Utorrent Becoming Ad-Supported Software

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 13, 2012 - 05:07 AM |
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.

utorrent.JPG

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.

Source: utorrent

Windows 8 Users Can No Longer Boot Straight To The Desktop, Must Start With Metro

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 7, 2012 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: windows 8 style ui, windows 8, windows, operating system, microsoft, Metro

The Windows 8 RTM leak has coincided with numerous articles around the Internet that detail the new features and the Windows 8 Style UI once known as Metro. It seems that a new setup process and the removal of Aero Glass were not the only big aesthetic changes. With the new build came several alleged tweaks by Microsoft that prevent several methods for automatically booting to the desktop. Group Policy tweaks and a autorun shortcut were two such methods–that worked on early beta builds but no longer work on the RTM–to skip past the Metro/Windows 8 Style UI Start Screen, according to Rafael Rivera of Windows 8 Secrets.

Previously, users could login and be automatically taken to the desktop. They would still see the Metro screen, but only for a split second. Now, users wanting to do this are back to square one, and will have to manually launch the desktop each time they login to their computers.

Windows_8_RTM_Metro_Start_Screen.jpg

It is not all bad news, however (well, at least not as bad). If you drag the desktop Metro Windows 8 Style UI tile to the top-left corner, as soon as you login, you can hit the Enter key to go to the desktop. It is a less automatic way than has been previously possible, but it is better than nothing.

You can find more information about the alleged changes to the RTM here, as well as more PC Perspective Windows 8 coverage by following the windows 8 tag.

Some speculation and opinion follows:

It seems that Microsoft is taking a very firm position on Windows 8’s new Start Screen interface and full screen applications. While it is likely that developers and enthusiasts are working on new tweaks to get to the desktop automatically again, I foresee this being a drawn out tit-for-tat battle between Microsoft and its users. Beyond the new interface, this stance of working against customization is something I have not seen before on this level, as previous operating system have had numerous tweaking utilities and Microsoft did not seem to have a problem with them. My only guess is that they believe by forcing users to use Windows 8 Style UI as much as it possibly can, it will get users used to, and accepting of, the interface faster (essentially trying to get users over the radical interface change as quickly as possible–ike ripping a bandaid off). And if I let the cynical side get the best of me, Microsoft does have a vested interest in keeping users on the Metro/Windows 8 Style interface as much as possible as they want users to buy Metro apps and not use traditional applications. They are selling the upgrades for $40 and likely want to “make up” the money (compared to selling prices of previous versions) by taking a cut of Windows Store app purchases. The company’s insistence on forcing usage is only going to hurt them, I fear, as people who are on the fence about Metro–but who are interested in the other improvements–likely want to come to the new interface on their own terms (if at all). Actively working against users trying to use and customize their operating systems may well cost them a few sales. It would seem to me that Microsoft should be welcoming anyone that wants to use Windows 8, even if they do not want to stay in (or use at all) the Metro interface but that's just my opinion and apparently Microsoft is of a different mind.

Whether you love, hate, or feel somewhere in-between on Windows 8 Style UI, options are not a bad thing. I do think that more people would be willing to give Microsoft’s new interface a chance if it was more optional than it is. What do you think?

Source: CNET

Apple No Longer Updating Safari for Windows, Users Should Switch To A More Secure Browser

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2012 - 05:55 AM |
Tagged: windows, webkit, security, safari for windows, safari, browser, apple

The Apple-developed Safari is one of the least popular webkit-based browsers on Windows. Even so, it still commands 5% marketshare (across all platforms), and that is a problem. You see, many sites are reporting that Apple has dropped support for Safari on Windows. Windows users will not get the update to Safari 6–the new version available to Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.7 Mountain Lion users. As well, it seems that Apple has removed just about every reference to ever having a Windows version of any Safari browser from its website.

Safari 5 for Windows.jpg

Image Credit: MacLife

The issue is that the final version that Windows users are stuck with–version 5.1.7–has a number of documented security vulnerabilities that are never going to get patched by Apple. According to Maximum PC, there are at least 121 known security holes listed in Apple’s own documentation. And as time goes by, it is extremely likely that the number of unpatched security holes will increase. Running an outdated browser is not good security practice, and running a browser that is EOL and has known vulnerabilities is just asking for trouble.

While the number of PC Perspective readers running Safari for Windows is likely extremely small, I would advise that you be on the lookout next time you are doing tech support for your friends and relatives, and if they managed to get roped into using Safari thanks to Apple’s Itunes software updater convince them to move to a (dare I say better) more secure browser like Google’s Chrome, Opera, or Firefox. At least those are still getting updates, and some are even automatically done in the background.

