The Best of MV Tech Blog: 2012 Edition

If you have WordPress Jetpack plugin installed you should have your 2012 Annual Report by now. Below is the summary.

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WordPress only reports the top 5 in the annual report so I used Google Analytics as well to get the top 10.

My top referring sites in 2012 are mostly social networks  – Twitter, Stumbleupon, Facebook, Youtube and  XDA Forums.

Also, according to WordPress some of my most popular posts were written before 2012 so my writing has staying power. Sounds awesome! Now, here\’s the list:

10. Windows 8 Consumer Preview VirtualBox Installation Step-by-Step: It seems that many people interested to test Windows 8 in virtual machine. VirtualBox is free so it\’s not surprising it is popular.

9. iGoogle Alternatives – Find a New Start Page Before Google Shutdowns iGoogle in 2013: After all, many people still use a start page. I\’m not sure if it was a good move for Google.

8. BlueStacks on Windows 8 to Run 400,000 Android Apps: BlueStacks is getting better and better and if they continue to make more Android apps run with 100% compatibility on Windows 8 it might become the best way to run Android on x86 machines.

7. Google Black Navigation Bar: Remove, Disable or Change It: People are still not stopping to make Google black navigation bar a facelift. Maybe Google should consider giving more options to people like how Microsoft gives more option to customize Windows start menu and Apple, OS X dock.

6. Windows 8 Release Preview VirtualBox Installation and Error Troubleshooting: This is a surprise because I have three Windows related blog posts in top 10.

5. 8 Blogging Lessons from Game of Thrones (Part 1): Game of Thrones is one of my favorite show this year and it will return on March 31, 2013 as  hinted in HBO teaser.

4. Browser Wars Illustrated: From #7, up to #4. I never thought browser wars is that popular.

3. Free Facebook Mobile Access (Philippines Promo): While the promo is not available anymore, some people are still looking for free Facebook access using their mobile phones. With the increasing availability of LTE phone I could see that it will stay on my top posts for quite a while.

2. Kindle Comparison Chart – Kindle Fire vs. Others: Same as last year, still in #2. I really think I should write more about gadgets.

1. How to Wisely Use DFA Passport Appointment System: Still my #1 post. I hope it still serves as a helpful guideline for many Filipinos who are confused on how to get the new Philippine e-passport.

I wrote a total of 83 posts this year and this is my most active year in blogging yet after my long hiatus in 2008.

I know I can do more next year so I am excited to start 2013 already. In just a few hours, it\’s already 2013. Happy New Year !

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Windows 8 Release Preview VirtualBox Installation and Error Troubleshooting

I made a guide for Windows 8 Consumer Preview using VirtualBox before. So this is just an update. If you have followed that guide before, it\’s very similar except that I am using an updated Virtual Box and Windows 8 installer.

First, update to the latest version of VirtualBox. At the time I wrote this, version 4.1.16 is the latest. Then download Windows 8 Release Preview.

Now, let\’s start with the creation of virtual machine.

Using the steps below, create your Wondows 8 Release Preview Virtual Machine.

Windows 8 VirtualBox Guide

Install Windows 8 Release Preview

Installation is easy as pie. Just enter your preferred language, time and date format as well as keyboard or input method.

You\’ll be asked to enter serial key. If you are read the instruction on the ISO download page you should be able to find the serial key already. Just look for the Product Key.

Anyway, Windows 8 Release Preview Serial Key is  TK8TP-9JN6P-7X7WW-RFFTV-B7QPF

Further Setup

From here you can customize your settings already. In my example here, I used local account instead of using Microsoft account. I haven\’t warmed up yet with the idea of using it yet.

I noticed that sending info to Microsoft is an opt-in instead of an opt-out. You can see from the Settings configuration that it does not track anything you download from Windows Store nor track your location.  However, location platform is on by default so apps can ask your location if you permit them.

When you first logon you will get this lock screen. Much like the swipe to unlock screen guard in some Android phones.

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You can setup the picture password later. I like this idea better than Android\’s pattern lock because it does not force you to make a visible pattern using lines or grids. You just click and point to the area you wish to use. I wish you can setup more than 3 clicks but perhaps it is too much to remember for normal people so 3 clicks should be good enough.

One thing I noticed, when you start typing at the start screen it automatically searches for whatever you are typing. No need to look for the search text box.

The glaring issue that I still find in Windows 8 Release Preview is the invisible start menu. You have to hover the corners to get the start menu from the lower left corner and side bar menu from lower right corner. I am not sure if the experience will be different if you are using tablet but I am still skeptical on hiding the start menu. Yes you can bring it up easily using Windows key on your keyboard but it still does not make sense to me or to any average person I know. I had this opinion even before I saw Chris Pirillo\’s rants about the missing start menu.

Windows 8 Metro Apps

I tested Internet Explorer 10 with Flash 10 support. Nothing fancy about it.

