First Come, First Serve: Google I/O Registration to Open March 27th at 7am PT


Google I/O is Google's premier annual conference for developers and last year, the event sold out in less than an hour. After postponing the event and expanding it to three days, Google just announced that tickets will go on sale on March 27th at 7am PT. Once again, developers will have to get in line early, though, as registration will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. Last year, Google hinted at a new registration process where developers would have to solve programming puzzles to be eligible for tickets. Now it looks like the company has moved away from this idea.

One issue a lot of developers have with the first-come, first-serve nature of registration for this event has been the fact that a lot of attendees at developer conferences are now often not developers themselves. I/O, where Google has developed a tendency to give away a lot of pricey gadgets that are often worth more than the ticket fee, has become somewhat notorious for this. 

Tickets for I/O will cost $900 for general attendees and $300 for students and university faculty members.

Here are some more details from Google: [list]

  • Registration will open first-come, first-serve on March 27th at 7 AM PDT / 14:00 UTC.
  • Rooms at the W Hotel are currently going for $279. Limited time offer, while supplies last.
  • Code Labs have graduated from Bootcamp and will now be incorporated into our 3-day agenda.
  • This year’s After Hours theme is Carnival 2112.
  • Real-time transcription (CART) will be provided live during the keynote and some breakout sessions.[/list]

It's also worth noting that you will need to have a Google+ account to register and that you will have to use Google Wallet to pay for your registration.

9:33 am

Mozilla Postpones Tomorrow’s Launch of Firefox 11 to Fix Potential Security Issue


It's been just about six weeks since the last Firefox release and version 11 was scheduled to be released tomorrow, but Mozilla just announced that users will have to wait a little bit longer for the next version of the popular browser. Johnathan Nightingale, the senior director of Firefox engineers, explains that there are two reasons for this schedule change. 1) Microsoft's monthly Patch Tuesday would coincide with the release of Firefox 11 and, according to Mozilla, those updates have "interacted badly" with its own updates before, and 2) Mozilla is waiting for a report from the Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) about a security vulnerability that "may affect this new version of Firefox."

This security report is due later today, but the Mozilla team obviously still has to evaluate the vulnerability and, if necessary, patch Firefox 11 before releasing it. Nightingale still assumes that Firefox 11 will be released later this week.

This is the first time Mozilla had to postpone a Firefox release since it moved to its rapid-release schedule last year. The last major delay came before the release of Firefox 4, but this was also the last release before Mozilla changed its development cycle.

If you still want to get an early look at Firefox 11, though, you can always download the latest beta version here.

2:16 pm

Twitter Acquires Posterous


Twitter just announced that it has acquired Posterous, the popular minimalist blogging service. Posterous' services will remain up and running for the time being and the company's blog promises to "give users ample notice if we make any changes to the service." The Posterous team will join Twitter and will, according to today's announcement, work on "on several key initiatives that will make Twitter even better."

Neither Twitter nor Posterous disclosed any financial details of this transaction. Since its launch, Posterous raised about $10 million. The company received its seed funding from Y Combinator in 2008.

Why Would Twitter Buy a Blogging Platform?

This is a relatively unusual acquisition for Twitter. Until now, the company has mainly acquired companies that were already producing products closely related to Twitter itself (including TweetDeck, for example). Posterous, on the other hand, is quite a departure from this. The service, which first made a name for itself by providing very minimalist blogging tools, isn't a clear fit for Twitter, so chances are the goal of this acquisition was more to hire the Posterous team than to integrate the blogging platform into Twitter. 

Even though Posterous was one of the first players in this field of minimalist/short form blogging tools, Tumblr quickly became the more popular platform. While Posterous tried to reinvent itself over the last few months, the service was never quite able to match its competitor's traction, though judging from most of the publicly available traffic data, the service was still growing slowly but steadily.

What Will Happen to Posterous?

Twitter says that the Posterous service will "remain up and running without disruption." At the same time, though, the company also notes that it will give users "ample notice" if it makes any changes to the service and that it will provide users with instructions for backing up their data and moving to another service. Chances are then, that Twitter isn't planning on keeping Posterous up and developing its features for too long. 

