The Flashcard Mobile App Rises Again…

June 22, 2017 at 11:46 am | Posted in mobile app | 3 Comments
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I have an IT certification exam coming up, but I commute and I need to be able to study on my phone. When are you going to offer the flashcard mobile app again?

After a successful beta run, we are proud to announce that the new and improved TranscenderFlash mobile app has been released for both Android and Apple devices.

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At long last, the question pool is no longer limited to just a few titles. After you download the TranscenderFlash app, you can access our ENTIRE catalog of practice tests through a simple in-app purchase.

What hasn’t changed: the new app kept the same easy, intuitive interface and adjustable display. Simply tap a card to flip it over and reveal the answer, then click the check or the X mark to indicate a pass or fail. The app reports your self-grading at the end as a percentage of correct or incorrect cards.

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One reason the flash card app is an ideal study tool is that you can run through it as many times as you like before you actually grade yourself. Just read the cards but leave them unanswered until you’re ready, then do a self-grading pass. The bar chart button will show your overall results, which shows you which knowledge areas still need work.

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The scoring report will tell you how many you had correct, incorrect, or unanswered for each objective in a vendor’s exam.

The app comes with nearly 200 sample flash cards drawn from some of the industry’s top vendor exams, including but not limited to questions from PMI, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, and CompTIA.

Screenshot of sample flash cards

Sample flash cards are available on the home screen. Click a title to start testing.

The TranscenderFlash mobile is free to download and does not include ads. Our full flashcard decks with hundreds of questions each are available for $19.99. Check it out and let us know what you think!

Happy studying!

PolitiHack, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Russians Influencing the US Election and Learned to Love Cybersecurity

December 23, 2016 at 4:12 pm | Posted in cybersecurity, Knowledge | 2 Comments
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Hackitivism and cyberespionage are certainly nothing new, especially emanating from Russia. But the 2016 US presidential election was a swift education for Americans and the watching world regarding the widespread consequences of a successful  APT (advanced persistent threat). A joint statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security stated that the “U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations” (emphasis ours).

Thanks to the detailed reporting from the New York Times, the fog of war is beginning to clear and the full extent of the cyberattack has become clear. And what is increasingly apparent is that at every stage, cybersecurity training could have significantly mitigated or (perhaps) even prevented portions of the attack altogether.

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Real-time cyberthreat map from Kapersky Lab

Enter the low-rung MIS contractor hired by the DNC — Yared Tamene.  He claims no cybersecurity expertise, much less any cybersecurity-related certification like GSEC, CASPCISSP, CEH or CFR. So it’s hardly appropriate to assign him the brunt of the blame. Instead, we should use his example to learn how cybersecurity knowledge and skills could have better informed the fateful decisions that he, and many others, made along the way.

In the fall of 2015, the FBI noticed some unusual outgoing network traffic from the DNC network, suggesting that at least one computer was compromised. The early forensics linked the compromise to a known Russian cyberespionage group going by the moniker “the Dukes” (AKA “Cozy Bear” and “APT29”) , who had in just the last few years, penetrated the White House, State Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff email systems. A special agent picked up the phone, called Tamene, and told him what they knew.

Before we even get to Tamene’s response, any trained cybersecurity first responder knows why the FBI called via phone rather than emailing their dire message. Communication protocol during a security incident should be out-of-band, meaning outside of the primary communication channels (primarily network where the attacker could be listening). Ironically, Tamene was convinced that the FBI call was a hoax, and after repeated calls over the new few months, he ignored the urgency. In November, the FBI even confirmed with Tamene that known malware was routing data to servers located in Moscow.

Continue Reading PolitiHack, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Russians Influencing the US Election and Learned to Love Cybersecurity…

Transcender is Now an Authorized Practice Test Provider for (ISC)²® Certifications

December 7, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Posted in (ISC)2, CISSP, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

There are a lot of great security certifications out there, but since its release in 1994, the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) has become one of the best known and most highly regarded credentials. At Transcender, we’ve been dedicated to providing CISSP practice tests for over 13 years. Earlier in 2016 we also released our first test preparation for its sister certification, SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner).  Our hard work has paid off, because we’re now an authorized practice test provider for (ISC)²® certifications!

