That’s right, you didn’t misread the headline – Microsoft is looking to pay you to use their search engine (again). Not with real money mind you, but points that can be redeemed for prizes (read: Chuck E. Cheese).
The program, called SearchPerks, will give users of Microsoft’s LIVE Search a point each time they search, with the possibility of accumulating 25 per day. However, users will only be able to collect these points once they’ve agreed to download and install a small program that allows Microsoft to track their usage.
In the past, Microsoft hasn’t been successful in getting new users for their search engine, currently only holding 8.3 percent of the search engine market. With the Live Search Club, Microsoft saw an initial boost in their search engine usage of nearly 3 percent, but the results failed to hold. The success of the search engine appears to be directly tied with the incentive programs that Microsoft offers.
If you’re looking to get in on the point-spending goodness, be sure to sign up soon. Microsoft is only allowing people to sign up until the end of the year, or until they get their target of 250,000 participants.
I bet you never thought all those searches for Lindsay Lohan would one day be profitable, did you?
Microsoft Tinker, developed for Microsoft by Fuel Industries, puts you in control of an old-school robot that's exploring a miniature world. Move to each level's destination by moving blocks, jumping on elevator buttons, and destroying objects. Along the way, you can also turn switches on and off and collect cog wheels. You can control your journey with the arrow keys on the keyboard, an Xbox 360 controller, or a Windows Media Center remote. You can also record a video of a game level, and while you play, a cool jazz soundtrack keeps your spirits up.
Game sounds from Microsoft Tinker make up the second Ultimate Extra, joining previous audio Ultimate Extras Glass and Pearl.
Dream Scene Content Pack #4 adds three variations on a mountain lake at sunset (see illustration) to previous full-motion wallpaper offerings.
As if college students didn't already have enough studying to do, it appears they made need to brush up on the fundamentals of PC security. For example, when presented with a popup, do you:
A: Click it, because what company would lie about promising to remove all your adware?
B: Click it, because in your hungover state you can't read what it says anyway
C: Click it, because that's how you assert your independence
D: Close it out
The answer's obvious for Maximum PC readers, but not so for those who reside on a college campus. The Psychology Department of North Carolina State University concocted a series of four fake popup dialogs, with one warning: "The instruction at '0x77f41d24 referenced memory at '0x595c2a4c.' The memory could not be 'read.' Click OK to terminate program." Only one of the warnings blended in with XP, and the others were designed to be easy to spot as adware.
Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), 25 students out of a panel of 42 clicked the button for two of the fake alerts, and 23 hit OK on the third. Only 9 of them closed the window.
So why'd they do it? Nearly half of the students said that their main concern was getting rid of the dialogs and the distraction they presented. Time to add Computers for Dummies for next semester's textbook shopping list.
CNet's Ina Fried reports that Microsoft has decided to remove Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Mail from Windows 7. Given the fact that Microsoft continues to upgrade its Live replacements for Photo Gallery and Mail, and added Movie Maker to the Live family, as we reported last week, this move seems to make a lot of sense.
As someone who's been recommending that Windows Vista users replace Windows Photo Gallery with Windows Live Photo Gallery ever since Live Photo Gallery was launched, I think that stripping Windows of utilities that only some people will use makes plenty of sense. Here's why:
1. Faster development of operating system releases. As Windows Live general manager Brian Hall told Fried, "It [this decision]makes it [Windows 7] much cleaner."
2. Fewer worries about antitrust actions. Lawsuits by the EU forced Microsoft to distribute EU-specific versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista that are missing Windows Media Player. By dropping other multimedia features, Microsoft makes Windows 7 even less appealing as a lawsuit target.
3. New partnership opportunities. According to Hall,"We can do things with specific partners to enable really great experiences that might be hard in Windows." We might see Windows 7+Adobe, Windows 7+Corel, or Windows 7+open source bundles from various OEMs.
4. Fewer opportunities for compatibility problems. As anyone who has ever wrestled with Windows Vista multimedia tools being broken by installing third-party tools (I recommend the freeware Vista Codec Package, available at http://shark007.net, if you can't burn CDs or DVDs in Windows Vista anymore after installing a third-party DVD burner), the possibility of reducing the chances of a "codec war" or other compatibility problems is a welcome one.
