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A close look at the Windows 8 SkyDrive app

via LiveSide.net by Michael Gillett on 3/7/12

As the dust is now pretty much settled from Microsoft’s significant announcement and release of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview last week it’s about time we took a close look at some of the apps that come with the preview. as followers of mine on Twitter will know I am keen SkyDrive user and advocate and so it makes sense that I take a close look at that app.
I have only been able to try out the SkyDrive app on a PC with a mouse and keyboard and both and app and OS are both only preview and not feature complete.
When first opening the app users are presented with a lovely Metro display of all the folders and files found in a user’s root location. Scrolling to the left (with finger, keyboard or mouse) will present more files if they can’t all be shown on one screen, this works just like the Windows 8 Start Screen and most of the Windows 8 Preview apps. Folders are shown as a double width tile whereas files are shown as square tiles and if available the folders and files will show a thumbnail of the content.
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When clicking on a folder the contents in shown in the exact same way as the root folder, however, the folder title is shown along side the name of the of the parent folder. Note the “(public)” beside the title which denotes that the folder is visible to anyone, if a folder is not public then no additional notation is provided.
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Clicking on a photo then displays a single photo to the user. Sadly there is no way to continue to move through the contents of the folder in this view and a user has to go back from a single file and then click the next one. I would hope to see this changed so that users could browse the contents of a folder in this “zoomed in” view as well as the folder view when the final app is released. However, it is possible for a user to zoom into the image using the scroll wheel or multitouch if the image was uploaded at a large enough resolution.
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Right clicking (or swiping up from the bottom of the screen) presents some actions that a user can perform. The top left arrow is to move back to the folder view, the bottom left button allows a file to be saved to the PC from SkyDrive and in the bottom right is a feedback button and refresh button.
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When saving a file the default Windows 8 Metro file explorer is used. Sadly there is no way to save a file on SkyDrive to another app or service through an app which is possible within the Metro UI but seems to have been disabled so users can only save files locally.
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It might seem like a limitation to not allow users to save to another service however it perhaps makes sense as it is possible to “share” a single file using the Charms Bar on the right. This allows a file to be shared with any app installed that makes use of the share contract within Windows 8; on my system that is only Mail and WordPress.
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Going back to the SkyDrive London folder if a user were to click on the PowerPoint file then they would be taken to the Office Web App. For this it was the Metro version of Internet Explorer that opened however this could be configured to being the desktop version or even a different browser I believe.
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There are some other folder available within the SkyDrive app that mimic some of the functionality found in the web version. If a user clicks on the arrow beside the folder name then a drop list appears with three locations; the root folder (Michael’s SkyDrive in this case), the recent documents folder and the shared items folder. These same locations are listed on the left hand sidebar within the SkyDrive website.
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Some other notable features of the SkyDrive app are that right clicking in any folder presents the app bar with additional functionality. There are the feedback and refresh options already shown but there is also an add option which allows users to add anything to the folder that is being looked at.
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When adding a file the user is presented with same file explorer as when saving a file. However, this time there is access to other Metro apps installed on the PC so that a user can upload a file to SkyDrive from a different app or service.
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That is pretty much all I have discovered within the SkyDrive Metro App and bearing in mind it is only an App Preview it feels very reliable and fairly feature rich. Having said that though there are a few things that seem to be missed from the app such as being able to save or share more than 1 file at a time. It would also be great to browse through a folder when only seeing a single file and even slideshow functionality would be good. I think it would also be helpful to allow users to specify whether they wanted a document to be opened in an Office Web App or in a locally installed app.
Please let us know about anything else the SkyDrive app does that I might have missed.
Obviously we are still many months away from Windows 8 shipping and in that time a lot of work could be done on the SkyDrive app but even in it’s current state it’s a great app and well worth trying out if you haven’t already.
You can download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview if you haven’t already; the SkyDrive app comes bundled with it.

