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Microsoft looks for new start with launch of retooled Windows 8...

Microsoft is looking to please Wednesday as it kicks off its annual BUILD developers conference in San Francisco with the launch of a retooled version of its Windows 8 operating system.

Company executives will take the stage at noon Eastern for a conference keynote, which the firm also is live-streaming on its Channel 9 community site.

Windows 8, launched last fall, was a major departure from the company’s traditional OS. Not only did Microsoft try a new, tile-based and touch-friendly design for the new system, it also split the Windows 8 system into two related versions: Windows RT, which only runs tablet apps, and the full version, which runs PC programs.

Adoption has been fairly slow for Windows 8 — it’s still under five percent, according toNet Market Share — making some people question whether Microsoft’s big redesign bet will be seen as a Vista-like flop.

Eager to head off that narrative, the firm is addressing some of the biggest criticisms of the operating system with an update that will be available for download starting Wednesday. Perhaps the most notable of these changes is the return of the old Start button, which took a brief leave of absence with Windows 8.

CNET reported that users will have the option to shut down or reboot with a right-click. Right-clicking also appears to bring back some, though not all, of the functions from the old Start menu.

Users also will be able to bypass the tiled Windows 8 start screen, which was designed to offer easy access to users’ favorite or most-used programs, in favor of alternate screens such as the traditional desktop.

Microsoft also has added a few more personalization options, meaning that users can set their own images for the Start screen background and move app tiles on the screen more easily. In addition, there are new search features, the ability to save things directly to Microsoft’s cloud-based storage service SkyDrive, and the option to change what the hot corners in Windows 8 do.

The firm announced several of these changes in a May blog post, and even showed off a couple of them at the Computex conference in Taipei earlier this month. At that conference, Microsoft officials announced that Microsoft would include the tablet-version of Outlook as part of the Office suite for Windows 8.1 RT devices.

The company, as ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reported earlier this month, has confirmed that the upgrade will be free for all existing Windows 8 users.


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There has been much talk in the last decade about the need to get more broadband to rural America, and more lately about the large number of rural residents who still lack quality Internet service. Entrepreneur Diane Smith details in the Daily Yonder about how she used technology to start up a multi-million dollar company from the comfort of her home in Whitefish, Mont.

National Telecommunications and Information Administration chart


The Smith family moved from Washington, D.C., with the belief "that we could make a living just about anywhere that had fast and reliable communications connectivity, and we found it in Whitefish," she writes. Smith co-founded Vubiquity, which she says is the largest global provider of multi-platform video services, by raising more than $30 million through the Internet, crediting local businesses and residents with much of her success. "I don’t believe we would have had nearly such swift success had we been located in a more populated community or state."

Her story shows the power and potential of high-speed Internet, she writes: "Broadband connected businesses bring in approximately $300,000 more in annual median revenues than non-broadband adopting businesses. Nearly one in three businesses earns revenue from online sales that account for $411.4 billion in annual revenues for U.S. companies. Sixty-five percent of home-based businesses use the Internet to stay in touch with customers, while 59 percent advertise or sell their goods online, and 98 percent of U.S. counties had at least one high-tech business establishment in 2011." (Read more)

The recently passed Senate Farm Bill includes a pilot program to test ultra-fast Internet in five rural areas, and the Federal Communications Commission has said it will put $485 million as part of a public-private venture to expand broadband to rural areas.



Example of glasses designed to assist blind use computers.Example of glasses designed to assist blind use computers.The Columbia Missourian has a story in its From Readers section from a journalist who is getting the opportunity to experiment with the new wave of technology that could change the future of reporting. Blogger Sarah Hillwrote about using Google Glass -- glasses that can record images and videos, and can surf the Internet with simple voice commands. (Photo: Hill wearing Google Glass)

Hill used Google's Hangout to converse with a group of blind veterans who are learning to make relay calls. "I hopped into their training session to say hello," writes Hill. "The former radio operators who are World War II veterans were fascinated with Glass and the ability to control a computer with your voice. Because of its voice integration, I could see Glass being helpful for individuals with sight impairments as it would allow them to control a computer hands free with their voices." (Read more)

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