Tag Archives: Tablets

Holiday Season Shows the Importance of Mobile Interaction

This guest post is contributed by Grady Winston. Grady is an avid writer and Internet entrepreneur from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising – implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

In 2012, shoppers spent $1.46 billion online on the Monday following Thanksgiving (also known as “Cyber Monday”). And more than 18 percent of shoppers used a mobile device to access retail sites that day. As mobile devices become more available – and as retailers designer their websites to be more mobile-friendly – the trend in online shopping is expected to continue.

Of particular interest to retailers is the fact that people who use mobile devices to shop online exhibit a slightly higher rate of conversion when compared to their desktop computer-using counterparts. That’s why it pays to develop a strategy for capturing this audience.

Buying habits

Shopping data pulled from Black Friday and Cyber Monday show that the average mobile shopper is approximately 7 percent more likely to make a purchase in the evening than during the day. While they may not be outside of their home in the evening, the convenience of their tablets and cell phones makes for easy shopping from their favorite leisure spot in their home. To take advantage of this trend, be sure to coordinate your efforts to take place after dinner time to achieve better conversion rates.

Best practices

To achieve sales conversions, you should engage the potential customer in a variety of ways. Some good approaches include:

  • Optimizing your mobile site – To convert visits to sales, you need to use simple features on your website. Especially when dealing with mobile devices, which have less precise input and smaller screens, an optimized site is easier for shoppers to use. Make sure to include basic features customers may be looking for, such as “subscribe” and “contact” fields.
  • Implementing social media campaigns – While a long-term campaign is needed to build a significant following, you can ramp-up customer excitement about sales or new inventory by carefully timing tweets and social media posts. Tying in your message to your other channels (including blogs, emails and print publications) will help to unify your message for any special sales or deals available. Consider including deals or discounts for followers of your accounts to foster brand loyalty.
  • Using SMS messages to get immediate results – A text message is frequently read within four minutes, which can lead to quick conversions on limited-time offers. Brands such as Redbox and Papa John’s effectively use SMS to deliver coupon codes to subscribers, encouraging them to take advantage of deals and generate business on specific days.
  • Building a subscriber list – When it comes to digital marketing, email is a very effective solution. A subscriber list can bring customers back repeatedly, especially if you deliver limited-quantity offers to subscribers on occasion. Making your brand advocates feel appreciated will lead to higher conversions – and people who appreciate your brand are more likely to spread the word about positive interactions with your business.

Mobile shopping could eventually become the main way people buy goods and services. Plan accordingly, always being mindful of how mobile-friendly your website is. And don’t be afraid to ask for input and ideas from your customers – they’ll happily share their opinions about what might make your website easier to use.

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Filed under Connected Devices, Guest Writers, Point of View, Web Site Design

Laptop vs. Tablet: Which One Do I Need?

Guest article.

imageEver since the first laptops became available in the 1980s – in a very different incarnation from the sleek creations we’ve grown accustomed to today – the option of portable computers has revolutionized the market. All sorts of people, from business professionals to home users, welcomed their ease of use and mobility.

However, today that market has leaped much further with the introduction of tablets, smartphones and netbooks, giving users enhanced portability and an ever-increasing choice of technology, and posing a new question: which is better, a laptop or tablet?

For many users, the laptop remains the number one choice. Whereas some struggle with the touch screen keyboards featured on tablets, the fully integrated keyboards of laptops are simple to use, enabling faster and more accurate typing.

The larger screen size is also preferable for many people, particularly when dealing with complicated data on spreadsheets, which can become tricky to view on the smaller tablet screens.

Yet the laptop does not necessarily out-do the tablet in all respects. Despite being introduced as a portable alternative to desktop PCs, laptops are now quite bulky compared to other devices on the market. Whereas a tablet can slip discreetly into a day bag, most laptops require a separate carry case, which can seem cumbersome to many users.

This is where tablets really come into their own. With their integrated touch screen technology, tablets are incredibly lightweight and portable, with many weighing less than a pound. And despite their small size, the majority of devices can still store large quantities of music, video and photo files, making them a top choice for leisure users seeking entertainment on long journeys.