A Ghostly Snake on Mars

via Gizmodo by Casey Chan on 3/7/12

Click here to read A Ghostly Snake on Mars

There’s only two ways to look at this: it’s a ghastly looking serpent snaking its way on the red planet, swallowing everything in its path and burrowing itself inside the planet’s core. OR it’s a gigantic floating sperm…

Wireless Data Could Move 1,000 Times Faster Thanks to Frequency Combs [Wireless]

via Gizmodo by Andrew Tarantola on 3/7/12

Click here to read Wireless Data Could Move 1,000 Times Faster Thanks to Frequency Combs

That 4G connection pumping through your New iPad may seem lighting-quick compared to the 3G molasses you were used to, but LTE flows about as fast as old glass in the face of the Terahertz bandwidth that the University of Pittsburgh is studying. More »
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How Tomorrow’s Mobile Doctors Will Monitor Your Vital Stats [Book Excerpt]

via Gizmodo by Eric Topol, M.D. on 3/8/12

Click here to read How Tomorrow's Mobile Doctors Will Monitor Your Vital Stats

Exmobaby Suits aren’t the only way to wirelessly track a person’s vitals. The Creative Destruction of Medicine by Eric Topol, M.D. explores the rapidly-developing field of telemonitoring and how giving doctors instant, real-time patient-status updates can save lives and money. More »

New Windows 8 Themes Features Include Panoramic View, Auto Colors and Dual Monitor Support

via VikiTech – Daily Tech Updates by Robert on 3/8/12

Windows-8-logoAs most of you should know, Windows 7 was brilliant when it came to personalization and tuning it’s appearance. The selection of Windows 7 Themes that we have on offer here at VikiTech is a perfect example of the variety that users have when it comes to personalizing their desktop.
Now that the Windows 8 Consumer Preview has been released, it’s good to see that it’s no different. In fact Microsoft have worked hard to improve on these personalization features and added several new ones.

What’s New In Windows 8 Themes

Well first off, you’ll be glad to know that all our Windows 7 Themes are perfectly compatible with Windows 8. However themes designed specifically for Windows 8 will not work on Windows 7. Why you ask? Well in Windows 8 the themes contain some new features that are not supported in Windows 7 and they are also stored in a different format. Microsoft have worked on new features such as Auto Colour settings, Panoramic Theme support as well as improved support for Dual Monitor set ups in general.

Auto Colour Settings

The first new feature that I am going to talk about is auto colour. Traditionally with Windows 7 themes, you choose an aero colour for your desktop and that was it. In Windows 8, this new feature known as auto colour will smoothly and automatically change the desktops and taskbar aero colours to match the dominant colour in the background that’s currently being displayed on the desktop.
It’s great because it means that you will no longer have to go searching for an aero colour that matches all of your wallpapers, Windows 8 will do it automatically for you. This is an optional feature though, so if you don’t like it you can simply turn it off.
Auto Color

Panoramic Theme Support

The second new feature in Windows 8 themes is Panoramic Theme Support. Windows 8 will now have themes that will have the ability to extend a single background image across two monitors. In the past it was very tricky to get a Panoramic Theme for Windows 7, in general you just ended up with the same background being tiled on both of the monitors. This new feature in Windows 8 however will mean that you’ll be able to get gorgeous panoramic themes with stunning backgrounds for your dual monitor set up.
Also, fear not those of you who only have one monitor and wish to use a panoramic theme. Windows 8 will recognise that you only have one monitor and automatically crop the image and centre it on your monitor for you.
Panormaic Theme Support

Dual Monitor Support

Apart from just adding panoramic theme support in Windows 8, Microsoft have also changed how dual monitor wallpapers will work. In the past you’re wallpaper was simply tiled onto both screens. However in Windows 8 you will be able to have two completely different wallpapers on each monitor. The wallpapers will be pulled from the collection within the theme.

Wrap Up

Thankfully Microsoft have continued to improve on the personalization options that were first introduced in Windows 7. They’ve also allowed our vast collection of Windows 7 Themes to be used on Windows 8, however it’s important to remember that you will not be able to use Windows 8 themes on Windows 7. You should also take into account that these themes do not affect the Metro UI’s appearance which is handled separately.

