[Tech, Tech Everywhere!] New OSes ready to go, Devices everywhere, and...BBM!

by Matt de Neef | IndeterminateBlog Team

Another month, another device release. Wait, make that about 4 devices. Along with 3, wait 4, OSes, one for each flavour of tech person out there. Then, standing to the side waiting for its own big news story is that once-ubiquitous poster child for a dying Canadian tech firm, BBM. Don't worry, I'll get to all of this, if you're in the mood to read on that is. Before I jump right in to begin trawling my way through the plethora of new silicon and code, again, apologies for the severe lack of posting. Engineering does that to one, apparently.

Software, free software, anyone?

This post is about the releases of the respective OSes. I discussed nitty gritty here.

Windows 8.1

Over at Redmond, at the launch of Windows 8 sometime last year, someone decided that the new software which was designed for touch interfacing with its "Modern UI" would be offered in retail as upgrade only. Which left system builders in a bit of a pickle. See, when people build their own computers, there's no software on it. At all. So how are they supposed to activated an upgrade copy of Win8 on a clean system? Thankfully the penny dropped and a few days back, Microsoft announced Windows 8.1, the  incremental upgrade to the world's most popular OS.

 I discussed pretty such everything useful anyone needs to know about 8.1 itself in this blog post, so check that out if you want to get up to speed with what you should expect. 8.1 Can be installed as an upgrade over your original Windows 8 installation and all your goodies should stay where they are. As far as I know, Windows 7 users will have to sacrifice their programs (Office, Google Chrome, Photoshop etc.) but get to keep their documents, pictures and such. XP people, should they still be out there (I believe they actually are...) will be forced into a clean reformat. Unlucky.

Here's the other stuff you'll need to know. If you're rocking Windows 8, the update is free and you'll find it in the Windows Store, and 2.5GB later (per device, yes, shocker) you'll be led through the process. For everyone else you'll have to fork out a cool R1170 for it...yes, ouch indeed. Enterprise users, things will get hairy because the Store will stay stony-faced and not offer you the update. ISO time. If you're doing that now, I don't even need to go any further to explain anyway.

So here's the deal: Windows 8.1 isn't mind-blowingly different to Windows 8, but coming from anything else you'll be...surprised. Onward then, to 1 Infinite Loop and the Fruit People...

Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks

...by which I mean Apple Inc. of course! In a move that has many jaws hanging on the floor, Apple announced Mavericks, the "Big" update to it's PC OS, yesterday, along with a bunch of iDevices, (see below) but the shocker from Cupertino is the fact that the update is FREE. Yes, as in, go to the iStore right no on your Mac, and download it, without entering credit card payment. Stop looking so confused, I know you're an Apple fan which means you pay for every OS release, but looks like Apple finally lightened up and handed over their update without reaching into your bank account.

What might interest you is the adoption rate of the new software, I mean it is staggering. 24 hours later, OS X Mavericks already has 5.5% share of all versions of OS X in the USA. That's within ONE DAY?! Must be the pricetag, or lack thereof. Read up on my opinion of Mavericks here. As usual, you won't have to sacrifice any of your stuff when upgrading, from what we know it's an in-place procedure. I'm downloading the pretty immense 5-something GB update, and will report back with impressions when that's done (next year at this rate).

Ubuntu 13.10 "Saucy Salamander"

Not to be outdone by the massive media attention gained by Apple and Microsoft, Canonical Corporation announced the bi-yearly update to the world's most popular free OS. Sure, it's not running on 70% of the world's PCs or launched (in the past) by an icon in a black turtleneck jeans, but Ubuntu, the distribution of Linux envisioned by South African legend Mark Shuttleworth, moved up in version and alphabet, named, as usual, in honour of an obscure mammal. (previous versions have included Lucid Lynx, Raring Ringtail, Oneiric Ocelot, you get the picture) It brings a bunch of new features, and as usual, everything about the OS is free, no strings attached. (Grab a copy here if you're interested)

Interestingly enough this update also brings closer the Ubuntu Desktop OS and Ubuntu Phone OS, which has been available for a few Android devices as a flashable ROM, (read up on my guide to Android lingo here) and is going kind of where Microsoft is aiming (merging its Windows 8 desktop and Windows Phone 8 OSes eventually).

Ubuntu has always been an honest to goodness viable Windows alternative, it's very flexible, powerful and can fairly easily replace your Windows system if you make the effort to switch. In my opinion, it looks nicer, has a much better collection of apps in the Ubuntu Store, an gives you iCloud like cloud integration with your Ubuntu or Android powered phone, and other devices with UbuntuOne, the universal Ubuntu ID. It's charming enough to use as a normal PC user once you get used to it, and flexible enough if you're the hacker type or need to exploit every setting in the OS. Did I mention everything is free? I did? Oh well, you get the point now!

And Now...Release The Smartphones & Tablets!

Nokia is Back, Lumia In Tow

Microsoft's decision to buy Nokia and the Lumia brand clearly haven't dampened the company's spark to bring out some market-shaking phones, and...a tablet!
Lumia 1520 phablet (left) and 2520 tablet (right)

The first one is the Lumia 1520, the beast of the pack, rocking a few records too: first quad core Windows Phone (8.1) [rolling with a Snapdragon 800 for us spec-heads, that's LG G2 power] and first Lumia with a Full HD enormous 6" screen. Aside from that the Finns manhandled a massive 20 megapixel OIS Carl Zeiss PureView camera sensor into the device. Sure it's not the 48MP PureView 808 territory but the CPU, RAM and OS on this are light-years better then the 808 which makes the difference.

