My Pick For A Windows 8 Start Menu

October 31, 2012

In yesterday’s post I reflected Seven Alternatives To Restore The Start Menu In Windows 8 and explained that the Windows 8 desktop looks very similar to Windows 7 desktop minus the Start Menu (and Start Menu button). From what I have been reading on the internet, this is driving people to make statements that Windows 8 is another Windows Vista and that this release of Windows will fail.  I can tell you this is not another Windows Vista.

The more I explore Windows 8 I am finding that it is a finely tuned and stable operating system. Where the issue lies, in his case, is that Microsoft is taking the gamble by making changes in the visual appearance of the desktop operating system and encouraging us to change the way we do our work. This operating system is also geared toward the tablet computer and cloud computing; AND as a result, at the desktop computer level, we are getting the hybrid or the best of both worlds. There is no way that Microsoft can compete without a tablet or smartphone operating system platform. As a result, we have Windows 8.

I do have to admit, after I installed Windows 8, having not explored the beta or preview versions, I was somewhat discombobulated. The lack of the start menu was the focal point that caught me off guard; however, after careful thought it dawned on me – I never used the Start Menu much anyway and the new Start Screen (or Metro Screen) is basically your Start Menu. It is something you will get used to and will eventually see that it does have a good purpose.

If you do want to get the Start Menu back, at the desktop level of Windows 8, you will have to install one of the third party software applications that I mentioned in my article, Seven Alternatives To Restore The Start Menu In Windows 8.  Following the post of that article, someone asked; “Which one of these start menu replacements would I recommend?”.

After some testing, I ended up breaking my pledge of not buying software and ended up with Stardock’s Start8 (for $4.99). The other software options I tested were quite good, but I have always liked Stardock’s reputation and experience in the area of desktop menu development and modifications. I especially liked, following the install, that Start8 provided a skin option to give the start menu the metro look with the start menu button blending nicely into the taskbar.

Start8

Windows 7-style Start menu with Windows 8 enhancements

  • Search for Windows 8-style (Modern UI) apps
  • Pin desktop and Metro apps to the start menu
  • Jump List support
  • Unified Search for apps, settings and files
  • Boot directly to the Windows 8 desktop
  • One click access to shut down, devices, music, documents, and videos
  • Windows 8 Start screen accessible from the Start menu

Clean, streamlined UI enhances Start8’s usability

Start8

So, if you are crying the blues, “Where’s my start menu?’”, then Stardock’s Start8 will be enough to pamper you until you get to the point with Windows 8 that you realize, I don’t need the start menu (or desktop) anyway.

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Seven Alternatives To Restore The Start Menu In Windows 8

October 30, 2012

When the beta and preview versions of Windows 8 was circulating around out there in the wild, I deliberately avoided downloading and testing it.  WHY? I knew Windows 8 was going to be something completely and visually different than what I have been experiencing (since 1995) and I wanted to experience Windows 8 (upon final release) in a similar manner as others at home would be for the first time.

Please factor in that I have extensive knowledge of the Windows OS in general; and, that I have been reading about and following along with the development of Windows 8. So in a sense, I sort of had an idea of what to expect; whereas, the everyday computer user really has no idea of what to expect when change like this occurs. I strongly encourage anyone making the leap from any of the older versions of Windows to Windows 8, to take in all the information that you can to learn more about this new operating system or visit your local tech store to give Windows 8 a try.

On the release date of October 26th, I downloaded and installed Windows 8 on my PC. Upon completion of the install, I have to admit I sat there looking at the screen, in real-time for the very first time, scratching my head and mumbling; Where’s my desktop?; What are these menus flying from the side of the screen for? This looks like a giant smartphone screen, etc…  I actually started to think, I just made a huge mistake.

Long story short…  After a few days of learning how to navigate around, I am starting to enjoy Windows 8 and the new challenges (and features) it is giving me. I soon learned that I could get to my desktop by clicking on the desktop tile on the start screen. What immediately caught my attention and will definitely be a challenge for the home-based computer user is that there is no start button when you get to the desktop. Personally, I never used it much anyway, but this is really going to throw the majority of people off.

 image

To overcome this problem, I went on the hunt for a start menu.  What I found was seven start menu alternatives that you may want to explore to help get you back on track in Windows 8. With one of these alternatives you can feel like you are still in Windows 7, but still have all the luxuries of Windows 8.