What does this mean to you? Nothing has changed about our award-winning products, but it does mean that (ISC)² has officially endorsed our practice tests for CISSP and SSCP.

  • The SSCP practice exam is a 300-question exam that will develop your test-taking skills, identify any weak areas, and prepare you for the actual test.
  • The premium SSCP study solution combines our trusted practice exam with self-paced eLearning, for a comprehensive learning experience.
  • The CISSP practice exam has an exhaustive 924-item question bank that will test every aspect of your technical skills, plus a 892-item flash card array.
  • The premium CISSP study solution includes the practice exam with  20 hours of online instruction through self-paced eLearning, which includes access to a live subject matter expert.

We’re also working together to develop a practice test for the up-and-coming CCSP (Certified Cloud Security Professional) certification for 2017. Be sure to follow our blog or subscribe to special updates and promotions on the Transcender web site to be notified of its release.

Transcender has been committed to closing the skills gap in the IT industry for the last 25 years and helping qualified candidates get the recognition they deserve.  And now even (ISC)² recognizes our efforts.  After your certification training, come over to us to help you prepare for exam day. Study with confidence, knowing that you have the most relevant and up-to-date study tool in the marketplace!

Now Offering CFR-210 Test Prep

December 1, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Posted in Logical Operations, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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Who says there’s no news in December? In cybersecurity, it’s never a question of if, but a question of when a breach will occur. So rather than wait for the new year, we thought we’d get the jump on 2017 and together with Logical Operations, release the Cybersec First Responder (CFR-210) practice test today.

What exactly is the CFR certification all about? Well, CFR-210 showcases your ability to to quickly detect and respond to active cyber threats. It’s not just about detailed knowledge of the analysis techniques and tools, but how to identify and respond, in real time, to the broad array of security threats affecting organizations worldwide.

So, white hats, rejoice and black hats, you’re on notice. They’re some new sheriffs rolling into town with some serious skills — and they’re not afraid to use them!

Here’s the press release for your reading pleasure.

2016: Held Ransom

April 11, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Posted in EC-Council, Technical Tips | Leave a comment
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It was predicted late last year that 2016 would the year for ransomware. Thus far, the prediction is proving right; only four months in to 2016, the Locky ransomware has managed to spread itself over 114 countries (displaying its demands in dazzling array of 24 languages). The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid $17,000 in bitcoins after having their computer systems seized in February 2016, while hospitals in Kentucky and Maryland report similar attacks.

In case you’ve been in that doomsday bunker a bit too long, ransomware is malicious software that blocks access to your own data, usually by encryption that targets a local computer. Data stays locked away until you pay a tidy sum of money to the hacker (or, more commonly, to the hacking organization). The malware usually contains a ticking bomb that will format the entire hard drive if you don’t pay by a deadline (or post the data for everyone to see, just as extra motivation). The data kidnappers may call themselves hackers or vigilantes, or even pretend to be a federal agency, but their demand is always the same: pay us for your data — or else!

Worse, with automated viruses like Crytpolocker, Crytowall and TeslaCrypt, hackers don’t have to go through the extra effort of targeting big fish like CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Any end user could be bilked for hundreds of dollars. And, through the economies of scale, hackers rake in millions per campaign. While current year damages won’t be tallied for a while,  the FBI estimates the CrytoWall variant pulled in over $18 million from 2014 to 2015 alone.

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“Shame if something happened to that hard drive…”

End users are not the only targets; nor are Windows users. Major sites like the New York Times, BBC, AOL and NFL had their advertising networks compromised by malvertising, where a malicious ad hijacked user’s browsers and redirected them to install a crypto-virus via the Angler toolkit (another argument for using adblockers?). And the once near-invincible Mac OS has been revealed as the target of the KeRangers malware – the first ransomware Mac users have ever had to contend with.

In this climate, is it any surprise then that a prominent security certification vendor like EC-Council was a recent target? Read more for the details.

