Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2012 - 05:45 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: valve, steam, software, gaming
In August, Valve announced that it would soon begin selling non-game Windows software on its Steam (game) distribution service. This week, the company launched the first titles to be sold on Steam, which are mainly game related applications like benchmarks and art/asset editors.
To sweeten the deal, Valve is offering up the first wave of software titles for 10% off until next Tuesday. The launch titles include:
- ArtRage Studio Pro
- CameraBag 2
- GameMaker: Studio
- 3DMark Vantage
- 3DMark 11
- Source Filmmaker
These applications are available for purchase now, and most will take advantage of Steam features like cloud saving and the Steam Workshop to share your creations with others. Further, I can see the benchmarking utilities appealing to reviewers as they can just let Steam take care of the product keys and it can just be rolled into the same Steam backup that the benchmark games are in! For most people though, I think if the price is right Steam might be a viable option. On the other hand, it will be facing stiff competition from services like the Windows Store in Windows 8. And not to mention the pesky issue that if you lose your Steam account or do not agree to the next EULA change you lose access to any programs you've purchased on Steam (oh joy).
You can find more information in Valve's press release.
What do you think of Valve selling non-game software on Steam? I'm willing to give it a chance but don't think I'll use it all that much unless its included in a seasonal Steam Sale.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 13, 2012 - 05:07 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows, utorrent, torrent, software
µTorrent (hereafter used interchangeably with utorrent) is one of the most popular BitTorrent clients in the world, boasting more than 125 million active users a month, it has massively grown in popularity since its 2005 debut. The software is still in development, and current parent company BitTorrent Inc. has explored various methods of monetizing the application over the years. Some time ago, the developers introduced a new µTorrent Plus feature that–for $24.95–added a antivirus add-on, codec pack, remote access, and file conversion plug-in. The paid for version, which has essentially been little more than donation-ware (not that there is anything wrong with that, just that the Plus version does not add much in the way of actual torrenting that the free app is not also capable of). BitTorrent Inc. also introduced a browser toolbar, which in addition to Plus, was the company’s sole method of monetizing the software. Until now.
The µTorrent developers have announced that the next version of the torrent program will introduce ads.
In addition to the usual bug fixes and under-the-hood performance tweaks, is a (direct quote) “fresh approach to creating a no-nonsense and free torrenting experience.” Allegedly, the developers are introducing the ads to keep the lights on and pay the bills.
The µTorrent client. No ads in the beta yet, but the next stable release should see ads in the torrent list above.
The new ads include a "featured torrent" at the top of the torrent list that will offer up suggested downloads of various multimedia files, pieces of software, and deliver important updates. Reportedly, the developers are working on offers with third parties (including indie artists) for the featured torrent such that it will present relevant results without compromising privacy. They have stated that utorrent does not collect personalized information. Rather, the ads will be “relevant” in the sense that the offers will be adjusted based on community feedback and other non-personalized factors. Your IP address will likely be used to give you country-specific ads, but they otherwise should not collect any other data or track your usage, according to the announcement.
It is free software, and the developers should be able to make some money off of their work. So long as the ads are not intrusive, the practice is all well and good. Also in the “good news” category is that µTorrent Plus members will not see any ads, so the paid-for version has some additional value for those that have already donated money.
It is not all good news though, and the community does not appear to be happy at the moment. According to the announcement, while users of the free version will be able to close out individual offers, there will be no way to turn off the ads all together. If users do not find an ad relevant, they are encouraged to click the “x” within the ad, after which a new offer will appear.
To be more specific:
“There is no way to turn in-client offers off*. We will pay attention to feedback, and may change this in the future.” [Of course, uTorrent Plus users will not see ads].
Also riling up some community members is an article by torrent-enthusiast website Torrent Freak, which has called out the developers by alleging that adding the new offers (ads) is merely a money grab. The site calls into question the developers statement about needing the ads to “keep the lights on.” Torrent Freak reports that, according to a source in the know, uTorrent’s parent company BitTorrent Inc. is in no financial trouble and “currently generates between $15 and $20 million in annual revenue.”