Start8 ($4.99) – Return the Start Button to Windows 8. A Windows 7-style Start menu with Windows 8 enhancements.

Pokki (FREE) – Brings back the Start Menu to Windows 8. The Pokki Menu makes accessing and organizing your favorite apps, websites, files and folders more simple and convenient. Search your PC and the web to add your favorite apps and sites, then organize them like you would on a smart phone.

ViStart (FREE) – Functions in Windows 8 just like the original start menu in windows 7 and has some extra features on top of that especially for windows 8. For EXTRA features. Simply right click the windows start button and you will be presented with an “EXTRAS” menu. Here you access to frequently used windows features as well as a few extra ViStart features.

StartMenu8 (BETA FREE) – Offers a perfect solution for users who work with Windows Start Menu all the time and are not accustomed to the new Metro start screen in Windows 8. This smart tool brings back both the start button and Windows Start Menu, and offers the option to skip Metro start page, allowing users who only work on desktop to boot to Windows 8 desktop directly.

Classic Shell (FREE) – A collection of features that were available in older versions of Windows but were later removed. It has a customizable Start menu and Start button for Windows 7 and Windows 8, it adds a toolbar for Windows Explorer and supports a variety of smaller features. Look here for the full list.

Start Menu Х (FREE) – A replacement of the system menu for professionals.

Power8 (BETA FREE) – The start menu replacer for Win8, styled and integrated inside taskbar.

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Wallpaper of the Week (#93)

October 27, 2012

Here is a pic of my cat watering his plant…  Just kidding!  It is someone elses’ cat watering his (or her) plant.

To Get This Wallpaper [ CLICK HERE ]

Wallpaper

Windows 7 Users: If you are using Windows 7, did you know you can create a desktop background slideshow to show off your pictures and wallpaper images?  To learn how to use this feature [ CLICK HERE ] .

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How To Check If Your PC Is Ready For The Windows 8 Upgrade?

October 25, 2012

The release date for Windows 8 is tomorrow (October 26th) and if you are planning to upgrade you will be given the opportunity to download Windows 8 Pro (Professional) for $39.99…  [CLICK HERE] to learn more about the upgrade process and cost. It is the lowest cost I have ever witnessed for any Windows OS upgrade; however, make sure you do your homework first and don’t jump into this. Make sure you have all of your personal files backed up.

Windows 8

Personally, for the first time ever (and I do not know why) I have not even touched any of the Windows 8 beta or preview releases. Maybe I am looking for the challenge if I do opt to upgrade OR it is my gut telling me to play this out for awhile.

I will tell you this… For the everyday desktop or notebook computer user, Windows 8 is going to present you with some cosmetic and navigational changes over what you have been used to. For example, the first thing that is going to capture your attention is that there is no start menu button. Instead there is a start screen. You also have to know that this version of Windows is being driven by the new world of tablet PC’s and as a result you will see many flavors of Windows 8 based tablet computers. Microsoft has even produced their own tablet computer called Surface that will be in direct competition with Google’s Nexus 7, Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD.

Windows 8, I am sure, is an awesome and stable operating system; however, if you are running a desktop or notebook computer, with the intent to upgrade, you may want to download and run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant.

Download Upgrade Assistant

The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant will scan your computer to see if it is compatible with Windows 8. You can download the upgrade assistant [HERE].  Per the Microsoft web site, the assistant will do four main things:

It scans your hardware, apps, and connected devices to see if they’ll work with Windows 8. Make sure all the peripheral devices that you need to work with your PC, like printers and monitors, are connected to your PC and turned on before you run Upgrade Assistant.

Upgrade Assistant checks your PC hardware to see if it meets the Windows 8 system requirements to install on your PC, including features of the processor such as CPU speed, PAE, NX, and SSE2, as well as RAM size and hard disk capacity. It also checks for compatibility of your currently installed apps and devices.

It provides a compatibility report. Windows 8 generally works with the same apps and devices that work with Windows 7, but in some cases, a product might need an update, or you might need to uninstall and reinstall it after you upgrade. The compatibility report lists your apps and devices that will work in Windows 8, those that might not work, and what you can do to get them working again after you upgrade. If some of your apps and devices aren’t listed, it might be because we don’t have compatibility info for that product yet. For more info on specific products, check the Windows Compatibility Center, or contact the product manufacturer.

