Turn Live Tiles on and off - Windows 8

Use the Live tile option to customize what you want to see.
When looking at the plethora of tiles on your Start screen, the view can get stagnant, despite all the pretty colors.This is where Live Tiles come in. They offer real-time data right on your Start screen, and you don't need to open any apps. For example, the Weather tile will show you the current conditions, and Mail will show you the subject of the latest message you've received.
You can customize which apps are live and which aren't by right-clicking on the tiles. A settings bar on the bottom will pop up with an option to turn the Live Tile on or off. Simply select the preferred option, and you're all set. Note, however, that not all apps have a live, real-time data-streaming option.


Start in Safe Mode - Windows 8

Safe Mode is a great way to get into your system when something won't allow you to start up normally. Troubleshooting becomes a breeze when corrupted drivers and files aren't loaded that prevents a system from functioning. It used to be as easy as pressing F8 when the system starts up, but doing so with Windows 8 will take you to Automatic Repair Mode. The trick to getting back to good old fashioned Safe Mode? Hold down the Shift key and press F8 while booting up.
This takes you to the Recovery mode. Select "advanced options," then "troubleshoot," then the "advanced options" again (there are a lot of advanced options). Select Windows Startup Settings and finally the Restart button. This will reboot the computer and give you the option to boot into Safe Mode.
If you need to get into Safe Mode from within Windows, open the dialog box (the Windows key + R) and type "msconfig" (no quote marks). Select the Boot tab and check the Safe boot box. The system will continually boot into Safe Mode until you go back and uncheck the box.


Refresh your PC - Windows 8

Enjoy a fresh PC without losing everything.
If your system is feeling a little sluggish, it may be time for a refresh. In the past we would have to find our copy of Windows 7, back up all of our data, and perform a fresh install to enjoy that back-to-factory-fresh feeling. But now Windows 8 allows you to perform a fresh install from within Windows without losing any data.
In order to perform the refresh, go to Settings and click the Change PC Settings tab near the bottom. Select the General tab and find the "Refresh your PC without affecting your files" section near the middle (you may also select "Remove everything and reinstall Windows" to get the true factory settings treatment). Select "Get started" and press "Refresh." After a few minutes the PC will restart, and you will have a fresh copy of Windows 8.


Log in without a username or password - Windows 8

To speed up the log-in process, you may want to disable the username and password log-in screen. You can do so by opening the Run window (press the Windows key + R) and typing in "netplwiz" to access the User Accounts dialog box. Uncheck the box near the top that says "Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer." ClickOK, and enter the username and password one last time to confirm your choice, and you are all set for easy access to your system.


Boot to the desktop without an app - Windows 8

Skip the Start screen and get right to the Desktop.
One of biggest complaints about Windows 8 is that it boots straight to the Start screen—an annoyance for many committed desktop users. The Start8 utility helps you avoid this indignity (among other cool features), but you can actually boot straight to the desktop without installing anything extra.
Go to the start screen and type in "schedule" to search for Schedule Task in Settings. Click on Task Scheduler Library to the left, and select Create Task. Name your task something like "Boot to desktop." Now select the Triggers tab, choose New, and use the drop-down box to select starting the task "At log on." Click OK and go to the Actions tab, choose New,and enter "explorer" for the Program/Script value.
Press OK, save the task, and restart to test it out!


Create a picture password - Windows 8

A fun way to protect your system.
Using a picture password is a fun way keep your device secure while not having to remember a complex password. To enable it, press the Windows key + I to get to the settings charm. Click "Change PC settings" at the bottom right, and go to the Users tab. Under "Sign-in options" will be the "Create a picture password" button. This will give you the option to choose any picture, and then define three gestures anywhere on the image. Your gestures can be circles, swipes and clicks.
For example, to set a picture password for the image above, you could click on the highest palm tree, draw a circle around the island, and then swipe down from the lens flare in the upper right. Just beware: The direction of each gesture matters! After confirming it a couple times, your picture password will be set.


Share and share alike - Windows 8

Play with the Share charm in every app.
Windows 8 is Microsoft’s first social-media-aware PC operating system. Using the Share button located on the Charms bar, you can pick any number of elements from your Windows 8 Store apps—say, a location from your Maps app, a news story from the Finance app, or a even a contact from your People app—and then distribute that item to friends via other Windows 8 programs.
Perhaps most conveniently, you can quickly share a photo via email or Twitter, or to your own SkyDrive or Windows Phone. The Share button is contextual, and the more you use it, the more you’ll discover which apps share with each other, and which don’t. (Hint: None of your desktop apps offer sharing opportunities through the Charms menu.)


Go to Task Manager for Startup items - Windows 8

Task manager is more useful than ever.
You no longer have to run the MSConfig program to change startup items. Startup items now show up in a tab on Task Manager. Simply press Ctrl + Alt + Del and select Task Manager. Click the "More details" tab at the bottom and find the Startup tab at the top.