Continue Reading 2016: Held Ransom…

Take-Home Certification Exams: Adventures in Online Proctoring

February 18, 2016 at 4:35 pm | Posted in Proctors, Study hints, Technical Tips | Leave a comment
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So, you’ve spent months studying for the latest certification. You’re ready to schedule the exam and  proudly showcase your new knowledge and skills. Until recently, your only option was to take the exam at an approved testing center. [Editor’s note: the following opinion does not represent the corporate viewpoint of Kaplan, Transcender, Graham Holdings, or any sane person, Josh. ~A.L.] Most test centers are a cross between a corporate cubicle farm and prison camp. Sure, there are people there, but people in their worst possible moments: bleary-eyed, nerve-wracked, and way too over-caffeinated. [Editor’s note: This would explain those horrible ID photos on my score reports. ~A.L.]

If you don’t live near a corporate testing hub, you might dread the half-day of commuting time, lost productivity, or even the need for an overnight hotel stay. (In a major hub like Atlanta, there are testing centers galore, but we have to fight bumper-to-bumper traffic to get there.) You may be too busy with your day job to get the time off, or you might want enough time to fit in a last-minute cram session. You may experience test anxiety that negatively affects your performance, especially when testing in an impersonal, sterile environment.

Enter online proctoring.

Message not recommended. Online proctors might not appreciate the humor.

The glorious promise of an online proctored exam is the ability to take a certification exam wherever you are at the time of your choice, without travel or stressful interactions. And except for a few caveats, the dream is reality. But you need to really consider those caveats. The whirlwind home-alone experience isn’t for everyone!

Josh’s Excellent Proctored-Exam-At-Home Adventure

First: equipment. You need a decent PC with a camera and microphone and high-speed Internet bandwidth. Every online proctor will have a pre-flight checklist that will verify your hardware is up to snuff. Don’t wait until minutes before taking the exam to ensure your equipment will pass. Run the check as soon as possible, and leave yourself time to borrow, purchase, or overnight yourself any missing components.

Next: scheduling. You read that right – even though you have more flexibility than a testing center’s hours, including the ability to take your exam late at night or very early in the morning, a live proctor still has to be present on the other end of the connection to observe you take the exam. For this reason, some time slots may be unavailable – the proctor might already have too many test takers to keep track of. (Or maybe they actually sleep.)

Finally: location. From my personal experience, you need to find a room or an enclosed space in a room that will be quiet and isolated (where no one can here you scream). This is actually required to prevent accusations of cheating, so close all of your windows  and make sure no one is in the same room with you. If you don’t have access to a private room in your home, check your local public library – most have study rooms that can be reserved for periods of up to two hours. Other options would be a hotel conference room or an unused cubicle or office in your workplace.

If you’re testing in your own home, secure any pets away from the exam area and make sure that children won’t enter the area. I chose my dining room (finally getting some use out of it!), because I would have at least three walls around me. I locked up my cats  for the duration, especially after my first unsuccessful attempt when my cat Norio attempted to lie across my hands during the exam (the proctor had to pick himself off the floor laughing, but was gracious enough to allow me to continue). I also silenced my cellphone and let everyone, especially my wife, know that I would be completely unavailable and unresponsive for the duration.

No pet time for you – I have a test to take!

Additional considerations for at-home online examinations

Here are a few other tips I’ve learned from online proctored experiences:

  • Do not install any updates or new software on the same day as your exam appointment. Murphy’s law in action here. I’ve had to cancel at least one exam after installing an update to Visual Studio on the machine I was using for the exam. It took over an hour, and finished installing just in time for the proctor to tell me that my test time was up.
  • If you’re using a laptop, make sure you’re plugged into a power source. Especially if you have some ridiculous 42-inch super AMOLED screens which will run dry after 5 minutes of operation.

This thing is for an online test, not a gaming rig!

