×4 across the head, was turning on one of the surface tablets.   In two steps, it all came together:

1) log-in to Outlook and configure your email

2) Provide SkyDrive on the tablet with your Windows Live credentials

With those two steps complete, I fired up OneNote on the tablet and all of my notes taken from the day’s session on my Windows Phone were immediately available to be edited further.   Start Outlook and my email was up to date with the last task performed moments earlier from my laptop.  All of my documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc. were at the ready.   A change made to any of this information was then immediately available on my laptop and cell phone.  Whack!

…and Windows 8.1, available to partners in late August and to the general public in late October, will make it even better.

For the public, you have to purchase a laptop, tablet and Windows phone to experience this – all running Windows 8.   This will remain Microsoft’s challenge:  getting the message across in a manner that shows the benefits of doing so.

 

Link to Computer Reseller News article on this subject: Microsoft – It’s time to pounce on the cloud market with the right tools!

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Making the move to touch-based computing… (It’s an interim step)

Starting with the iPhone, touch-based interfaces have taken the world by storm.  Smart phones and tablet computers are now selling many more units than traditional PCs and laptops.  Are touch interfaces here to stay?  When should I “invest” or switch to a touch-based laptop?

Windows made a giant leap forward in October of 2012 with the added “tablet-like” interface of Windows 8.   A visit to the Microsoft Store today showed a whole new generation of laptops – all with touch screens – intermixed with the new Microsoft Surface tablet computers and similarly interfaced Windows phones.   Microsoft has clearly “out Appled” Apple by bringing a common touch interface to all of its devices and supporting operating systems.

The front of the store was abuzz with people checking out the new touch-based Windows 8 laptops, Surface tablet and Win 8 phones, but the back of the store was where all the “true action” could be found.  Lining the walls of the back of the store were the “connect-enabled” X-Box gaming machines.  No keyboard or “touch anything” needed – just move your body and the computer would respond.  We were skiing, dancing…  all without ever touching a keyboard or touch screen.  Raise your hand to be recognized by the machine as one of the players.  Lean your body to the right, and the skier moved to the right.  Jump up, and the skier jumped.   Shake your hips, and the dancer on the screen (you) mimicked your moves.

Over the last six months, I’ve upgraded my Windows and Mac laptops as well as my iPhone, iPad and Windows phone to their latest versions.   After the Microsoft Store experience today, at first I was rather disappointed thinking that I had just spent a bunch of money on two laptops, neither of which will ever support an integrated touch screen.  My Dell XPS 15 is running Windows 8, but no touch capability other than the mouse interface – same with the new Mac laptop.  Should I have waited six more months – or not…?

Almost all of work-based computing today requires some sort of keyboard and/or pointing device (mouse, touch-pad, pen, etc.) interface.   That’s because 99% of all the software that businesses use today is designed and built to use these common computer interface tools.  The touch screen for Windows 8 is great, but even with Microsoft’s own Office Suite, once you select the tile by touching it within the touch interface, it drops you into a traditional Windows 7-looking desktop where mouse and keyboard are expected as the interface.  Will touch computing really affect businesses?  In my opinion, aside from people bringing their own device to work (BYOD) for email and web app use, probably not as the traditional keyboard and mouse will continue to be supported.  As software is updated to take advantage of touch interfaces, will it then have an affect?  I may be reaching here, but my present opinion on this is the same as the previous – probably not a dramatic shift.

Why?  Because of the X-Box and Connect technology.  Connect is very subtle.  Initially it was positioned to “out-Wii” the Wii.  It’s a gaming interface to bring full-body movement to the gaming environment with no need for holding a controller.  It does this really well.

Fast forward…   about 18 months…  Imagine Connect on a chip, interfaced through the standard Web Cam, with an updated Microsoft Office whose software is designed to recognize gestures.  Add Microsoft’s version of Apple’s Siri for a vocal interface – already available on the Windows-based phones, and it’s bye bye keyboard and mouse.

The mouse and keyboard are today’s primary interface for computers.  With the current state of today’s mainstream software, the keyboard and mouse are required for intricate, detailed “design” on the PC.  It remains difficult to create detailed graphics (think simple PowerPoint slides) via touch screen, let alone an Aut0Cad design.  The processing power and software updates needed to support voice and gesture interfaces, incrementally, is not that much more than what is required to support tough-based devices.  The “leap” to full audio and gestures is not that large.

