With the <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9222461/Cool_stuff_Your_2011_holiday_tech_gift_guide">holiday season in full force</a>, a lot of gift-givers are going to be considering one of the new color e-readers that have been introduced recently: <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9221888/Amazon_s_Kindle_Fire_misfires">Amazon's Kindle Fire</a>, the Kobo Vox and <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9221898/Nook_Tablet_Hands_on_with_Barnes_Noble_s_alternative_to_the_Kindle_Fire">Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet</a>.
Stories by Preston Gralla
You know the stereotype: Microsoft is the sworn enemy of openness, unwilling to open its code or hardware to others. It's a monopolist bent on world domination, willing to use its lawyers and market strength to ensure that Windows and Office don't face any serious competition.
Print books may not be dead, but it's not for want of the biggest booksellers trying to kill them. This week, Amazon released the <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9221888/Amazon_s_Kindle_Fire_misfires">Kindle Fire</a>, with Barnes & Noble following with the <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9221898/Nook_Tablet_Hands_on_with_Barnes_Noble_s_alternative_to_the_Kindle_Fire">Nook Tablet</a> -- while one week ago the lesser-known <a href="http://www.kobobooks.com/kobovox">Kobo Vox</a> went on sale.
Microsoft was built on operating systems: first DOS, and then Windows. But the company's most recent earnings show that Windows is no longer its primary engine for growth. Because of that, it's not clear what kind of company Microsoft will be several years from now.
Microsoft recently released a <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9219996/First_look_The_two_faces_of_Windows_8_Developer_Preview_">developer preview of Windows 8</a> , which Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows division, called a "bold re-imagination." For once, corporate hype is accurate; this new version of Windows is dramatically different from <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9119998/Continuing_Coverage_Microsoft_Windows_7_Vista_Reloaded">Windows 7</a> , Vista and XP. Not that different always means better. Enterprises are going to be especially hard-pressed to see improvements in Windows 8. In fact, they might skip the upgrade entirely.
The recent iOS 5 announcement highlighted several interesting additions to Apple's app-focused operating system, such as the new <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9220539/With_Siri_Apple_s_iPhone_4S_gets_a_voice">Siri voice command interface</a>, which will be available only on the iPhone 4S. In contrast, <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9137060/Microsoft_Update_Latest_news_features_reviews_opinions_and_more">Microsoft's</a> new <a href="http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9219927/AT_T_to_offer_three_Mango_smartphones_this_fall">Mango version</a> of Windows Phone 7 (which is actually version 7.5) helps fulfill that platform's promise of helping people focus on the tasks they want to accomplish and the information they want to receive, rather than the apps they run -- especially when it comes to social networking and communications.
A first hands-on look at the just-released Developer Preview of Windows 8</a> (which became available last night at the <a href="http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/home/">Windows Dev Center</a> site) reveals an operating system poised halfway between yesterday's desktop and tomorrow's touch-screen interface. I installed it on a PC, but the OS seems built more for tablets and mobile devices than traditional computers,
WebFilter is a free Chrome extension designed to block access to objectionable or dangerous sites, including those that are pornographic, harbor malware, show drug use, or are heavy bandwidth users. It's a generally useful tool, although it is somewhat marred by its surprising inability to block at least one very obvious problematic site.
The free TrackMeNot Firefox add-on takes a unique and creative approach to protecting your privacy from search engines that can create profiles of you based on terms you search for. Rather than hiding your searches from them in some way, it takes the exact opposite tack: It inundates search engines with a blizzard of background searches from you, so that no practical profile can be built because there are too many random searches. It generates those search terms from a group of RSS feeds from sites including the New York Times, CNN, and others.
One of the first services that Google unveiled at this week's Google I/O conference was its new <cloud-based music player, Google Music. I've spend the last 12 hours using the beta of Google Music and for someone like me, with multiple PCs, a Mac, a Motorola Xoom and a Motorola Droid X, it's the Holy Grail of music players. Gone are the days of trying to copy and sync music from my main PC to everywhere else. Now, no matter where I am, as long as I've got Internet access, I've got access to my entire music collection.
The news that iPhones, iPads and Android devices secretly track the locations of their owners poses a potentially serious dilemma for IT staffs. If someone's manager asks IT to retrieve that data and hand it over, what should IT do? We certainly have to acknowledge that a device that's used for business purposes but automatically tracks personal information blurs the line between personal and corporate information.
The recently released Firefox 4 is a big improvement over previous versions of the popular Web browser, but you can still teach it plenty of tricks.
If you have a small network at your business or at home, you need help -- and lots of it. For your home network, you are by default the network administrator. You may also be the de facto network administrator at work, in addition to the other job titles you could claim. And if you are the acknowledged network administrator, you probably have little or no backup staff.
It's been a long wait for Firefox 4; it was nearly two years ago that Firefox 3.5 was released. A lot has changed in the browser world since then. But though the wait has been a long one, it has paid off for those with patience: Firefox 4 is a winner.
The past year has been a remarkable one for smartphones, with the meteoric rise of Google's Android OS, the restart of Microsoft's mobile strategy with its much-ballyhooed release of Windows Phone 7 and the continuing success of Apple's iPhone, buoyed by its new availability to Verizon subscribers. Never has there been so much choice in the smartphone market. As a result, hype and overstatement have been the order of the day.
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