The touch screen, though tricky for some users to negotiate, also has its own advantages over the traditional keyboard and mouse set-up, with the hands-on, tactile technology often proving particularly useful for designers and digital artists.

With both laptops and tablets offering their own benefits, the decision of which product to choose must ultimately come down to your own personal needs and preferences – if you’re a fairly casual computer user who is often on the go, a tablet may be the best option for you.

On the other hand, if you often need to carry out complex word processing and data handling tasks, a fully-equipped laptop is likely to serve you better.

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Filed under Connected Devices, Guest Writers, Tablet Computing

Scan a QR code – Expose yourself to mobile malware

Guest post by David Maman – CTO & Founder of GreenSQL.

imageA single poisoned link is all it takes to expose an entire organization to a full-scale attack.

Hackers write sophisticated browser-based attacks that operate quite stealthily. Now, they’re going after our mobile phones, which are soon to be the number one way we access the web.

As QR codes have evolved, they now can offer users – and thieves – unlimited information within seconds of scanning.

And we scan them voluntarily.

We’ve already been trained to think twice before entering an unknown link we get from a stranger or even a friend, but almost anyone will scan an unknown QR code with a smartphone or a tablet, if the offer it’s embedded in looks tempting enough.

The Experiment:

Over a three-day security conference in London, I created a small poster featuring a big security company’s logo and the sentence “Just Scan to Win an iPAD.” Thousands of people walked by, no one asked where the sign came from, and no one took it down, not even a representative of the company featured on the sign.

The results: 455 people scanned the sign and browsed the link over the three days. The breakdown: 142 iPhone users, 211 Android users, 61 Blackberry, and 41 unknown browsers.

Remember, this was a conference for security professionals.

As I’m a nice guy fighting for the right side, the QR code simply linked to a web page featuring a smiley face. If I had decided to include a malware or poisoned URL attack based on multiple mobile smart phone browsers, I wonder whose phone I would have penetrated…

To make a long story short: QR codes are becoming more and more prevalent. And most of us don’t have the same AV or URL filtering technology on our phones or tablets that we have on our PCs.

The question is: Can we really fully trust the QR codes we see on the streets, in restaurants, or in ads? Regretfully, the answer is no.

Any attacker can take advantage of QR codes. And remember, unlike computers, most mobile devices do not include antivirus solutions to protect us against mobile malware.

Think before you scan.

· Does this QR code seem to come from a reliable source?

· After scanning the QR code and seeing the link, is the link really from whom it claimed to be?

· Would I click on this link if it came through my email?

Even if you miss out on the iPAD or the free ice cream cone, you’re probably better off.

Author bio:

David Maman is CTO & Founder of GreenSQL, the database security company.

About GreenSQL:

GreenSQL, the Database Security Company, delivers out-of-the-box database security solutions for small and mid-sized organizations. Started as an open source project back in 2006, GreenSQL became the no. 1 database security solution for MySQL with 100,000 users worldwide. In 2009, in response to market needs, GreenSQL LTD developed a commercial version, bringing a fresh approach to protecting databases of small- and medium-sized businesses.

GreenSQL provides database security solutions that are affordable and easy to install and maintain. GreenSQL supports Microsoft Azure, SQL Server (all versions including SQL Server 2012), MySQL and PostgreSQL.

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Filed under Connected Devices, Cyber Crime, Don't Get Hacked, Guest Writers, Internet Safety Tools

Android Malware – Take the Security of Your Device Seriously

Guest writer Megan Berry has some timely advice on how you can avoid avoid malware on Android smartphones and tablets.

imageRule #1 of Android security: don’t download apps from websites other than Google Play for fear that you unwittingly infect your smartphone or tablet with malware. Well, not surprisingly, cybercriminals found a way to invalidate rule #1.

A security researcher at Symantec recently discovered two apps infected with malware in the app store that were quickly removed. But not before tens of thousands of users downloaded them.