12:50 pm

6 Million Downloads Later, Microsoft Photosynth Goes Global


Photosynth is, without doubt, one of Microsoft's more impressive mobile apps. The app lets you snap panorama pictures with your iPhone and then upload them to (and you can even get them featured on Bing Maps). While the mobile app doesn't give you quite as many features as the web app – which allows you to stitch together 3D panoramas by combining images from multiple perspectives – the app has proven to be quite a hit.

According to Microsoft, 6 million iPhone users have downloaded the app so far (though, as usual, it's not clear how many active users there currently are). More importantly, though, the company also today announced that Photosynth is now available worldwide (iTunes link).

Also new in the latest version is a tighter integration with Twitter (via iOS5's built-in Twitter capabilities). 

In case you are unfamiliar with Photosynth, here is Microsoft's description of the app's capabilities:

Capture Full-Sphere Panoramas: Look and capture in all directions more easily than what most of us can do with DSLRs and point-and-shoot cameras.

View immediately: With fast On-Device Processing, you can see the final panorama in a few minutes, without requiring an internet connection or data plan.  Very handy for those impromptu panoramas and immediate gratification that you captured the perfect shot. 

Save locally and on the cloud:  Your panoramas saved on your phone can also be saved and viewed online at

Share immediately:  Share your panorama immediately via Twitter, Facebook or Bing Maps.

View in browser or app: Zoom, pan, and rotate your panorama in any direction through the Photosynth app or through the mobile browser.

11:31 am

Lessons Worth Sharing: TED Launches New Video Series for High School Students and Teachers


TED, the organization behind the popular conference series with the same name, just launched a new initiative that aims to bring TED-like video content to high school students. The idea here is to repackage existing TED talks as well as videotaped lessons from teachers around the world with additional graphics and effects to make them more palatable to a younger audience. As TED’s curator Chris Anderson notes, the organization doesn’t claim that TED-Ed, as this new program is called, will “transform education.” Instead, he says, the organization wants to help teachers by making these videos available, but also by providing a platform for the best teachers to showcase their skills.

TED has also hired a team of animators to help teachers turn their best lessons into “memorable videos.” The organization plans to release about 300 videos within the next year. Anybody can suggest teachers or already existing video lessons that should be included in this program.

Not Trying to Reproduce the Khan Academy

Anderson specifically points out that his mission is not to “recreate what Salman Khan of the Khan Academy and many others are doing so brilliantly, namely to meticulously build up entire curricula on video.” Instead, he wants these short videos to “spark curiosity” and allow teachers to build on top of this.

Here is an example of one of the new TED-ed lessons:

8:24 am

YouTube Opens its Live Streaming Service to Nonprofits


Google continues the slow roll-out of live streaming on YouTube. Until now, YouTube mostly worked with select partners and a number of sports leagues to stream events like the Copa America or U2 concerts. Today, the company announced that nonprofits that register with YouTube are now eligible to use the live video streaming service as well. This will allow nonprofits to stream their conferences, benefit concerts and other events live on YouTube. In addition to the video stream, Google notes, these organizations will also be able to add "donate buttons/overlays, custom thumbnail selection and channel branding" to their videos.

The program is open to nonprofits in the US., UK, Australia and Canada.

What About the Rest of Us?

YouTube opened up its live streaming service to select partners last April. Since then, it has continuously added new high-profile events to its lineup, but participation in the service has been, for the most part, invite-only.

By opening up this service to non-profits, YouTube will likely spark a new round of speculations about when anybody with a YouTube account will be able to use this service. Right now, YouTube users can only record videos from their webcam, but they have to use services like Ustream or Stickam to stream videos to a wider audience. At the same time, though, video chats are a major focus on Google+, but there, too, the "Hangouts on Air" (which are basically live video streams of events), remain invite-only affairs.

8:01 am

Google’s Vic Gundotra: Read/Write API for Google+ Not Coming Anytime Soon


At the annual SxSW conference in Austin today, Google+'s spiritual father and Google's senior vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra took the stage for a fireside chat with Guy Kawasaki. In the wide-ranging interview, Kawasaki and Gundotra touched upon a number of issues ranging from privacy to API access to the metrics Google is using to judge the success of Google+.

What is Google+?

