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Windows 8 was a cheap upgrade path for me as the software that I wanted to run was no-longer supported by XP 64. That software, of course, was the sole reason for running Windows. Video games.

If you’ve tried Windows 8, you’ll probably have had the experience of booting up your desktop PC to what appears top be a tablet or smartphone OS and does nothing but get in the way of the normal desktop tasks you are used to. This ‘start page’, part of the Windows 8 Metro interface would be great if you were looking at 10″ portable touch-screen but the fact of the matter is, no matter how hard you prod your 23″ TFT, all you get are pressure splotches and the keyboard and mouse get lonely.

The term 'Metro' can bring back painful memories for some users.

The term ‘Metro’ can bring back painful memories for some users.

Fear not for help is at hand!

Help comes in the form a an open-source software project known as Classic Shell. This software allows you to return a Start Menu to it’s rightful place on the lower left of the taskbar and access your applications (I’ll choke if I have to now call them ‘apps’) in the manner in which you are used to.

Classic Shell also allows you to add back some popular features such as a full path and status bar to Windows Explorer and normal navigation on IE9.

Classic Shell Start Menu on Windows 8

Thankfully, I only really need Windows 8 as an engine for running games so I am spared the painful task of re-learning my workflow from scratch. I dual boot to Linux for serious tasks and with Gabe Newell’s pro-Linux stance for Valve and it’s Steam platform, the need for Windows in future will hopefully diminish.

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If you’ve come across QR Codes before (The square 2D barcodes designed for capture by smart phones) you’ll know they can hold a variety of information.

I recently wanted to offer a map location via a QR Code and handily, the Zebra Crossing Barcode Reader App for Android supports this via the geo: format.

The data format is as follows:

geo:[DecimalLatitude],[DecimalLongitude],[MetricAltitude]

The altitude element (and the comma preceding it) are optional and I’m not quite sure of their value unless some applications allow you to find a room in a tall building this way.

So, if I wanted to give you directions to Paris, France with no altitude information, I would use the following co-ordinates:

Lat: 48.856614 Lon: 2.352222

I need to pass these to a QR Code generator, I use qrencode for Linux which allows you generate QR Codes from the command line.

The following command produces a png image called paris.png of a QR Code which contains the co-ordinates for Paris.

qrencode -o paris.png geo:48.856614,2.352222

 Which produces this QR Code image:

 

 

 

 

When Scanned using the Android Barcode App (The common ZXing one), it offers two immediate options. You can “Show Map” which fires up Google Maps and shows the location or you can “Get Directions”. Depending on the Apps installed, “Get Directions” may offer the choice of getting directions either by Google Maps or via the web browser.

Obviously, this is only an example of how it works for Android users. The geo: tag may work for other handset types, barcode reader apps and operating systems but I have not tested this.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has tried this using iOS etc.

 

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For those in higher latitudes, it will be becoming colder now as Winter approaches and it’s worth beginning to think about protecting your electronic devices from the cold.

In the Brave New World of the 21st Century, we now have many devices which are easily portable either in your pocket or in your car. Many of these devices, however are not hardened against the cold and the problems it brings.

So, I have a short piece of simple advice for this Winter.

If you have taken a powered-down device out in the cold or left it in a cold place such as your car for a period of time, do not immediately power it on.

It is quite possible as the cool device was moved into a warmer area that moisture could have condensed onto electronic components and provided a potential short circuit waiting to happen.

So, quite simply allow time for the device to warm back up to room-temperature before switching it on. This may take several hours depending on humidity but will allow the condensation to evaporate. It is worth the wait to protect your devices.

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I’ve been noticing in the browsing statistics of various websites with which I am involved that mobile devices (think smartphones) are quite recently becoming very much more noticable.

On one ecommerce site, in a week, I saw nearly ten percent of purchases made using Apple Iphones where last year I would have seen none. The site in question retailed products which were in no way I.T. or telecoms related so this came as quite a surprise. Further, this site was not specifically designed to work with mobile browsers although it did have some design features implemented to make browsing on small-screen devices easier. I’ve also spotted numerous visits from Blackberry and Android OS devices across a broad range of sites.

So, are mobile browsers going to take over the internets?

Probably not but they’re certainly going to be a significant presence. In the West, mobile browsing devices now account for as much as 7% of traffic and the rate is growing quickly. I expect that in the near future there will be a significant push by web developers to provide mobile-native versions of their websites due to this expansion.

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If you move in tech related circles, you may have heard of Google Wave by now which Google hopes will replace the concept E-Mail.

Google Wave is a multimedia communication platform running on an extended XMPP (think jabber) protocol allowing everything from basic instant messaging thru collaborative document modification to voice/video conferencing.

I also discovered in the last few days that Google Wave will also implement an API or ‘Apps’ platform allowing Apps written by third party developers to be run within a Wave. Barring the obvious potential for attempted malicious use of Google Wave Apps, there could be quite a market for new interactive applications which could draw developers from the Facebook API arena.

For now, Google Wave is a limited closed Beta (invite only). I look forward to getting a look-in soon.

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Today’s XKCD strip is rather insightful and just a little bit chilling.

XKCD More Accurate

Alt text: “We live in a world where there are actual fleets of robot assassins patrolling the skies. At some point there, we left the present and entered the future.”

It can’t be bargained with, can’t be reasoned with……and it absolutely will not stop. Ever……… or at least until it runs out of fuel. ;)

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