This scenario is particularly troubling for companies with BYOD programs that permit Android devices to connect to their network. How do companies protect corporate assets without taking away employees’ ability to use their favorite mobile devices on the job? Especially since it seems that cybercriminals are always one step ahead of security experts.

Whether you use an Android device at home, on the job, or both, the growing threat of Android malware means it is more important than ever to take the security of your device seriously.

How to avoid malware on Android smartphones and tablets

Nothing you can do will guarantee you will never be infected with malware, but there are things you can do to minimize the risk.

· Before downloading an app, do a quick web search to check up on the developer and the app itself. Look for red flags in the search results, such as negative user reviews or complaints, that indicate you need to dig deeper before tapping that “Accept & download” button. Hint: You can visit the developer’s webpage from the app listing.

· Some malicious apps try to hide behind a legitimate brand name. Make sure the name of the developer jives with the title of the app.

· Read the app’s user reviews. Red flags will show up here, too.

· Examine the permissions of the app: are they in line with the app’s intended use? For example, does a news app really need to access your contacts or send text messages?

· IT managers should insist that employees install an Android anti-virus app. Or, better yet, insist that users turn their devices over to IT before they’re allowed to connect to the network for the first time. This way IT can install anti-virus software it has evaluated, configure it properly and enforce its use.

Android anti-virus apps: worth it or not?

The effectiveness of Android anti-virus apps is debatable, though. In a recent study, only a handful of Android anti-virus apps were found to detect most types of threats. The March 2012 study by AV-Test.org rated 23 out of 41 apps effective, or 56%. Of those 23, only 10 detected greater than 90% of known malware types.

Still, the authors of the study say any of the anti-virus apps that were found to detect greater than 65% of known malware types provide adequate protection.

Unpatched system software: Your device’s Achilles’ heel

Even though you’re careful about what apps you install and you run an anti-virus program, your device may still be vulnerable because of unpatched system software.

According to security vendor Duo Security, the speed at which wireless carriers supply updates to their users varies. Therefore, it’s possible for devices to go unprotected for long periods of time. The fragmentation of the Android platform complicates the task of rolling out updates, not to mention the fact that companies have little incentive to fix existing flaws when new devices with the latest system software are already on the shelves.

This is of particular concern for companies that allow their employees to connect their personal Android devices to the company network. It should also be of concern to employees, who may be liable if their device infects their employer’s network – many corporate bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies place the responsibility for keeping devices malware-free squarely on the shoulders of the user.

Duo Security’s new app, X-ray, scans Android devices to discover unpatched flaws in system software. If the app finds a problem, the user can go to Settings>About Phone>System Updates to download the latest version. If an official update isn’t available via System Updates, Duo Security encourages users to contact their carrier for more information, or at the very least, exercise extreme caution when downloading apps.

Individual users can download and install the app from the X-Ray for Android website. Organizations can get an enterprise-level version by emailing the company.

Lesson learned

The lesson here is that unfortunately, it’s no longer safe to assume that just because an app is available from a reputable source, it’s malware-free. And, educating yourself and your users, combined with tried-and-true anti-virus software, is still the best protection against the quickly evolving threat that Android malware presents.

About the Author: Senior writer for IT Manager Daily, Megan covers the latest technology news and trends impacting business.

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Filed under Android, Anti-Malware Tools, Guest Writers, Malware Protection

High-Def Life: The Future is Looking Clearer Than Ever

Where Apple goes others follow. Apple’s iPhone, iPad and other devices are known for being on the cutting edge of technology, particularly in terms of setting the bar for individual user experience.

Apple is making a huge push toward high-definition and customers are not pushing back. Instead, high-definition is being welcomed with open arms the way a new member to the family is accepted – as if she had been there the whole time.

High-definition displays are rapidly becoming a permanent fixture. Companies like Google, Motorola and Nvidia are putting out their own high-definition products to compete with Apple and meet customers’ new (and high) expectations.

imageThe interest in high-definition consumer electronics has seen a significant increase in the past couple of years. Usage of high-def TVs and laptops, particularly among children and teens, was growing, while that of other consumer electronics stayed the same or was down in 2010.

