Google is offering a nice little holiday gift to Us users of Gmail today. You may remember a few months ago when Google rolled out voice calls in Gmail. At the time, they decided to make all Gmail calls to the US and Canada free through the end of 2010. Now that we're reaching the end of the year, Google has seen fit to extend the free calls at least through the end of 2011.
Users can take advantage of this system in their Gmail inbox. The contact list on the left will have a Call Phone option. This brings up a familiar dial pad. If you have a Google Voice number, this will tie in with that service. We've been pleasantly surprised how well this feature works, so there's no reason not to give it a shot since you're guaranteed another year of free calls.
Not that long ago, it looked like the excellent Xmarks bookmark syncing service was toast. After failing to find a business model, the company was making plans to close up shop. The massive outpouring of support from the Internet at large refocused efforts to find a buyer for Xmarks, and now that has happened. LastPass, makers of the cross-platform password syncing tool of the same name, have acquired Xmarks. Seriously, businesses don't get much more complementary than this.
Firstly, the standard Xmarks we've all grown to love will remain free, but there will be a new paid version with more features. This will cost user $1 per month and includes handy features like apps for Android and iPhone, and tech support. Users will have the option to purchase a bundle of LastPass and Xmarks for $20 per year.
New competition from built-in bookmarks syncing with Firefox and Chrome nearly drove Xmarks out of business. Only time will tell if users will be willing to pay for the enhanced features. But over 30,000 did pledge to do so when the initial news of the shutdown broke. Are there any Xmarks users out there planning to buy the paid version of the service?
Trying to track down a list of “five game mods you must download right now” is a lot like trying to choose your five top games of all time. Sure, your list might be impressive—maybe even awesome—but you’re still going to get a heap of contenders sobbing in the corner at your refusal to acknowledge their almost-noteworthy existences. And nobody likes bawling boxed titles.
So let that be a warning to you, fun-loving gamer who continues to read this article. I’m covering freeware game modifications this time around—freeware, obviously, because I doubt your average enthusiast is going to risk the wrath of a developer’s fury because he or she is selling blood, sweat, and tears in the form of a $5 game add-on. As well, I’m not just looking at maps, or other whip-dip little tweaks. I’m talking about huge transformations that range from, “making this game playable in the modern era” to “wow, I want to go back and revisit this title because it is now sweet.”
I’m paraphrasing, of course. But you get the idea.
But as I mentioned, narrowing down to a list of five is near-impossible. So if you don’t have an affinity for the Infinity Engine (including Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment), Sins of a Solar Empire, Fallout 3, TIE Fighter/X-Wing Alliance, or Half-Life 2… you might want to sit this one out. Otherwise, let’s get real.
When a company like Google just makes too darn much money, they occasionally like to give some of it back. That's the case this holiday season when travelers will be able to enjoy free Wi-Fi on domestic flights with AirTran, Delta, and Virgin America. The service will be provided through the existing Gogo in-flight internet service, but Google is footing the bill. The free Wi-Fi will be available from November 20, 2010 through January 2, 2011
This may seem familiar to you, and you'd be right. Last year Google offered up free Wi-Fi in dozens of airports, and on Virgin flights. OF course, we could take the cynical route and note that this is probably just a product tie-in with the Google Chrome team, who is promoting the program. But maybe we'd like to pretend that Google is just in the holiday spirit.
Digg versus Reddit; Reddit versus Digg. Much could be written about the unfolding war for your attention that’s taking place on the battlegrounds of news aggregates come and gone. That was pretty poetic, wasn’t it? Look, here’s the raw deal: Whether you’re a Digg enthusiast, Reddit convert, or vice versa, there’s no reason why you should have to live your online life using the simple, raw tools that either site has provided for you.
No, there are plenty of unique tweaks and twists that you can build into your conventional Reddit/Digg experience—provided, of course, you’re rocking either Firefox or Chrome as your browser of choice. And if you’re using something else or, for that matter, using another site on the Internet for your daily news updates… well, you’re out of luck in this week’s Freeware Files.
So, for those that are left, get ready to see how you can kick your Reddit or Digg surfing to new levels of awesomeness (really, usability!) We’ve split the extensions/add-ons up by browser and by site, with a special little bonus in the end for anyone who sticks around that far.
Usually, when you subscribe to an MMO, you expect that it's going to stick around long enough that you don't feel like you've, well, been robbed. Unfortunately, such was not the case with Realtime Worlds' short-lived cops 'n' robbers MMO All Points Bulletin, whose tombstone sadly reads “2010-2010.” Between subscription fees and the initial price tag, then, one could certainly understand why players are getting off the ride and immediately asking for their money back. Unfortunately, for a little while, it looked like no one planned on ponying up.
"Customers should revert to the entity from which they bought the game in respect of their entitlement to any refund,” joint administrator Paul Dounis said.
Ok then. Steam, what say you?
"As with most software products, we do not offer refunds or exchanges for purchases made online as outlined in the software license," said Valve.
Wait, that didn't help at all! But look! What's that in the sky? It's a bird. It's a plane. No – it's a large multimillion dollar corporation, swooping in to save the day with free stuff.
According to a Steam thread on the subject, players who've gone to publisher Electronic Arts with their disgruntled mumbles and grumbles have come away with $20 vouchers, refunds, and even free games. We suppose it's just like the old saying: “You can't spell 'apologize fre' without 'free.'” Hey, we never said it was a good saying.
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.