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Try Windows 8 for free with Windows 8 Developer Preview

By now, you have probability started hearing the buzz about Windows 8. Maybe it's the new interface, Metro, which brings touch screen ease of use and the simple tile look of the Windows 7 phone to the desktop. Or maybe it's the Metro apps, that with a connected Windows Live account, can be downloaded and used on any Windows 8 computer you login to. Or, my favorite, the improved multi-monitor options. But did you know you can try it out right now for free with the Windows 8 Developer Preview?

Login Screen inside of Windows 8Developer Preview
The login screen inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. You slide the screen upward to get to the username and password fields.

Windows 8 Metro Interface
The Metro interface inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. You scroll from left to right to access the different categories of tiles.

Now I have to warn you that the Windows 8 Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8. Fun to play around with but in no way should you use it in a production environment. And remember that some of the features and/or functions may not work properly.

Windows 8 Windows Explorer
The new look of Windows Explorer inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. Windows Explorer now sports a ribbon style toolbar.

You can upgrade an existing version of Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7. But be forewarned that you cannot uninstall this release. You can also create a multi-boot setup, with Windows 8 on a separate partition. I use Oracle's VirtualBox to run experimental operating systems like this. I downloaded to latest version and it already had pre-configured settings for Windows 8.

Here's a quote from the Windows 8 Developer website:

The Windows 8 Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8 for developers. These downloads include prerelease software that may change without notice. The software is provided as is, and you bear the risk of using it. It may not be stable, operate correctly or work the way the final version of the software will. It should not be used in a production environment. The features and functionality in the prerelease software may not appear in the final version. Some product features and functionality may require advanced or additional hardware, or installation of other software.

Note: You can't uninstall the Windows 8 Developer Preview. To go back to your previous operating system, you must reinstall it from restore or installation media.

System Requirements

The Windows 8 Developer Preview works great on the same hardware that powers Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
  • Taking advantage of touch input requires a screen that supports multi-touch
  • To run Metro style Apps, you need a screen resolution of 1024 X 768 or greater

Notes about installing the Windows 8 Developer Preview

A clean install is supported on all builds, but you can upgrade if you are installing a download without the developer tools. You will receive the full set of migration options when setup is launched in Windows. To dual-boot, you must first boot from media and choose an alternative partition.

For more information on the Windows 8 Developer Preview, just follow the link below:

Windows Dev Center

Disable Windows hibernation and free up disk space

If you're a hard core computer user like me, you have your system running 24/7. No screen saver or power saver options (I just turn off the monitors when not in use). I need to be able to walk into my office and have it ready to go. So when I noticed that my version of Windows 7 still had the Hiberfil.sys file and I am not using hibernation, it was time to remove this file and regain that hard drive space back (in my case, 8 Gb).

The Hiberfil.sys is a hidden system file located in the root folder of the drive where Windows is installed. The Windows Kernel Power Manager creates this file when you install Windows. The size of this file is approximately equal to how much Random Access Memory (RAM) is installed on the computer.

The computer uses the Hiberfil.sys file to store a copy of the system memory on the hard disk when hibernation is turned on. If this file is not present, the computer cannot go into hibernation.

To delete the Hiberfil.sys file and make hibernation unavailable, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, and then type cmd in the Start Search box.
  2. In the search results list, right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as Administrator.
  3. If you are prompted by User Account Control, click Continue.
    Disable Windows Hibernation at the Command Prompt
  4. At the Command Prompt, type powercfg.exe /hibernate off, and then press ENTER.
  5. Type exit and then press ENTER to close the Command Prompt window.

To recreate the Hiberfil.sys file and make hibernation available, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, and then type cmd in the Start Search box.
  2. In the search results list, right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as Administrator.
  3. If you are prompted by User Account Control, click Continue.
    Renable Windows Hibernation at the Command Prompt
  4. At the Command Prompt, type powercfg.exe /hibernate on, and then press ENTER.
  5. Type exit and then press ENTER to close the Command Prompt window.

My favorite left hand Windows keyboard shortcuts

One of the most useful items I use on a daily basis are keyboard shortcuts. Especially shortcuts that I can perform with just my left hand, allowing me to keep my right hand on the mouse. You can use keyboard shortcuts to open frequently used files, folders and programs like Windows Explorer. Windows has a ton of built-in keyboard shortcuts (see links at bottom of article), plus you can create your own custom keyboard shortcuts. Here are my favorite left hand keyboard shortcuts:

Left hand Windows keyboard shortcuts
Press To
Windows logo key + E Open My Computer / Windows Explorer
Windows logo key + R Open the Run dialog box
Windows logo key + D Display the desktop
Windows logo key + F Search for a file or folder
CTRL + A Select all
CTRL + X Cut
CTRL + C Copy
CTRL+ V Paste
CTRL + ALT + (KEY) Custom keyboard shortcut (see below)

create your own Windows keyboard shortcuts

You can create keyboard shortcuts that use CTRL + ALT + (your choice of key) for frequently used files, folders and programs. You will need to have a shortcut to the file, folder or program you want to open first. You can use an existing shortcut (on your desktop or on the Start menu) or create a new one. Once you have a shortcut:

  1. Right-click on the shortcut
  2. From the context menu click Properties
  3. On the Properties box select the Shortcut tab
    The shortcut key box inside of a Windows shortcut
  4. Click inside the Shortcut key box and press the key in which you want to combine with CTRL + ALT

Note:
You can not use the following keys for keyboard shortcuts: ESC, ENTER, TAB, SPACEBAR, PRINT SCREEN, SHIFT, or BACKSPACE

For more information on Windows keyboard shortcuts, just follow the links below:

Windows logo key keyboard shortcuts
General keyboard shortcuts
Natural keyboard shortcuts
Dialog box keyboard shortcuts
Accessibility keyboard shortcuts
Windows explorer keyboard shortcuts

Stitching panoramic images for the web with Microsoft Research HD View

A while back. I wrote an article about creating panoramic images with Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) and Photosynth. With ICE and Photosynth, you can create panoramic images and then upload them to the Photosynth website. But what if you wanted to upload them to your website? That's where HD View comes into the picture.

Microsoft Research HD View is a new viewer to help in displaying large images (gigapixels) across the internet. It allows you to create panoramic images for web pages that do not take a lot of bandwidth. When someone views the image, they are only downloading what is required for that view. It is only when they pan or zoom, that more of the image is downloaded. HD View / Deep Zoom is now included in ICE, also as a stand-alone command line utility and (here's the best), a Photoshop plug-in.

HD View / Deep Zoom export in Microsoft Image Composite Editor
HD View / Deep Zoom export in Microsoft Image Composite Editor

HD View / Deep Zoom export in Photoshop plug-in
HD View / Deep Zoom export in Photoshop plug-in

So if you're a Photoshop user, you can now export those panoramic images that Photoshop can create directly to HD View / Deep Zoom format. The Photoshop plug-in is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit. Here's a quote from the HD View website:

About HD View
HD View is a new viewer developed by Microsoft Research's Interactive Visual Media group to aid in the display and interaction with very large images. The HDView development team included Johannes Kopf, Matt Uyttendaele, Howard Good, and Michael Cohen along with Jonathan Fay of the Next Media group.

Recent advances in camera and sensor technology and software for stitching images together has led to the creation of images containing billions of pixels (gigapixels). These images are often panoramic, that is, they cover very wide fields of view. Since monitors typically contain only one to two million pixels, it is only possible to actually see 1/1000th of such image data at once. Also, viewing very wide fields of view require unwrapping of an image projected onto a curved surface (think of a map of the world) which can cause distortions.

HD View leverages current graphics hardware to allow smooth panning and zooming as well as the viewing transformation described below.

HD View was developed with a number of goals in mind. It should:

  • allow smooth panning and zooming on large images,
  • only download enough data to create the current view (and possibly look ahead to the next), and
  • always display the current field of view with an appropriate projection. This means that when zoomed way in you should be presented with a standard perspective projection providing a sense of immersion, and when zoomed out you experience a curved projection so that get a full overview of the scene. In between the projection should smoothly transition.
  • Finally, it should be easy to create your own HD View content and present it to the world via the web.

The HD View plugin currently supports all major browsers on the Windows platform. The first time that you visit a page with HD View content you will be prompted to install the HD View plugin.

For more information on HD View / Deep Zoom, just follow the links below:

Microsoft Research HD View
HD View Utilities (32 bit) - Microsoft Research
HD View Utilities (64 bit) - Microsoft Research

Be more productive in your office for free with OpenOffice 3

A client recently asked me if I knew of any alternative to Microsoft Office. As a firm believer in open source software, I told him about OpenOffice.org 3 from Oracle. It is a complete office software suite with a word processor, spreadsheet, multi-media presentation, graphics and database programs.

OpenOffice.org is Java based and requires it to be installed. It is compatible with other commercial office software and can read / write various file formats. XSLT and StarOffice formats are supported, but you will need to choose the custom installation to enable these filters. You can also expand the functionality of OpenOffice.org by using third party extensions. And you can also export to PDF in all of the applications. And best of all, it's free.

OpenOffice 3's Main Screen
OpenOffice.org 3's main screen

Programs included in OpenOffice.org

Writer
Writer lets you design and produce text documents that can include graphics, tables, or charts. You can then save the documents in a variety of formats, including the standardized OpenDocument format (ODF), Microsoft Word .doc format, or HTML. And you can easily export your document to the Portable Document Format (PDF).

Calc
Calc is a spreadsheet application that you can use to calculate, analyze, and manage your data. You can also import and modify Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

Impress
Impress lets you create professional slide shows that can include charts, drawing objects, text, multimedia and a variety of other items. If you want, you can even import and modify Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.

Draw
Draw lets you create simple and complex drawings and export them in a number of common image formats. You can also insert tables, charts, formulas and other items created in OpenOffice.org programs into your drawings.

Base
With Base, you can access data that is stored in a wide variety of database file formats. Base natively supports some flat file database formats, such as the dBASE format. You can also use Base to connect to external relational databases, such as databases from MySQL or Oracle.

Math
Math provides numerous operators, functions and formatting assistants to help you create formulas.

OpenOffice.org 3 is available for the Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems. For more information on OpenOffice.org 3, please visit their website OpenOffice.org.

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