Use Windows 8 apps and your desktop simultaneously - Windows 8

Because the Windows 8 experience is split between new Windows 8 Store apps and old-school desktop apps, the operating system is prone to some strange behaviors. Case in point: When running a multimonitor setup, Windows 8 apps will consume your main screen, leaving your secondary screen running the desktop. This arrangement would seemto allow full-screen multitasking among both types of apps—a modern app on the left side, a desktop app on the right side—but this isn’t the case. Indeed, as soon as you begin using the desktop on your secondary screen, the new-style Windows 8 app disappears, and your primary screen begins running the desktop.
But here’s a workaround. On your primary screen, use the new Windows 8 split-screen “snapping” function to run the desktop and a new Windows 8 Store app together. The desktop can take up the left-hand sliver, while the Windows 8 app consumes the majority of the screen. Now use your second display for a full desktop view. In this arrangement, you can fully multitask between new-style apps and desktop apps, and both windows will be large enough to be useful.


Bring up the Quick Access Menu - Windows 8

The secret Start button for power users is hidden at the bottom-left.
Right-clicking on the lower left of the screen—whether you’re in the Windows 8 Start screen or in the desktop—will bring up the Quick Access Menu, which enables a direct line to many key system management chores, including Disk Management, Task Manager, Device Manager, and Control Panel.


Adjust SmartScreen settings - Windows 8

Choose your own level of safety with SmartScreen.
SmartScreen warns you before running an unrecognized app or file from the Internet. While it's helpful to be aware of a file's source, constant warnings can also get a little annoying. By default, you need an administrator's permission, but this can easily be adjusted to just a warning or no indication at all. Using the magic search function described above, type "security" at the Start screen and find the "Check security status" in the Settings tab. From this area, you can adjust various security settings, including the Windows SmartScreen.


Adjust privacy settings - Windows 8

Customize your privacy settings to your liking.
A lot of apps tap into very personal information by default. Indeed, your pictures, location, and name are liberally woven throughout the system, and like many users you may not be comfortable trusting your machine with that much sensitive data. To adjust the settings, press the Windows key + I, and go to Change PC Settings. Select the Privacy option, and personalize the settings for your personal data there.


Use centralized, contextual search - Windows 8

Search for anything in any app from one place.
The Search function located on the Charms bar is packed with power, letting you search the directories of not only your Windows 8 machine, but also the greater Windows ecosystem. Simply choose the bucket of data you want to sift through—it could be all your installed apps, your system settings, your files, your mail messages, or even an external service like the Windows Store or Bing Maps—type in a keyword, and hit Enter. The Search function will then return the results, perfectly contextualized for the database you’ve addressed
Oh, and how's this for cool? You don't even need to hit the Charms bar to access Search. From the Start screen, simply start typing, and you'll be quickly whisked to the text-entry field for search queries. Try it. It works!


Close an application - Windows 8

Closing an app sounds simple enough, but you'll quickly notice that close buttons are hard to find in Windows 8. That's because Microsoft encourages us to run apps in the background where they'll take up minimal resources, but still be accessible at any time.
Nonetheless, if you insist on being rebellious, you can close an app by dragging it with your mouse or finger from the top of the screen all the way down to the bottom. As you drag, the app will miminize into a thumbnail, and when you reach the bottom, it will disappear from view. Alternatively, you can still close apps via Alt + F4 and through the Task Manager.


Categorize your apps

Start screen customization for the organized.
Your Start screen can become a cluttered mess if you collect too many apps and other elements that have been pinned to the screen as tiles, so take advantage of built-in organization tools that let you divide everything into labeled groups.
First, drag all the tiles you want to assign to a single group to the far right-hand side of your Start screen in vacant territory; the OS should sequester the tiles together. Once you're satisfied with your assembly, use semantic zoom (described above) to get a bird's eye view of your desktop. Now right-click the group (or simply drag down on it), and select the "Name group" option on the left of the bar that appears below. Type in the name, and enjoy your newly organized Start screen!


Zoom in tight - Windows 8

See all your tiles and groups at once with semantic zoom.
The Start Screen is full of nice, big, chunky tiles that represent all your apps. The tiles are easy to see in small groups, but what if you have hundreds of apps installed? Most will be hidden from view, unless you want to do a lot of scrolling. Enter the new semantic zoom feature. If you’re using a touch display, squeeze the Start screen with two fingers to receive a bird’s eye view of your entire screen contents. And the feature is also available to mouse and keyboard users: Simply hold down the Ctrl button, and use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out.


Employ the hottest hotkeys we know - Windows 8

In these key combinations, hold down the Windows key (normally located between Alt and Ctrl) and another key, as described on this list.
  • Press the Windows key to enter the tiled Start screen.
  • The Windows key + M minimizes everything that's showing on the desktop.
  • The Windows key + E opens Explorer for quick access to folders.
  • On the Start screen, press the Windows key + D to instantly get to the desktop.
  • The Windows key + Tab opens a list of currently running programs.
  • The Windows key + Print Screen takes a screenshot and saves it in a Screenshots folder nested in your Pictures folder. 
  • To take a screenshot on a Windows 8 tablet, simultaneously press the Windows button and the volume-down button on the tablet chassis.
  • The Windows key + Q opens a global search menu. Type what you're looking for and where you would like to look.
  • The Windows key + W opens a search in your system settings to quickly locate and change system properties.
  • The Windows key + F opens a file and folder search.
  • The Windows key + Pause opens the system properties page to show you a quick rundown of your specs.
  • The Windows key + "," (that's the comma sign!) makes all current windows transparent, giving you a peek at the desktop as long as you hold down the Windows key.
  • The Windows key + "." (the period) snaps a window to the right or left side (toggling each time you press ".").
  • The Windows key + R prompts the Run command—useful for quickly launching apps and other routines with a command prompt.
  • The Windows key + X opens the Quick Access Menu, exposing system functionality such as the Command Prompt, Disk Management, File Explorer, Run, and more. Alternatively, you can right-click on the bottom right corner of the screen to spawn the Quick Access Menu.
  • The Windows key + I opens the settings menu, giving you quick access to the Control Panel, Personalization, and your Power button, among other features.
  • The Windows key + O locks orientation on devices with an accelerometer.