My “best guess” is that touch screens will become the dominate interface (they already are in terms of new unit sales) – but they will not be around as long as the keyboard and mouse-combo introduced (to the main stream) by Apple in the 1980’s.  We are headed to Vocal/Gesture (VG) interfaces and “screens” will become ubiquitous displays that can be embedded into many different every day objects.

So should I be upset at having spend $1,600 on a top-of-the-line Windows laptop  four months ago that doesn’t have a touch screen?  No.  Because the software I use that is required for work can not utilize that form of interface even if it was available my model computer.  Watch over the next 24 months as tablets and smart phones continue to grow in popularity and computing power.  Watch the evolution of Microsoft’s Connect technology.  Watch for Apple’s response to the Windows 8 revolution and its ultimate integration with Connect.

There is no “safe place” into which you can jump so that you minimize or protect your investment.  Change is the only constant.  Just be aware of what your present needs are and acknowledge that Moore’s law is ever-present, if not accelerating more quickly.

 

Postscript:  Microsoft operating systems implement an interface known as HAL:  Hardware Abstraction Layer.  The HAL allows a common set of code within an operating system to work with many different types of hardware.  For example, Windows can natively support Intel and AMD processors, Chipsets from nVidia, Intel and others.  The HAL interface allows multiple hardware types to be more easily supported.   As computing power continues to multiply (Moore’s Law), the next abstraction layer that can be supported is the one of “human.”  If a HIAL (Human Interface Abstraction Layer) can be built, that means that software can be more easily be built to support many different types of interfaces.  My bet is that the HIAL will be the next big area of investment in “personal” computing software technology.

Updated 1-13-13:  I just returned from the 2013 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) and the “G” part of a VG interface is here!  Shipping in February/March of this year, Leap Motion will turn your computer into a gesture-based machine.  http://www.leapmotion.com. I can’t wait to try it out!

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It’s about your “data!” – Microsoft, Apple, Google/Android… who “wins?”

Microsoft has rolled out it’s new operating system, Windows 8.  Apple has introduced it’s new operating system, Mountain Lion.  Android has Ice Cream Sandwich…   Tablets abound.  Hardware manufacturers tout the new UltraBook laptops.  Smartphones continue to grow in power and capability.   Everyone is competing to own the user and/or desktop, which now spans multiple device categories:  Desktop/laptop/tablet/smart phone.

Who wins?

Steve Jobs was right.  Back when Apple brought him back to resurrect the company, he made a deal at the time with Bill Gates that resulted in Microsoft’s pledge to continue to offer Microsoft Office on the Mac platform.  Steve understood then what is now even more apparent:  It’s about your data and the applications used to access your data.  With Microsoft Office assured in its availability on the Mac, Steve Jobs could re-build Apple and he did.  Microsoft Office was the “killer app” then.  Microsoft may have finally figured it out that it still is today.

With their launch of Office 15, due early in 2013, indications are that Microsoft is moving Office cross-platform.   Witness today that their silent hit-application One Note is now available on Windows, iOS (iPhone and iPad), Windows Phone/Tablet, and Android.  This is a very subtle but wonderfully powerful capability when combined with “the cloud.”  What it means for me is truly the paperless office.

The one item that has been resistant to all electronic gadgetry has been the ubiquitous note-taking journal.  One Note with cloud services (synchronization) and access to your notes from any device has replaced my journal.  After almost 20 years of attempting to achieve the promise of the paperless office, Microsoft finally delivered with a cross-platform application and cloud services.

HP introduced in the early 1990’s the handheld computer, really one of the first PDAs.  It held promise of going digital, but still the note-taking journal held out.  Fast forward to the iPhone and iPad – same thing.  The note-taking journal was still superior.

With One Note and the ability to synchronize your notes via cloud services across any device, the journal may have finally met its electronic replacement.  For me, it has.  Sitting at my desk on a conference call, I can take notes in One Note and they automatically synchronize with my cloud storage.   Get in the car (or air plane) to head to a meeting, and have a few thoughts in route…  open One Note on the iPhone and the exact same notes are there.   Add the latest thoughts and they synchronize automatically at the next cloud connection opportunity.   Need to search to find something from a past meeting – do so from my phone or tablet on the fly.  Get back to my desk, the updated notes are already there.

