To be honest, I only thought about clicking on the Reserve my copy of Windows 10 button the night before the launch, so my invitation to begin downloading will probably turn up in my inbox around Christmas time. No problem, I just used the direct download link and installed it on a virtual machine anyway.But of course, a virtual machine. Windows 10 on a live work computer? I’m not that dim.Windows 10 looks very nice sitting out of harm’s way for the time being. Yet whenever huge profit-hungry companies give stuff away for free - especially big, valuable goods such as major operating system upgrades - I can’t help wondering, for at least a few seconds, why they’re doing it.I understand the concepts of promotion and publicity in a commercial environment. I am especially familiar with the notion of “exposure”, since startups and charitable organisations occasionally ask me to work for them in the expectation that I will be overjoyed at the prospect of earning this uniquely worthless currency.That reminds me: I must call up my accountant and ask if he’ll prepare both my company accounts, not for payment, but for “exposure”. Later, I’ll nip out and tell the soul-crushed, penniless owner of the local franchise coffee shop that I’ll take a large latte to go, without paying, of course, because it will bring her “publicity”.
Perhaps I’ll ask my window cleaner if he’ll accept “exposure” instead of the usual £20. Window cleaners seem to enjoy lots of exposure, if the likes of George Formby and Robin Askwith are to be believed.So what’s in it for Microsoft that it would give away Windows 10?It’s easy for Apple, by comparison, to give away OS X and iOS upgrades because it’s part of the Apple (cough cough) ecosystem. The company can tell prospective buyers that its expensive hardware comes with free system software updates for the reasonable lifetime of the kit. It’s a selling point, see? It makes buyers think they’re safe sticking with Apple.Back when one-time Apple CEO Gil Amelio opened the door to third-party Mac clones, the policy of unlinking the operating system from Mac hardware was a financial disaster. Amelio effectively allowed Apple to morph into a crappy little software company that just sold operating systems at zero profit, while the big money in selling computers was sucked away by Mac clone manufacturers such as Motorola. It was one of the first licensing deals Steve Jobs axed upon his return.
But Microsoft doesn’t sell computers. Well, there’s the Surface Pro, but that’s not so much a computer as a bottomless pit of unaccountable expense.“Why would anyone buy a separate laptop and tablet for work when they can buy a Surface Pro?” asks Microsoft’s advertising. I’ll tell you why: because it would be significantly cheaper to buy the separate laptop and tablet. Holy cow, the price tags on those Surface Pros make Apple Stores look like pound shops.Let’s take it for granted that Microsoft isn’t a company that needs “exposure”. Duh, Micro-who? So there must be a hidden catch. For example, when Apple gave away millions of copies of the U2 album Songs of Innocence in iTunes, it wasn’t done to enhance customer experience but, one might argue, to give an oblique nod to the Irish government for favouring Apple’s European HQ with an artificially low tax rate for all these years.One theory is that a product giveaway creates a market where there wasn’t one before. While sneakers, basketball boots and tennis shoes have been popular outside the courts for many generations, it was only when Nike launched that trainers became part of the international leisure wear uniform. Legend has it that, in the early 1970s, Nike mailed a free pair of trainers to every sports and leisure journalist in America, turning a small sportswear trading company into a multimillion dollar business within a very short space of time.
Whether or not the legend is true, it’s a method that works. Before 2012, nobody but HP component bundlers, tech writers and people who dress like Jimmy Savile had heard of Beats Audio. Then came the London Olympics, whereupon every competing athlete found a pair of hideous Beats headphones waiting for them on their pillow on the first evening.Soon, every bleeding athlete was to be seen wigglin’ and a-jigglin’ past the TV cameras and up to the starting line while wearing a pair of plasticky cans brazed with the distinctive “b” motif. Suddenly, Beats was hot property and everyone around the globe now wanted to listen to music using a device that looked like it had been cobbled together out of squeezy bottles on Blue Peter.The Bluetooth connectivity and simple slot-in mount should have made it obvious that dock and tablet don’t, indeed can’t, share a power supply. You need to charge the keyboard separately. Sony reckons the keyboard’s 400mAh battery will last for around six weeks assuming eight hours per day of usage. I won’t have this review sample long enough to even come close to verifying that.The only slight quibble I have with the keyboard is the relatively low 130-degree maximum screen tilt. At £150, that’s the stand-alone price from Sony, it’s an expensive accessory in its own right but definitely one worth having in a bundle. And I’m guessing the tablet would cost more than £429 if you could buy it sans keyboard.