Today, the expectation for high-def has expanded to smartphones, tablets and other devices. Apple’s new Retina display on iPads and MacBook Pros is meeting this new need and capturing the attention of customers worldwide.

Apple claims that the new Retina display on their iPad 3 surpasses the retina’s perceptive capacity. The iPad 3 features an operating system that displays at 300 ppi and the ultra-HD video blows away previous viewing options.

Apple’s Retina display is also available on the MacBook Pro. Apple unveiled a new 15-inch MacBook Pro 2012 with Retina display at the Worldwide Developer Conference earlier this year, sparking rumors of a 13-inch model soon to come. The company also announced the retirement of the 17-inch MacBook Pro without Retina.

The success of the Retina display began when Apple introduced it on their iPhone 4. It was then used for the iPhone 4S and the iPad before making it onto the 15 inch MacBook Pro, which demonstrates Apple’s commitment to high def.

The larger screen pairs well with the phones cameras and video chat capabilities. A Droid Razr HD seen in China featured a 13-megapixel camera on the back plus a 3-megapixel camera on the front. The extra megapixels contribute to what appear to be nicer pictures from the Razr HD compared to the iPhone 4S.

imageTo compete against the iPhone 4, Motorola is releasing their Droid Razr HD. This device has become one of the most anticipated smartphones on the market, according to International Business Times. Reports suggest that the Razr HD will be stronger, thinner and lighter than the iPhone 4S. The Motorola Droid Razr HD will feature a 4.5-inch 720p HD screen, while the iPhone has a 3.5-inch screen.

The Motorola Droid Razr HD’s screen is reportedly 1196×720, which matches the resolution of the Samsung Galaxy S3. The crisper, larger screens make both of these phones attractive alternatives for the iPhone 4S, though Apple is hard at work on the upcoming iPhone 5.

The industry now needs to catch up with the new technology by creating apps, games and other entertainment options that take advantage of the impressive high-def displays on portable devices.

Qualcomm’s impressive development wing had a good showing at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Spain and offered enthusiasts a sneak peak at what’s in store for the upcoming crop of HD smartphones, including impressive projector tech.

The bottom line is that high-def is here to stay and thanks to the efforts of Apple and its competitors, consumer electronic users are able to see more clearly than ever.

This guest post is contributed by Grady Winston. Grady is an avid writer and Internet entrepreneur from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising – implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

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Filed under cell phone, Guest Writers, iPad, iPhone, Tech Net News, Video

Google Drive: One of the Best Things to Happen to the Web

Store your files in a safe placeI remember when I bought my first MacBook. I had been waiting two years to make the exciting switch to Apple, and once I did, I knew I’d never go back. I even remember the day I turned it on.

I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around all the beautiful typography, colorful hues, up-to-date programs, and obvious innovation that composed my 12-inch computer. Sure, it wasn’t a cheap purchase, but I was in love… with a computer.

As the years go by and innovation and creativity continue to grow at infinite speeds, I’m captivated by technology more and more every day. It would be foolish not to give credit to Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter for changing the way in which we exist and interact with one another. No one could deny that. But, I want to take a moment to talk about Google, particularly Google Drive (formerly Google Docs).

Since the day I started using Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and the rest of those compose-your-own-document programs, I have absolutely detested them. Not only have they become more and more difficult to navigate through over the years, they are also unreliable. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve grown angry with a Word document for instantly formatting my stories, at PowerPoint for crashing when I’m almost done finishing my last slide, or at Excel for being one of the most poorly designed programs on the market today.

Whenever it came time to print a document or email it off to a colleague, I always prayed everything would work out. My mind would conjure up the worst anxieties about a paper not making it to its destination, and often times, my premonitions came true. I’d wonder why the document didn’t download as the right file, why my PowerPoint presentation was not compatible with a newer version of PowerPoint, and why I put up with all the stress of these programs.

Google Docs, now called Google Drive, changed the way in which I interact with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. If a document wasn’t able to print from my home, I could breathe a sigh of relief knowing I could access it from anywhere. If my computer crashed, I felt confident in knowing all of my documents were still accessible. If I needed a colleague to look over my work before I submitted it, I could rely on Google Docs to “share” my document with them and allow the person to incorporate changes or suggestions.

