On this day, 16 years ago, Microsoft debuted Windows XP

While the release of the upcoming update of Xbox One, known as the Xbox One X is looming closer, let’s have a trip down a memory lane with one of the flagship Microsoft’s operating systems : Windows XP.

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On this day, on October 25, 2001, Microsoft released Windows XP to the world. After 18 months of frenzied development. The project can be traced all the way back in early 1999, when Microsoft unveiled its next version of Windows targeted to consumer and built using the reliability  of NT Technology. Windows Neptune started. Slides were shown off, revealing several improvements over Windows 98, like the Welcome screen and task-based operations. Neptune also experimented with a new HTML and Win32-based user interface originally intended for Windows ME,called Activity Centers.  Windows Odyssey was, on the other hand, intended to be the successor of Windows 2000.

Only one alpha  build of Neptune was released to testers and that was in late 1999.

In early 2000, Microsoft decided to merge both engineering groups of Neptune and Odyssey into one cohesive team. And project Whistler started. Windows XP official name was revealed in February 2001, and  was a major advance from the MS-DOS based versions of Windows in security, stability and efficiency due to its use of Windows NT underpinnings. It introduced a new Fisher-price User Interface and the first operating system that bundled product key activation in an attempt to reduce copyright infringement. (after Microsoft experimented this method on Office 2000).

Upon its release, Windows XP saw three major service packs, with an end support slated for April 2014. Windows XP Service Pack 2 released in 2004 was considered a major security update to the OS, with the introduction of Security Center.

Despite its popularity, Windows XP is used in several countries in Africa and in Asia, mainly in China.

Sofiane MEROUANI

It’s alive. Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is here!

Microsoft finally let the tiger roars out of the gate. The much anticipated version of Windows 10 is now available. Dubbed the Fall Creators Update is the must install update for your current version of Windows 10, bringing the figure up to 1709 after six months of development.

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It’s an exciting release for many reasons. First, the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update brings up one particular goody, it’s the Fluent Design language. The new UX for a the operating system. When Windows 10 hits the shelves in its initial release all the way back in mid 2015, I was complaining about the flat UX that the OS bore across the board. It reminded me the Watercolor UX that debuted during the development of Windows XP, 17 years ago. But now, the Fall Creators Update finally brings niceties to the OS with this fresh user interface, with some elements that quite reminiscent to the AERO look-and-fell from Windows Vista.

The Fluent Design won’t be visible across the board. That’s it to say, don’t expect to see its elements being integrated into the OS as you get your hands on the Fall Creator Update. That’s it the UX will be updated sporadically with the next releases. Redstone 4, will certainly bring lot of niceties of the Fluent Design when it will hit the shelves next year.

Here are the improvements coming to the table for the Fall Creator Update :

Windows Mixed Reality. Microsoft’s hardware partners are now selling the first generation Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which provide access to a new spatial interface for Windows itself as well as new virtual reality (VR) and 3D games, apps, and other experiences.

Remix: Photos, videos, and 3D effects. One of the most stunning Microsoft consumer demos ever is now available as a feature inside of the Windows 10 Photos app.

OneDrive Files On-Demand. One of the best features from Windows 8—OneDrive placeholders—is back and better forever as OneDrive Files On-Demand. This feature lets you navigate your entire OneDrive storage directly from File Explorer and access files and folders that are stored only in the cloud in a very seamless fashion.

Pick up where you left off. With the Fall Creators Update, Microsoft is finally getting serious about integrating your PC with your smartphone, and while some of these features will get better over time, the basics are there now.

My People. It’s nice to see Microsoft bring its people-centric user experiences to the desktop. And while My People isn’t for everyone, those who prefer this type of interaction will wonder how they ever used Windows without it.

Microsoft Edge improvements. As has been the case with each Windows 10 version, Microsoft Edge gets a major update this time around, adding big performance improvements, many more extensions, simple and consistent full-screen support, and many ink-based updates.

Gaming improvements. In the Fall Creators Update, Windows 10 gets several gaming-related improvements, including an improved Game Bar with easier access to Game Mode, improved Mixer broadcast capabilities, improved Game settings, and GPU performance tracking capabilities.

Inking improvements. Windows Ink has improved all across Windows 10, with new inking capabilities in Microsoft Edge for ebooks and PDFs, an improved handwriting panel with overflow and correction support, more customizable palm rejection capabilities, pen scrolling, and a new Find My Pen feature.

Security and privacy improvements. Windows Defender now includes ransomware protection for the first time, with controlled access to protected folders. And with the Fall Creators Update, Microsoft has once again tweaked the system’s privacy features to make them more transparent and easily managed.