  • Empty your pockets of everything (and make sure you wear pants, too).  Some test centers require this and will make you display your empty pockets to the camera. And you’ll have to spin around (so you may want to hold off of on the antihistamines for a bit).
  • Clean up the table or desk where you are testing. You can’t have any loose papers or computer equipment lying around. You’ll have to pick up your laptop (or attached camera) and rotate it around the work space to demonstrate that no cheating materials are nearby, so make sure there’s nothing embarrassing lying around.
  • You cannot have bags, purses, boxes, or any other items on the floor next to your chair.
  • You must take off all bracelets and watches. This I forget all of the time, but the proctor won’t. Save yourself some testing time and do this beforehand.
  • Make sure you can roll up long sleeves to display that you don’t have notes written on your skin.
  • Do not bring any food, drinks or gum into the test environment. It’s not allowed. Well, at least don’t open your mouth too wide or smack too loud.
  • Be nice to your proctor. It’s at their discretion if and when you get bathroom breaks!

If you have wearable medical devices (such as insulin pumps or medical alert bracelets) that should not be removed, or if your personal beliefs don’t allow you to comply with certain regulations (such as displaying bare arms), be sure to ask the vendor to specify IN WRITING whether exemptions are allowed in general, and to approve yours in particular, to avoid disappointment at test time.

“You keep using that word – I do not think it means what you think it means”

Different vendors have different terminology. When you’re searching for an exam you can take from home, be sure you’re searching for online proctored exams. For example, Oracle refers to exams taken online as “non-proctored” and exams taken in person at Oracle University testing centers as “proctored.” Here is more information on online proctored exams with Oracle.

Sold! Where do I sign up?

Due to security considerations, not every vendor offers an online exam experience. Project Management Institute, for example, only allows people to sit the PMP exam at approved testing centers.

At this time of writing, Cisco allows certain of its exams to be scheduled through Pearson Vue for an at-home exam experience.

EC Council, for popular security certifications like CEH, delivers their exams through ProctorU.

CompTIA’s online exam program is called the Anywhere Proctored program, but the available information seems to be geared toward test providers, not test takers. At this time of writing, I could not definitely find a CompTIA exam that could be taken online outside of a boot camp or other training course.

Microsoft has a robust online proctored exam environment, called “online proctored exam delivery.” You can read their full list of policies here.

According to Pearson Vue, VMware offers all VCA exams in a 24/7 online format. There is a full FAQ available.

Online proctoring exam service PeopleCert offers online proctored exams for a variety of vendors, including ITIL®, PRINCE2®, MSP®, P3O®, MoV®, DevOpsLean ITLean Six Sigma,ACCESSIBILITY PASS and ISO.

However you choose to take your exam, as always, we wish you good luck and happy testing!

~Josh aka codeguru

CompTIA Linux+, SUSE, and LPIC-1: Three certifications for the price of one – with a special deal on top!

December 18, 2015 at 3:57 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, CompTIA, LPI, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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When even Microsoft is getting into the Linux  game, you must know that Linux certification is one of those hot certs that all the cool admins and devs are getting. What you may not know is that a Linux certification is, hands down, the best value we know of in the certification sphere. Thanks to a partnership between three major certifying bodies – CompTIA, Linux Professional Institute (LPI), and SUSE – you can now pass one series of exams to earn three industry certifications from all three vendors at the same time.

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CompTIA and LPI first partnered on the joint certification project in 2010, at which time passing the Linux+ exams from CompTIA also earned you LPIC-1 credentials. The 2015 revision loops SUSE into the game, so you now have the ability to earn THREE separate vendor certifications in one exam sitting. (In case you’re confused, SUSE and LPI previously shared a joint certification program, as did LPI and CompTIA – but not all three together.)

So what exactly do I get, and what’s the catch?

You’ll need to pass the two 2015 Linux+ exams offered by CompTIA, LX0-103 and LX0-104. (The 2010 versions were named LX0-101 and LX0-102.) When you do so,  you’ll be able to add these three certifications to your resume, LinkedIn account, and brag sheet:

There’s no catch, but you do have to arrange your ducks into a particular row, and you must take the CompTIA exams in particular – you cannot earn the LPIC-1 from LPI and then apply to retroactively earn the Linux+ certification. Here are the exact steps listed on CompTIA’s website as of this writing:

  1. Obtain an LPI ID.
  2. Once you have passed both Linux+ exams, log into your CompTIA certification account. Choose Demographics | Settings. On the Settings page check the box to have your information forwarded to LPI, then click Submit.
  3. Upon receipt of your LPIC-1 apply online for your SUSE CLA.

