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Exciting news! The day is almost upon us: Windows 8.1 is being released to the public tomorrow around the world. Starting with New Zealand at Midnight (which is 4 AM Pacific Time) the free update for Windows 8 will begin appearing in the Windows Store for end users.

Perhaps unluckily, it will be a staged roll out and people around the world may not actually see the code appear at 4 AM PT.

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A long time ago Microsoft was a company that was young, attractive and exciting. Of course, those aren’t metrics that we could easily quantify but if you look at the company over the last ten years you’ll see that they became boring and increasingly comfortable with what they had and their position in the market despite everyone else accelerating away from them.

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The internet was up in arms when Microsoft announced that the Windows 8.1 RTM (release to manufacturing) build was not going to be released to developers — or anyone — until the official launch on October 18th.

Today, Microsoft reversed course and announced that the final release of Windows 8.1 is imminently available on MSDN, Technet and for volume license holders. That means if you have access to an MSDN or Technet subscription you can head over to there right now and download the final release.

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One of the most annoying issues I have faced lately with my laptop is that it gets overheated. The most common reason why it happens is that nowadays, laptops are equipped with fast processors and hard drives. When they work in a small space, they end up reaching a high temperature.

I found out about this issue when my laptop automatically went to sleep after getting overheated. Since then, I started looking for a handy utility that can help me manage my laptop’s temperature and find out if its overheating. If you dont manage the temperature of your laptop, you may end up with a dead hard drive from which you cannot recover any data at all. It can even cause a greater damage to your processor as well which may not be the most cheapest thing to repair.

To make things easier, I started looking for apps that can help me manage my laptop’s temperature and ended up using BatteryCare.

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I am a sucker for efficiency. I like being super efficient, a good time manager, productive and well, again, efficient. I would romance efficiency, if that was humanly possible. As a writer, I have to research lots of links, scourge through the web for information and perform insane number of super-powered, unearthly moves to gather my research. Usually, what I require, other than my superpowers, is knowledge of what I need to find, effective searching techniques and, not to forget, a browser for all of my antics.

Since my browsing is usually a combination of Firefox-ing and Chrome-ing, with Firefox taking up nearly 90% of the browsing time, I have some extensions/plugins to enhance my browsing experience and meet my needs. Today, allow me to take you through the 7 Firefox extensions that have made life easy for me.
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One thing that Microsoft has always excelled at is making its operating system customizable, and what the company does not do, third-party services make up for. Stardock is one of the premier makers and has been especially popular since the release of Windows 8, thanks in large part to bringing back the Start Menu, but it is far from the only one.

This all brings us to BetterDesktop Tool. This app is not for bringing back the long-lost Start Button and Menu, but it certainly brings plenty of functionality along.

Get the App

Head over to the BetterDesktop Tool web site and you will find two choices — there are standard and pro versions, with the Standard option being free. Both versions are contained within the download package. Commercial users must purchase a license and can try BetterDesktopTool Professional Edition free for 30 days. The app is compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.

During the installation process you will be prompted to choose between “Private Usage” and “Commercial Usage (30 Day Trial)”. The app requires only 1.5 MB of free disk space. There are no toolbars or other software included in the app and installation is extremely fast.

The Interface

Only three tabs garner the top of the screen — “Windows and Desktop Overview”, “Virtual-Desktop” and “General”. All have a rather geeky look to them, but they are less scary once you understand what each can do. The app is capable of a lot, but we will hit the highlights here to get you introduced to all of the functionality that BetterDesktop Tool brings along.

Windows and Desktop Overview

This is the first of those geeky looking screens I mentioned, but do not let appearances put you off. It is not as scary as it may at first look. First there are several dropdown menus that allow you to set options, which as Ctrl-Tab or Alt-Tab, for a range of choices, and these can be to not only keystrokes, but also mouse clicks and “hot corners”.

Options

  • Show all windows
  • Show foreground app windows
  • Show desktop
  • Show non-minmized windows
  • Show desktop

Mouse options include the usual – left, middle and right buttons. Hot corners are areas of the screen – top and bottom right and top and  bottom left.

Other options on this tab include “Arrange windows in a regular grid”, “Move all windows to primary screen” and “Show top-level windows only”.

There are also two buttons at the bottom right of the screen — Exclude Window and Reset Excluded Windows. The first will propt you with instructions. “To exclude a window start window-overview (show all windows) and right-click the window you want to exclude. Select the corresponding menu item and the window will be excluded”. The latter button does the opposite.

