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Microsoft to offer ‘special’ Windows 7 upgrade deals

Posted by smart blog's on June 3, 2009

By Gregg Keizer

Company mum on details; reliable site says no free upgrades for netbooks, Vista Basic

Microsoft on Tuesday confirmed that it will offer consumers “special deals” on an upgrade to Windows 7 if they buy a Vista-equipped PC before the launch of the new operating system.Earlier in the day, Microsoft announced that it would start selling Windows 7 on Oct. 22, and acknowledged that it would have some kind of free or discounted upgrade offer in place before that.

But other than the name of the program — “Windows 7 Upgrade Option” — the company remained mum on the deal’s details, including start and end dates, how much computer makers and retailers will charge for the upgrade, or even what versions of Windows Vista will be eligible.

“This program enables participating retailers and OEMs to offer a special deal to upgrade to Windows 7 for customers purchasing a qualifying PC,” said company spokesman Brandon LeBlanc in a post to the Windows 7 blog Tuesday afternoon. More information, said LeBlanc, would be disclosed as the program’s kick-off nears.

But Microsoft isn’t the only source of information regarding the upgrade offer, which will probably resemble Vista Express Upgrade, a program that gave people who purchased Windows XP PCs free or inexpensive upgrades to Vista.

TechARP.com, a Web site that has a solid track record in pegging Microsoft plans, said as early as January that Microsoft would unveil an upgrade program for Windows 7. In April, TechARP reported that Microsoft had changed the name of the program to Windows 7 Upgrade Option, the same moniker the company used today.

In a long account last updated two weeks ago, TechARP spelled out what its OEM sources have revealed about the upgrade offer.

According to the site, PCs with a license for Vista Home Premium, Vista Business and Vista Ultimate purchased between June 26, 2009 and Jan. 31, 2010 will be eligible for a free or reduced-price Windows 7 upgrade.

Only “like-to-like upgrades” will be supported by the program, said TechARP, meaning that people who buy a PC with Vista Home Premium during the eligible period will be offered an upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium. In the same fashion, Vista Business will be upgraded only to Windows 7 Professional, and Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate.

That leaves out Vista Home Basic, the lowest-priced edition available in most markets, including the U.S. “Windows Home Basic is not in scope for this program as there is no ‘like’ version of Windows 7 in mature markets,” said the site.

Microsoft will make a Windows 7 Home Basic edition, but plans to sell it only in emerging markets. Some have wondered whether Microsoft is ditching Home Basic from the Windows 7 line in the U.S. because of the flak it caught, including the notorious “Vista Capable” class-action lawsuit, over that edition. That case, which has been suspended while the plaintiffs appeal a federal judge’s ruling, accused Microsoft of misleading consumers in the run-up to the January 2007 release of Vista by marketing PCs as able to run Vista when the only version usable on the machines was the stripped-down Home Basic.

n fact, in 2005, some within Microsoft unsuccessfully argued that Vista Home Basic should be stripped of the “Vista” name because they feared “user product expectations” would be unmet.TechARP noted that Microsoft is avoiding a repeat by banning Vista Home Basic from the Windows 7 upgrade program. “Not all Windows Home Basic PCs meet the Windows 7 hardware requirements, whereas all Logo-qualifying versions of Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business, and Windows Vista Ultimate will meet the Windows 7 hardware requirements,” the site said.

Netbook buyers will also be ineligible for a free or discounted upgrade, said TechARP, because those small, lightweight and inexpensive notebooks are equipped with either Windows XP Home or Vista Home Basic. Neither of those operating systems have an upgrade path under the program. “Microsoft’s current solution for netbooks [is] Windows XP Home Basic or Vista Home Basic. … By definition, [netbooks] cannot qualify for the Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program because they do not have the necessary OS preinstalled,” said the site.

However, Microsoft reportedly will offer a Windows 7 upgrade to people who buy PCs during the program’s run that have been factory-downgraded to Windows XP Professional. That seeming contradiction is nothing of the sort: Machines downgraded to XP Professional actually come with a license to either Vista Business or Vista Ultimate, both of which will be eligible for the discounted or free upgrade to Windows 7.

