Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 Developer Preview Is Here: Internet Explorer Even Better Now

Cortana Windows Phone 8.1 Update

As communicated by Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore on Windows Blogs on July 30, the first update to Windows Phone 8.1 is now rolling out to devices with the preview program. The update, simply called Windows Phone 8.1 Update (although it has been referred to as Update 1 too), brings Cortana to more markets in beta and alpha form, adds a Live Folders feature, adds a Live Tile to the Store icon, allows multiple SMS merge/delete operations, brings new Xbox Music app, adds a new feature called App Corner and increases privacy and security by enabling consumer-level VPN when connected to wifi hotspots.

Among the several unnamed changes and fixes are “hundreds of fixes” made to mobile Internet Explorer 11 to make it more compatible with the mobile web. The irony here is that on the desktop web developers had to code specifically for Internet Explorer 4 or 5 because it had several non-standard features. Now, Internet Explorer (both on the desktop and mobile) is promoting coding to web standards whereas web developers have catered their site for Webkit and specifically for iOS. This unfortunate reality made the Internet Explorer team re-think their strategy, and for their customers’ benefit, they made some tweaks to mobile IE that make it appear as an iOS browser to websites. Therefore, many sites which have browser sniffing enabled, will now provide the iPhone version of their site to mobile IE visitors as well.

As the blog post on Internet Explorer blog depicts, websites render very differently before and after this update:

 

Twitter on IE11 before update
Twitter on IE11 before update
Twitter on IE11 after update
Twitter on IE11 after update
Twitter on iPhone
Twitter on iPhone
Hawaiian Airlines before IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines before IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines after IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines after IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines iPhone
Hawaiian Airlines iPhone

 

After reading that blog post, I was very curious to see how Google’s websites render after this update. Another irony here is that Google, the company that beats the standards drums, has most of their properties coded for Webkit and/or detects mobile IE as a feature phone browser. The result is that GMail, Google News, etc. render very poorly.

I am happy to say that these changes in mobile IE11 do make the experience better, at least at first glance. See the comparisons below:

 

GMail before IE11 update
GMail before IE11 update
GMail after IE11 update
GMail after IE11 update
Google News before IE11 update
Google News before IE11 update
Google News after IE11 update
Google News after IE11 update
Google Calendar after IE11 update
Google Calendar after IE11 update
Google App Drawer after IE11 updateGoogle App Drawer after IE11 update
Google App Drawer after IE11 update

Apps Corner is much like Kids Corner where one can set one or a few apps to be available in a “corner” so when it is activated, no other apps are visible or accessible. This has good uses in the enterprise setting but it is clearly not only targeted to enterprises.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Setup
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Setup
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Exit
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Exit

Live Folders is an interesting take on folders. Live Tiles have been a distinguishing feature of Windows Phone since it launched as Windows Phone 7. Instead of creating “dumb” folders which just hold the icons included in the folder, Live Folders presumably show the live tile contents of all the tiles included in the folders. This is neat because now you can reclaim some of the real estate on the Start Screen but not have to give up on one of the key features of the platform. It is also good to see that the icons included in the folders retain their tile size inside the folders, and the folder tile itself can be set to any size.

 

Windows Phone icons without Live Folders
Windows Phone icons without Live Folders
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders expanded
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders expanded

 

I don’t see how I can enable the consumer VPN feature, but that sure sounds extremely useful if I understand it correctly, which is, when connected to wifi hotspots, one would be connected to a VPN server right away. I may have misunderstood the feature so I will wait on reserving judgement until I actually find out more, or experience it myself when I connect to a public hotspot.

Have you downloaded the update? What are your thoughts?

SunVPN: Best Reliable and Affordable VPN Service

The web is not a very safe place anymore.

With all kinds of threats, breaches and security loopholes emerging every other day, users are increasingly worried about the security of their online identities. You have your email account(s), bank account, social profiles, documents, photos, videos, files and all the digital data stacked up in the cloud. A single mistake and your data may be compromised.

Did I hear you saying “But I use a strong alphanumeric password for my online accounts and it is impossible for anyone to guess that”? Well, I am not arguing about the strength of your password here, however, do you trust the network you are using (e.g public library, cafes)? Is it completely safe? Are you sure that the system you’re using isn’t being monitored or your keystrokes are not being recorded? What about encryption?

If you are not using a completely secured network connection, there are malicious tools (e.g Firesheep) which can sniff data from the public wireless network you are using to transmit the data.