Domestic calls through Gmail to remain free in 2013

In what’s rapidly becoming a holiday tradition, Google announced Wednesday that it’s extended free calling in Gmail for another year.
First added as a feature to Gmail in 2010, the Call Phone option lets Gmail users place calls to landlines and mobile phones from within the web-based email client.
In a Wednesday blog post, Google said that U.S. and Canadian Gmail users can continue to make free domestic calls through 2013. (Google does charge for international calls).
If Wednesday’s announcement sounds familiar, that’s because it echoes similar extensions offered last year and in 2010. At the time calling features were added to Gmail two years ago, Google had said that it would start charging for domestic calls at some point. But that point appears to be pushed farther into the future once more.


Google's biggest hits and misses of 2012

And a Googly year it was...

Google is easily the most prolific of the major technology companies, as it proved in dramatic fashion in 2012. We saw an augmented reality headset, cool new Nexus hardware, clever new Web services, and even a few terrible, terrible ideas. Throughout the year, the company continually surprised us—and reminded us that the modern Google is interested in much, much more than refining its search algorithms.

Can you recall the best and worst of Google’s 2012 output? Click through this slideshow, and let us know if we forgot to include any massive wins or fails.

HIT: Nexus 7

This June, Google became a major player in the tablet market when it unveiled the 7-inch Nexus 7 for a mere $200—a price that should make every potential Kindle Fire buyer think twice about aligning with Team Amazon.

The Nexus 7 was quickly acclaimed as the best Android tablet available, and even impressed iPad fans. Built in partnership with Asus but branded as a full Google product, the Nexus 7 is comfortable to hold, offers a high-quality display, boasts good battery life, and is zippy and responsive to gesture controls. Who said a “real” Android tablet would never be able to compete in a gadget space dominated by Apple and Amazon?

MISS: Nexus Q

Google's biggest flop was announced alongside the Nexus 7 at June’s Google I/O conference. The Nexus Q is a Death Star-like orb designed to stream music from your Android smartphone or tablet. That sounds good on paper, but the hardware costs a whopping $300 and doesn’t include any speakers. What's more, you can’t control it with iOS, Windows Phone, or any desktop software; its Android support is limited to Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean; and it supports only Google Music, Google Video, and YouTube, so forget about using it to stream content from third-party apps.

Google bragged that the Nexus Q was its first fully homegrown hardware product—conceived, engineered, and manufactured with no partner support. But it was also a total fail, and has been pulled entirely from the Google Play store.

HIT: Google Glass

Taking a major leap into the future, Google used a brazen skydiving stunt at Google I/O to publicly unveil an early prototype version of Google Glass, a futuristic augmented reality headset that one day may replace your smartphone. Google ultimately envisions a product that can snap photos, facilitate video chat, provide walking and driving directions, and receive and send instant messages and emails—all via a head-mounted display. In 2013, Google will deliver prototype Google Glass units to a limited number of developers who paid $1500 each to get their hands on Google's sci-fi spectacles.

Is the Glass project somewhat wacky or even borderline insane? Most definitely. But the skydiving stunt does prove that Google has the germ of an idea that just...might...work.

MISS: Google hobbles ActiveSync

In December, Google announced that users of its free Gmail service would lose the ability to use Exchange ActiveSync for syncing Calendar, Gmail, and contacts on new devices. (The service, however, will continue for business, government, and education customers of Google Apps.) Google said it was making the switch because it could use open protocols to achieve similar results, but the decision really appears to be a swipe at Microsoft, the creator of Exchange ActiveSync. In 2012, the companies also battled over Google's revised privacy policy, patent issues, and the current war for Santa Claus.

HIT: Google Now

Introduced with Android Jelly Bean in June, Google Now is the company’s take on a digital personal assistant that collates personal data and delivers it to you unprompted. For example, if you’re due to attend a meeting on the other side of a town, Google Now will, in theory, alert you to traffic problems that might make you late. The tool can also share sports scores, flight-time alerts and weather reports, all unprompted.

Google has been circulating the concept of Google Now for some time, and it’s great to see it finally reach fruition. Google Now is also an early example of services Google can deliver based on its unified privacy policy, which lets the company merge all your Google data into a single database. Google Now is expected to roll out to desktop PCs as part of the Chrome browser in the coming months. We welcome this new addition.