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Strong Solar Storm Could Produce Auroras Over Northern U.S.

via Wired: Wired Science by Adam Mann on 3/8/12


The most powerful solar storm in five years hit Earth on March 8, and could create northern lights far south of their usual range.
On March 6, the sun produced two enormous X-class flares – the most powerful types of blasts to erupt from the sun’s surface – that flung waves of charged particles into space. The particle bursts are called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, and as they hit Earth’s atmosphere they can disrupt communication satellites and power grids. But the interaction of CMEs with Earth’s magnetic field also produces the incredible displays known as the northern lights.
When the storm reached Earth, it was slightly weaker than expected, and the alignment of Earth’s magnetic field with the CME’s magnetism further weakened the storm. On the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center’s Facebook page, the effect was likened to two bar magnets placed side-by-side with their poles misaligned. But NOAA goes on to note that the storm may take 24 hours to completely pass and could intensify further. Officials predict a “strong” geomagnetic storm before the CME is done.
If the storm reaches predicted intensities, it could cause northern lights as far south as geomagnetic latitude 50 (this is not identical to geographic latitude). This includes most of the northeastern U.S., the upper Great Plains region, and Washington state. You can check your geomagnetic latitude at the SWPC website.

If you’re in line to potentially see the northern lights tonight, you can increase your chances by getting away from bright cities and looking for clear, cloudless skies. Any amateur photographers can send their best shots to us.
The sun is currently waking up from a lull in its 11-year solar cycle. The next several years should see increased activity, and there’s a real possibility of a dangerously strong solar storm occurring in the next decade. In addition to the double burst on March 6, another powerful X1.1-class flare erupted from the sun’s surface on March 4, but its CME missed Earth.
NASA has also built an app that can send the most up-to-date space weather information directly to your smartphone.

Image: NASA/SDO/AIA
Video: NASA/SDO/AIA

The sky’s ablaze with light tonight

via Flickr Blog by Kay Kremerskothen on 3/8/12

Northern lights Iceland
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Beautiful night IMG_4528 IMG_7603_5DmkII

Northern Light Kalispell
Multiple-wavelength View of X5.4 Solar FlareMassive solar storms, as clearly visible on the NASA Goddard Photo and Video‘s photo on the left, are sparking intense Northern Lights displays for skywatchers at high latitudes since yesterday. They are reported to be visible again tonight, as a wave of charged particles reaches Earth. You can find even more photos in our Aurora Borealis search with more pictures from last night.

And if you like space things… the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition just opened the group for your entries.

Photos from olgeir, Nigel Fearon, *Jonina*, IGORA90, secondaryreality, Antti N, Ryan Liem-Salim, and NASA Goddard Photo and Video.

Ralph McQuarrie (June 13, 1929 – March 3, 2012)

via Sci-Fi-O-Rama by Kie on 3/4/12

Ralph McQuarrie - Hoth
One of Sci-Fi Arts true legends Ralph McQuarrie has sadly passed away aged 82, Ralph was the visionary concept artist and illustrator responsible for the look and feel of the original Starwars trilogy . Born and raised in Gary Indiana, Ralph moved to California in the 60′s where he was first employed as a technical llustrator for Boeing. Ralph left in 1965 before becoming a commercial artist and designer working on a variety of projects such as these film posters. At the end of the 60′s as part of a three man team he animated US TV network CBS’s coverage of Nasa’s Apollo space programme this can be seen here (would love to see more of this). Not too long afterwards McQuarri e was approached by George Lucas to discuss plans for a certain sci-Fi fantasy film…
McQuarrie was commissioned by Lucas in 1975, and immediately set out creating concepts for characters, vehicles, set paintings, backdrops etc, these would of course evolve into some of cinema’s most recgonisable and loved Icons. Here’s a great quote from Ralph:
“I just did my best to depict what I thought the film should look like, I really liked the idea. I didn’t think the film would ever get made. My impression was it was too expensive. There wouldn’t be enough of an audience. It’s just too complicated. But George knew a lot of things that I didn’t know.”
Against all odds, Lucas armed with McQuarrie’s wonderful paintings finally managed to twist 20 Century Fox’s arm into comissioning the project, filming in Tunisia would start shortly afterwards. McQuarrie carried on with the Trilogy, working on both sequels, examples of which I’ve included here. Interestingly (I didn’t know this) Ralph also has a uncredited, non speaking part in The Empire Strikes Back, you can see that here kinda funny as he walks across screen in front of one of his own matte paintings.
Though obviously most famous for his work on the Starwars universe, McQuarrie’s highly impressive reseme includes Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Battlestar Galactica, Close Encounters of The Third Kind and Cocoon, which earned him an Acadamy Award for visual effects in 1986.
Ralph McQuarrie Xwing