TechARP had no information on what computer makers and retailers may charge for the Windows 7 upgrade. That’s no surprise, since it’s probable that OEMs and retailers will be given considerable flexibility by Microsoft. In 2006′s Vista Express Upgrade, for example, some PC makers, such as Hewlett-Packard, offered free upgrades, while others, including Dell, charged users up to $49.

The most important piece of information still missing is the start date for the deal. Microsoft’s reticence to divulge that is understandable, said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. “Once you’ve told people the date, that starts the clock,” said Cherry. “Now people, if they’re inclined to wait [until the program begins] will wait to buy.”

And that’s the last thing Microsoft wants to do, since its revenues for Windows are tied to the number of PCs sold. “The effort is not so much to get people to upgrade, but so that the announcement of a new release doesn’t totally stop PC sales dead until it comes out,” Cherry said.

TechARP’s June 26 start — three weeks from this Friday — is reasonable when compared to the timeframe Microsoft applied for the similar Vista program. In 2006, Microsoft started Vista Express Upgrade 96 days before the Jan. 30, 2007 official retail release of the OS. If Microsoft used the exact same time span between the start of Windows 7′s deal and the operating system’s on-sale date of Oct. 22, it would launch the program on July 18.

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12 Free Security Software Tools

Posted by smart blog's on June 3, 2009

Just because the recession has left you penniless doesn’t mean you can’t keep your computer safe: Here are a dozen security apps that don’t cost a thing.

by Neil J. Rubenking

Things are tough all over, and every day brings new headlines wailing economic doom and gloom. Chrysler went bankrupt. GM just went bankrupt. California may go bankrupt! You’ve been forced to take a pay cut, your student loan repayment forgiveness plan got canceled, and your house is worth half of what you paid for it. Now, on top of all that, your security software is coming up for renewal. Maybe this year you just can’t afford to shell out hard-earned cash for security software. Does that mean you have to leave your system open to all the malicious programs out there? Nope. In this roundup, I’ll show you a dozen choice apps that you can use to cobble together a suite that’ll keep your PC safe without costing you a single penny.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you can scrape up the cash you’ll be better off with a full-powered security suite. A product like

Norton Internet Security 2009

, our Editors’ Choice, takes care of all your security needs in a single package. You won’t have to worry about maintaining compatibility between different components or handling a half-dozen different update cycles. And in most cases (but not all) the commercial solutions are more effective. But with a little effort your free suite can come pretty close.

Free Anti-Malware
Today more than ever, you need to protect your computer systems against intrusion by spyware, viruses, Trojans, and the like. Malware is big business now. Programmers for the Dark Side write tight, tested, evil code for pay, and their bosses rake in money by capturing passwords, stealing credit card numbers, and duping the gullible. Now there’s a business sector that’s booming! Fortunately you can protect yourself without shelling out a penny. It’s true that paid solutions like Prevx 3.0, Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 6, and Webroot AntiVirus with AntiSpyware 6.1 score better than the freebies in testing, but you can improve your defenses by layering multiple free products.

Yes, I always advise against running more than one real-time anti-malware product, since there can be conflicts. In particular, I wouldn’t use avast! antivirus 4.8 Home Edition and AVG Anti-Virus Free 8.0 together, since they are both traditional signature-based products with real-time protection. But the free edition of MalwareBytes’ Anti-Malware 1.36 is a scan-only product with no real-time protection, which makes it safer as a companion product for either.

Adding behavior-based protection to your traditional signature-based protection naturally increases your coverage. The behavior-based zero-day threat protection in ThreatFire 4.5 is specifically designed to work alongside signature-based products. Panda Cloud Antivirus also includes behavioral detection, and it keeps its intelligence in the cloud, not on your PC. It’s not as fast or powerful as Prevx, another in-the-cloud product, but it’s a free, lightweight addition.