You can save or print the compatibility report to use later. Unless you choose the option to “keep nothing” during the upgrade, you’ll be able to find the report on your desktop after the upgrade. For more info, see Get your apps and devices working in Windows 8.

It checks your PC for support of certain Windows 8 features. Specifically: the Windows Store, snap, secure boot, and multitouch. If your PC doesn’t support one or more of these features you’ll see a warning. You’ll still be able to installWindows 8, but specific features won’t be available to you.

It provides the option to buy, download, and install Windows 8. If your PC is ready to go, Upgrade Assistant provides a recommendation on which edition to buy, and walks you through the steps to upgrade.

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An Online Save-A-Life Simulator

October 24, 2012

One of my passions (and career) was working as a guardian to other people (as a security and law enforcement professional). This was in conjunction to working (in another passion of mine) as a Computer Information Specialist. So you can see I was blessed and today I continue to be blessed…  Today, I serve in a part-time capacity as the lead safety & security agent at a State hospital where I help manage the security operations with a group of talented professionals. I truly love what I do and will do it as long as I possibly can.

In any position where you are tasked with the protection of people, you will most likely, at some point in time, be put into a position where you may have to perform measures to save another person’s life. I can tell you from working 34 years in the profession,  I have been in that position more than once.

Today I came across a website that literally could help save lives.  It is called Save-A-Life Simulator.

Save-A-Life Simulator

The Save-A-Life Simulator simulator presents you with a virtual reality situation where a person collapses in a mall. The simulator teaches you, by asking you questions, on what to do to save the person’s life.

The Save-A-Life Simulator is presented by the Heart Rescue Project which is a collaborative effort to increase the survival rates of people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

SCA is among the leading killers of Americans, claiming an estimated 350,000 people each year. More people die of sudden cardiac arrest than breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancer combined.  More than 90 percent of people who experience SCA die, representing a national survival rate that has not significantly changed in more than 30 years.

If you see someone collapse suddenly, check if the victim is responsive. If not, remember these three easy steps.

Call 911

Have them send help. Stay on the line and listen for further instructions.

Start Chest Compressions

If the person is not breathing normally, start chest compressions. Push down hard and fast in the center of the chest. Keep your arms straight. Send someone to find an AED.

Use An AED

The AED (automated external defibrillator) is a portable medical device that delivers an electrical shock to restart a person’s heart. It provides voice prompts that tell you exactly what to do and will only administer a shock if needed, so there’s no reason to hesitate.

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Hide or Show Desktop Icons, Gadgets, Taskbar OR Desktop Background In One Click

October 23, 2012

I was on the hunt for a software utility, that when watching TV on my computer (using my WinTV-HVR-1250 TV tuner card) I could easily turn off the background (make it black) so that there would be no distractions. What I found was a really cool software utility, called trimDesk, that does exactly what I needed, plus a whole lot more.

trimDesk

When you install trimDesk you are presented with a mini-dashboard on your desktop that gives you the ability to toggle on/off your desktop icons, gadgets, the taskbar, and desktop background. trimDesk is available in a FREE lite version or a PAID full version; AND, can either be installed or used as a portable app.

trimDesk

trimDesk is useful for:

  • giving presentations
  • protect your privacy at work
  • taking clean screenshots
  • demonstrating miscellaneous documents
  • processing batch files

In my case it was exactly what I was looking for.  I can pull up my TV software, size the window to the dimensions that I desire and then use trimDesk to turn off my background wallpaper and even turn off the taskbar. There are many other features to trimDesk that I didn’t even mention; therefore, I encourage you to visit the trimDesk site [click here] to learn more.

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Wallpaper of the Week (#92)

October 20, 2012

The reflection of love…  This wallpaper is absolutely stunning, to say the least!

To Get This Wallpaper [ CLICK HERE ]

Swan Wallpaper

Windows 7 Users: If you are using Windows 7, did you know you can create a desktop background slideshow to show off your pictures and wallpaper images?  To learn how to use this feature [ CLICK HERE ] .

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