MISS: Cheap Chromebooks

Google and its manufacturing partners finally nudged down the prices of Chromebooks (laptops running the browser-based Chrome OS) below $200 in 2012. Three budget Chromebooks were released this year, including the $200 Acer C7, the $250 Samsung Series 5 550, and a $300 version of the C7. Still, even with much lower prices, users were more interested in buying a 7-inch tablet for $200 than blowing their cash on a hobbled notebook. The Chromebook initiative isn’t dead, but if public support drops any further, we should expect to see hardware partnerships all but die in 2013.

HIT: Google Fiber

Google became an ISP in July 2012, announcing specifics for Google Fiber, a fiber-to-home service in Kansas City that features 1- gigabit-per-second data bandwidth, cable TV service, and reasonable pricing. In true Google style, there's even a free option (although it has limited availability). So far, Google has only the most modest plans to expand its pilot project, but the company's flirtation with providing killer Internet service along with TV—and maybe one day phone service—may have competitors scrambling very soon.

MISS: Google Wallet woes

People will always be wary of new technologies, especially where their money is concerned. But Google didn’t help the adoption of Google Wallet, its NFC-based mobile payments platform, when several security concerns emerged. In early February, security firm Zvelo found an exploit that could reveal the security PIN for Wallet users with rooted Android phones. Soon after, the blog Smartphone Champ reported a far more serious security flaw that would allow a phone thief to reset a Google Wallet PIN, and access money on a prepaid card, even if the phone wasn't rooted. This flaw prompted Google to temporarily halt Wallet's prepaid credit card functions. Google is also having a tough time convincing wireless carriers to support Wallet in their partner smartphones.

MISS: Search Plus Your World

Google started to take search personalization to the extreme in January with the introduction of Search Plus Your World, a new search interface that’s supposed to elegantly bring up personalized, relevant content by harnessing data from Google+.

New SPYW results might include photos from your contacts and Google+ profiles of notable personalities and businesses. As the service rolled out, however, it really began to feel like one big promotion for Google+. Accessing data from other social networks would certainly mitigate the problem, but that would only steal thunder from Google+, which continues to grasp for relevance in a world dominated by Facebook and Twitter.

MISS: 11 months of Jelly Bean

Google was so excited in November to introduce Android 4.2, an updated version of Jelly Bean, it killed an entire month in the system's People/Contacts app. As the Android team said in a Google+ post, “We discovered a bug in the Android 4.2 update, which makes it impossible to enter December events in optional fields of the People app (this bug did not affect Calendar). Rest assured, this will be fixed soon so that those of you with December birthdays and anniversaries won't be forgotten by your friends and family.”

HIT: Musical doodles

Sometimes Google’s custom home page logos—also known as Google doodles—get a little old, especially for specious non-events, such as the 46th anniversary of Star Trek. But we’re not total curmudgeons, and we have to applaud the Robert Moog-inspired doodle posted in May that lets you create and share your own musical compositions. The Moog doodle even inspired a wide array of inventive musical creations on YouTube and Google+. In November, Google introduced another musical treat with Jam, a Web app for Chrome that lets you play in a virtual band, online with friends.

MISS: Android fragmentation

Google has been so busy rolling out new versions of Android that it hasn't spent enough time with hardware partners to update legacy devices to its latest OS. Indeed, as of December, a little more than 50 percent of users were still running Android 2.3 (also known as Gingerbread), according to Google's developer site. Gingerbread is a 2-year-old system, and has since been eclipsed by two newer Android smartphone OSs. Bringing updates to legacy phones has always been an issue for Google, not to mention for hardware manufacturers, which are complicit in the problem. The issue of OS “fragmentation” was a big deal in 2011, and we didn’t see much relief in 2012.

HIT: Google Trekker

Google Maps already offers Street View, a mapping tool that lets you virtually walk down city streets, and even enter indoor spaces, all from the comfort of your Web browser or maps app. But in 2012, the company revealed a new technology that takes all the photographic equipment that’s loaded into Street View vehicles—namely, 15 cameras, each snapping 5-megapixel images every 2.5 seconds—and puts it into a 40-pound Trekker backpack that you can take to extreme locations. The upshot? Now challenging terrain like the Grand Canyon can be captured in 360-degree panoramic views. Google hasn’t yet made live its Grand Canyon image captures, but the mere concept of Trekker is a hit.


Google gets into tablets

Google's Nexus 7: Less than $50 per processing core.
The Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 weren’t the first Android tablets, of course, but they were the ones that made Android a viable threat to the iPad. (The Kindle Fire is only sorta-kinda Android.) With a gorgeous 1280 x 800 pixel screen and a quad-core 1.3 GHz processor, the Nexus 7 is a compelling product with an even more compelling $200 price tag. Suddenly the iPad’s $500 price tag looks positively luxurious, and even the iPad Mini seems like the less practical choice.
The Nexus 10, on the other hand, delivers an iPad Retina display-beating 2560 x 1600 resolution and similarly beefy internals for just $400. In other words, Google's thrusting tablets forward while driving prices downward across the board.