Free Spam Filtering
Wouldn’t you like some good news for a change? Want free money from a long-lost relative in Nigeria? Hope to win a European lottery that you didn’t even enter? Just check your e-mail! Spammers may well have filled it with messages of hope…false hope, that is. Spam about V!agra and Ci@lis is down; spam about money is up—not surprising these days. And, hey, if “your bank” sends an e-mail about some dire account problem that will send you to the poorhouse, don’t click any links. Navigate directly to the bank site yourself. Of course, a decent antispam app could fix that problem, too.

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones whose ISP or Web-based e-mail provider includes server-level spam filtering as part of the service. But if spam is reaching your inbox you can rely on the free SPAMfighter Standard to keep it out. Like the highly successful commercial products Cloudmark Desktop and iHateSpam, SPAMfighter is a community-based filter. That means it will let through a small amount of spam (less than most other antispam products), but it will never throw a valid personal message into the spam bin. It inserts a small advertising footer in your outgoing messages, but that’s a small price to pay.

Free Firewall
When old-timers fell on hard times, they’d describe their plight by moaning, “The wolf is at the door!” These days we might say, “The hacker is at the port.” If you don’t have some kind of firewall protection, a hacker or network-based worm could waltz right in through an open port and take control of your computer. Certainly, if you have no other protection, you should make sure the Windows Firewall in XP or Vista is turned on.

Free third-party personal firewalls ZoneAlarm 8.0 and Comodo Firewall Pro 3.0 do more than the built-in, though. Naturally they block hack attacks, masking your computer’s ports so they’re completely invisible from the outside. But they also protect against betrayal from within by limiting which programs are allowed to connect with the Internet. Initially they can be noisy, popping up a flood of queries asking whether this or that program should be allowed access. After a while, the pop-ups diminish. Comodo does automatically configure access for many programs, which may cut down on pop-ups. ZoneAlarm reserves automatic configuration for its paid versions.

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Sun Launches Java Apps Store; Is Verizon Next?

Posted by smart blog's on June 3, 2009

by Chloe Albanesius

Sun Microsystems on Tuesday unveiled its Java Store, which will allow PC users to purchase Java and JavaFX applications from the desktop. Verizon Wireless was also on hand to announce its first open development conference for apps on July 27.

The Java Store, located at http://store.java.com, is currently available as a private beta for U.S. residents that have Java. It’s expected to open to all U.S. residents later this year. Interested parties can sign up to participate in the beta on the Web site.

Developers can begin submitting Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE) and JavaFX-based applications to the Java Warehouse for distribution in the Java Store via http://java.sun.com/warehouse.

“Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a small software startup, your primary need is the ability to reach customers. The Java Platform reaches more customers than just about any other software platform in the industry,” said Eric Klein, vice president of Java marketing at Sun, said at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam also made an appearance at the conference to announce his company’s upcoming development conference for apps.

The move comes about 1.5 years after Verizon introduced an open development initiative focused on hardware, the first release of which was a $69 voice-and-texting phone from a prepaid wireless company called AirVoice.

Expected improvements in network capability prompted Verizon to look at software side.

“We’ve been relatively closed as a wireless carrier, and I think that was because we were trying to be overprotective of our brand,” McAdam said.

Before branching into apps, Verizon had to make sure its network had things like parental controls and double opt-in, he said. Now that those are in place, the focus is on speed, and LTE, which will deliver 10 Mbps through-put to the device.

“That opens up all the great stuff that [the Java] community had done on the desktop – those will all be viable apps on the wireless device,” McAdam said.

Developers will have the chance to “create some really killer apps” for the 86 million customers using the Verizon Wireless network, he said.

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The e-book challenge: Sony Reader PRS-700 takes on Amazon’s Kindle 2

Posted by smart blog's on March 30, 2009

By Barbara Krasnoff

When Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle 2 hit the market in February, nearly universal acclaim made one think that most of the population of the U.S. was about to burn their books and grab their Kindles (that is, if they could afford one). And some of that reaction was quite justified — the Kindle uses an e-paper display to provide a clean, very readable display, and its 3G connection (which Amazon calls “Whispernet”) offers users a quick, extremely easy way to purchase and read literature.

In fact, a lot of readers have adopted the Kindle with great enthusiasm. For example, a friend of mine, a teacher with a well-stocked library of texts and reference books — and a small apartment — has already gotten rid of most of his fiction collection, happily determined to read all his novels through the Kindle. I’m sure he’s not the only one.