That’s it. Windows 10 Fall Creator Update is a huge upgrade for any Windows User. Highly recommended.

Sofiane MEROUANI

 

How to write a good horror screenplay

It’s Friday the 13th today and I thought it would be to watch a good horror movie to celebrate the day. Why don’t we start with the original slasher Friday the 13th by Sean Cunningham and written by Victor Miller.

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One might ask, how do the writers scribe a good horror movies that would make a hit when released to theaters near you.

In you want the answer, the late screenwriter guru Syd Field gives us the standard recipe for a good movie screenplay : it’s a very simple blueprint.

The Hook.

Start with a bang. Step right into a suspense scene. (“Scream” opens with a terrifying sequence with Drew Barrymore on the phone with a killer)

The Flaw.

Introduce your hero. Give him a flaw. Before you can put your hero in jeopardy we must care for him. We must want our hero to succeed. So make him human. (In “Signs” Mel Gibson plays a priest who has lost his faith after his wife died)

The Fear. (or the Phobia) 

A variant of The Flaw. The hero has a fear. Maybe a fear of heights, or claustrophobia. (In “Jaws” Roy Scheider has a fear of water. At the end he has to conquer his fear by going out onto the ocean to kill the shark)

No Escape.

Have your hero at an isolated location where he can’t escape the horror. (Like the hotel in “The Shining”)

Foreplay.

Tease the audience. Make them jump at scenes that appear scary — but turn out to be completely normal. (Like the cat jumping out of the closet) Give them some more foreplay before bringing in the real monster.

Evil Attacks.

A couple of times during the middle of the script show how evil the monster can be — as it attacks its victims.

Investigation.

The hero investigates, and finds out the truth behind the horror.

Showdown.

The final confrontation. The hero has to face both his fear and the monster. The hero uses his brain, rather than muscles, to outsmart the monster. (At the end of “The Village” the blind girl tricks the monster to fall into the hole in the ground)

Aftermath.

Everything’s back to the way it was from the beginning — but the hero has changed for the better or for the worse. (At the end of “Signs” Mel Gibson puts on his clerical collar again — he got his faith back)

Evil Lurks.

We see evidence that the monster may return somewhere..somehow..in the future..(Almost all “Friday The 13’th”-movies end with Jason showing signs of returning for another sequel)

Good Luck And Happy Friday The 13th

Sofiane MEROUANI

That’s all folks. Windows 10 Mobile is no more.

It’s over for Microsoft. They tried hard but they just admit they failed to get into the business of the smartphone, still dominated by Apple and Android.  And if you do own, a Windows Phone or a Windows 10 Mobile, I advice you to keep it as a relic of the past. Microsoft will no longer put lot of efforts on upgrading their mobile platform.

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Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft no longer use Windows Phone device, but instead, he switched to Android platform. Not providing the name of the device he owns, many readers speculate that Gates might use a Galaxy S8 Edge bundled with Microsoft apps, as the device is showcased in many Microsoft Stores.

Joe Belfiore, the strongman behind the platform admitted that Microsoft Windows Phone and Mobile are dead. They put the platform on “servicing mode”, providing only bug-fixes and security updates, and that’s all folks.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO wants the company to focus on the future and what the technology of tomorrow has to offer, like Virtual Reality.

The Lumia sale was a complete disaster in you compare it to the dominate iPhone and Android devices.

 

However, for the Microsoft fans, don’t be disappointed it.  Rejoice. Many official Microsoft apps are now ported to iOS and Android, namely Cortana and Edge web-browser.

Sofiane MEROUANI

 

Splinter Cell (May Be) The Best Infiltration Game Ever! And you should get a copy of it!

Two months ago, I bought an Xbox 360 E with 500 GB of space, enough room to install many games.  However, among the huge library of games of Xbox 360, I do really recommend you to get you hand on Splinter Cell series. One of the best infiltration game ever.

And forgot about all the rest.

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The origin of Splinter Cell can be traced back in 2000, when Ubisoft, began developing a stealth game resolves around a protagonist Sam Fischer, member of Black-op sub division of the NSA called The Third Echelon.  Based on the successful Unreal Engine, the game focuses of infiltration and use of darkness to kill the enemies.

All the console versions and PC games in the series were critically acclaimed, and the series is commercially successful. The series, is considered to be one of Ubisoft’s flagship franchises,selling more than 31 million copies as of 2011.