Being who we are, we tested these steps ourselves before blogging about it. Here’s the cheat sheet:

  1. Configure your CompTIA account settings so that they know to forward the results to LPI. It’s a dropdown box under the Settings tab of your CompTIA cert account.
  2. Wait a bit. (I got my email from LPI in about 48 hours.)
  3. Look through the email. You should get instructions and a link to verify your credentials with SUSE.
  4. Sit back and celebrate the holidays like a Linux pro!
Is there a difference in the cost?

If you went straight to each vendor and took their exams without the three-in-one deal, you’d pay $376 for EITHER the two-exam CompTIA series (LX0-103 and LX0-104) or the LPIC-1 series (Exam 1 and Exam 2). If you only wanted the SUSE certification, it’s a relative bargain to take their standard test ($125 in the US). Please note that these are US prices, and don’t include any special voucher deals, discounts, sales, or student bundles.

So if your budget extends to the two-exam series, then it makes no financial sense to leave the three-certification package on the table.

Okay, sold! Where do I start?

First, an unscheduled commercial break. (We have bills to pay around here.) If you’re in the market for training material, Transcender is offering a special discount on Linux practice tests, eLearning, and practice labs.

From now until December 31, 2015, you can pick your deal (or mix and match). We’re offering $25 off all practice tests (excluding 30-day and CD/voucher bundle), including LX0-103. And we’re offering a special 20% off discount on our newly released LX0-104/LPI 400-102 practice test (excluding 30-day and CD/voucher bundle). As of today that discount also extends to our eLearning and practice lab products for Linux.

To activate your discount, click through the shiny red button (or use promo code PRODUCT20). The deal expires at 10 PM CST.

Click here to activate your 20% discount

To add products to your page, choose either LPI or CompTIA / Linux+ from the main menu, then select the relevant product from the desired test.

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We also offer eLearning packages for each exam, and a separate series of online practice labs that let you develop proficiency with hardware that you may not have available to practice with otherwise.

Whether or not you choose to take advantage of our study products, you should DEFINITELY take advantage of the three-in-one Linux certification partnership – a deal we’ve never seen replicated in the professional IT certification world.

We wish you best of luck with your Linux certifying!

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Windows 10 Review, Part 3 – The house that Jack built

July 10, 2015 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Technical Tips, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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As with many trilogies, the exciting bits of my Windows 10 review happened in the middle (A Tale of Two OSes and It was the best of times, it was the worst of times). Although this chapter doesn’t have as many plot holes as my previous posts, or the multiple endings you’d find in a movie like The Return of the King, it’ll probably be more important to your productive life with Windows. Helm, warp one – engage!

Touch, Notifications and General Task Management

Material Design, anyone?

Material Design, anyone?

After initial pokes at providing a touchscreen UI as far back as Windows XP, Microsoft has delivered a mature, functional touch technology in Windows 10. Finally, the OS feels highly responsive, easy to navigate, and most importantly, stable. The taskbar is slightly taller than in Windows 8, to accommodate the tips of chubby man-size fingers like mine. The Aero interface snaps a window into full-screen or half-screen with minimal hair-pulling. And the process of dragging icons around the screen isn’t as choppy as it was in Windows 8 and 8.1.

The news is not 100% good, though. Microsoft left a few issues hanging around. In my test runs, the on-screen keyboard didn’t pop up every time I needed it to. And trying to highlight text with my finger is still reminiscent of playing a microscopic version of Pac-Man™. Overall, the touch technology earns a solid grade of B.

Microsoft has also brought some new features to the table. There is now a notification area for messages and common settings that you can launch from your task bar (even if I can’t get any notifications to show up).

Nothing to see here?

Nothing to see here?

The OS includes support for multiple desktops, reminiscent of Linux and Apple OS, so that you can spread your windows across virtual space more easily.