Have you ever used Apple’s Safari for Windows browser? What would you recommend as the best alternative? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: Forbes

Microsoft Releases Office 2013 Customer Preview

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2012 - 06:56 AM |
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.

Office 2013 Title.jpg

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_ Main UI.jpg

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).

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Releases Windows Server 2012 Pricing

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2012 - 01:12 AM |
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.

WinServer2012.jpg

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?

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Reveals Windows 8 Upgrade Options

Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2012 - 04:30 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, windows, upgrade, operating system, microsoft

ZDNet has managed to get its hands on some details regarding Microsoft’s Windows 8 upgrade paths. The company will support upgrade installations from XP SP3 to Windows 7 in various forms, and with some caveats. Users will not be able to do cross-language upgrade installs or upgrades from x86 (32-bit) to x64 (64-bit) Windows 8 (or vice versa).

Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system (check out our guide) is set to be available to consumers this fall, and the company has started prepping its partners on how the upgrade process will work for users running previous versions of Windows. The short answer is that users running at least XP with Service Pack 3 will be able to perform an upgrade install to a version of Windows 8 with the same language and architecture as the current version. The longer answer is that – while you may be able to upgrade – you may not be able to keep all of your applications, system settings, and/or data when moving to Windows 8 depending on your particular configuration.

Let’s run down some example upgrade situations.

For users running Windows XP SP3 or higher, you will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 and keep all of you personal files. You will lose all system settings and installed applications, however.

If you are currently running Windows Vista pre-Service Pack 1 (SP1), you will be able to perform an upgrade installation to Windows 8. You will be able to keep your personal files, but will lose any installed applications and system settings.

If you have Windows Vista SP1 (or newer), you will be able to keep your personal files and system settings. On the other hand, you will lose any installed applications as a result of the upgrade to Windows 8.

Windows-8-Start-Screen.png

Further, as general rules of thumb, you can upgrade to Windows 8 (non-Pro version) from Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, and Windows 7 Home Premium installs. You will be able to keep all of your settings, files, and applications. Also, you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Pro, and Ultimate and keep the same system configuration, installed applications, and personal files. If you are a volume licensee currently running Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterpirse, you will be able to perform and upgrade installation to Windows 8 Enterprise without losing any data, settings, or applications.

Just as with previous releases of Windows, if you want to move to the new version of Windows that has either a different language or different architecture (32-bit/64-bit), you will be required to perform a clean installation (not a bad idea in any event, actually). One detail that has not been released (or leaked) yet is pricing and whether or not we will see steep discounts for student versions, those that tested any of the Windows 8 preview builds, or family packs. If you eschew the DIY route and buy a new OEM computer between now and January 31, 2013, you will qualify for a Windows 8 Pro upgrade copy for $14.99, however.  It will be interesting to see just how Microsoft prices its upcoming operating system, especially before any applicable discounts. Microsoft has streamlined the number of SKUs but also made Pro the version to get for even some home users; and because it’s the equivalent of Windows 7 Ultimate where they price it will be interesting (or rather disheartening should I let the cynical side of me win out).

Have you tried Windows 8 yet, and if so, will you be upgrading to it once it’s officially released? Any guesses on the final prices?

Source: ZDNet

Futuremark Teases 3DMark DirectX 11 With Tech Demo Video

Subject: General Tech | June 21, 2012 - 10:43 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, windows, Futuremark, directx 11, benchmarking, 3dmark

Popular benchmarking software developers Futuremark recently posted a video of latest 3DMark tech demo. Premiering in its Windows 8 benchmarking software, the tech demo uses complex volumetric lighting with real time scattering, tessellation, visible particles and clouds of smoke. It also uses fluid dynamics, audio by Pedro Macedo Camacho (who also created the 3DMark 11 soundtrack), ambient occlusion, and post processing. Whew, that’s a lot of shiny graphics!

We posted a few screenshots of the tech demo that showed up online a few weeks ago, and now it seems like the company is ready to show it off in video form. The embedded video below shows a mysterious figure walking through a small town nestled in a canyon with smoke, lava, and a flying robot to keep her company. The graphics are very detailed and the particle and fluid physics look really good. It should do a great job of stressing out your graphics cards when it comes out in the latest 3DMark.

Unfortunately, not much is known as far as specific release dates, or even if it will be called 3DMark 12 (or 3DMark for Windows 8). If you are into benchmarking software though, keep your eyes on Futuremark’s website as they release more details.