Either way, the company is providing a roundabout way to get rid of the ads by buying the µTorrent Plus version. Alternatively, there are several other free torrent clients out there if you do not wish to see ads. Personally, I do not think that µTorrent is doing anything wrong by attempting to monetize its work,
but I do find the rather quiet announcement irritating. I think that the developers could have found a more receptive audience if users did not have to find out about the change from other sites first. Update: after some thought, this is just the first announcement and users may well be told within the application of the changes before updating when it does come out. Here's hoping. (end of update). It just feels a bit like they tried to slip the ad announcement in without users being any the wiser (as I believe it’s a small percentage of that user base that follows the developer’s forum). As far as the ads themselves, I will have to wait and see once it is official (the latest beta build I have does not yet have ads) to determine if the offers will be intrusive. Assuming the privacy statement is legitimate and the ads do not impair normal torrenting, I’ll keep using µTorrent and support them with ads since I can’t justify a Plus purchase currently. The latest beta build does improve the support for magnet links, and I have not had any problems with it yet so I'll keep using it.
What do you think though? Will you keep using utorrent with ads? If you want to leave the utorrent developers feedback on the change, the team has asked for comments on the announcement thread.
Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2012 - 04:06 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, valve, steam, software, mac os x
Valve’s popular Steam digital game download service has been slowly expanding its software offerings. It has offered a Mac OS X client as well as a planned Linux client. Further, the service has started to offer software beyond games including game map editors, digital magazines, and videos.
According to a recent announcement by Valve, the company is going to even further expand its non-game software offerings starting September 5th. Whether this is in response to the Windows Store or if it has been planned for some time and the Windows Store is why Gabe Newell is irked by Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system is unknown.
While the company did not mention any specific pieces of software that will be available at launch, users can look forward to software in categories ranging from creativity to productivity. Even better, some of the new software titles will be able to take advantage of Valve’s Steamworks service to offer cloud syncing of files and automatic updating (et al).
The new programs will start showing up on September 5th, and developers can start submitting their applications to Steam using its Greenlight service.
Valve’s Mark Richardson stated that “The 40 million gamers frequenting Steam are interested in more than playing games. They have told us they would like to have more of their software on Steam, so this expansion is in response to those customer requests.”
The automatic updating in particular is exciting, and it could well give Microsoft’s Windows Store a run for its money. If Valve brings the non-game software to all platforms–Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows–it could easily rival Microsoft’s Windows 8-only offering. What do you think about this announcement, would you use Steam for software other than games?
Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2012 - 09:33 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, software, operating system, microsoft, metro ui
As the summer continues to fly by, Microsoft is hard at work on wrapping up its upcoming Windows 8 operating system and getting it ready for final release. While the company has indicated previously that the Metro UI-powered OS would be available sometime in October, it release a more specific date today. Specifically, upgrade editions of Windows 8 as well as Windows 8-powered OEM machines will be available for purchase on October 26th, 2012.
The announcement was made at an annual sales meeting by Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Live President Steven Sinofsky today. Interestingly, the Windows Team Blog that reported on the announcement is noticeably absent of a mention for retail (not upgrade) editions of the Windows 8 operating system. That may well mean that physically packaged retail versions will not be available until a bit later in the year. Also missing is pricing; there is still no word on how much a full retail version of Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro will cost. Even so, considering Microsoft is making upgrade editions available to anyone with a previous (licensed) version of Windows for $39.99, the retail versions are going to be pretty difficult to justify as they will likely cost much more than the upgrades.
Are you ready for Windows 8?
Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2012 - 06:56 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: office, microsoft, windows, Metro, windows 8, software, outlook, office 2013, customer preview
Microsoft’s next generation Windows 8 operating system is due out later this year, which generally means a refreshed version of Microsoft Office – the company’s productivity software – is also on its way. To show off the new interface and updated features, Microsoft has decided to release what it is calling a Customer Preview of Office 2013 that will allow you to try out the new versions of Access, Excel, Word, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Word.