The Lumia 1320 is next, and, as you might suspect it's the little brother of the flagship, in specs, not in size. It still rocks a 6" panel, but with a "mere" 720p resolution and "only" a dual core Snapdragon CPU. Running WP8 is what it does best, but the camera quality does drop down to a positively microscopic 5 megapixel in comparison to it's bid daddy.

Finally the surprise girl hiding in your cake. Oh wait, you were expecting a clown? Anyway, it comes in the form of Nokia's first tablet ever, the 2520. It looks pretty much like a ballooned Lumia, and runs Windows 8.1 RT. Now remember RT is the "non-desktop" version of  Windows so aside from Office 2013 you only ever see the "modern UI" and can only use those apps. Otherwise the specs match the Lumia 1520 blow by blow, with a 10.1" LCD panel of 1080p (Full HD) resolution, and quad core Snapdragon CPU. The camera is a 6.7MP snapper.

Samsung : Open the Floodgates

The Korean consumer electronics giant want us to live a Samsung life, it looks like. They've gone for broke when they released their new Galaxy of devices, as along with their Galaxy Note 3 which pushes the boundaries of ridiculous when it comes to a phone/tablet, they've announced the Gear smartwatch. The spec on the Note 3 is downright ridiculous, with 3GB RAM, and a raging 2.3GHz quad core Snapdragon, along with the 5.8" Full HD panel making its floating S-Pen gizmo pretty useful. What is interesting though is the back of the phone being clad with leather, craftily stitched to a finish. Smooth. Samsung will have billboards, flyers, and ads everywhere so I'm not going to waste much time here. Another Galaxy Note was announced as well if I'm not mistaken?

Apple's Airy Announcements

Finally, returning to Cupertino, the year's big event was held where iDevices of all kinds make their debut. The MacBook line was refreshed with new Intel "Haswell" CPU hearts, which, we know, are beastly, both in performance, power consumption, and integrated graphics output. Of course the iPhone 5S was debuted some time ago, the premium style-icon, available in gold, sporting a 64-bit capable CPU (the first ever in mobile devices) and a biometric fingerprint sensor. Shouting loudly behind it was the cheap and cheerful iPhone 5C, toning down spec and price but gaining cool-factor in bringing Apple to the veritable masses.

Finally, on the iPad side, what we all thought would be the iPad 5, turned out to be the "iPad Air" instead. Seems Apple doesn't like odd numbers, the iPad 2 came, then the "New" iPad, followed by the iPad 4, and then the "Air". The new 10" tablet is way thinner then the previous ones and as expected packs the insanely speedy A7 64-bit CPU, along with it's eye-slicingly pixel-dense Retina screen. Speaking of Retina, the new iPad mini also launched at the Air event, still sporting it's diminutive 8" screen but finally with a full HD (and more) resolution and some updated internals (Not all details have been announced though). Finally, all the iDevices are running Apple's shiny (or is it less shiny?) new iOS7, the flatter, more simplistic and stylish release of the mobile OS which is a pretty big departing from previous iterations. Apple pundits, stand in line, your new goodies are here!

BlackBerry is Back, but Not How You Think

Poor BlackBerry. They might never make it back into an Android/iOS dominated market of smartphones where they once reigned supreme. Aside from this though, and barring some major setbacks, even if it seems too little too late (which it probably is), the Canadian tech firm has finally released it's popular IM client, BBM, for Android and iOS users. In all honesty, there are quite a few things that they've done right with this, or rather BBM doing it right: the read/delivered notifications rather then "last seen" which to many, was stalkerish. The PIN-based invites so your phone number stays private. The status update feature. The emoticons (much more expressive than WhatsApp in my opinion).

 Equally of note though is what they haven't done right. Essentially, this app is a BlackBerry OS 10 port. It's been dumped onto Android, and it shows. The "Music Status" setting doesn't work. The "Chat History" option randomly disables itself if you turn it on, and the "Show Timezone" option won't stick for more than 10 minutes either. Also, the UI hasn't been changed from BB10 either so there are "back" buttons (Android has a software/hardware permanent back button!) and settings from swipe menus are duplicated. It doesn't adhere to Android's "Holo" look either.

All of this, added to slow global rollout and a "queue" to even start using the app, means BlackBerry probably won't see the sustained user uptake it was hoping for. Sure, millions of us have downloaded the app in a few days, but maybe it's kind of out of curiosity...most of our friends have made the move to other clients like WhatsApp anyway. South Africa though, might take the biggest benefit from BBM for Android, because Africa is BlackBerry's current largest user base, so hopefully cross-platform compatibility will help. That's if they can sort out the battery drain. Any iOS users got BBM here yet? What do you think?

So there it is, new devices, apps desktop and mobile OSes, and goodies, all wrapped up. October has definitely not disappointed on the tech front. Think I missed anything? Let me know!

That's all from me for now, hope you enjoyed reading, comment on what you think, and join us on our social networks! 


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