Yahoo's executive turmoil

If any tech company needs a strong hand at the helm, it’s Yahoo. The company still owns one of the most visited sites on the planet, but its future strategy is unclear. That’s what the firm was hoping for when they hired on Scott Thompson shortly into the new year—but it’s not what they got.
Thompson, who took over for an underperforming Carol Bartz, didn’t even last half a year. He was fired in May for faking an entry on his resume, prompting five board members to resign their position early and leading Yahoo to begin its search for its fifth CEO in as many years.
That search ended in July, with the announcement that Marissa Mayer—long a public face at Google—would take the helm. In the months since, she's instituted morale-boosting initiatives such as free lunches, free phones, and all-hands meetings on Fridays. The spirit-lifting seems to be paying off; in December, Yahoo launched a new Flickr app and a streamlined Yahoo Mail refresh, dragging the two formerly stodgy offerings kicking and screaming into modern times.


Twitter’s big year

Twitter had another banner year, repeatedly setting and breaking records for volume of tweets—first during the London Olympics and then during the presidential election, which saw a peak of 327,452 tweets per minute and the most retweeted picture of all time. The service also passed 500 million total users and 200 million active users in 2012, and it introduced the “cards” API that allows companies to automatically add multimedia elements when someone tweets a link to their site—all with barely a Fail Whale to be seen. Even the Pope signed up for a Twitter account in 2012.
Barack Obama's victory tweet broke Twitter records.
Not everything the happened in the Twitter verse was positive, though. The company continued to lock down its API, shutting out the third party Twitter clients that helped it become popular in the first place. Tweetro, the popular Windows 8 client, became the latest victim of the policy when Twitter shut off its API access, even though there’s not currently an official native Windows 8 Twitter app.
The microblogging service was also on the receiving end of heavy-handed corporate policy this year, as Instagram (now owned by Facebook) shut off Twitter integration, making it impossible for users to post Instagram photos directly into their Twitter feeds . The very next day, however, Twitter outed native photo filters of its own, somewhat—somewhat—softening the blow for people who love to take pictures of bicycles leaning against lamp posts in the rain.


The Department of Justice sues pretty much everybody over e-book price fixing

The DoJ doesn't play when it comes to price fixing!

2012 was a bad year for e-book publishers, who saw one of their chances to break Amazon’s stranglehold on the market slip away. Afraid that Amazon was driving e-book prices too low, the publishers allegedly collaborated—conspired, you might say—to push wide adoption of an "agency" model, where the publishers set the price of e-books and retailers received a cut of the profits.
Apple allegedly encouraged the move, wanting to secure higher 30 percent margins on e-book sales rather than being forced to lower prices with competitors like Amazon, who were all too willing to offer e-books at lower prices (and lower margins). Under agency pricing, the cost of best-selling e-books leaped from Amazon's early $9.99 selling price to between $12.99 and $14.99
The Department of Justice was none too fond of this “collective effort to end retail price competition by coordinating their transition to an agency model across all retailers,” which would assuredly result in higher prices for consumers. The DoJ filed suit against 5 major publishers, as well as Apple, who was accused of colluding with the publishers out of a desire to raise profit margins on e-books. HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette agreed to settle right away, while Penguin agreed to the DoJ's terms in December. Apple and Macmillian continue to fight the case in court.


Kickstarter and the meteoric rise of crowdfunding

The Pebble Watch is Kickstarter's highest-ever earner.
Kickstarter has been around since 2009, but it wasn’t until February of this year that the website became a phenomenon. That was when Time Schafer’s Double Fine Productions used the service to raise $3.3 million to create an old-school adventure game, and kicked off a string of mega-successful Kickstarter campaigns including Project Eternity ($4 million), the Ouya Android-based console ($8.6 million) and the Pebble E-Paper Watch(a whopping $10.3 million).
Seemingly overnight, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding sites have become the go-to source of cash for projects too hip for old-fashioned venture capital. Our only question: how many of this year’s funding success stories are going to become next year’s vaporware?


Apple loses its edge in online maps

Apple Maps' version of Las Vegas looks an awful lot like the Fallout series.
Apple and Google were once natural allies, united against perennial tech juggernaut Microsoft. As smartphones have become the new tech battlefield and Microsoft has receded from its once-dominant position, the relationship has broken down and Google services have started disappearing from Apple devices. The final straw came with the release of iOS 6 in September, which replaced the popular Google-powered Maps app with Apple’s own internally-developed app. The new Maps app lacked several major features, including transit directions and street view, and had a nasty habit of sending people to the completely wrong location.
Users, it turns out, aren’t fond of having something they’re used to taken away and replaced with a shoddy alternative. The uproar was swift and sustained—enough that Apple CEO Tim Cook released a public statement apologizing for the app’s shortcoming and suggesting that users try downloading a different map app from one of their competitors.
iPhone users finally regained access to the maps they had come to love when Google released an official maps app into the iOS app store in mid-December. That’s got to be a relief to Aussies, who had been warned just days before that Apple Maps’ inaccurate directions could send them on a potentially-fatal trip into the outback.