Ralph McQuarrie A-Wing
Above and at the head of post are a few of my favourite McQuarrie images, I love the way his imaginings are slightly more streamlined and delicate than the intricate models they became, wonderful stuff!
Here are a few links for futher reading, firstly some great interviews (dating back to 1978) at http://www.ralphmcquarrie.com/interviews/index.html also at his site check through the portfolio sections, I’ll strive to track down some of McQuarrie’s lesser known work for future posting. Also check the Day of the Jedi, for broad collection of Starwars concept art.
Finally to end with here’s a great quote from his website:
His influence on design will be felt forever. There’s no doubt in our hearts that centuries from now amazing spaceships will soar, future cities will rise and someone, somewhere will say…
“that looks like something Ralph McQuarrie painted.”

Download BBC Radio Programs With Radio Downloader

via gHacks Technology News | Latest Tech News, Software And Tutorials by Martin Brinkmann on 3/8/12

If you cannot listen to the various BBC Radio channels directly, you may consider downloading your favorite shows to your computer to listen to them at a later time. Maybe you are on holiday and do not want to miss a show, or you are living in a country that has limited or no access to BBC Radio shows.
Radio Downloader offers a solution. The free program comes with two main features right now: It can be used to download BBC Radio shows, and it can also be used to download Podcasts. When you first start the program, you see both options displayed as icons in the program interface.
A click on BBC displays a genre, formats and A to Z listing in the interface. If you know the show’s name, you may want to use the A to Z listing to find it. If you are not sure or want to explore the various options, you can either click on a genre, like drama, children’s or music, or a format, like readings, reality or magazines & reviews.
A list of shows is displayed on the next page, and if you have selected a genre, sub-genres may be listed on the page as well. You can furthermore filter results at the top. This allows you to switch from the current show filter to a listing that is only highlighting shows that are available on the BBC iPlayer, or all shows.
All available shows are listed on the next page. You can now select a show and click on the download button in the toolbar to download it to your computer. Here it is also possible to subscribe to a show, which can be useful if you do not want to miss a single show.

radio downloader

You may want to click on Options > Provider Options > BBC Radio Provider Options first to configure the audio download rules. The program will convert AAC radio shows to mp3 by default, which you can change in the program options.

bbc radio download

The podcast download works by adding the RSS feed of the Podcast to the program. There is no directory of podcasts included in the program, which makes it less appealing.
The program itself feels a bit clunky at times, for instance when you realize that going back or forward take their time even if the page had been loaded previously.
The downloading of BBC Radio programs does not seem to work for all users. A friend of mine had no issues whatsoever using the program, while I could not download a single show to my computer. The developer states on a help page that this is usually caused by a firewall, or by the router.
Radio Developer, if it is working properly, is a useful program for users who like to download BBC Radio shows to their PCs.

Gartner: PC shipment growth will be stagnant

via AfterDawn.com on 3/8/12

Gartner: PC shipment growth will be stagnantAccording to research firm Gartner, PC shipments will remain weak this year, thanks to ever-increasing competition from tablets and smartphones.

Shipments will grow a paltry 4.4 percent in 2012, to 368 million units, says Gartner, a strong improvement from the 0.5 percent rate in 2011, but well below historical averages.

Says research director Ranjit Atwal: “PC shipments will remain weak in 2012, as the PC market plays catch up in bringing a new level of innovation that consumers want to see in devices they purchase. The real question is whether Windows 8 (Microsoft’s upcoming operating system) and ultrabooks will create the compelling offering that gets the earlier adopter of devices excited about PCs again.”

The iPad will not be the only competition, however, says Atwal. Smartphones have become so high-end that they to have eaten the PC’s share of the market: “The use of applications such as email, social networking and Internet access, that were traditionally the domain of the PC, are now being used across media tablets and smartphones, making these devices in some cases more valued and attractive propositions. Consumers will now look at a task that they have to perform, and they will determine which device will allow them to perform such a task in the most effective, fun and convenient way. The device has to meet the user needs not the other way round.”

Ultrabooks will be a great growth driver for PCs, concludes Gartner, with growth expected to be over 50 percent in the next few years.

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