Software

If you are a fan of the cosmos, than you should be well aware of Microsoft Research’s WorldWide Telescope computing program. WorldWide Telescope allows users to fly through the known universe as astronomical sky maps and a 3D modeled environment is rendered. Originally announced at a 2008 TED Conference in California, the application still continues to be listed as “beta”, but has attracted over 1.5 million active users.

Today, as a celebration of the software’s fifth anniversary, WorldWide Telescope version 5.0 is now available to download for anyone dreaming of space exploration. The new release itself is also a new milestone and includes new features and datasets to enhance the user experience.

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If you belong to the “PC Master Race” (see meme) when it comes to gaming, then there is a good chance you are still running Windows 7 instead of Microsoft’s latest operating system. For those of you who love both PC gaming and Windows 8 – you will be interested to know that Steam usage data for the past month shows almost a fifth of those utilizing the Steam client are now using the new O.S.

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Do you sleep, breathe, and dream about Microsoft? If so, you are probably one of the few people yet to switch over from Internet Explorer (seriously, IE use has declined heavily over the past few years). Don’t worry though, Microsoft still loves you and has released IE11 for users running Windows 7. Not only has the software launched, but the team in Redmond has had quite a bit to say about it.

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Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has come a long way from the days of IE6 and may even represent one of the best touch screen web browsers around. Other third party companies don’t want to be left out of the future though, and Firefox has been the strongest advocate as its beta version of Firefox for Windows 8 continues to be developed. Recently, a blog post by Mozilla’s Brian Bondy, revealed that one annoyance of using Internet Explorer on the desktop and modern interface, will be remedied.

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We are approaching the 10th birthday of Microsoft’s information gathering application, OneNote. The first edition of OneNote to be released was OneNote 2003 in November of the same year. If you are like me, you may not have been introduced to Microsoft’s info application until only a few years ago when the company decided to include it in all versions of Office 2010.

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In this busy, busy week in tech, Apple dropped the latest update to OS X, 10.9 Mavericks, and with it some apps have started to experience problems. One of those, at least on my Mac, is Nokia Photo Transfer. It seems to be pretty widespread, with problems detailed in the Nokia support forums, as well as in the Windows Phone Central forums. The good news; there is an easy fix. 

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Road warriors, those that get lost easy or for those of you who just need an A-Class GPS navigation system for Windows Phone 8: you have a new option on the table with Scout GPS Maps by Telenav. The app and service is launching today and we have all the info on it.

First launched on select devices for T-Mobile, like the new Lumia 925, the service is now open to all Windows Phone 8 devices (currently US only). We’ve been using the app for a few weeks now and have come away impressed with the full-featured navigation system and it is now our go-to choice when taking a trip.

The app comes in two varieties: free and subscription based, with the latter offering the full experience with premium features while the former is still a great valued navigation system.So what does Scout GPS Maps offer? Besides its intuitive and finger-friendly UI, the system includes all the bells and whistles you would expect in a navigation app. In fact, we were impressed with how much is included with an initial release. 

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We are getting reports from the Windows Phone Central faithful around the world that their Nokia Lumia 920s are starting to receive the eagerly-awaited Amber and GDR2 updates from Nokia and Microsoft. So far, we have heard from readers in Denmark and India who have received the Amber firmware update on their Lumia 920s. There is also word that Microsoft's GDR2 update has made its way to Sweden and Spain. Lumia 920s in Australia began seeing GDR2 earlier today, and we expect that others are en route as well.

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Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 Consumer Preview introduced their latest version of the Trident based web browser, Internet Explorer 11. Today the company has released the developer preview of IE11 for those still on Windows 7.

Internet Explorer 11 promises to bring improved performance, faster page load times, new standards support for next generation sites, and a completely redesigned “F12” developer toolkit.

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We’ve been reporting on 6Sec, the new Vine app from developer extraordinaire Rudy Huyn (Wikipedia, Fuse, TVShow) for a few weeks now, detailing some of the progress of the app. Then earlier this morning, we told you it was set for public release after many hard hours of beta testing by nearly a thousand users.