As far as the gameplay is concerned. The encouraged way to progress through the games is to remain hidden, select non-obvious routes, and utilize diversions to pass guards. The first game in the series only features a single-player mode, while The Pandora Tomorrow introduces a two-on-two multiplayer mode.  The Chaos Theory further develops that mode and introduces a cooperative mode. Cooperative mode plays similarly to the single player mode, but adds situations that can only be overcome as a team. The cooperative story lines in Chaos Theory and the sixth generation version of Double Agent parallel those of Sam’s actions in the single-player modes, letting players act on information he obtained or provide support in the field.

Double Agent introduces a morality factor: Fisher may now encounter conflicting objectives between his superiors and the terrorists. For example, the terrorists may assign a mission to assassinate someone, while the NSA simultaneously instructs the player to prevent the assassination. This creates a delicate balancing act between gaining the trust of the terrorists and fulfilling the mission assignments. In addition, Fisher must not do anything to reveal to the terrorists that he is a double agent (such as let himself be seen with an NSA gadget), otherwise he will lose instantly.

The installment I’m playing right now, is Conviction, (on Xbox 360 and PS3). It utilizes a much faster and more violent form of stealth action gameplay than previous games in the series. It retains the cooperative multiplayer mode of the two preceding games.  This game provides an interactive mission update sequence that is built into the levels themselves. Instead of getting an objective-bar popup, the objective may appear in bold white text on the side of a building or in front of a barricade. This adds to the immersion and keeps the HUD uncluttered. The stealth element of the game allows Fisher to hide in the shadows and become almost invisible. Guards may be assassinated by unsuppressed or silenced weapons, gadgets, or hand-to-hand combat. After successfully completing a hand-to-hand kill, the player is provided with an ‘execution’ bonus, which allows the player to mark two to four targets (depending on the weapon selected) such as enemies or objects, and trigger the execution animation. Fisher will then dispatch all targets within a few seconds in an extraordinary fashion. Interactive interrogation cutscenes where Fisher beats up a target for information do not require the player to do anything other than press [Interrogate]. Though if the player happens to be near an interactive object like a television or table, Fisher may use that to alter the standard animation.

And the series does not stop here. If you are a fan of Splinter Cell, I do recommend you to get the related game tie-ins on eBay, some of which are written by the Raymond Banson, known for the Hitman and James Bond.

Sofiane MEROUANI

Lenovo unveils retro ThinkPad 25th Anniversary

It’s a remake of some sort for Lenovo

They did it again. It’s a do-over. A remake of some sort. Lenovo just unveiled The 25th Anniversary of its successful Think Pad laptop computer.

Even if every ThinkPad looks retro, this is a particularly retro version of the ThinkPad design based on the current ThinkPad T470 model.

The original ThinkPad, designed by Richard Sapper and engineered in Japan, was inspired by the traditional Japanese bento box, and Lenovo has taken some of these classic elements and fused them with modern hardware. The overall design is very similar to the retro-classic ThinkPad. It has the classic rubberized coating, a TrackPoint, ThinkPad keyboard with ThinkVantage blue enter button, the colorful ThinkPad logo, and lots of status LEDs.

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Even the laptop retains the classic retro look, under the hood, it’s all modern and high tech.Lenovo is using Intel’s 7th generation Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, an Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics chip. It also has all the modern ports you’d expect from a laptop in 2017: USB-C port (Thunderbolt 3), three regular USB ports, an SD card reader, HDMI port, and Ethernet connectivity. There’s even a fingerprint reader that lets you log into Windows 10 with Windows Hello.

And it is ain’t cheap though, the 25th Anniversary Editon is price-tagged $1,899.

Sofiane MEROUANI

Boeing to halt the production of the 747. An end of an era for the Queen of the Skies

It’s bittersweet milestone for the people at Boeing who were involved in the design and the production of the 747. The Queen of the Skies, the royal moniker given to the Boeing 747 fleet will be off the manufacturer catalog in the United States.

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The first 747 hit the sky all the way back in 1969 at the time when the demand of people travelling from one continent to another was high.  The plane was also the symbol of America’s power and influence especially during  the Cold War era. The plane was used as the test-bed for the upcoming of the 777 project that Boeing embarked in the 90s.

When it debuted in 1989, the 747-400 was a world beater. Already on its fourth generation, the jumbo could fly up to 7,200 nautical miles and airlines flocked to it for its ability to fly non-stop to and from Asia from the U.S. and Europe even if they couldn’t fill the roughly 400 seats aboard.

Korean Air is amid the last clients to order the 747.

And of course, the most recognizable 747 of them all, Air Force One, continues on for U.S. presidents.

Sofiane MEROUANI