Maximum PC readers tend to be ahead of the curve in common sense computing, so it probably won't come as much of a surprise that using the term "free" when searching for stuff online increases the chances of running across a malware infected site. What we did find shocking, however, is just how much a single search term increases that risk.
In a report titled, "Digital Music and Movies Report: The True Cost of Free Entertainment" (PDF), security firm McAfee claims that adding "free" to a search for music ringtones results in a 300 percent increase in the risk of landing on a site booby-trapped with malware.
"Add the world 'buy' to 'ringtones' and search results immediately become safer than searching for ringtones by themselves," McAfee said.
Interestingly, McAfee notes that "searching for the artist plus 'screensaver' yielded an additional 50 percent increase in risk over the risk associated with 'ringtones,'" but "adding the world 'free' before music-related screensavers actually reduces the riskiness of returned search results."
So what's the bottom line? Same as always -- surf safely, avoid suspicious downloads and links, and if you haven't already, grab an AV solution.
A new analysis from firm JiWire shows that for the first time, free Wi-Fi hotspots are more plentiful than paid-access hotspots. In total, 55.1% of the hotspots surveyed were free to use. That's a 12.6% gain from last year. It's getting to the point that consumers are more likely to feel affronted when asked to pay for wireless access.
This trend is also taking place worldwide. Seven of the top ten countries for public Wi-Fi added capacity last year. The JiWire data indicates that one in four hotspots around the world is free. With numbers like this, paid models could be in danger. Starbucks recently dropped its semi-paid Wi-Fi system, and Barnes and Noble followed suit shortly thereafter. Do you find you're encountering fewer paid Wi-Fi networks?
If you live near a Starbucks (and let's face it, who doesn't?), you have one more bastion of free connectivity to make use of. Starbucks' free Wi-Fi service has started up today as planned. The best part, other than that it's free, is that it only takes two clicks to log on. Just agree to the terms of service, and connect.
Starbucks previously had a paywall scenario where AT&T customers could get free access, but others were limited to 2 hours before they has to pony up some cash. All the corporately owned stores in the US and Canada are going to be doing this, so you might see some franchises with a different set up. If you've tried it already, let us know what sort of speeds you can get while enjoying a tasty beverage.
Coffee chain Starbucks is partnering with Yahoo to roll out free Wi-Fi to all its locations starting on July 1. The current Wi-Fi setup offers access free access to customers who have a registered Starbucks card, or are AT&T subscribers. Non-AT&T customers that register are only able to get 2 hours of free access. AT&T customers must go through a multitude of steps to gain access to the free connection, but there is no time limit. If you don't fall into one of those categories, the cost is $3.99 for two hours of access. It's not the most appealing deal considering many businesses already offer free Wi-Fi.
Starbucks described the process of accessing the new Wi-Fi as "one click". We hope that means users won't have to register to use the service. Customers that use the new Starbucks network will see targeted content from various media partners including Yahoo and AOL. But you'll also get access to some WSJ, New York Times, Zagat, and USA Today free of charge. Users will also be offered a free iTunes download of the week. We think that's a reasonable tradeoff for free Wi-Fi where it was previously a paid service.
A leaked document seems to indicate that T-Mobile is gearing up for a big promotion on June 19th. On that day, the carrier could be offering all their phones for free with a new two year contract. The document itself is a script for a commercial in which an employee is explaining that all phones are free, even the new MyTouch 3G Slide and Garminfone.
Many consumers are heavily swayed by the price of the phone itself. Despite the fact that the total cost of ownership over the two year contract probably runs into the thousands, many just won't drop $200 on a high-end phone. If this promotion happens, T-Mobile could move a ton of smartphones. It makes sense for the carrier. They make a killing on expensive data plans at $30 per month.
We suggest any of you up for a renewal should wait and see if this truly comes to pass. How much does the initial cost of a phone matter to you?
Amtrak began providing free Wi-Fi internet access aboard all 20 of its Acela Express trains in March. Launched on a trial basis, AmtrakConnect, as the wireless internet service is called, emerged as a huge success at the end of the three-month trial run, prompting the passenger railroad company to establish the service as a permanent fixture on Acela trains.
Acela trains seem to be better suited to onboard Wi-Fi compared to other Amtrek trains. This is down to the fact that they service an area with plenty of cell phone towers and are the only trains in Amtrek's fleet to feature a fixed number of passenger cars.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has tied up with Google to make bulk trademark and patent data accessible online. The latter has agreed to host roughly 10 terabytes of data free of cost for two years, by when the USPTO hopes to enter into a proper arrangement “with a contractor to retrieve and distribute USPTO patent and trademark bulk public data.” In fact, this is the first time that USPTO's public data in bulk form is being provided free of cost.
“The USPTO is committed to providing increased transparency as called for by the President’s Open Government Initiative. An important element of that transparency is making valuable public patent and trademark information more widely available in a bulk form so companies and researchers can download it for analysis and research,” said Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos.
The data that can be accessed online at the moment includes patent grants and published applications, trademark applications, and patent and trademark assignments etc.
Google's innovative Google Voice service is still invite only, but under a new program students can get priority access. In a blog post, the Big G noted many of Google Voice's features are of particular use to students. Apparently, college students are particularly appreciative of the ability to access their voicemail via email, and get free text messages. Though, who isn't?
Google Voice allows users to choose a new phone number that can be forwarded to multiple lines. It offers features like voicemail transcription, call screening, and do not disturb mode just to name a few. Android phones have seamless integration with Google Voice, and there is an official app for Blackberry phones as well.
The new program is technically available to anyone with an email address that ends in .edu. Those signing up at the special student website should expect their invite to show up within 24 hours. So for students, there's no longer any reason to scrounge around online looking for an invite. You can get it right from the source.
Hello there, non-existent reader! Yes, that’s right: you don’t exist. After all, you can’t. You’re reading this site, which means your rig’s probably a feral monster – more beast than machine – but this article caught your eye, which implies you don’t own Portal yet. To say that someone of that description exists – why, that’s just silly.
Let’s say, though, that hypothetically you’re a real flesh-and-blood human being. And you don’t own Portal because – we don’t know – you just came out of a coma or something. And you’ve spent every waking second reconnecting with your family or whatever. We guess that’s a valid excuse. If that’s the case, click here, and then give the big red button a press.
And presto! Now you own Portal, and you didn’t have to spend a dime. Wasn’t that easy? Almost as easy as changing the television channel or closing your Internet browser so you can—hey, wait!
Alright, Adobe Creative Suite 5, here's the deal: I really, really want to put my hands on all the neat features and general awesomeness you offer. That's not an admission of a fanboy, it's a gentle acknowledgment that this is the industry-leading suite of software for those that dabble with multimedia across a variety of formats.
That said, not all of us have a stock portfolio to dump off in an effort to raise the funds to purchase said Creative Suite. And this is the weekly Freeware Files column after all. Which leads us to a grand proposition: Can one recreate the best of Adobe's CS5 with freeware and open-source applications?