While an official Vine app was announced last week for Windows Phone, from our understanding that app is still in gestation and we don’t expect it for weeks if not months to hit the Store. Even then, we have a sneaky suspicion that Huyn’s version will still be better, due to his flair for design and perfection.

Luckily for Windows Phone 8 fans, you can now join in on the Vine-phenomenon by downloading 6Sec right from the Store today.

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Just around six months ago we reported on how the popular streaming app iHeartRadio was pulled from the Windows Phone Store, with an error in it being "posted early”. The issue surrounding the app involve it basically not working any longer, and it was generating quite a negative buzz in user reviews.

Well, here we are on July 1st and behold, iHeartRadio is back on Windows Phone 8 with a 1.0 release. And no, this isn’t the same version we say in January as it has a fresh new coat of paint (aka redesigned) and features some nifty Windows Phone 8 tools, such as Lockscreen support.

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Earlier today, we reported on a Windows Phone Store weakness allowing savvy users to download Nokia-exclusive applications onto non-Nokia hardware (well, try to at least, as often those apps are API dependent). But we did a little more digging and discovered the weakness doesn't just cover Nokia apps. You can manipulate the Store into providing any device or operator-exclusive app for your device.

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We’ve seen Wi-Fi calling in the past from carriers and it usually involves having a separate router-like device that you need to “rent” from your operator. The problem with that system, besides the extra cost, is it’s not mobile so it only works at home (as opposed to a friend’s house or your local Starbucks).

T-Mobile has a new Wi-Fi calling initiative and the low-cost Nokia Lumia 521 is the first Windows Phone to have the feature (the T-Mobile Lumia 925 will have it too at launch, and perhaps the Lumia 810 may get it with its Amber update later this summer).

So how is it? It’s actually one of the coolest things we’ve used that has improved mobile connectivity. Sure, it making calls this way still counts towards your minutes, but it goes a long way in improving reception in certain cellular dead-zones.

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Today, Microsoft announced plans to add enhancements and new features to their online Office Web Apps. The service is a direct competitor to Google’s Docs and Microsoft aims to overpower the service with tight SkyDrive integration and a larger feature set inherited from their full desktop Office suite.

New features include real-time co-authoring of documents and the ability for users to run Office Web apps on Android tablets via mobile Chrome web browser support. The new lineup of features aren’t scheduled to be released until a year from now.

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Hotel giant Holiday Inn, owned by UK-based InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), has released a travel app for Windows 8. The app is incredibly simple, but effective. It lets you book rooms and check on reservations anywhere in the world with a straight-forward interface and controls. It also lets users sign in to their Priority Club Rewards account, or sign up if they do not have one.

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Overview and review of Windows Phone 8

Let’s be clear about something: Windows Phone 7 was simply a warm up act for Windows Phone 8. It was the start of something big and different for Microsoft, a way for them to take a distinctive approach to the current smartphone exemplar. But Microsoft were hindered by numerous roadblocks: an aging kernel (the core of the OS), limited hardware and a desire to be more conservative in features waiting instead for user-feedback and to see how people actually use their phones.

With Windows Phone 8, the gloves are off.

There are two areas in which Windows Phone 8 differs from its predecessor: the core of the OS has been updated with the NT kernel and the addition and refinement of features. Consumers don’t need to know about the kernel specifics but they will see the results: new, top of the line hardware. That hardware will be evident in a few weeks when devices like the HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920 become available.

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Windows Live Essentials has been part of most Windows Users standard installation for many years now. This familiar and ‘essentials’ set of applications does much to make Windows come to life as a useful productivity tool. Providing photo editing, movie making, blogging, email, synchronising and instant messaging apps, ‘Essentials’ forms a solid backbone for basic computing throughput when using Microsoft operating systems.

Whereas a certain other well-known fruit themed OSX has the luxury of these types of applications being built in, Microsoft decided after Vista to detangle these common apps from their OS. In part to make future updates easier to deliver and in part due to avoid any undue and potentially messy encounters with anti-trust bodies. So what’s the skinny on Essentials 2012? 

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