The new Office programs feature a refreshed interface that does away with the aero glass windows in favor of the flat metro look, and integrates into Microsoft’s Skydrive cloud storage service. By default, you log into your Skydrive account during installation, and from then on it will store your documents and other files in your Skydrive folder. In addition, Office will allow you to log into the various social networks to retrieve contact data, which is a nice addition to the Outlook email client (in my opinion). You can also utilize the chat features to communicate with friends or coworkers from within the Office 2013 applications. Of course, being designed for Windows 8, Office 2013 has several new ways to interact with the applications using touch controls or a stylus.
The other major change with Office 2013 is the introduction of several new subscription service. While Microsoft has had the Office 365 subscription brand for awhile, they have not really advertised it. With Office 2013, you can choose from four tiers including Office 365 Home Premium, Small Business Premium, ProPlus, and Enterprise. The Home Premium tier is the one that will interest the majority of people as it provides an extra 20GB of Skydrive storage space, a synced Office experience on up to five computers, the ability to stream the Office 2013 applications to another Internet connected computer with Office on Demand, and sixty minutes (every month) of Skype calling minutes. From there, the Small Business Premium and above tiers add business-centric features like HD conferencing, encrypted email, archiving, and other goodies.
Outlook 2013. As you can see, Office 2013's interface has been heavily influenced by Windows 8's Metro UI.
We’ll be playing around with the Office 2013 Customer Preview this week and will report back, so stay tuned. If you want to try it out for yourself, you can grab the Customer Preview download from the Microsoft website (an Internet connection is required during installation). It can be installed on computers running either Windows 7 or Windows 8.
Also, according to Tom’s Hardware, a version of Office 2013 – specifically Office Home and Student 2013 RT – will come pre-installed on all Windows 8 RT (ARM-based) computers, so that is a nice touch (especially since it’s basically the only traditional desktop application that the ARM tablets will be able to run, at least at launch).
Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2012 - 01:12 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows server, windows pricing, windows, virtual machines, software, server, operating system, enterprise
Earlier this week we covered the pricing for Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 consumer-grade operating system. Now, the company has released pricing information for the enterprise side of things, mainly for its non-OEM SKUs of Windows Server 2012. With Server 2012, Microsoft has simplified its lineup with four versions – one of which is only for OEMs.
Live Migration will allow virtualized storage to be moved in and out of server instances in real time without restarts.
The three versions that businesses can purchase and install themselves includes Datacenter, Standard, and Essentials. The lowest-tier version is called Foundation and will the version that comes pre-installed from OEMs. The Datacenter version has the most features and is the most lenient on the licensing by allowing businesses the full Windows Server 2012 functionality as well as unlimited virtual server instances. You’ll have to pay for those features, however as the Datacenter SKU is priced at $4,809. On the low end is Essentials which strips out licensed use of virtual instances of Server 2012 and also limites the number of user accounts that can access the server to 25. It will cost $425, which isn’t terribly expensive but is obviously aimed at small businesses. Interestingly, Microsoft states that Essentials has a simplified interface that is “pre-configured” for running cloud services. In the middle of those two extremes is Windows Server 2012 Standard which will run $882 USD and allows two virtualized instances as well as the full Windows Server functionality.
While Microsoft has not released pricing for its OEM-only Foundation version, they have announced that it will be limited to a max of 15 user accounts and no virtualization rights. The table below details the above information in a simplified table, courtesy Microsoft.
|Edition||Feature Comparison||Licensing Model||Pricing (USD)|
|Datacenter||Unlimited virtual instances, full Windows functionality||Processor + CAL||$4,809|
|Standard||Two virtual instances, full Windows functionality||Processor + CAL||$882|
|Essentials||No virtualization rights, Simple interface pre-configured for cloud services||Server (25 user account limit)||$425|
|Foundation||No virtualization rights, general purpose server functionality||Server (15 user account limit)||Not Listed|
As Martin Brinkman explains, the top-two tiers are based on a processor licensing model which means that each version is allowed to run on up to two physical processors. The Datacenter version takes that a step further by allowing an unlimited number of virtual machines on those two physical processors while Standard allows two virtual machines on a system with up to two physical processors. To figure out how many licenses you will need to purchase, you can get by with half the number of physical processors. At around five Windows Server 2012 Standard licenses, it starts to become more economical to go with the Datacenter version if you will mostly be spinning up virtualized servers.