Asked about what Google+ actually is, Gundotra answered that, at its simplest, it is a social layer across all of Google's services. For Gundotra, what was missing on Google before Google+ was its ability to really understand its users and their connections. The challenge, in Gundotra's view, is that most people don't actually quite understand this. His argument is that what Google+'s users see and experience on Google+ is heavily dependent on their preconceived notions. "People's expectations," he said, "and their experiences with social sites, have been very conservative." 

Asked about where Google would draw the line between just being useful and becoming evil, Gundotra noted that users can just delete their accounts and move to another service. The general feeling one got from watching Gundotra was that in his view, those who don't quite get Google+ are probably not using it right and not looking at it in the right way.

API: Not Going to be Released Anytime Soon

As for a full read/write API that would give developers access to the stream and allow them to post to it, Gundotra noted that he doesn't quite want to do it yet. In his view, just opening up an API would pollute the stream. Gundotra says he isn't sure that API would even be released this year. Google, he says, wants "to do right by developers" and not have to pull access to the API at some point in the future because it didn't get it right. 

Sill No Clear Information About Metrics

Asked about metrics, Gundotra said that the numbers are "pretty staggering" but wouldn't disclose any meaningful numbers. He said that 50 million people now sign in to Google+ daily and over 100 million active users in the last 30 days. Google, of course, has been using just these numbers for a while now, but given that they also include users who just sign in to other services that are somehow linked to Google+ (including Google search), this isn't really useful information.

Because Google defines Google+ as a social layer on top of all of Google, the scale of these numbers makes  sense, but they don't really give us any indication how well the Google+ as a social network is really doing. Gundotra, however, clearly didn't want to address these numbers. Most pundits have been taking Google's reluctance to talk about this as a sign that the numbers probably aren't great, or Google would be talking about them all the time.

1:59 pm

Study: Two-Thirds of Search Engine Users Don’t Want Personalized Results


According to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, most Internet users are, overall, quite happy with the results they find with their preferred search engines. One thing they don't like, though, is that these search engines are tracking them. Only 29% of search engine users in this study say that it's a good thing that these companies are tracking their searches and other information to personalize their results. A full 65% think that's a bad thing and 73% say that it's not okay for a search engine to track their searches.

Virtually the same numbers also apply to targeted advertising, where 67% say they don't want their online behavior to be tracked and only 28% say that they are fine with this.

Google, of course, has been making a major push by integrating personalized results very deeply into its search results through its "Search, Plus Your World" initiative.

It's worth noting, though, that younger search engine users are somewhat less concerned about being tracked (56%) and about their information being used to personalize search results.

There is also an interesting racial divide here, where 70% of white users are concerned about the so-called filter bubble and think it's a bad thing for search engines to limit "the information you get online and what search results you see." Among black and Hispanic search engine users, that number is only about 50%.

Most Don't Know How to Limit Online Tracking

Even though most people really don't like to be tracked, though, it's interesting that only 38% of respondents in this survey think they know how to limit the amount of information that websites are collecting about them. Most of them, for example, have deleted their web history (81%) and used the privacy settings of websites (75%).

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9:14 am

Path 2.1 Launches With Smarter Camera, Shazam-Like Music Match & Support for Nike+


Path, the up-and-coming private social network, had a couple of rough days last month because it uploaded its users' address books to its servers without their explicit permission. Today, however, the company is focusing squarely on its product again with the release of version 2.1 of its iOS app. This isn't a major overhaul of the service, as the version number already indicates, but the company made some pretty significant updates to the product that its users will surely appreciate.

Path now, for example, features support for Nike+, so your runs now automatically appear in Path. For those of us who aren't runners, the new version now also features a Shazam-like Music Match feature that is powered by Gracenote and a smarter camera that you adjust focus and exposure manually.

The Nike+ integration in Path is driven by the company's new API. It's worth noting, though, that Path isn't rolling this API out widely and is taking a very deliberate approach to opening its platform up to third parties. To sync the two apps, users have to very explicitly tell Path to pull the data from the Nike app by pulling a little Nike icon onto the Path icon. This ensures that you don't share this information without giving the app the permission to do so.

The Music Match feature works just like you would expect. You just click on the microphone icon and let the app listen to the music that's playing in the background for a while. You can then easily share this song with your friends on the service (though it will only play a 30-second sample, as far as I can see).

