An unexpected holiday surprise #MakeItHappen

When Microsoft Lumia heard Lani’s family hadn’t celebrated Christmas together in over 13 yearsthey devised a top-secret plan to help #MakeItHappen. Flying both Lani and her little girl Evolet home to the US, Microsoft Lumia orchestrated a surprise reunion with a twist, sothat the entire family could enjoy the Holidays together for the first time. 

This month, Microsoft Lumia are helping people around the world to #MakeItHappen, by fulfilling 31 resolutions in 31 days. 

Share your resolution now and Microsoft Lumia could hellp #MakeItHappen

About Lani
36 year-old Lani O'Brien, an American living in Lancashire, has never managed to make it home to see her family at Christmas since moving to the UK 13 years ago. 
Lani’s husband Dean is also an expat, living away from his family based in New Zealand, so the tight-knit family rely on regular Skype conversations to stay connected. 

Lani and Dean had their first child Evolet three years ago, but financial circumstances have meant Lani’s family in Chicago, Illinois, have only met Evolet twice and have never spent the Holiday season with her.  
A nutritious by trade, Lani is now a full-time mum but also works supporting her husband Dean who his building a child entertainment business after unexpectedly losing his job when Evolet was just six months old. 
With Dean travelling throughout December for work, Lani hoped she might make it home to see her family in the US so she and Evolet were not alone during the Holiday season. Unfortunately, the family were simply unable to afford the costly travel expenses. 

Lani submitted her resolution to the #MakeItHappen campaign and Microsoft Lumia was so touched by her story they decided to #MakeItHappen. 
he film itself follows Lani and Evolet’s journey home to Chicago to surprise their unsuspecting family for the Holidays. 

About the soundtrack
“Footprints in the Snow” is a new track from singer/songwriter Scott McFarnon.

A Grammy Award and Golden Globe nominee, Scott has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry including Beyoncé and Mark Ronson and in 2007 Daniel Merriweather had a global hit with his version of Scott’s song ‘Red’. Now launching a solo career, Scott’s incredible voice and unique sound will be available to the world in early 2015 with release of his debut album, Crazy Heart





Campaign: Microsoft Lumia #MakeItHappen

Agency: Mission Media

Film Production: We Are Films

Directors: Alex and Aaron Craig

Music: Scott McFarnon ‘Footprints in the Snow’

Love, Language and Lumia #MakeItHappen

When Microsoft discovered that Ed, a 28 year-old accountant from London, wanted to learn Spanish to deliver the groom’s speech at his wedding in Mexico, they came straight to his rescue. Track Ed’s journey as he embarks on a crash course in Spanish; all to surprise his family and friends in a heart-warming video.

Every day this December we’re helping people #MakeItHappen, so share your resolution with us to get involved

The .1 that just made Windows a whole lot better

Throughout the history of the phone a thought that has plagued many people's mind is that there are only two phone platforms: Android and Apple. This couldn't be farther from the truth, there are many more but probably the most recognizable is Windows. Microsoft's title of "#3" or "the third choice" hasn't stopped them from making a great product that is Windows phone. So when this past week we saw Microsoft announce Windows 8.1, I couldn't help but asking myself; is this really the answer to our players. Is this really the update we've been waiting for. Well read along and we'll find out together.

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Ahh yes, Windows phone. Windows phone is really a love hate story depending on who you are. That being said most people who buy one know what they're getting themselves into. They want the easy to access live tiles that go up and down on a vertical axis and really give the user everything they need right in front of them. Well it just got better. We won’t go through every change, rather just the major ones that will affect your day to day use. Microsoft has added an extra row of tile at the bottom, a idea we first saw on the Lumia 1520 is now available on all devices, which is a welcomed change. They have also made some new animations which give the interface a new level of “zippiness”. There is sense everything; battery sense, data sense, wifi sense, it really helps the user to track how much of what they are using and how to better their device which is always a good thing.

Something that has always been a personal annoyance with Windows is that on the start screen there isn’t any feature where I can add a wallpaper. It’s just plain and dark, well that also just got changed. Microsoft has brought onboard new custom graphics. That means that instead of your  graphic just being on the tile is floats behind the tile. This essentially makes your tiles transparent giving a new way to have a wallpaper.

Finally! They have also added a notifications center that I can actually use. It’s being called “Action Center” and that name isn’t an understatement. Like on Android and Apple a quick pull-down shade is offered to see all notifications. The unfortunate part is that you have to dismiss the entire thread of notifications rather than just one. For example lets say I get a friend request on Facebook and I also get a Facebook message, but I only want to dismiss the friend request. Well nope, I have to dismiss all of them which is a bit of a pain, but I can live with it.