In fact, I no longer even store programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint on my computer because I find Google Drive to be useful in most every shape and form.

Google has been at the forefront of innovation since its creation. Google Drive is receiving a lot of positive reviews, and the hype surrounding this newest version couldn’t be more appropriate.

Google Drive allows individuals to collaborate on documents at the same time, access documents through a simple link, search through a document archive, and go back and undo automatic revisions. If that isn’t exciting enough, an iPad and iPhone app is coming soon that will allow individuals to access Google Drive through their smartphones or tablets. If you haven’t accessed Google Drive yet, give it a test drive and see what you think.

About the Author:

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas – an avid blogger whose true calling is researching and exploring the future of learning. For comments and questions, she can be reached at katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

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Filed under Cloud Computing Applications, downloads, Freeware, Google Drive, Guest Writers

Windows 8 Satisfies The Need For Speed

imageI’m a speed sensitive kind of guy – when it comes to computing, that is. Late last year, to satisfy my need for speed, I installed a Solid State Drive – running Windows 7 Enterprise – in place of a Western Digital HDD, as a boot drive.

The benefits of running with an SSD were immediately noticeable – faster boot times, faster system shutdown, faster application load times (including games), along with faster sleep and hibernation modes.

In the meantime, Windows 8 Consumer Preview was dropped on my doorstep – and, since there is some degree of SSD optimization built into Windows 8, taking the opportunity to race with this new engine was a natural fit.

It’s been quite a race – Windows 8 is perceptibly faster on my hardware than on the same configuration running Windows 7. Not milliseconds faster – but, measurable faster. Still, there’s little real value in a single user’s Windows 8 running experience. Hardware is a variable – system configurations are variable – usage factors need to be considered, and so on.

So, rather than write a full report on my personal experience running Windows 8, I gave Sandro Villinger from TuneUp Software (the developers of TuneUp Utilities 2012) a buzz to get his take on Windows 8.

Thank goodness for Skype – a planned 15 minute call to Germany turned into a 2 hour conversation – much of it focused on the state of Internet journalism. A conversation so satisfying, that it led me to craft an article on a number of issues raised in conversation, which I’ll post in the next few days.

But, I digress.

As it turns out, Sandro and his team had tested Windows 8 extensively – not just on a single system – but, on a mix of hardware which included Desktops, Laptop/Tablets, and a low powered Intel Atom Netbook.

Sandro has generously shared his extremely comprehensive report with me – which I’ve posted below. If you’ve had any questions regarding Windows 8 performance capabilities, then Sandro’s report is just what you’ve been waiting for.

Enjoy the read.   Smile

A Close Look at Windows 8 Performance: Winners and Losers

Don’t let the shiny new Metro interface of Windows 8 fool you—the new operating system (OS) has been improved not just with a spanking new outfit but also in the performance department. For instance, Microsoft’s future OS needs to work with both high-end PCs as well as small-factor devices like ARM and low-powered Intel tablets, which is why its overall footprint needed to be reduced drastically.

As VentureBeat noted, “Windows 8’s secret feature [is] resurrecting old PCs.” Microsoft promised that Windows 8 would run equally well or better on low-powered machines than Windows 7. This is a bold statement, but the real question is, did the company deliver? In this blog post, we’ll explore that with early benchmarks, showing if and how much Windows 8’s performance compares to Windows 7’s on the very same machines.

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Windows 8 has been optimized from the ground up to work great with low-powered mobile devices. But how fast is it really? Our lab tests will give you the answers.

Our Test Beds: A Broad Range

To get comparable results, we put Windows 8 through a variety of tests on several very differently equipped systems. We used:

  • Two Desktop PCs: We installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on both a 2007-era desktop PC (Core 2 Duo, 2.66 GHz) and a recent Alienware gaming rig (Core i7 930, 8 GB RAM).
  • Two Laptops/Tablets: We also tested a low-powered Core i7 1.8 GHz, 4 GB RAM 13” laptop, which includes a 256 GB SSD, as well as an Asus EP121 tablet sporting a Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 64 GB SSD.
  • Netbook: We used a very common Samsung NC10 netbook running a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom and 2 GB of RAM.