Interestingly, Windows Home Server is missing from the above list, and it looks like that is not a mistake. Microsoft has stated in its licensing FAQ (PDF) that it expects home and small business users to move to the Essentials ($425) version for their home server needs. Not exactly the answer that many users are going to want to hear. For those not wanting to spend that much, Microsoft is keeping Windows Home Server 2011 alive until the end of next year (12-31-13), and you will be able to buy Home Server 2011 in an OEM machine until 2025. Fortunately, a system builder version of Windows Home Server 2011 can be found for around $50 and it can support up to 10 users. On the other hand, it won’t have the neat Windows 8-based server features. It will be up to you to decide whether the $400+ price for Essentials is worth it for you home/small business needs.
Just as Microsoft has released a Consumer Preview version of Windows 8, you can download a Release Candidate of Windows Server 2012 to see what the new features are and if they are worth the money. More information on the pricing and various versions can be found here. What do you think of the new Windows Server SKUs?
Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2012 - 11:22 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, microsoft, software, operating system
A few days ago we covered the Windows 8 upgrade process, and specifically what Microsoft will allow you to bring with you into a Windows 8 install from a previous version of the operating system. At the time of writing, we did not know the pricing for upgrade editions. However, today Microsoft released pricing information for upgrade licenses of the Windows 8 OS.
Through January 31, 2013, you will be able to purchase an upgrade version of Windows 8 Pro for $39.99 in 131 markets. Even better, you will further be able to add Windows Media Center for free via the “add features” option in Windows 8 after you have performed the update. The forty dollar price only includes the digital download version of the operating system. Using it, you will be able to either create your own media (USB or DVD) or purchase a physical installation DVD from Microsoft for an additional $15 plus shipping and handling.
The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant is Microsoft’s recommended vehicle for installing Windows 8 over a previous version, but they are also allowing clean installs. The upgrade process is very similar to past transitions (say, from Vista to 7). The difference is that you do not need to have the media downloaded to begin the upgrade. After purchasing, it has a built-in downloader that will download the required files and verify them (you can further pause and resume the download).
If you prefer to buy locally, you will be able to purchase a retail-packaged version of Windows 8 Pro Upgrade for $69.99 until January 31, 2013. Beyond the upgrade versions, Microsoft has announced that System Builder versions of Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro will be available, though they did not state a specific price for the DIY-friendly versions.
You can find more information over at the Windows 8 blog, but I have to admit that it is a much more attractive price than I expected for the Pro version (much less free WMC!). Is this a price that might convince you to upgrade, or will you be sticking with a previous Windows version regardless?
Subject: General Tech | June 26, 2012 - 09:27 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ubuntu, sputnik, software, programming, linux, dell, computing
Dell recently announced that it is turning to an open source Linux OS to craft a developer focused operating system. Enabled by Dell’s incubation program (and accompanying monetary funding), the pilot program – named Project Sputnik – is based on Dell’s XPS13 ultrabook and the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS OS.
The Project Sputnik program will run for six months. Its goal is to create the ideal hardware and software platform for software developers. Currently, that means using Dell’s XPS13 laptop and a customized version of the Ubuntu 12.04 Linux OS. The team behind the initiative are working closely with Canonical (Ubuntu developers) to put together a custom Ubuntu image with stripped down software, custom drivers, and only the software packages that developers want.
The team wants to make it easy for software programmers to get a hold of the programing languages and environments that they need to do their jobs. It will have integration with GitHub for coding projects as well.