Facebook: public offerings and privacy concerns

Of course, Facebook’s been kind of a big deal for a long time now, but 2012 marked the year that the social network became the publically-traded corporation that everyone loves to hate. The company's blockbuster billion-dollar IPO in May was plagued by technical difficulties , and the Facebook's stock value slumped to around half its initial $38 per-share price over the following three months. Facebook’s market worth has recovered since then, but still hasn’t come close to meeting launch day numbers.
The IPO came just a month after Facebook announced its biggest acquisition ever, picking up photo sharing app Instagram for a cool $1 billion. At the time, both companies were insistent that Instagram would remain an independent service, but the photo app has recently had its first Facebook-esque privacy flap.
Speaking of privacy flaps, Facebook capped off a controversial year with the decision earlier this month to eliminate user voting on privacy issues and site governance, provoking a predictable (and predictably unfruitful) public outcry.


Megaupload gets shut down

In January, Megaupload was wiped off the face of the Internet, its domain names seized, assets confiscated, and founders imprisoned by New Zealand police acting on behalf of the US government. The popular filesharing site’s closure started a firestorm on the internet, spurring the “hacktivist” group Anonymous to launch a successful denial-of-service attack against the Deparment of Justice, the RIAA and others. The site’s closure had a domino effect , causing many other “cyberlocker” sites—including FileSonic, Uploaded.to, UploadBoc, FileJungle and FileServe, amongst scads of others—to either clamp down on file sharing or preemptively shut down their entire service, fearing similar government action.
The debate over SOPA, the much-maligned internet piracy act, was raging at the time, and MegaUpload’s closure led many to question whether the act was even necessary if the US government already had the wide-ranging power necessary to take down a Hong Kong-based company run by New Zealand nationals.
Megaupload.com's current home page was custom made!
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom became a minor New Zealand celebrity after the raid, and has won a series of court victories since. New Zealand judges have given Dotcom the right to press charges against the government for illegally spying on him prior to the raid—creating a political firestorm that resulted in NZ Prime Minister John Key apologizing to Dotcom— and found that the warrants used to raid Megaupload manor were invalid, rendering the whole search and seizure illegal. Though the ultimate question of his extradition to the US is still unanswered, Dotcom is moving ahead with plans to launch Mega —an encrypted file sharing successor to Megaupload.


Apple vs Samsung: Year two fallout

The iPad design patent illustration

The Great Patent War between Apple and Samsung entered its second year in 2012, with a number of legal bombshells falling on either side. The biggest by far was the landmark ruling in September, which found largely in Apple’s favor and fined Samsung an enormous $1.05 billion . Though Samsung alleged jury misconduct, its appeal was denied, and Judge Lucy Koh refused to grant the company a new trial.
Samsung won back a minor victory when the court denied Apple’s request for a permanent injunction forbidding the sale of several Samsung devices. Apple took another major blow as the US Patent Office tentatively declared the “Steve Jobs patent,” which covers—broadly—gesture control on a touch screen, invalid.
The Apple-Samsung lawsuits are ongoing in countries all across the globe, and we’re sure there will be more bombshells to talk about at the end of 2013.


Windows 8 makes its debut

The biggest news this year was, of course, the release of Windows 8, which brought renewed energy to the PC ecosystem, along with more than its fair share of controversy—not the least of which was Microsoft's matter to take hardware matters into its own hands with the launch of its self-made Surface tablet.
The move represented a new willingness on the part of the software giant to compete directly with the OEMs that have traditionally been Microsoft’s closest allies. Fears from Microsoft's OEM partners seem to be playing out, with the Surface RT snagging the lion's share of the (lackluster) early Windows RT tablet market. The Surface doesn’t look to be a one-off excursion for Microsoft, either. The company's latest shareholder letter makes explicit that hardware is going to be a part of Microsoft’s future, for better or for worse.
Windows 8's pretty tiles aren't without controversy.


Warangal Fort - Andhra Pradesh

Warangal also known as Orugallu, and Ekasila Nagaram) is a city and a municipal corporation in Warangal district in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Warangal is located 148 kilometres (92 mi) northeast of the state capital of Hyderabad and is the administrative headquarters of Warangal District. Warangal metropolitan area is a combination of three cities: Warangal, Hanamakonda and Kazipet. It has a population of nearly 0.9 million including Hanamakonda and Kazipet.

Warangal city is the headquarters of Warangal district. Warangal district contributes a total of twelve seats (city has two; that of Warangal East and Warangal West) in the lower house of the State Legislature and two seats (Warangal and Mahabubabad) in lower house of Indian Parliament.

Panoramic picture of the ruins of the Warangal fortPanoramic picture of the ruins of the Warangal fort.


Gooty Fort - Andhra Pradesh

Gooty (pronounced 'Gutti') is a census town in Anantapur district in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The history of Gooty dates back to the 7th century when it was previously known as Gowthamapuri. The region of Gooty was first under the rule of king Ashoka and there is a Minor Rock Edict in Yerraguda (6 km from Gooty). In the subsequent centuries Gooty was under the rule of Sri Krishnadevaraya's Vijayanagara empire. The Pemmasani Nayaks of Gandikota controlled Gooty as subordinates of Vijayanagar kings. Later, it came under the control of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan of the Kingdom of Mysore.

As of 2001 India census,[1] Gooty had a population of 43,387. Males constitute 51% of the population and females 49%. Gooty has an average literacy rate of 65%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 74%, and female literacy is 55%. In Gooty, 12% of the population is under 6 years of age.