We didn’t install any tools on those machines except for the applications that we frequently use for benchmarking. As usual, we performed all tests three times to get a good idea of the results. As usual, we put both OSs through the typical rounds of analyzing boot time, raw processing power and application launch speed. However, since this is a Consumer Preview, we just want to give a quick impression rather than perform a full-blown review—we’ll save that for later!

#1 – Boot Time Performance

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Windows 8 is widely known for booting up extremely quickly. I used a stopwatch to determine how long it took until the desktop under Windows 7 and the new Metro user interface under Windows 8 was visible. The results will blow you away.

On all machines, Windows 8 was able to surpass its predecessor—right out of the gate, the new OS booted much more quickly. Once the final version hits, we’ll go through our usual paces of running Windows Performance Analyzer to determine if and how much background activity during boot was reduced.

#2 – Processes on a Fresh System

Last September, Microsoft boasted about less processes and reduced RAM consumption. Obviously, the less things that are running in the background, the better performance and longer battery life will be, as idle times are much higher. Right after we clean installed both Windows 7 and Windows 8, we compared the usage.

What we found was not necessarily a big achievement, but an achievement nonetheless. We saw a decrease of five processes as well as a drop in RAM usage by about 100 MB. In your day-to-day routine, this won’t be of particular help. What is helpful, however, are the drastically reduced idle activities. On Windows 8, Microsoft managed to reduce overall background activity noticeably—both on the software and on the driver side. By default, the bare OS’s processes and services rarely cause any noticeable spikes.

#3 – Application Start-up Times

Application start-up times give us a good indication of the OS’s ability to pre-load data and quickly manage smaller file chunks. To test this, we “trained” Windows’s own SuperFetch feature by loading Outlook 2010 every morning at exactly 9 a.m. and keeping it running on both the Windows 7 SP1 and the Windows 8 OSs all day long. After a couple of days, Windows had adapted. Then, we were able to use the trusty AppTimer, which automatically launches applications and measures start-up times down to the millisecond.

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Now, how long does it take? We only performed this test on the Core i7 1.8 GHz laptop.

There was a difference in so called “cold” and “warm” startups – cold refers to the first startup of the application right after boot, and warm refers to subsequent launches that are all completely loaded from memory and, thus, faster. The differences were hardly noticeable, but there was a clear trend towards Windows 8 loading applications a tad slower; however, this could be attributed to hard disk controller drivers.

#4 – Office Performance

To test day-to-day performance, we used the dependable PCMark 7 benchmark tool that automatically performs tasks such as website rendering, virus scans, photo manipulation and video editing. It should easily prove how well Windows 8 can handle both CPU and hard disk heavy tasks.

We found mixed results. While Windows 8 achieved quite a leap in performance on the faster machines, the lower-end devices, especially the netbook, actually suffered a bit. This ran noticeably slower during the tests, which was also noticeable during day-to-day usage.

#5 – Gaming Performance

The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. benchmark is a very well established test program designed to measure frames per second in DirectX games. As usual, we performed all tests three times and averaged the results.

The gaming front seems to profit from Windows 8’s reduced memory usage and apparent optimization to DirectX. But, those results should be taken with a grain of salt: Windows 8 installed some more recent beta drivers that were not available for Windows 7 SP1.To compensate for the effect, we downloaded the most recent beta drivers for nVIDIA and Intel onboard graphics. Overall, the netbook suffered a small amount again, while the faster machines gained quite a bit of performance.

#6 – Overall Verdict: Good Improvements, Some Losses

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview runs well on higher-end devices, but we were surprised to see that it lost some performance on lower-end machines—the very exact devices that it’s supposed to run well on. However, I’ll wait for the release candidate to make a final judgment. We may have an odd combination of unfinished drivers and code and bugs that may affect benchmarks (which is exactly why I only used a handful of my tests to get a general feel for new OS’s performance).