This is an amazing capability.  Now what if…    rumors on the web seem to indicate that Office 15, the entire suite of applications, will be cross platform.  Trials of Office 365 will already function in any browser on any device.  The majority of businesses use Microsoft Office.  Yes, there are still the Lotus Notes hold-outs and Google Apps offers a “free” alternative.   Despite these alternatives, Microsoft does rule the desktop with its Office Suite.  With Microsoft Office on every device, the device itself is not as important.  You need to access your spreadsheets, documents and presentations and if you can do so from any device and any location, the device can be what ever you favor.   And if you decide to change your mind, it doesn’t matter as all that data becomes immediately available on the new device because your applications are there too, along with your data that is stored in the cloud.

Winning the desktop is not about Apple Vs. Microsoft Vs. Google in terms of hardware or the operating system.  Rather, it’s about how you work with the device and your data.  Microsoft already owns the IT infrastructure with Windows Server, Microsoft Exchange, and other back office technologies.  Owning the desktop has become an emotional battle based upon the individual’s preferences.  “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device – to work) is a challenge that IT shops have to embrace.   If Office is available on every device, and your data is available in the cloud, BYOD is very manageable – and the users as well as IT are all happy.

So who wins…?   Microsoft is back.  Stay tuned for Office 15.  Combined with cloud services, Office remains the one true “killer app!”

 

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New Operating System Versions – Apple Vs. Microsoft

Both Microsoft and Apple are pushing new versions of their operating systems – Apple with Mountain Lion and Microsoft with Windows 8.  Mountain Lion has been released and is generally available.  Windows 8 is at “RTM” or “release to manufacturing” status, meaning that it is in final form, has been delivered to technology partners, but is not yet generally available (GA) to the public.  Windows 8 goes GA on October 26, 2012.

I have development relationships with both companies that allows early access to their software products before they are made available to the public (GA).  While both companies continue to improve their software delivery capabilities, there is a stark difference in capability.

Apple Pre-Release and GA:  It works – load and go.

Microsoft:  tread lightly as it’s up to you to find the proper drivers to support the new operating system – and many are still not yet available even through the product is at RTM status.

While Windows 8 is a good operating system, let’s hope the driver situation is improved as we progress towards GA.  Without the proper drivers, Windows will not load!  Mountain Lion is similarly a good operating system, however out of the box, all the drivers are there and ready to go!

These differences are due to the open architecture of Windows, Vs. the tightly controlled architecture of the Apple environment.  Apple can dictate and control how/when drivers are available.  Microsoft might be able to dictate, but they cannot control their third parties in this regard.

I am presently running the RTM version of Windows 8.  This is the code that will go GA on 10/26 so the operating system is in its final state.  There are still several devices displayed as “unknown” within my computer’s Device Manager because drivers are not yet available.  Additionally, it took almost three days to get the RTM release running due to incorrect drivers and having to search to find the few that were absolutely required to get it up and running (Intel AHCI disk and nVidia Display drivers – the first two I’ve seen with Windows 8 listed as supported).

Mountain Lion “just worked.”

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Cloud Storage Enables Tablet Usage for Work

The iPad is now in its third generation.  Android tablets are growing in the market and Microsoft enters the tablet fray on October 26 with its Windows 8-based “Surface.”  Tablets are here to stay, however, are they truly a tool for business?

I wrote just after Apple’s introduction of the iPad that for a mobile worker needing email and “light editing” that the tablet would be a very productive tool, but for the detailed “create new” document needs, the PC would still rule.  The challenge of more broad use has been threefold in my view:  1) availability of applications, 2) ability (processing power) to use more complex applications on the tablet, and 3) access to core files which are typically stored on your PC/laptop, seamlessly, so they are available in a ubiquitous manner.

Maturity of the tablet market solves the application availability issue.  They exist!  The latest generation of tablets resolve the processing power issue.  Cloud storage is the last piece of the puzzle.

Available from many sources, cloud storage allows for seamless access and synchronization of all your important data, in a secure fashion.  Apple has iCloud.  Microsoft has Sky Drive.  Google has Google Docs…    pick your favorite and you and your tablet can open up a new paradigm of computing, without the desktop/laptop.