Overall, then, this isn't a revolutionary update, but it puts Path back on track after the privacy discussions of the last few weeks. It'll be interesting to see when and how the company will open its API to other developers. There is definitely a lot of potential here.

12:24 pm

Study: Pinterest Now Drives More Referral Traffic Than Twitter


It looks like 2012 will be Pinterest's year to shine. Even if it's not your cup of tea, you can't ignore that fact that it is one of the fastest growing startups ever. According to the latest data from online sharing tool Shareaholic, Pinterest has now reached the point where it drives more referral traffic to other sites than Twitter. This puts it right behind Google, Facebook, Yahoo and StumbleUpon with regards to referral and search traffic. Just a month ago, Twitter still beat Pinterest by a very thin margin.

Shareaholic's data is based upon analytics from 200,000 publishers in its catalog which reach about 270 million unique visitors per month. 

Pinterest, of course, is meant to be a site that gets people to click through to third-party sites, but it's interesting that this small startup is already leaving Twitter far behind at this point. What remains interesting, too, is how StumbleUpon continues to quietly dominate these statistics.

Shareaholic doesn't specify what types of sites these services are referring traffic to, but chances are that Pinterest and Twitter are aiming for slightly different audiences. 

Google+ is Doing About as Well as Yahoo Answers…

Besides Pinterest and Twitter, the report also takes a look at how Google+ is doing with regard to how much referral traffic it generates. The numbers there are not very encouraging. According to Shareaholic's data, "referral traffic from Google Plus held steady at .05% of all traffic from January to February. For context, that’s the same percentage of traffic referred by Yahoo Answers."

9:30 am Launches Mobile Polling App on the Eve of SXSW

/, the search engine and Q&A community that has been around in some form since 1996, is launching a new mobile polling app for iOS called PollRoll today. The free app allows users to create quick polls and ask their friends and people nearby for their opinions. The release date, just ahead of the annual SXSW conference in Austin, is no coincidence. As's CEO Doug Leeds notes, "SXSW is the perfect testing ground for us to play with mobile polling functionality, including filters like social connections and location, ultimately shaping how these features are integrated across both our flagship mobile app and site.”

PollRoll lets users create a number of different polls, including visual polls where users can attach pictures to their questions. Other features include the ability to filter responses and to leave and read comments about a poll. Users, of course, can also discover polls around them and will curate some of the best polls itself. Creating a poll is as easy as writing down your question and a few answers.

SXSW is a tough market to launch any app (and some pundits would argue that it's the worst place to launch any product). PollRoll is a fun little tool, though, that could really benefit from having thousands of geeky users in one place.

8:00 am

Those Pretty Maps in Apple’s New iPhoto for iOS? That’s OpenStreetMap


After Apple launched its new photo for iOS yesterday, a number of eagle-eyed users quickly noticed that the company stopped using Google Maps in the application and switched to what, at first, seemed like its own product. It turns out, however, that at least outside of the U.S., the company is using data from the collaboratively edited OpenStreetMap project. The problem with this is that a) Apple isn’t giving credit to OpenStreetMap and b) that the data is actually over a year old. While data from OpenStreetMap is available for use in third-party applications, the group requires attribution under a Creative Commons license.

Here is a nice little hack that allows you to compare Apple’s maps with data from OpenStreetMap and Google.

In a somewhat passive-aggressive statement, OpenStreetMap’s Jonathan Bennett notes that the data Apple is using is from April 2010 and that it is “also missing the necessary credit to OpenStreetMap’s contributors.” OpenStreetMap, however, is looking “forward to working with Apple to get that [the credit] on there.”

Over the years, there have been quite a few rumors about Apple launching its own mapping product and its still not clear where Apple is getting its U.S. maps from. In Europe and other parts of the world, though, it looks like the company is taking a bit of a shortcut and is implicitly claiming credit for data that doesn’t belong to it. What is clear, though, is that Apple is definitely working on replacing Google Maps across its product range.

7:26 am

Google Gives Its +1 Buttons a New Design


Few people, I’m sure, have complained about the design of the company’s ubiquitous +1 buttons. Today, however, Google is launching a new design for the +1 button. In order to provide a consistent design across its properties, the new buttons will look similar to the new red and white Google+ icon. As usual, Google is now rolling this new design out to its Google+ Platform Preview Group for testing and will likely roll it out to the public within the next few days.