The town has one of the oldest hill forts of Andhra Pradesh. The earliest inscriptions are in Kannada and Sanskrit, and are assigned to about the 7th century. An inscription refers to a fort, 'Gadha', while an inscription of Bukka, the Vijayanagar monarch, refers to it as the 'King of Forts'. The Marathas under Murari Rao conquered it. As per District gazetteer of Tiruchinapalli, Gooty Fort was under Subedar of Trichy Fort.
The 'Gooty Kaifiyat' records that this fort was captured by Mir Jumla and was subsequently under the charge of Qutub Shahi chiefs. It was taken over by Hyder Ali in 1773 and eventually fell into the British hands. The British Col. Browser, who attacked and finally took over the fort, found it to be commanded by a Zeruwar Khan, a Brahmin who became Muslim. The fort is situated at a height of 300m above the plains in Gooty.
The citadel of the fort is constructed on the westernmost circle of hillocks. It is a huge precipitous mass of bare rock and towers over the adjacent ones.
The fort is approached by a paved path leading first to an outlying spur strongly fortified and known in former days as 'Mar Gooty'. After passing through the fortifications, the pathway winds upward round steep sides of huge rock and reaches the summit where the citadel or 'qila' is situated.
The fort is built in shape of a shell and having 15 forts with 15 main doors ('Mukhadwaralu'). The fortifications include a series of walls connected by 14 gateways flanked by bastions. None of the buildings in the fort is of any architectural importance. There are two edifices, apparently a gymnasium and a powder magazine, and a small pavilion of polished lime stone called Morari Rao's seat, on the edge of the cliff. This commands excellent view of the town below and is said to have been a favourite resort of Morari Rao. There are also number of wells in the clefts of the rock. One of them is believed to have been connected with a stream at the foot of the hill.



According to The Imperial Gazetteer of India,[2] Penukonda was a subdivision and taluk of Anantapur district in Madras province. It contains 96 villages covering an area of 677 square miles. The population in 1901 was 92,482, compared with 81,104 in 1891. Penukonda was the headquarters town with a population of 6,806. It is situated at the base of a large hill (Konda in Telugu language), from which it takes the name. It is a place of historical importance. It became the capital of fallen Vijayanagar monarch, after he was overthrown in 1565 at the Battle of Talikota. The Penner River flows along its western and Chitravati river along its eastern boundary.

This region was controlled at different points in history by the Hoysalas, Chalukyas, Vijayanagar, Nawabs, Maratha chieftain Murari Rao, Tipu Sultan, Nizam and eventually came under British rule after it was ceded to the British by the Nizam of Hyderabad. It was a melting pot of different religions but the town and fort were established by early Hoysala kings, who were practitioners of Jainism.
After Krishna Deva Raya, Venkatapathi Rayalu, the Emperor of Vijayanagar, took over. He made Raya Dalavayi Koneti Naidu (son of Kasturi Naidu, grandson of Akkappa Naidu, great-grandson of Kanaka Naidu of Chandragiri), as the governor of Penukonda and conferred him the title with Maha-raja-raja-sri and celebrated Koneti Naidu's marriage to Swarna. Koneti Naidu hailed from the Vasarasi family of Balija caste. Koneti Naidu ruled Penukonda, Rayadurga and Kundurpi Forts for about 17 years (1635-1652AD). After the ruling of Koneti Nayudu his descendants Raya Dalavayi Sri Venkatapathi Nayudu, Peda Timmappa Nayudu, Venkatapathi Nayudu, Koneti Nayudu, Rajagopala Nayudu and Timmappa Nayudu ruled this Penukonda country.
Because of its ancient Jain history and presence of many temples it is one of the most revered places for Jains. The famous Pache Parsvanath Swamy Temple, with idol of Parsvanath containing a single green coloured stone (Pacha) is located here. The famous Babaiah Dargah makes this place venerable to Muslims as well.
Hazrath Baba Fakruddin was a great Sufi Saint of 12th century. Purportedly before coming to Penukonda, he was a king of Sistan and Shahpur in Iran. Legend says that he was searching for a place to settle and his Guru gave him a dry twig and said to him: ..wherever this twig will bloom to a big plant stay there... He planted the twig and slept under a tree only to awake and saw it become a beautiful plant and he stayed there. He is called Babaiah by the local people and due to the love and respect he garnered, many men of various faiths have taken his name over centuries.




Charminar, which is synonymous with Hyderabad is one of the magnificent structures built by Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah, the fifth ruler of the Qutub Shahi dynasty and also the founder of the City, in Hijri 1000 (A.D.1591-92). This is a square structure measuring 31.95 mts. on each side with imposing arches spanning a distance of 11mts. There are four minarets, each having three storeyes, rising to a height of 56 mts. The spiral staircase inside the minarets has 149 steps leading to the top with 12 landings. The double screen of arches on the roof and the ornamental arches on the minarets add to the aesthetic value.

The notable feature of Charminar is the location of a mosque on the western section of the second floor, probably one of the most beautiful of this period. There are forty-five mushallas (prayer spaces) with an open courtyard in front.

The structure is also known for its profuseness of stucco decorations and arrangement of balustrades and balconies. The floral designs are varied and delicately executed. It was a synthesis of Mughal and Hindu architecture executed by the local artisans.