So, what do you think? Do you like the idea of choosing your favorite free or commercial photo, video, and email clients right from the start, or do you prefer the current method? Are you more likely to buy a preinstalled version of Windows 7 if it had a well-integrated third-party media and email software bundle, or do you prefer to create your own "best of breed" combination? Do you have a horror story of third-party apps and Windows butting heads? Tell them now before Windows 7 does away with them. Hit the jump for your chance.
There's been much ballywho surrounding Windows 7, Microsoft's anticipated successor to Vista, and we've covered much of it right here on MaximumPC.com. From what is known, Microsoft appears to be working closely with system vendors to ensure Windows 7 enjoys a smooth rollout among preconfigured systems, and to avoid third-party drivers giving the new OS a bad rap in similar fashion to how the software maker suggests early Nvidia drivers did to Vista. But it now looks like users will have to wait until December before spending some hands-on time with Windows 7 beta 1.
In the meantime, a pair of videos showing off two features of the new OS have begun making the rounds. The first one shows the Windows 7 Start menu, which looks no different than Vista's. However, with the mouse pointer hovered over the icon, a search box appears just above it in the video.
The second clip showcases Microsoft's redesigned Calculator application. You can choose from four modes - Standard, Scientific, Programmer, and Statistics - and copy and paste values. A new Options menu brings more functionality to the table, such as quickly calculating specific dates and breaking them down in to years, months, weeks, and days. Templates and unit conversion are also included, giving geeks with a caculator fetish something to salivate over.
Check out the clips and hit the jump to let us know what you think.
Windows Live has come a long way since it was first introduced as a Microsoft brand in 2006. The first wave bolted Hotmail, Messenger, and Spaces into a single download. In last year's second wave, tools like SkyDrive, Events, Photo Gallery, LiveWriter, Calendar, and Family Safety joined the family, along with support for mobile devices. This week, Microsoft rolled out its third wave, adding a new member to the Windows Live family (Movie Maker) and new features to several existing programs (Messenger, Photo Gallery, Writer, Toolbar, and more). We've already told you about the new features in Hotmail, so join us after the jump to find out what's new and improved.
Have better things to do than to surf your videocard maker's website every day to check for updated drivers? That's okay, because we've done the legwork for you and found new drivers, so go ahead an hightail it over to ATI.
The just released Catalyst 8.9 driver package applies to both Windows XP and Vista in 32- and 64-bit trim. Home theater buffs should be particularly interested in the new drivers, as 8.9 introduces a 1080P @ 50Hz custom display mode for HDTVs. On the extreme gaming front, ATI's OverDrive overclocking utility now supports quad CrossFireX configurations, giving gamers the ability to overclock each card using manual controls or via the auto-tuning option.
Other goodies include OpenGL 3.0 extension support and several bug fixes for a variety of games, including recent releases Age of Conan and Spore.
According to daily browsing statistics provided by Net Applications, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 has garnered a fair bit of interest from users, with the latest beta increasing market share from 0.23 percent at the beginning of the month to now sitting at 0.41 percent. Still, Google's new Chrome browser (also in beta form) has been more popular, breaching the 1 percent mark early in September and now claiming 0.79 percent of the market.
Looking at the overall picture, Microsoft can't be too concerned. Net Applications notes an average market share for IE 7 and IE 6 of 46.38 and 24.08 percent respectively, which when combined with IE 8's 0.31 percent average, has Internet Explorer still dominating the browser wars with 70.82 percent of the market in the first half of September. In August, IE claimed a slightly larger slice at 72.15 percent.
Meanwhile, open-source stalwart Firefox also noted a slight drop since August, with combined market share taking a small dip from 19.73 percent to 19.38 percent. What's interesting to note here is that Microsoft's IE 6 still grabs a larger share than all three Firefox browsers combined.
Hit the jump and let us know what browser you're using.
If you're still sporting an older version of Google Desktop, you might consider upgrading. The search giant has just released version 5.8 of it's Google Desktop software for Windows with a handful of improvements it hopes will make it worthy of a second look for anyone who previously dismissed it.
The biggest change with version 5.8 concerns speed, with the company's blog indicating that the new version is "based entirely on performance." Google claims it found a way to cut memory usage during startup by about 50 percent, and that shutdown has been improved five-fold. But more than just an octane injection, Google Desktop 5.8 also sports a few new features, such as improved Outlook integration and support for Flash in gadgets.
Sadly, 64-bit XP and Vista users need not apply. For the 32-bit crowd, download your copy here and hit the jump to let us know what you think.