Then there are 3 new apps added like News, Sports and Travel. These 3 apps share common interface and I think they will be the standard reference for Metro apps in terms of design and technical implementation. If you swipe down, you will get a pull down menu at the top. This serves as the menu of the applications. For example, in the Sports app — the default sport is basketball. At first you will think that it only displays basketball news but when you bring up the menu, you have an option to choose from different sports including golf, F1 race and football.

Troubleshooting

If you are installing and you get the error \”Your PC’s CPU isn’t compatible with Windows 8.” — you are not alone. Related issue to this is error code 0x000005d. Specially if you are working on VirtualBox, you will get this error if missed several prerequisites before installing Windows 8. You have to make sure that you enable NX (No eXecute bit) option in your BIOS.

I was able to install Windows 8 Consumer Preview before without this option so it came as a surprise that I could not install Windows 8 Release Preview without enabling this option.

If you enable NX,  Windows 8 VirtualBox error code 0x0000005D will not occur on your installation again.

Related error 0xC0000260 is cause by disabled PAE (or PAE-NX) virtualization option so you must enable PAE (or PAE-NX)  as well.

If you are interested to upgrade from Consumer Preview, it is possible but there is no simple method  to retrieve your data easily. Since I am only testing Windows 8 I do not install this in any live (production) machine. It\’s never wise to use beta products on work environment. However, if you are one of those who are too excited to use the latest version of Windows 8, you can use Easy Transfer to migrate your personal files from an old installation.

Microsoft Answers has a wealth of information about many problems you might encounter with Windows 8. Reporting problems will help Microsoft squash more bugs before the final retail version comes out.

I will not recommend installing the Guest Additions Tools because it makes my Windows 8 Release Preview unstable. Maybe it has something to do with the graphics driver but I will leave it for now until it becomes stable.

Have you experimented with the Windows 8 yet? Let me know your opinion below the comment section.

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview VirtualBox Installation Step-by-Step

Windows 8 VirtualBox Guide

I have documented how I installed Windows 8 Consumer Preview using VirtualBox. It\’s actually very easy to do if you have installed Windows 7 before.

If you have not tested Windows 8 Consumer Preview yet, download the ISO here and follow the easy steps below to guide you through the installation process. You can click on one image to get a bigger version and click the edge of that picture to see the next one.

Create the Virtual Machine

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On Virtual Hard Disk options, tick \”Start-up Disk\” and choose \”Create new hard disk\”

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Install Windows 8 Consumer Preview

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Enjoy Windows 8 Consumer Preview on VirtualBox.

If you want my opinion about it…. fine. It feels like like a copy of what Apple has been doing in iOS for so long, but with a twist. What bothers me is the whole idea about Metro UI on top of Windows Aero interface. Metro looks like  an independent program that you can toss anytime you want. It serves as the start menu at this point and I don\’t know if that is good or bad. If I want a desktop operating system, I still want my icons and traditional menus, not Metro UI.

Apple could have included the iOS interface, with all those cute squarish app icons instead of OS X dock long ago but they did not. Perhaps not until Macs get a touch screen. They have kept the interface optimized for different user experience. OS X with mouse, gestures and keyboards; iOS with touch interface. With Windows 8 Consumer Preview I am confused if it is trying to do both desktop and tablet interface at the same time. I sure it will mature and develop over time. It is just a consumer preview anyway.

Windows 8 is promising and it could be the only chance Microsoft has to redeem the post-PC  era.

 

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BlueStacks on Windows 8 to Run 400,000 Android Apps

BlueStacks Windows 8

I have blogged about my beta testing of Bluestack back in October last year on Windows 7 and today BlueStacks is making news again with BlueStacks Windows 8 version on CES 2012.

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On a side note, BlueStacks changed their logo. Now it looks like this:

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BlueStacks What?

If you have only heard of BlueStacks just now, it\’s okay. BlueStacks software only surfaced on the last quarter of 2011 for Windows 7.

On my review, I have mentioned that  If Windows will create an Android version of Metro UI for Windows 8, it will be BlueStacks.  And somehow that came true. BlueStacks app player now integrates with Metro UI and just like any Windows apps, Android apps will run on Windows 8 without any porting.  It\’s amazing what virtualization can do.

More Than 400,000 Android Apps to Run on Windows 8

So what if Windows 8 really comes with 400,00 apps with the help of BlueStacks?  Does it means that creating mobile apps for Windows 8 is already unnecessary? Either way, apps that will come from Windows store will give Windows users more apps to choose from. Sounds like a good deal for consumers because you can get the best of both worlds.

I wonder if Microsoft will have any influence on whether OEM can install BlueStacks on Windows 8 or not. It has been reported that BlueStacks is already talking with manufacturers to ship BlueStacks with their Windows 8 devices.