There are various theories regarding the purpose for which Charminar was constructed. However, it is widely accepted that Charminar was built at the center of the city, to commemorate the eradication of plague. In the middle of the eighteenth century, Bussy the French Commander made Charminar his headquarters.

The four clocks were added later, on the four cardinal directions in the year 1889. At the base of Charminar was originally a Vazu (water cistern) at the center with a small fountain for customary ablutions, before offering prayers in the mosque.


Golkonda Fort

Golkonda Fort

Lying to the west of Hyderabad city at a distance of 11 km, the historic Golkonda Fort derives its name from a Telugu word ‘Golla Konda’ which means Shepherd’s Hill. With its extensive and elevated fortifications it was a landmark that governed the destiny of the south. The fort originally belonged to the Kakatiyas of Warangal. This is testified by the over-door carvings and relief work in stucco consisting of lions, peacocks, griffins and lotus at the entrance of Balahisar. In AD1363 it was ceded to the Baihmanis. After their downfall in AD1518 it became the capital of the Qutb Shahi kings (AD 1518-1687). The fort was extended and substantially strengthened by these kings with massive fortification walls having bastions and battlements. Subsequently Aurangazeb annexed it to the Moghal Empire (AD 1687) during the reign of Abul Hasan Tana Shan, the last ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty and appointed Asaf Jah as the Subedar of the Deccan province. Asaf Jah declared independence in AD1713 as Nizam-ul-Mulk and the Nizams held sway over Hyderabad until AD 1948.

Golkonda fort, one of the most famous and the biggest fortress in the Deccan plateau, was built on a 400 ft. high hill. It has three lines of massive fortification walls one within the other and rise to a height of over 12 m. The outer most wall was provided with a deep moat all around covering a vast area of the town with a circumference of 7 km. It has 8 imposing gateways and is buttressed with 87 bastions rising to a height of 15 to 18 meters. Each of these bastions was surmounted by cannons of varying caliber rendering the fort impregnable and strong among the forts of the medieval Deccan.

After the outer wall it has also a double wall that runs around the foot of the hill on which the citadel stands. Within the double wall, winding further up the hill, connecting the natural boulders with masonry walls is a third wall. An extension of the outer wall was made to enclose a small area on the northeast of the town in 1724 AD, which is now known as Naya Qila. The well-planned township of Golconda located within the fort was one of the splendid cities famous during the medieval world for its extensive trade in gems and diamonds as attested to by foreigners like Marco Polo, an Italian traveler. The fort has a striking appearance and its higher area is covered with the remains of armories, magazines, mosques, granaries, reservoirs and audience chambers; while at the foot of the citadel are nestled the dwellings of the queens and princesses and homesteads of their retainers.

The fort has an ingeniously evolved water supply system. The water raised by Persian wheels was stored in overhead tanks at different levels. Water thus collected was effectively distributed to various mahals, other apartments, roof gardens and fountains in the citadel through stone aqueducts and a network of earthen pipes by sheer force of gravity.

The important structures inside the citadel or balahissar are the imposing Silai Khana ( a three-storied Aslah Khana – armoury building), Nagina bagh, guard lines, Akkanna-Madanna Offices, Ramdas Jail, Darbar hall, ruins of Ambar khana, Baradari on the summit, an inner cordon wall, and a Masjid raised by Ibrahim Qutub Shah (1550-1580 AD). The east gateway is the only entrance to the citadel and it is one of the biggest gates in the entire fort.

Signalling Device (Acoustic property): - A remarkable signaling device had been incorporated in the construction of Golconda Fort. The various edifices are so placed as to transmit sound to different far away points. If one stands at the center of the entrance portal and claps the sound is deflected by the opposite building, which is constructed at an angle to the entrance. Similarly if clapping sound is made from the opposite building, it will be carried to the hilltop, although at the other close points it may not be heard. It is believed that this was deliberately contrived to convey a message to the guards posted on the roof of darbar hall regarding the visiting dignitaries.

The other buildings found inside the fort are Habshi Kamans (Abyssian arches), Ashlah Khana, Taramati mosque,camel stable, private chambers (kilwat), Mortuary bath, Nagina bagh, Ramasasa's kotha, Durbar hall, Ambar khana etc. 

Photo Gallery

Evening Show @ Gokonda Fort


Grand Canyon, USA

The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the United States in the state of Arizona. A powerful and inspiring landscape, the Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size; 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep. [16] Nearly two billion years of the Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted.


Moraine Lake, Canada

Moraine Lake is a glacially-fed lake in Banff National Park, 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) outside the Village of Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. The lake does not reach its crest until mid to late June. When it is full, it reflects a distinct shade of blue. The color is due to the refraction of light off the rock flour deposited in the lake on a continual basis.


The Cave of Crystals, Naica Mine, Mexico

The Naica Mine of the Mexican state of Chihuahua is a working mine that is best known for its extraordinary selenite crystals. The Cave of Crystals (Cueva de los Cristales) is a cave approximately 1,000 feet (300 m) below the surface in the limestone host rock of the mine. The chamber contains giant selenite crystals, some of the largest natural crystals ever found.T he selenite crystals were formed by hydrothermal fluids emanating from the magma chambers below.