Perhaps the biggest change is the new voice assistant. Cortana is fast and snappy, she brings a new level of interaction that just wasn’t there in previous versions of the OS. I would make the argument if Google Now and Siri had a kid, Cortana would be it. She brings the level of “friendly” interaction that Siri does, along with the knowledge and information that Google Now does. Now she does have her growing pains but thats expected from such an undertaking like this for it’s first time. Some features that Cortana brings, well she can text someone voice commanded, tell you where the nearest bus stop or restaurant is, remind you to text someone something next time you text them. Not to mention the usual calendar reminders, alarm clock wake-ups and much much more.

I personally am a fan of Windows 8.1. It’s not windows 9 so don’t expect revolutionary, even though some would argue this is. Everyone that buys a Windows phone knows what they want and what they’re getting themselves into, there isn’t much opportunity to change what you don’t like like on Android. But that’s ok, most people with Windows phones right now are happy for a bunch of reasons, but the biggest one is: that it is reliable. Never have i seen or even heard of a Windows device being slow or underperforming and 8.1 will only help that cause. I would recommend 8.1 to anyone.

 In closing Windows has tried to earn our respect from the day they started and many have not given it to them simply because they think Android and Apple are the only two platforms. But I think that Windows has made a new and fresh ecosystem, they have made something that is different and thats what tech is all about isn’t it?  Microsoft has given us something that puts the consumer first, go get it if you have a chance and you’ll be glad you did.

Author - Ben Smith

So what's new in Windows 8.1 update?

Microsoft yesterday announced the long awaited update to Windows 8.1 during it’s BUILD developer conference. The update brings with it some quite significant changes and improvements to how Windows 8.1 works. Microsoft claims to have fixed everything that consumers felt was wrong with Windows 8 and it seems they have done a reasonably good job, though it’s unlikely to stop the complaints from diehard fans of Windows 7.

Modern Apps in Taskbar

Microsoft has added the ability to pin modern apps to the task bar so you can launch and switch between Modern UI apps much like you would do with regular applications.

Boot to Desktop

With Windows 8.1 we had the option introduced to allow us to boot straight to the desktop but it involved hunting down the settings menu in order to enable it. Thankfully now all non touch screen devices will now automatically boot straight to desktop so you can avoid the Modern UI interface which is really only suitable for touch screen devices.

Default to desktop apps

In previous versions of Windows when launching a file such as an image or video, the file would automatically open in the Modern UI version of the app. Now when opening a file Windows will automatically open the file in the desktop version of the app. Obviously you can change the default options if you wish.

Shutdown and Search Icons

It seems some users were a little confused at how to search from the new Modern UI interface as the options were actually hidden in previous versions and required the user to swipe from the side of the screen to reveal these functions. In the latest update to Windows 8.1 there are now prominent shutdown and search icons displayed at the top pointing users in the right direction.


Whilst these aren’t exactly groundbreaking changes they do bring with them ease of use especially to users who didn’t find previous versions of Windows 8 to be intuitive. In the past it’s likely that these relatively minor updates would have come as part of a general Windows update or a Service pack, Microsoft is doing things differently now and looking to provide more regular updates. It’s not clear why this particular update took so long to be released but it’s clear from early feedback that most users are happy with the changes being made even if it didn’t bring back the much coveted Start Menu.


Windows 8.1 Update 1 coming soon

Yesterday we brought you news about Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 release including the new digital assistant called Cortana. Today we have just heard news that Microsoft is finalizing Windows 8.1 (update 1) desktop operating system and a release is expected as early as next month. It has been revealed by Russian leaker WZor that Microsoft has recently signed off on a final version of the ‘8.1 update 1 for Windows 8, known internally as RTM (Release to Manufacturing).

The update was originally announced at MWC (Mobile World Congress) whereby Microsoft referred to it as a ‘Spring update’ for Windows 8.1. It’s not yet known how Microsoft intends to brand the latest update but Windows 8.1 update 1 does sound like a bit of a mouthful so maybe we will see something like WIndows 8.1.1 or 8.2?