The state of the downloadable alpha version looks far from what is available in CES 2012 but I think that if BlueStacks can make a polished final product for Windows 8, it can spark more interest from both Android and Microsoft community.

Watch the video below for the teaser:

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Windows 8 Preview Unvieled, Also Available for Download

Microsoft finally presented the first public preview of Windows 8 in the BUILD Conference in Anaheim, CA and from here, we learned many details of the up-coming version of Windows.

Windows 8 New User Interface

Let\’s begin with the user interface. It seems that \”Metro-style UI\” is the buzz word around Windows 8 after the conference. Live tiles, vivid colors, multi-touch gestures – these are just a few characteristics you can associate with the new interface called Metro UI.

Metro UI sits on top of the familiar Windows 7 look and feel. You can still install desktop apps as usual but Metro UI gives new user experience for touchscreen devices including tablets.

If you use Windows Phone 7, the experience would be somewhat similar.

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Outside Metro UI,  ribbon will be featured in Windows Explorer which means it will be practically available in the entire operating system.

Even the dreaded BSoD got a face-lift. It is now more user-friendly but probably not as helpful as the former BSoD screen because it has little details on what cause the problem. Since it is still very early to judge Windows 8, it is a good step forward.

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No Windows 8 \”Tablet\”, Just Windows 8 PC?

To be clear, Windows 8 will run on a wide range of devices including tablets, netbooks, laptops and desktops — but Microsoft is hesitant to call tablets tablets as they insist that any device that runs Windows 8 is a PC, while any device that function as a phone is a Windows Phone. As TechCrunch puts it, if Microsoft can\’t win the table race, they won\’t acknowledge the existence of tablets.Maybe it is just a marketing thing.

I don\’t agree that Microsoft is not acknowledging tablets. They are using the term tablet PC since Windows XP Tablet PC edition. However, this time it seems that they are not going to differentiate tablets from laptops and desktops when Windows 8 is shipped.Who knows maybe Microsoft will have a change of  heart at the last-minute and create tablet-specific edition again.

In one of the demo, Microsoft showed a tablet that docks on a keyboard paired with a mouse. Somehow the thin line that separates tablets from PC is blurred if you consider that tablets are just laptops without physical keyboard and laptops are portable PCs. In essence, they are all personal computers.

PC, laptop or tablet. Call it whatever you want. At the end of the day, they are all computing devices and speaking of tablets, Mashable has a great review of Samsung Windows 8 tablet.

Improved Performance and More Hardware Choices

According to Microsoft, the memory footprint of Windows 8 will be reduced and the boot time will be decreased. For example,  Windows 8 preview build 8102 boots up in under 13 seconds from Samsung\’s Series 7 Slate PC with Intel 1.6GHz Core i5-2467M CPU with integrated graphics and 4 GB of RAM which was given away to 5000 developers who attended the conference. How I wish that Microsoft will also give away this \”developer PC\” to curious developers and testers like me outside US.

I think this is the first time that Microsoft have considered efficiency on smaller form factors without sacrificing core features of the operating system.

Microsoft finally figured out that they need to make Windows more efficient in more portable devices to them more ubiquitous. Windows 8 will be open to mobile devices processors like ARM which is designed to consume less energy.

Windows App Store

Of course there will be an app store too. If you look at the first screen shot here, that is the orange square at the bottom left.

The store is not yet open for business but Microsoft has already published the steps for  app submissions:

  • Step 1: Pre-processing (1 hour)
  • Step 2: Security test (3 hours)
  • Step 3: Technical Compliance (6 hours)
  • Step 4: Content Compliance (6 hours)
  • Step 5: Signing and Publishing (2 hours)
  • Step 6: Release

This could mean that apps can get approved in less than 24 hours unlike Apple approval process that takes much longer. I\’ll give it the benefit of the doubt because it\’s not yet open for business.

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Windows Developer Preview Downloads

Luckily for those who wish to test the pre-released Windows 8 Preview, Microsoft put it for download. It may contain a lot of bugs and it should be used in production environment — strictly for testing only. Would you believe that it has been download over 500,000 already in less than 12 hours! I\’m sure Windows fanatics cannot wait anymore for the newest Windows operating system. Unfortunately, Windows 8 is still far from being finished. I will probably wait 1 to 2 years.

If you have a spare laptop I recommend to install Windows 8 Preview and play with it.

Paul Thurrott had put up a gallery for installing Windows 8 preview which is very useful for beginners. His Windows 8 terminology lists is also a good read.

You can get the installer from Windows Dev Center, then head to Windows Developer Preview downloads where you can download several versions of Windows 8 preview.

 

According to Microsoft, the future of computing is here. Windows 8 is a bold move to battle the growing influence of Apple in the post-PC era.

To learn more about Windows 8 Preview you can read the official News Press Release from Microsoft about Windows 8.

 

 

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