But the Kindle isn’t the only e-book reader out there. Prominent among its rivals is the Sony Reader. The latest version, the Sony Reader PRS-700, was recently released and also offers an e-paper display. While it doesn’t boast a 3G connection, it does have backlighting and a touch screen.

Both of these e-book readers cost around the same — as of this writing, the Kindle 2 cost $359, and the Sony Reader PRS-700 was priced at $350 — and both have their advantages and disadvantages. In order to find out which one suited which readers, I tried out both.

This was an informal test, so I didn’t run any performance figures. What I did was live with each of these over the course of a few days — uploading books, reading, carrying it around — to try to figure out what the differences were and how well they suited at least this reader’s lifestyle.

So now that the bloom is off the Kindle rose (at least somewhat), which of these two e-readers should you buy, assuming you are in the market for one?

Amazon Kindle 2

From the moment I unwrapped it, I was impressed with the Kindle 2.

To begin with, the e-ink is fantastically easy to read (as it is on the Sony Reader — I could see no advantage in either). There is a moment when you “turn” each page that the screen blackens and then resolves, which does take a bit of getting used to.

Another first impression that I didn’t expect was the weight. The Kindle 2 weighs 10.2 oz., not including the case. Although you wouldn’t expect a device that weighs slightly under a pound would be a problem, these things can start to add up if you already carry a mobile phone, a media player and/or a notebook (or even a netbook). And that’s only my everyday walk-around-Manhattan gear.

One thing that adds a couple of ounces, and a few inches, to the size of the Kindle is the keyboard located under the 6-in. diagonal display. As small keyboards go, it isn’t bad — I had no trouble typing in search terms or using it to tweak either the font size or the voice. But I much preferred the design of the Sony Reader, which, because it uses a touch screen, eliminates those extra three inches from its length.

That being said, it didn’t take me very long to get used to the Kindle’s controls, which are located to the right and left of the display. They aren’t hard to find. A Next Page button is on the left edge of the unit, with a smaller Prev Page button above it. On the right, you’ll find the Home, Next Page (yes, there are two Next Pages, one on each side), Menu and Back (what I would think of as Esc) buttons, along with what Amazon calls a five-way toggle switch, which can be pushed up, down, left or right or pressed down.

source : ComputerWolrd

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Will My Device Work with Windows 7

Posted by smart blog's on March 30, 2009

Every piece of hardware that makes up your computer requires a driver file to operate correctly, and getting all the components to sing in harmony is among the biggest problems in computing today. Look at Windows Vista. Despite the hard work of hundreds of programmers and developers, support for drivers was a mess when Windows Vista first launched. In fact, crashing and conflicting drivers was one of the most common complaints among early adopters of Microsoft‘s current operating system. Sure, Service Pack 1 and numerous driver updates from hardware vendors cleared up many of the problems, but at launch time, basic system functions like sound and graphics just didn’t work right.Will Windows 7 suffer the same fate? The short answer is, it probably won’t. The introduction of Windows Vista brought a transformation of the driver architecture for many major components—in particular, the graphics and audio functions. Windows 7 builds on Vista’s revisions, without requiring a complete rewrite of the code. That said, will old products work? Will Windows Vista drivers work if a company hasn’t updated for 7? Let’s find out.

 

Before we dive into the individual components, a note on availability: The first stop for anyone seeking a new driver to address a compatibility problem or device that doesn’t work properly (or simply looking to benefit from the performance boosts and extra functionality usually brought about by an updated driver) should be the hardware manufacturer. Dell, Gateway, HP, Lenovo, and every other PC maker strives to provide you with the most stable drivers they possibly can.

Besides, certain companies have custom parts and specially crafted drivers designed exclusively for their own computers; you’ll notice this in particular with laptops and netbooks. These custom parts won’t work properly without custom drivers, and may not support the customizations made by your manufacturer. Some component makers claim there’s a chance you could even break a device permanently. Before downloading and blithely installing, know what you’re getting into.

source: PCmag.com

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