Being a Sony gadget, the Z4 does well in the photographic stakes given it’s a tablet. The rear camera is an 8.1MP component, the front a 5.1MP and both perform well. The camera UI is carried over from the Xperia phones and offers an impressive array of manual overrides for a fondleslab.Given how much lighter the Z4 is, I was certain the battery would be smaller than that found in the Z and Z2 tablets. Not a bit of it, it’s the same 6,000mAh affair.Despite the more powerful (though also more efficient) chipset and many more pixels to light up, the Z4 performed very creditably. Subjected to my usual 1080p video loop-of-death test, the Z4 managed to keep chugging for 10 hours 30 minutes. That’s ninety minutes more than the Z2 Tablet managed.
What is a burden though, is the process of chewing through what must have totalled at least 2GB of Windows updates. Given the slow speed of the processor, getting through the installation will eat up an afternoon and then some. It also eats up your SSD space. There’s not a lot to begin with after the system has had its share and 13GB is set aside as a recovery partition.Out of the box, the Asus VivoMini UN42 starts off with around 12GB spare from a 32GB SSD. This eventually shrank to 2.5GB after numerous rounds of updates, setting up Microsoft Office 365, installing its updates and adding a restore point as well. Where does it all go?Needless to say, running Microsoft’s Disk Clean-up utility was initially a necessity in liberating more space but as round after round of update checks proceeded, it later failed to make much of an impact. The lesson here really is that hoping to get away with running Windows 8.1 on a 32GB SSD is a waste of time.
It was tempting to see if Windows 10 could be installed, as it needs 3GB of space, but as I was writing, the space was steadily shrinking. Despite having Windows Update set to inform rather than download, something was busily eating up storage in the background.As for running Futuremark’s PCMark 8 benchmarking software, that failed to install on the VivoMini, despite unzipping it and running the installer from a WD My Passport Ultra hard disk. In the end, I settled for Geekbench to get a perspective on the VivoMini UN42’s processing power.The results Geekbench chalked up suggests that the power of this Celeron is on a par with an Intel 2.4GHz dual-core T8300 Core 2 Duo from 2008 (think: white MacBook from that era) although you do get the GPU thrown in with the Celeron.On that point, I did find that running a full HD Amazon Prime Video stream at full screen wasn’t the smoothest with fast action and swift panning shots. It was also one of the reasons the disk space was disappearing, as it built up a stream file cache.Given the Celeron's unremarkable processing power, using the VivoMini to transcode a full HD video to half the size with the ever wonderful Handbrake was a tad slower than real time, which makes it a real chore.Intel Core series processors would typically manage this task at two-to-four times real time and then some. If you're going to attempt demanding video or imaging work occasionally, then you'll be much better off looking at the Core i5 model.
The TrueCrypt team's decision to cease maintenance of the project made headlines in the tech world when its website was replaced with a warning against continued use of the software, with little to no explanation of why.An audit of TrueCrypt, which began before the project imploded, was unable to offer additional information as to why it had been discontinued. Instead, the team of expert security researchers who had carried out the audit declared that they had found no evidence of any deliberate backdoors or serious design flaws in its code.According to the government's lawyers, among the electronic equipment seized from [Glenn's] residence was a Synology-brand computer storage device (the Synology device), which stored a hidden and encrypted compartment labeled '2012 Middle East' into which [he] had again copied the same three [stolen] sub-folders and 18 files, including the JTF-B Commander's entire classified email account that [he] stole on June 17, 2012.The encryption software that Glenn used to conceal the stolen classified materials in the Synology device is a program called TrueCrypt. In October 2011, Glenn had sent an email to an associate with an internet hyperlink to an article entitled 'FBI hackers fail to crack TrueCrypt.' In this case, the FBI did decrypt Glenn's hidden files containing the stolen classified materials.When asked about the Emslie case and whether any compensation had been offered to her following the incident, the EE spokesman said: We will discuss with customers on an individual basis.The first generation of this class of car were – in both senses of the word – a scream. The RS3 isn’t. When you need it to be it's civilised to the point of being almost indistinguishable from lesser models – if slightly noisier. But when you want it to be, it’s blisteringly fast and staggeringly competent.
Discontinued on-the-fly disk encryption utility TrueCrypt was unable to keep out the FBI in the case of a US government techie who stole copies of classified military documents. How the Feds broke into the IT bod's encrypted TrueCrypt partition isn't clear.It raises questions about the somewhat sinister situation surrounding the software team's sudden decision to stop working on the popular project last May.