Even though it’s not clear how successful Google+ actually is, there can be little doubt that the +1 buttons have quickly become widespread across the web.

plus_one_new_buttonIf you are currently using a +1 button on your site, you won’t have to do anything to your setup. The new design will automatically appear on your site once Google flips the switch.

Google is also making this change on Google+ itself, where the reaction to this change so far has been somewhat mixed.


11:05 am

Apple Announces New iPad with Retina Display, Quad-Core Graphics and 4G LTE Support, Available March 16th


Apple’s CEO Tim Cook took the stage in San Francisco this morning to announce the next version of the iPad, as well as iOS 5.1 and a new AppleTV. The new iPad features a retina display and a faster processor. The wireless version will now support 4G LTE networks for significantly faster download speeds while on the go. The design of the new iPad looks virtually identical to the iPad 2 and the name, it seems, is "the new iPad."

The new AppleTV now supports 1080p playback and also comes with an updated user interface.

This is a developing story. Check back later for more updates.

iPad: Retina Display, Faster Processor, Better Camera

The central focus of today’s event, of course, was the next version of the iPad. Apple, in Cook’s words, wants to “redefine the category that Apple created with the original iPad.”

As expected, the highlight of the new iPad is a high-resolution display – the kind Apple likes to call a Retina Display. It features a 2048×1536 resolution (that’s 3.1 million pixels at 264ppi) and is, according to Apple, the “most ever in a mobile device.” Apple also notes that the new display also offers significantly better color saturation.

Inside the iPad, a new A5X processors now offers quad-core graphics performance that is, according to Apple, four times as fast as a comparable NVIDIA Tegra 3. It's worth noting that this is still a dual-core processor, though. Just the graphics chip is now quad-core.

The new iPad will also features a significantly better camera (5 megapixel, IR filter, face detection, etc.). The new camera will allow you to shoot video in 1080p. Maybe even more importantly, the camera software now uses stabilization to ensure your movies aren’t too shaky.

The new iPad will be 9.4 mm thin and ways 1.4 pounds. It will retail starting at $499 for the 16GB version. It will be available on March 16th in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. It will go on sale world-wide on March 23rd.

The iPad 2 will remain available for the time being, starting at $399 for the 16GB WiFi version.

4G for the iPad

Surprisingly, the new iPad will also offer support for 4G LTE wireless networks. These next-generation networks offer faster download speeds, though until now, Apple had been somewhat conservative about moving to these faster networks as there has generally been a trade-off between battery life and speed. Apple, however, says that this new version will offer the same battery life as the previous 3G iPad (10 hours of battery life, 9 hours on 4G).

The 4G version is coming to Verizon, AT&T in the U.S. and Telus, Rogers and Bell in Canada. Prices for the 4G iPad will start at $629.

The 4G version of the iPad will, it is worth noting, also support regular 3G networks.

Users will also be able to turn the 4G iPad into a personal hotspot – if the carrier supports it.

Apps: Updated iApps – Including a New iPhoto for iPad

In addition to the new hardware, Apple also talked about the app ecosystem for its tablet. Cook, of course, couldn’t help himself and had to take a stab at Android. Specifically, he noted how Twitter on a Galaxy Tab “looks like a blown-up smartphone app” while the iPad version was clearly designed for a tablet.

In addition to talking about third-party apps, Apple also announced new versions of its own productivity apps (Pages, Keynote and Numbers) for the iPad and the next version of Garageband, the company's music-creation app. iMovie, too, is getting and update with advanced planning and editing tools. It's not clear if any of these updates will also be available for first-generation iPads.

New in Apple's line-up is iPhoto for iPad, which completes Apple's lineup of iApps that are currently available for OS X. 

New AppleTV & iTunes in the Cloud

iTunes in the cloud, which was mostly focused on music until now, now offer support for movies as well. Users will be able to re-download any of the movies they have purchased on any device. These movies will be encoded in 1080p.

The reason for this is that Apple’s latest version of the AppleTV, which the company also announced today, finally supports 1080p as well. The new AppleTV also features an updated interface that makes use of the extra pixels. Just like the old AppleTV, this new version will cost $99. It will be available next week and you can pre-order starting today.