Overall, Windows 8 is going in the right direction. However, judging bare operating systems can only reveal so much.We’ll find out how it really works when we’re able to test third-party applications and the Metro-style apps. Do these negatively impact performance over time? We’ll find out in part two of our Windows 8 performance series.

A Close Look at Windows 8 Performance: Winners and Losers (Part 2)

In last week’s blog post, we performed some early performance benchmarks and compared Windows 7 SP1 with the recently released Windows 8 Consumer Preview. While speed improved in some scenarios, other aspects suffered a bit. However, the important thing to remember is, performance doesn’t just depend on the underlying operating system (OS); it also relies on the applications that run constantly in the background.

Third-Party Applications: Still a Problem

I’ve now been productively working with Windows 8 for a couple of weeks! I have been using this OS day in and day out and have installed all of my applications.

While I was surprised by the system’s initial responsiveness, overall speed reduced after installing about 80 programs, which consisted of Skype, Live Messenger, SnagIt and games and office applications. It didn’t slow things down to a crawl, but it introduced quite a bit of lag and noticeably less performance—so I found myself again having to use tools such as TuneUp Program Deactivator, Autoruns, Startup Manager and Windows’ own service tools to turn off certain applications. This isn’t out of the ordinary though. It’s a fact of life, and Microsoft will likely stay away from this department, despite the fact that the company has introduced quite a nice Task-Manager that shows the impact of start-up applications.

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Closed Apps Still Run in the Background

Having worked with Windows 8 on both a desktop and a tablet, in addition to switching between a variety of apps, I noticed a bit of a lag when handling apps. First, switching between apps had a delay of between one second and several seconds. Second, the system slowed down in “classic desktop” mode although no applications were running.

Microsoft promised several times on its Engineering 8 Blog that inactive applications would be frozen and couldn’t consume PC resources. When looking at the multi-tasking switcher on the left, I was proven right. Windows 8 actively held about six apps at a time before apparently closing them. What I found instead, however, annoyed me a bit. The so-called frozen applications remain in the background.

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While only the most critical of those apps were active in the background (Mail, Messaging, Music, etc.), all other apps just sat there consuming memory. Overall, I had about 500 MB worth of apps sitting in memory and not doing a whole lot. That’s not as bad as some browsers, but it’s still not quite as effective as it could be.

Why is this happening? The memory is actually consumed by the frozen state of the app. This means that once an app is closed (which is done by a swiping gesture from the top to the bottom of the screen), it can be resumed instantly. Even though this is a good feature, most users likely aren’t aware that this instant resume may have a detrimental effect on performance—and there are applications that most people only start once, use for 10 minutes and don’t touch again. So why keep those apps =running in the background?

Of course, a restart purges the memory of all app states, but many users go a long time without ever shutting down or restarting their PCs. In fact, Microsoft has designed Windows 8 to be more of an “Always On Standby” experience—they hide the restart and shutdown buttons in the charms menu and encourage users to use their power buttons to go to standby.

Is this really a problem? Well, it all depends on the usage of the user. If you’re just using three or four of your favorite apps, this doesn’t concern you. A hundred MB won’t make a huge difference. If you’re using a wide array of Metro-style apps and switch back to your classic desktop applications, this might affect performance. Having half a gig of apps sitting in memory just waiting for you to start them again is detrimental to performance. I wish apps would actually close if you perform the aforementioned swipe gesture.

Again, it’s very early to talk about these things. Windows 8 is in its Consumer Preview stage, but I am not sure if Microsoft really is considering giving back more control to the user who actually wants it. We’ll keep you up-to-date on this.

Sandro Villinger’s professional background – IT Journalist/Consultant

Managing Editor: Hewlett-Packard HPIO Germany

PR Manager/Technical Consulting: TuneUp Software GmbH

Publications US: IDG ITWorld, HP Input/Output, TuneUp Blog

Publications DE:  ComputerBILD, PC Pr@xis, MS Press, Windows-Tweaks.info

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Filed under Operating Systems, Reports, Software, Windows 8