The answer – a virtual private network. Users can buy VPN services to ensure a secured connection layer and to circumnavigate the restrictions put in by your ISP and country. A VPN service also prevents unauthorized hacks and breaches from third parties by creating a secured tunnel between the host and target server.

vpn_tunnel

 

These days VPN services are not just restricted to large corporations and companies and is becoming common for home users due to the following reasons:

  • You can use a VPN account to access sites that are blocked in your country.
  • A virtual private network can be used to bypass country specific filters (e.g the blogspot.in filter that was recently imposed on Indian users or watching Hulu videos outside U.S.).
  • Keep everything private and anonymous.
  • Stay safe from hackers and ensure that your identity can not be tracked over a public and open Wi-Fi connection.

If you are looking for a reliable and affordable VPN service, we recommend you to give SunVPN a try.

SunVPN is one of the major VPN service providers who have servers around the globe – running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. SunVPN is the go to option for home users who want their own secured connection tunnel which would allow them to access blocked sites and browse the web through secured glasses. Using SunVPN, you would be able to browse any website on the world, regardless of your country or geographic location.

For example, Hulu is available only for U.S users but using SunVPN, you can browse and watch Hulu videos from any computer or location.

sunvpn

 

Setting up SunVPN is as easy as installing their application on your operating system and connecting to a preferred SunVPN connection from your system’s network preferences. To get started, sign up for an account, download the installer and follow this setup guide.

You may be wondering why use SunVPN when there are so many free VPN services available? The short answer is security, reliability and excellent tech support for which SunVPN is known. SunVPN has its own servers at US (West Coast, Central, East Coast), Canada, UK, Germany and Singapore.

Moreover, SunVPN is powered by OpenVPN which uses the best encryption techniques by using 1024 bit certificates for authentication and 256 bit keys for encryption. Firewalls will be a thing of the past as SunVPN’s OpenVPN service uses generic ports that can never be blocked by firewalls.

SunVPN also has a mobile plan which starts at $9.99 a month, while desktop users should use the SSL plan at $14.99 a month. However, if you want the flexibility of switching between devices, you can go ahead and buy the combo plan for $14.99 a month. More details are available on the pricing page.

Are you already using a VPN service? Tell us your thoughts and experience in the comments section below.

Disclaimer: This post is a sponsored review. The views in this post are of the author and have not been endorsed by the sponsor.


GeoSurf Offers Premium Proxy Servers In 80+ Locations Around The World

geosurf logoGeoSurf is a powerful and unique service which allows you to visit any website virtually from more than 89 locations. This service is specially useful for online marketers who usually geo-target their campaigns. Today, most of the websites display geo-targeted ads on desktop as well as on mobile devices. In simple words, visitors from Spain, Germany and China will be able to see ads related to products and services available in their respective countries.

geosurf

There are many websites which allow us to browse the web with different geographical location. However, most of them do not work as advertised and the rest are full of pop-ups and crappy ads. On the other hand, GeoSurf offers quick and easy access to a network of fast, secure and premium proxy servers in more than 89 locations around the world, including Australia, Japan, Russia, Germany, India, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Korea, Poland, UK, US, etc. Check out the complete list below.

geosurf locations

You can easily use GeoSurf right inside your browser, with the help of a simple toolbar. The GeoSurf toolbar is currently available only for Firefox and Internet Explorer and can be installed within seconds. After installing the toolbar, you will need to click on the settings icon and type your username and password to access its features.

Once you have logged into the toolbar you can surf any website as a local user of the country or DMA (Designated Market Areas) you select. Once you have done that, you will be able to view the ads that are geo-targeted to those locations. The toolbar is fast and easy-to-use and allows you to switch between countries in seconds.

geosurf toolbar

The mobile emulator feature in the toolbar is worth mentioning. The mobile emulator allows you to view how a site looks when it is viewed from smartphones and tablets such as iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy S, BlackBerry Torch, etc. This feature is extremely useful for online marketers who want to check whether their website or ads looks perfect on different mobile platforms or browsers. To test this feature, I selected Samsung Galaxy S from the options and tried to visit Techie Buzz. I was quite happy to see that, it greeted me with the mobile version of the website.

The GeoSurf toolbar also allows you to view how a website or ad campaign looks from different browsers such as Firefox 3.6, Firefox 4, Google Chrome 10, Google Chrome 11, MSIE 8, MSIE 9, Opera 11, Safari 5, etc. Additionally, the GeoSurf VPN offers solution for changing the entire machine’s IP address to gateways on their global network of premium proxy servers.