Too many chefs... I mean, desktops.

Too many chefs… I mean, desktops.

They even threw in a task manager that is less concerned about switching between programs than it is with graphing the overall health of your running system.

Yup, need to get some more memory!

Yup, need to get some more memory!

Release Details

Thanks to a leak from AMD, I can report that we’re expecting this new OS to hit the market by July 2015—just in time for the back-to-school sales! It’s confirmed that you can get the upgrade for free if you’re running Windows 7 or later (but only for the year following Windows 10’s release to market).

In conclusion, I think you’ll definitely want to install this new OS, especially if your need to make your touchscreen more desktop-like productive, but you don’t have to take my word for it!

Windows 10 Review, Part 2 – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

March 25, 2015 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Technical Tips, Vendor news | 1 Comment
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After my introductory foray into Windows 10, I was ready to get down to brass tacks and really discover what Microsoft’s new OS was all about. When, suddenly, this happened:

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You can’t always get what you want… but if you try, sometimes you might find that you don’t have to re-install. Well, actually that doesn’t really work for Windows, especially with a Technical Preview. But maybe this is a good starting point to discuss how Windows will treat this kind of error, from Windows 8 going forward.

Refreshing Your PC

Windows 10 comes with the fairly painless re-install option introduced in Windows 8, called refresh. Refreshing your PC leaves all of your files and personal settings alone, but reinstalls Windows Store apps for you. Bully for you if you have any of those applications, but more than likely you’ll need to re-install any legacy applications by hand, e.g. the ones that every business user works in. So don’t go throwing away those InstallShield downloads and installer DVDs. But, hey, it’s better than having to reinstall everything, right? Certainly it’s a quick enough procedure if it fixes the problem.

In this case, though, it didn’t fix the problem. Okay, so now I had some investigation to do. Nurse, scalpel, STAT!

Reinstallation

Yeah, so surgery didn’t go so well. Good news is I have updated to the latest build (9926). Bad news is my first patient didn’t make it, but, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. So, after three hours of alternating between Candy Crush and Trivia Crack, I’m back on the review beat… Oh, did I plug our great mobile app time-waster yet? Who knows? You might learn something.

Okay, skip the ad — let’s break into the hyped stuff first.

Start Menu 2.0

Fair is foul, and foul is fair. It’s not the same compact program listing you remember. Gentleman, they rebuilt him; they had the technology. That’s right, meet the new Start Menu. Granted, you don’t have to dive into full-screen unless you’re in tablet mode.

Here's the Start Menu!

On the left is your old Programs listing, with fewer functions than the Windows 7 edition, but thankfully more simplistic. If you can’t find the application or document you want, then try clicking on the All apps link. Once here, it helps to know the name of the app you’re searching, because you’re staring at a phonebook-like listing. Reminds me of scrolling through Windows Phone contacts. Or you can get cozy with Cortana (see more about that below) to avoid hunting and pecking every time you need to open something new.

Another note about the lovely new Windows 10 Start Screen, each application displays as a tile and supports live updates, so that you can keep up with the latest Facebook flame war and your cousin’s selfies. If that’s a distraction, then you can move the tiles around, group them, and set them in one of four sizes – small, medium, wide, or large. Not a whole lot of custom options, but hey, at least it’s simple to use.

Browser

Internet Explorer 11 comes pre-packaged with two different browser platforms: Edge and Compatibility. Eventually, this will make its way into two completely different browser applications – Spartan and Trident. Spartan will be the experimental, lightning-fast HTML5 engine, while Trident will be the old, reliable browser with the compatibility to handle older web pages with ActiveX, Silverlight, and other retired or soon-to-be-shelved technology.

When in automatic mode, I experienced no lag loading web pages with multimedia, and scrolling and touch-to-zoom seemed responsive and snappy. So I went ahead and ran a quick HTML5 benchmark to get some objective measures … and was quickly disappointed.