The majority of the features for this release are aimed at keyboard and mouse users and will bring with it features such as:

  • Windows 8 Apps will show on desktop Taskbar
  • New Title bar on top of Windows 8 Apps (minimize, close and snap)
  • Adding Shut down button to Start Adding Shutdown button to Start Screen (non touch-screen devices only)
  • Automatically boot to desktop (non touch-screen devices only)

Microsoft have also lowered the specifications required for running Windows 8.1 Update 1 which will allow manufacturers to build 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage which should help in bringing lower price points to Windows 8.1 devices. Microsoft will be releasing Windows 8.1 update 1 on April 8th not long after the companies Build developer conference which is taking place April 2 - 4.

Windows Phone 8.1 to introduce Cortana digital assistant

Microsoft's next version of it’s Windows Phone Operating system (Windows Phone 8.1) will come with an assistant much like what has been available on iPhone in the form of Siri or on Google Android handsets as Google Now. Microsoft have been working on Cortana the name for the new digital assistant for over a year now and are planning to reveal the feature at the company's upcoming ‘Build’ conference along with a developer preview of Windows 8.1.

Cortana will replace the current built-in Bing search functionality currently found on Windows Phone Operating systems. Whilst the name Cortana comes from a female fictional artificial intelligence character from Halo, it is thought that Cortana will be represented by a circle rather than adopting a female like appearance. Upon interacting with Cortana the circle icon will animate based on whether it’s thinking or speaking.

Although Microsoft have been using the name Cortana internally during the development it is unclear whether it plans to keep the name Cortana or use some other moniker upon launch. Much in the same way that Siri allows you to customize how you want to be addressed you will be able to set how you wish to be addressed by Cortana, and whether by name or a nickname. Cortana will use a notebook feature that allows it to save and store data and access such things as location, personal information, reminders and much more. It has also been announced that Cortana will have some Google Now like features including the ability to track flights.

The Cortana service will be backed by services such as Bing and Foursquare which will enable it to have some of the contextual power similar to that found in Google Now. How it performs in relation to Siri and Google Now remains to be seen but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for the struggling Windows Phone OS.

Microsoft extending Windows 7 Pro OEM Installs

Windows 8 has been met with much criticism from both personal and business users and even with the release of Windows 8.1 which brought back the much coveted Start Button, it still lacked the start menu that many Windows users have become accustomed too. Many business users have yet to upgrade to Windows 8 and this doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.
Read More

OS wars 2013: How the latest Mac and Windows upgrades compare

Last year when Mountain Lion and Windows 8 were released, I wrote a piece comparing the Mac and Windows operating systems, and concluded that Apple took the better path by keeping its tablet and desktop operating systems separate. With Windows 8 Microsoft gave its operating system a complete makeover, asking that people change the way they use their computers. Now that the two operating systems have updated with Mac OS X Mavericks and Windows 8.1, I thought I should take another look at both to see if the update did anything to change my mind...

Read the full story here... Source: CNET

Virus Protection on Windows

It is a well known fact that viruses are more common on the Windows platform. This is purely because of the larger user-base. There are many steps you can take to protect your computers & devices from these threats. In the video below, not only do I share some advice, but also some interesting real-world examples.


I am the 'Geek Ambassador' for Hotspot Shield ...
Get behind the Shield here.


Windows 8.1: Signs point to October

Microsoft is closing in on its publicly stated target of the end of August for releasing to manufacturing Windows 8.1.

But many of those waiting for the new release are less interested in the RTM date than the date when they'll be able to grab the final bits. And Microsoft officials still have said nothing about when that will be...

Read the full story here... Source: CNET

Virus Protection on your Mac - Do you need it ?

For many many years I have used an Apple Mac, my platform of choice. This is not for any reason other than it seems to disappear into the background and allow me to get my work done. Having used Windows based computers for many years and having worked as an IBM Engineer, my feelings were somewhat tainted with ongoing support issues for many co-workers experiencing downtime due to viruses. This is not to say that things have not improved a great deal for Windows users, with many solutions out there.

Back on track now… I want to cover the subject of Mac OS X users and if we are now under threat like our Windows friends and users? Well, to a certain degree yes we are. As the Mac platform has grown in popularity there are definitely virus & malware threats out there. In addition to this, there are also concerns about people snooping on our data and phishing for personal information. For virus protection, we have limited choice on the Mac and I personally am still not convinced we need to load up our Macs with virus software. There is another solution out there though, that can certainly protect us from a lot of online threats and that is a VPN. In the video below I discuss my thoughts further on this subject and invite you to share in the comments any Mac virus experiences you have had.

You can check out HotspotShield here … a great VPN option.