Source: Futuremark

Microsoft Releasing Windows 8 Release Preview May 31st

Subject: General Tech | May 30, 2012 - 11:37 PM |
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.

Windows-8-Start-Screen.png

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:

Source: The Verge

Microsoft Signature Will Clean Your Windows Install For $99

Subject: General Tech | May 16, 2012 - 06:31 PM |
Tagged: Windows 7, windows, microsoft signature, microsoft

Microsoft’s Signature program is a Microsoft Store and online service where the company resells OEM partners’ computers without all the traditional bloatware programs. The company puts a clean install of Windows on the hardware, installs Microsoft applications–including Microsoft Security Essentials, Live Movie Maker, and Live Mail–and optimized the OS for that particular machine’s hardware. This Signature install of Windows has only been available to users that purchased a new computer from Microsoft–until now.

Microsoft_Signature.jpg

According to Ars Technica, Microsoft is now offering to turn any OEM PC running Windows into a Signature edition of the operating system for a one-time fee of $99. DIYers and enthusiasts are likely to scoff at the nearly hundred dollar price tag for popping in a Windows 7 install disc and doing a clean install, but the Signature service is most certainly not aimed at the technically savvy market to begin with. Rather, this is a service for ordinary computer users to get the most performance out of their computer while avoiding the numerous “optimize my PC” scams and malware-programs-masquerading-as-Windows-utilities minefield. Doing a clean install and then optimizing the OS can take at least an hour (though enthusiasts can generally shave that time down quite a bit), and a straight fee of $99 is a lot less than consumers are likely to find elsewhere (especially since that includes 90 days of tech support). And that’s where I think this program is okay, and even a good thing. Most OEM systems come pre-loaded with a bunch of unwanted programs and trial offers that serve no real purpose besides making the OEM more money. There is also the issue of security. The majority of OEM systems come pre-loaded with some form of trial antivirus (usually Norton), and customers are notorious for not upgrading to the paid edition after the trial period or replacing it with (better) free antivirus applications. For $99, Microsoft will take the OEM machine and spruce it up to be the operating system that it should have been running in the first place. Besides price, the other barrier to this catching on is that customers need to bring the PC into a Microsoft Store (which are few and far between).

That statement is where many users are not pleased with Microsoft. They believe that Microsoft should exert more control over what OEMs are allowed to do with its operating system. Certainly, that is the ideal solution, but Microsoft is not Apple and they do not have the same level of control over the resulting hardware and what is bundled into the OS after it is purchased by OEMs. The Signature program is at least a step in the right direction and making the best of the situation. Also, it is an optional service that consumers are free to shop around to find a better price (or learn how to do it themselves by checking out guides online). It may not be the best thing, but at least Microsoft recognizes that there is a problem and is offering an alternative.

I’ll admit that I reacted unfavorably when I first read about the program, especially since it seemed so expensive for what comes as second nature to me. But not everyone wants to muck around in settings and for those with more money than time the Signature program is not a bad deal. It’s not for me, but I can see situations where it will work well. What are your thoughts on the program; do you see it as useful or is Microsoft way off base here?

Source: Ars Technica

Once again, ubiquitous computing spells the end of Wintel

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2012 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: arm, Intel, windows, Android, embedded systems

A story at The Register spells out the end of Windows, this time by 2016.  The growth of cellphones with enough processing power to be more than just glorified telephones is going to change the market, of that there can be no doubt.  On the other hand without some serious upgrades to the interface it seems very unlikely that a cellphone will be sitting on a desk with a mouse, keyboard and monitor connected to it.  In fact the very idea that ARM will one day outsell x86 processors is absurd, last year 2.2 billion ARM processors were sold, that number may be higher than all the processors AMD and Intel ever fabbed.  Keep that in mind when someone tells you that ARM may one day outsell CPUs intended for use in Windows machines.  

Android outselling Windows could be a reasonable prediction for the near future, but again it is hard to imagine Android replacing Windows Server or business oriented Linux distros, even if they are running on an ARM processor.  Then again, stranger things have happened.

skyisfalling.jpg

"Windows might be on the rise in the world of embedded systems, but if IDC's prognostications are right, then Windows is about to get its kernel handed to it with the rise of Android on what the market researcher dubs "smart connected devices."

By IDC's reckoning, makers of PCs, tablets, and smartphones shipped some 916 million units of machinery in 2012, raking in an astounding $489bn in moolah."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register