GeoSurf Plus is a new and unique feature which helps you to checkout the complete eco-system of any website with a single click. To view the report of any website, you will need to click the graph icon on the toolbar. It will display the number of mediators, advertisers, campaigns and unique creative. To get the complete report, you will need to click on the "More Insight" button and it will open a new window with a interactive report of the given site. Currently, the reports are available only for the last 7 days.

Geosurf Plans and Pricing

geosurf plans

GeoSurf currently offers 4 different price plans – Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. The basic Silver plan starts at $29 per month and it goes up to $199 per month for the Diamond plan. Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond plans offers 1 location + 100MB usage, 5 locations + 500MB usage, 9 locations + 700MB usage and 12 locations + 1GB usage respectively. GeoSurf also offers an Enterprise plan, which lets you to select 89 locations from the available locations. If you want to try their services, then you can also sign up for a 5-day trial account.

GeoSurf is definitely the best service which allows to to visit any website from more than 60+ countries and 20+ US locations. Most of the proxy servers offers slow and pathetic service, however, GeoSurf offers super-fast and premium proxy servers. If you are an online marketer dealing with geo-targeting, then you should definitely go ahead and sign up for a GeoSurf account.

You can view a demo of GeoSurf in action in the embedded video above and sign up for a free trial account to start using their features.

Disclaimer: The following is a sponsored review of GeoSurf. All opinions presented in this post are unbiased and true to our knowledge.

Windows Phone Mango RTM: What is still missing?

wp7

 

Today came the exciting and unexpected news of Windows Phone Mango’s Release To Manufacturing (RTM). The Windows Phone team has completed the release and handed it to mobile operators and handset makers to start testing the latest update to Microsoft’s mobile operating system reboot.

Windows Phone Mango has several hundred new features which have been covered at various places across the web, including some of the v1 annoyances it has resolved for me personally. Here I want to make a few comments on what still remains to be added. Granted, these are smaller in some ways than the gap that Mango closed, it is still worth talking about what Windows Phone lacks in terms of features and functionality already available in (or announced for) iOS and/or Android.

  1. VPN functionality: Windows Phone still does not support connecting to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), typically used to connect devices to corporate networks from outside the company. iOS offers native VPN support as well as support for VPN client apps.
  2. At-rest encryption: Encryption of the storage on the device is a huge issue for corporate IT departments in being able to support a mobile device. As smartphones get more and more capable of performing computer-like tasks, and as they start storing more and more company data, they also become a huge liability in case the phones get lost or stolen. At-rest encryption protects the data on the device in such cases. Microsoft has said that the isolated storage on the device is only available to the specific app and that is how they quasi-protect the data, but I don’t think IT departments think that is enough. iOS for example, has encryption built into newer devices since iOS4.
  3. Complete backup/restore: As part of the recent NoDo update, Windows Phone introduced phone backup, but it is crippled in that only Zune desktop can execute it, and it cannot really be triggered manually (on demand). iOS (iTunes) on the other hand, does provide a way to backup and restore on demand.
  4. Multiple Windows Live ID’s per phone: Windows Phone links the device to a Windows Live ID which you enter during setup. This is the ID used to connect to the Marketplace for purchasing apps and other content, but more importantly, it is also the ID used to access other in-built platform services like Zune Pass music subscription and Windows Live-connected services like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and obviously, Windows Live Messenger and Facebook chat. What if I want to share my purchased apps with my wife but we want to have our own Windows Live-connected services on our phones? It is impossible today without sharing a Live ID, but SkyDrive, IM, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are services which don’t translate well with a shared Live ID. On the other hand, iOS/iTunes allows you to use a different ID to purchase apps/content from the store, than from the one you associate with the device. So I envision that in Windows Phone you still enter a Windows Live ID at setup, which will tie the ID to all your platform services like SkyDrive, IM, Facebook, Twitter, etc., but when it comes time to purchase apps or content, you can choose which ID to use. 
  5. DLNA, Play To: When Windows Phone launched, DLNA capability was used by LG as a differentiator for their phones. Now that the initial launch dust has settled, it is about time Windows Phone included DLNA/Play To feature across the OS. This will be a good response to AirPlay which is one of the few really magical technologies that have come out of Apple. If I could beam my recently captured photos/videos from my Windows Phone to the TV via the XBOX or a TV-connected Windows 7 PC, it would be awesome. 
  6. [Updated 7/29/2011] Voice commands for Music/Zune: How could I miss this one? One feature that seems to be missing from Mango is the ability to use the excellent voice commands for Music playback (including of course podcasts), including controls like pause, play, stop and skip. I hope at least this one is a surprise feature in RTM which we have not seen in the beta builds.

Do you have anything else you would add to this list? Let me know!