In the video below Barton George, Director of Marketing for Dell, talks about the Project Sputnik program and how they hope to craft a laptop aimed directly at developers.
It is an interesting program, and I hope that it does well. You can find more information about Project Sputnik and how you can get involved at the Dell website.
Subject: General Tech | May 30, 2012 - 11:37 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, windows, software, release preview, operating systems, microsoft
Update: The Windows 8 Release Preview is now official. You can download the ISO images here. If you are following our installation guide, you will need to use the following CD Key to complete the installation: TK8TP-9JN6P-7X7WW-RFFTV-B7QPF.
According to The Verge, Microsoft fans will be getting a nice surprise tomorrow when the company releases the Release Preview of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system. What was first set to debut in early June, sources are indicating that Microsoft will officially release it tomorrow–a week early.
The Release Preview is Microsoft’s third official build for public consumption, following the Developer and Consumer previews respectively. This build is said to include hints at what the aero-less desktop will look like (though users won’t see the full UI changes until the final retail build) as well as built-in Adobe Flash in the Metro UI version of Internet Explorer. Although I can’t say I’m thrilled about the many changes in Windows 8, I’ll still be downloading the new Release Preview to give Microsoft another chance to make me like Windows 8 (hopefully they can). If you do download it, don’t forget about our Windows 8 Virtual Machine installation guide.
Will you be checking out the Release Preview?
In other Windows 8 news:
- Microsoft Taking out DVD Playback (codecs) in Windows 8
- Windows Media Center a Pro-only paid add-on
- Dell tablet running Windows 8 news
- Install Windows 8 In a Virtual Machine
Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2012 - 08:55 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows, software, photoshop, mac, editing
Adobe, the company best known for its popular prosumer photo and video editing suites and Flash player recently released a free beta version of its upcoming Photoshop CS6 photo editing software. Available for both Macintosh and Windows, the downloads are now up for grabs and should be good until the final version of Photoshop CS6 is released (later this year). The company also released a video demonstration of Senior Creative Director Russel Brown showing off several of the new features in CS6. The big new features of CS6 include the new Content Aware Move (and Fill), improved crop, new blurs, RAW 7.0 support, and adaptive wide angle lens correction. The video below shows how the new features work to enhance photos.
The Photoshop CS6 Interface
I downloaded the 64-bit version for Windows and tried out the new features. The first thing I noticed is that the tool tips seem a big buggy and can take a few tries to get them to show up. Also, in the Video Mr. Brown clicks on the Content Aware Move tool on the left but in order to actually get to it, you need to right click on the move icon as the default left click action is not for the Content Aware option. After I figured that out -- and this may indeed be common knowledge for Photoshop users, but was not for someone used to GIMP and Paint.net -- I found that the new features were pretty cool and it ran fairly quickly on my system. I would like to see the icons be a bit larger but otherwise the interface was snappy and while I stumbled at some points I think it has more to do with being used to how my usual photo editors work rather than an inherent problem with Photoshop’s interface.
I have to say that the Content Aware tools are pretty neat, and in no time I had a fleet of Corgi puppies running around the yard! And the Content Aware Move tool allowed me to move the corgis around without needing to go back and try to clone the grass back in (which I've never been too good at, heh). Granted this is something that was do-able in the past but it required quite a bit more work! It is not perfect, but it is pretty darn good for an automatic process. I was not able to test out the improved RAW support, however. The video demo made the feature look cool and I’m sure people will find it very useful. The adaptive wide angle feature further will be very useful for correcting the fish eye effect and other distortions with minimal effort. The ability for it to pull lens profiles from metadata to assist in correcting the distortion is pretty neat.
The downloads weigh in at 1.7 GB for the Windows .zip and 984 MB for the Mac .dmg file respectively. The Windows download also includes both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Both downloads are available here. The beta further includes both CS6 and CS6 Extended features, though the extra features will only be included in the Extended version when the retail version is released.
Russel Brown shows off new features in Adobe's Photoshop CS6.