Visual Desktop

By default, Virtual Desktop is enabled as is “Move windows between virtual-desktops by dragging them to the screen edges for a time”. Howeveryou can disable these and also choose from a number of options.

The “Show virtual desktop” option has similar dropdown menus for keyboard, mouse and hot corners. You can choose what occurs when another application on a virtual desktop gets activated — move it, switch it or make the app global.

“Direct switching” also has options for keyboard shortcuts, as well as moving and switching. Finally, there is an option forthe amount and arrangement of windows that appear on your screen. By default, this is set four – two wide and two high. However, both of these can be changed by clicking the up and down arrows to the right of each number.

General

The “General” tab has six options, the first three of which are enabled by default.

Options

  • Start Program with Windows
  • Check for updates on start
  • Disable all shortcuts when a fullscreen application is running (e.g. games)
  • Disable animation for window, desktop and virtual-desktop overview
  • Ask to restore applications from hidden virtual desktops before shutdown/logoff (blocks shutdown)
  • Enable multitouch-gesture support for designated touchpads

Below this, there are two button at thebottom of the screen — “Check for update” and “About and License”. Both options do exactly as the names describe.

Features

  • Arranges all windows in a non overlapping layout. Allows selection of an arbitrary window to bring it to the foreground.
  • Can be applied to minimized, non-minimized and foreground application windows.
  • Supports Multi-Monitor setups.
  • Moves all windows away from your desktop to give you access to Desktop-Shortcuts and Sidebar-Gadgets.
  • Supports Multi-Monitor setups.
  • Configuration of Mouse and Keyboard shortcuts for all functions.
  • Configuration of Hot-Corners for all functions.
The app works with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. It also requires Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0, though most users should already have this installed. the program is not compatible with Windows XP. The app will conduct a check for the operating system to notify the user when the software won’t run on his system.

The Verdict

As I said back at the beginning, there are countless applications for customizing Windows. BetterDesktop Tool is perhaps one the better ones, as it allows the user to set all sorts of shortcuts using the the keyboard and mouse and even screen corners. The app is also free and comes with no malware or toolbars that attempt to install themselves in the setup process.

The company also points out that support for window selection by keyboard shortcuts will also follow soon in the next version. The company regularly updates its app, so you can expect to get regular new features and bug fixes.

In 2010, Metro 2033 redefined the meaning of silence and stillness. From impending action to lurking danger, Metro 2033 bent the perception of silence, darkness and stillness towards evil. Now, in 2013, the sequel to Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light, is in my hands and I feel the same energy in it as in its predecessor.

Metro: Last Light has been looking good in teasers and commercials, but does it actually perform? Well, after playing it thoroughly and patiently, the way this FPS is meant to be played, I can say that it almost hits the spot. Let’s find out how!

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In recent weeks, more and more details have been emerging in relation to Microsoft’s first major Windows 8 update known as Windows Blue. Though, with the recent influx of rumors, many are beginning to wonder what Microsoft might include inside of the next edition of the Windows family, Windows 9. The release of Windows 9 will be a critical milestone for Microsoft as they try to improve upon the negative public perception they received following the release of Windows 8.

While no operating system will ever be perfect, Windows 9 has the potential to be a very solid, competitive OS. However, there are a few specific changes that I believe should be implemented into Windows 9 if Microsoft is to win back the customers that they lost last October.

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I am usually wary of sequels. I almost always have a flow of convoluted emotions when a sequel to a hugely popular, blockbuster game is announced. It wouldn’t be too farfetched to say that I dislike sequel announcements. Why? Because, more often than not, sequels are heartbreaks. They bring new hopes that send you soaring through the sky, and then shatter them with an evil grin. They fail on their promise to deliver something as good as the original and they are weighed down to the underworld by the demons of expectations.

And, no points for guessing this, I felt the same when Company of Heroes 2 was announced. The sequel to the best RTS of all times, according to popular opinion? Yep, I was wary. Now, after fiddling around with the Company of Heroes 2 Beta, I can say that not all my high hopes were shattered. Only most.

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There is no end to the amount of utilities that proclaim to “help” you out with your computer, by scanning files, cleaning things up and grabbing system information. Its an area of software that is fraught with danger, though. Many are unreputable and some even pop up messages warning you of danger to your system in an effort to prompt you to purchase them. Others simply either do not work or work a little too well, giving unknowledgeable users the opportunity to harm their own system by removing a file that Windows finds essential to run.

If you are careful, however, you can find some good utilities. Pay attention to reviews and what experts have to say and, when in doubt, simply avoid the software.

One of the better apps for gathering information about what is going on with your computer is called PC Hunter, which was recently updated to version 1.0.0.2.

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