Siri Comes to Japan

In addition to all of this, Apple also today announced that Siri, it’s voice-enable personal assistant, is coming to Japan as part of the company’s iOS 5.1 update (which is also rolling out today).

The Post-PC World

Cook also used his presentation to talk about Apple’s vision of the post-PC world. In his view, it seems, the iPod started this trend, followed by the iPhone and, of course, the iPad. “Apple,” he said,”has its feet firmly planted in the post-PC future.” These devices, according to Apple, made up 76% of its revenue last year and the company sold a total of 172 Million of them. Just in the last quarter alone, Apple sold 62 million iPads.

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10:42 am

Sorry Microsoft, But My Desktop Isn’t a Tablet


Last week, Microsoft launched the consumer preview version of Windows 8 to the public. As I was at the Mobile World Congress, I didn't get to install it until the weekend, but I've now been able to put it through its paces for the last few days and been using it as my main operating system for most of that time. Its split personality is driving me absolutely bonkers, however, and I'm not sure I'll extend this experiment much longer.

Windows 8 is a beautiful tablet operating system, but on a desktop – and especially with a multi-screen setup – it just constantly gets in your way. Thankfully, this is just a preview version and Microsoft still has a few months to iron out the kinks, but unless it makes some radical changes, I'm not sure I'll be able to recommend Windows 8 anytime soon. Microsoft says Windows 8 will offer the best of both worlds and in a way it does. It's just that these two worlds aren't meant to be squished into one single operating system.

The Split Personality of Windows 8

At least in this preview, Microsoft makes no attempt to hide the split personality of its new operating system. There's the metro interface, which you can't avoid, as it also now doubles as the new start menu, and then there is the traditional desktop, which can be best described as Windows 7.5. The two user interfaces have nothing in common with each other and try as you want, you can't just use Windows 8 like a Windows 7.5 because the tablet interface constantly intervenes. To launch applications from the traditional desktop, for example, you always have to go back to the Metro-style start menu, which features a great design for tablets, but makes utterly no sense when you use a mouse and keyboard.

Oh, and what about those two different versions of Internet Explorer? There's the Metro version, which doesn't support Flash and has a very stripped-down interface – and then there's the regular browser that runs in the desktop. How do you explain that to a mainstream user?

Got Two Screens? Windows 8 Wasn't Made for You

Worst of all, when you use a dual-screen setup right now, the second screen always shows the Windows 7.5 desktop and you can't even run two metro apps side-by-side on the two screens. To make matter worse, Windows 8 right now assumes that your primary screen is always the one with the task bar on it, so you can't even start any apps on the other screen while you are in Metro mode (unless you opt to show the same task bar on both screens, which also makes no sense whatsoever).

Great Tablet UI – Pointless on the Desktop

Microsoft has decided to privilege the tablet use case over the traditional desktop and productivity one. At times, this leads to non-sensical decisions like a login screen you have to drag up to get to the password prompt (okay – you can just hit enter twice, too, I think – but it's not like you will accidentally start your desktop or laptop in your pocket).

And what about trying to put your PC to sleep or turn it off? In Windows 8 right now, you have to first log out as a user, then pretend you want to log in again and the hunt for the shutdown button, which is hidden under your user icon (or you can try to bring up the "charm" that appears when you hit the right side of the screen with your mouse – but that's a bit hard  when your main screen is on the left side and your mouse just moves over to the right screen).

Maybe there is an alternative universe out there where this makes sense.

Then, of course, there is also the question of why you would want to run these full-screen apps on your desktop in the first place. Apple pushed the same concept with its full-screen mode and just like Microsoft, it totally forgot about dual-screen users. I don't think I've ever run an OS X app in full-screen mode, as it just makes switching between apps too much of a hassle.

There's Still Some Time to Fix This…

Hopefully, Microsoft will continue to polish the edges of Windows 8 to the point where this disjointed experience becomes somewhat less disorienting and maybe even feel natural. I admit, I doubt it. And that's a shame. Microsoft made some really smart decisions with the Metro interface (including, for example, the ability to run two applications side-by-side). My desktop, however, isn't a tablet and instead of making things easier for me, Windows 8 just constantly gets in the way. Windows 7 does its best to get out of my way – Windows 8 instead throws some giant tiles onto my screen.

2:59 pm