I use Microsoft Sky Drive with a Windows desktop and a 3rd generation iPad.   Loaded on the iPad are applications for the office (Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Sky Drive, Good Reader, Quick Office, AutoCAD WS, Touch Draw, and iThoughts).   With these applications, I have access to all my needed files, and can create/edit/send… in file formats that are compatible with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, Adobe PDF and AutoCad – and many more are available.

If you have multiple devices, I recommend taking a look at cloud storage.  If you are looking for new computing approaches and even cutting the desktop tether, add your tablet to the mix (even your smart phone) and I believe you will be pleasantly surprised.

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Windows 8 Pro – First Drive of New Release

Windows 8 is Microsoft’s new operating system intended to blend usability across three computing paradigms:  Laptop/Desktop, Tablets, and Smart Phones.   The user experience is similar across all three types of devices.

Windows 8 is available to the public on October 26, 2012 as a direct download from Microsoft, or a DVD package from retailers.

The “common” component across all three devices is what Microsoft has previously called the “Metro” interface, groupings of tiles that each represent features and functions (apps) of the device.   There is a tile for the Microsoft Store, eMail, etc.   Traditional applications such as Microsoft Office can also be represented as a tile within this interface, effectively making it a more robust tool bar.  However, calling it a tool bar is selling it short as the new user interface makes traditional Windows sing in a touch-screen environment such as a tablet.

Installation Process

The installation process was straight-forward.  The version that I used required burning a DVD with the Windows 8 installation information and then load that from within the Windows 7 Operating system, selecting upgrade as opposed to a new installation.  Once those steps were complete, the installation process inspected the current installation and recommended that I uninstall my bluetooth driver, and one other incompatible application.  It did not recommend that I uninstall my internet security application, which after the fact, would have been a good idea.  Once the offending applications were removed, it rebooted and re-started the installation routine.

The whole process was completed in about 1 hour on a 1.6gh Intel Core i7 processor laptop with 8 GB RAM.

First Impressions

Windows 8 Pro does take a little more processing power than did Win 7 on the same machine.  I do notice that it lags a bit with comparable functions, but it is quite usable on the same hardware  – almost 3 years old.

Hibernation under Windows 8 is a big improvement.   If you leave your laptop running, just closing the lid when going mobile, you will find the time to full hibernation and then re-starting is vastly improved.

As a office user of this computer, I find most of the time that I am working in the Win 7 interface (not the tiled interface) as all of my applications are built for the traditional approach, including Microsoft Office 2010.  Over time, the publishers of these applications will offer Tile compatibility and working in “Metro” will become the norm.

SkyDrive is Microsoft’s version of Apple iCloud.   It provides free storage for up to 7GB of cloud storage and can be easily and inexpensively expanded beyond.  SkyDrive allows for seamless synchronization of your data across devices, including Apple-based devices.

Upgrade Process in an Existing Microsoft Domain

For those upgrading in a work / Microsoft Domain environment, your system administrators will need to update their Group Policies to recognize Windows 8.  Not doing so will cause any  Windows 8 machines to be managed as the default definition (as opposed to Win 7/Vista, etc.) which is the most restrictive definition.  While this is a rather simple/straightforward process, it’s one additional step for managed domains until Microsoft releases a group policy update patch.  The greatest challenge here was an incompatibility with Windows Firewall – the default policy requires that the Windows Firewall be turned on and it cannot be turned off until the policy is corrected/updated.  This caused an incompatibility with AVG Internet Security and its firewall and would do the same with any other security product that includes a preferred firewall.  Recommendation:  uninstall the security product before the upgrade, then update the group policy and reinstall the security product.

While I have corrected the firewall issue and my internet security product is back up and running, I still have some firewall issues with a couple of the tiled apps, including SkyDrive.  The firewall is blocking access to SkyDrive and the firewall screens for allowing access through the firewall only display in the traditional interface – you don’t see the prompts when working in the tiled interface.  This will most likely require additional work by the security application publishers to more easily integrate this functionality with Windows 8.

Summary Thoughts

Windows 8 is the next step in an evolution of devices, recognizing the broad movement of the industry towards touch-based tablets and smart phones.   I can’t wait for the hardware (e.g. Windows Tablets to be released on the same date as the operating system) to truly experience Windows 8 and see if a tablet can actually replace my traditional laptop.  I am betting that it will.

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