Windows 10 IE 11 Edge Peacekeeper Rating

According to the Peacekeeper universal browser test, IE 11 running with Edge scored a measly 406, and only 388 with Compatibility enabled. That’s lower than an iPhone 4s scores, and trust me, that stock browser is sluggish by anybody’s standards! To test whether it was the fault of Windows 10 or Internet Explorer, I installed Google Chrome as a control. Chrome scored a whopping 616. Let’s hope that the new IE only gets better as we move towards the general release.

Cortana

So, after the limited success of voice activation on the Xbox, the folks at Microsoft brought the voice recognition application Cortana (named after the AI in the Halo franchise) over to the desktop/tablet. She knows your name (after you type it in) and keeps you in the know with the latest news. I tried making friends with Cortana. You should too. But approach with caution. Go ahead and ask her what the weather is today and where Washington, DC is located and you’ll be pleased. But if you ask, “How far am I away from Washington DC?”, she may stop talking to you and instead launch the Bing website. Although, when I asked, “How long would it take for me to get to Washington DC?”, she took a minute or two, and then returned a detailed answer. Of course had I followed her directions I would have ended up in the state of Washington  and not the District. D’oh!

Hello, Cortana.

That said, this is early going for Microsoft’s voice recognition system. But I have no doubt it will rise to the standards of Google’s Speech and Apple’s Siri by general release.

Look out for the third and final installment of my Window 10 Review – What Lies Beneath!

Until then,

Josh Hester aka codeguru

Windows 10 Review, Part 1 – A Tale of Two OSes

March 5, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Technical Tips, Vendor news | 2 Comments
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2011. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Well, actually, it was a bummer of a year. Not only did a famous pop star say her final, “no, no, no,” but R.E.M. called it quits and Charlie “Tiger Blood” Sheen got booted off of prime time TV. More seriously, there were several devastating natural disasters—namely the earthquake-tsunami that led to the Fukishima nuclear meltdown and the slew of tornadoes that ripped through Joplin, Missouri.

Perhaps that grim recap puts me in the mindset to review the spectacle that was Windows 8. Rather than screen capping or demoing any of the fledgling OS’s features, Microsoft chose to talk about ARM support at CES. This pushed anticipation into a fever pitch, culminating into the first pre-release later that year. The result was a strange hybrid—one part traditional Windows and another part this thing called Metro, later amended to the Modern UI in 8.1.

Some reviewers would describe it less charitably: more like an OS with schizophrenia, similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, than a cohesive user experience. By the time of its public release, all of its laudable features—such as Microsoft account integration, improved task manager features, and built-in virtual drive mounting—fell away. It all boiled down to that awkward Metro UI for many Windows users and businesses. Oh, and let’s not forget Start-Gate!

So, in my review series on Windows 10 (Technical Preview Build 9841), I plan to start from a baseline of Windows 7 before Microsoft’s misadventures into the Modern UI. If Microsoft itself wants to move right from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, then I too will go ahead and skip any unneeded Windows 8 comparisons. After all, most of you never upgraded to Windows 8 or 8.1 anyway.

The Hype

Two of the features I was most interested in previewing were the Spartan browser with its lightning-fast Edge engine and the streamlined Office suite. I’d also heard the churning rumors regarding the return of the Start menu, and was curious to see whether this was another Microsoft game.

The Setup

To properly evaluate the Windows 10 preview release from a touch standpoint, I installed it on the Asus VivoTab Smart with a Bluetooth keyboard. It came with a dual core Atom processor, 2GB of Ram, 64GB storage, and Windows 8 pre-installed, which I later upgraded it to Windows 8.1. For this preview, I went ahead and did a clean install of Windows 10. The process was relatively painless, but coming from Windows 7, you’ll probably be a bit confused. Since Windows 8, Microsoft is pushing for an OS that’s not just your co-worker, but also wants to be your friend.

win8-hi

MIA

Sadly, the Spartan browser and the updated Office suite were not included in the build I installed. Next to the Cortana voice assistant, these are two of the more highly anticipated features, so I’ll review them individually once they come out in a future build.

But good news about that Start Menu… it’s back!

Untitled

Well, sort of back… more about that in my next post.

Until next time,

Joshua Hester

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