Windows en Microsoft Will Upgrade Non-Genuine Windows PCs to Windows 10 for Free <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/windows_10_2.jpg" alt="Windows 10" title="Windows 10" width="228" height="171" style="float: right;" />Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!</h3> <p>Software piracy has been the bane of Microsoft's existence ever since the first copy of Windows was pirated. Since then, it's been a cat and mouse game between Microsoft and software pirates, but when it comes to Windows 10, it looks like Microsoft is willing to call a truce. More specifically, <strong>reports have emerged that Windows 10 will be offered as a free upgrade to all Windows users, even those running non-genuine copies</strong>.</p> <p>The initial report comes from <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Reuters</em></a>, which spoke with Terry Myerson, Microsoft's Executive Vice President of Operating Systems.</p> <p>"We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10," Myerson said, adding that the plans is to "re-engage" with the hundreds of millions of Windows users in China.</p> <p>Windows piracy runs rampant in China, and to deal with the problem, Microsoft is extending an olive branch, so to speak. It will dole out Windows 10 through security outfit Qihoo 360 Technology and Tencent Holdings, China's most popular social networking company with more than 800 million users.</p> <p>The article doesn't mention whether the free upgrade for Windows pirates only applies to users in China or if it will also be valid for users in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Other reports make it sound like it's a global thing, including <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Verge</em></a>, which was told by a Microsoft spokesperson that "anyone with a qualified device can upgrade to Windows 10, including those with pirated copies of Windows."</p> <p>I dropped a line to Microsoft asking for clarification and will post an update when I hear back.</p> <p><iframe src="" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <h3>Update</h3> <p>A Microsoft spokesperson provided <em>Maximum PC</em> with the following the statement:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">"We are excited to launch Windows 10 this summer. Anyone with a qualified device can upgrade to Window 10, including those with pirated copies of Windows. We believe customers over time will realize the value of properly licensing Windows and we will make it easy for them to move to legitimate copies."</p> <p>It's the same statement that's been floating around the web, however <strong>we were also able to confirm with Microsoft that aforementioned upgrade policy for non-genuine copies of Windows to Windows 10 at no cost is indeed worldwide, not just for China</strong>.</p> <p>This is an interesting turn of events, especially for anyone building a PC now. With Windows 10 right around the corner, and confirmed to be a free upgrade for both genuine and pirated copies of Windows, some may find it tough to pull the trigger on a paid version. I'm not condoning piracy by any means, just pointing out the obvious dilemma.</p> <p>In any event, this is a big deal and more than just an olive branch, it's the entire olive tree Microsoft is extending. If this doesn't buy the company some good will, I'm not sure what will.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> china microsoft operating system OS piracy Software Terry Myerson Windows windows 10 News Wed, 18 Mar 2015 16:35:02 +0000 Paul Lilly 29607 at Chrome 42 Beta Includes Push Notifications <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="" alt="Push Notification on Chrome" title="Push Notification on Chrome" width="228" height="92" style="float: right;" />Also new is the the option to automatically pause plugin content</h3> <p>Each browser update usually contains no more than two or three noteworthy new features in this rapid-release-cycle era, and Chrome 42 is no exception. It <strong>entered beta a few days back with a couple of notable features</strong> — well, at least on the desktop front.</p> <p>The one feature that stands out from the rest of the changelog is the addition of <a href="" target="_blank">smartphone-style push notifications</a>, which provide web app developers with a way to apprise users of content updates and other changes in real time. But, of course, before they can do any of that they must secure the user’s permission to do so.&nbsp; And should the alerts turn out to be far too frequent and/or trivial, such permission can be revoked at a later time from within the “Site Settings” option that accompanies every alert.</p> <p>Another new feature is a <a href="" target="_blank">new setting that automatically pauses plugin content to save battery power</a> and precious CPU cycles. Under Chrome’s content settings, you can now opt for the browser to automatically “detect and run important plugin content.” This will ensure that the browser automatically runs “the main plug-in content on websites” while disabling all peripheral plug-in content.</p> <p><em>Follow Pulkit on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p> beta browser chrome 42 push notifications Windows News Mon, 16 Mar 2015 10:37:07 +0000 Pulkit Chandna 29586 at Microsoft: Windows Not Immune to FREAK Attack <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="" alt="FREAK Attack" title="FREAK Attack" width="228" height="138" style="float: right;" />The encryption flaw was previously thought to only affect Google and Apple products</h3> <p>A few days back, <a href=";sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGrf02lX00jNfYcVT99uSKkQpobWw" target="_blank">Apple and Google products were found to be affected by a longstanding vulnerability</a>, which <strong>stems from a now-defunct U.S. government regulation enjoining tech companies to use encryption no stronger than 512 bits in “export-grade” software</strong> — so that it could maintain a cryptographic edge over its adversaries. Well, how could Microsoft be left behind? The Redmond-based company issued a security advisory Thursday to warn that all supported versions of Microsoft Windows are also affected by FREAK (Factoring attack on RSA-EXPORT Keys), as the SSL/TLS&nbsp; flaw is called.</p> <p>“Microsoft is aware of a security feature bypass vulnerability in Secure Channel (Schannel) that affects all supported releases of Microsoft Windows,” reads the advisory. “Our investigation has verified that the vulnerability could allow an attacker to force the downgrading of the cipher suites used in an SSL/TLS connection on a Windows client system. The vulnerability facilitates exploitation of the publicly disclosed FREAK technique, which is an industry-wide issue that is not specific to Windows operating systems. When this security advisory was originally released, Microsoft had not received any information to indicate that this issue had been publicly used to attack customers.”</p> <p>The company says it’s currently working on a fix, which could come either as part of a future Patch Tuesday bundle or in the form of an out-of-band security update. In the meantime, the company recommends that those running Windows Vista or later “disable RSA key exchange ciphers using the Group Policy Object Editor” in order to mitigate the threat. The entire procedure can be found <a href=";sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNET6-5KL5iZV1T8j-W__gzQ7AuXdA" target="_blank">here</a>. </p> <p>A list of vulnerable browsers and popular domains is available at&nbsp; <a href=";sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHaR3zGKq1VkFoP2ybbvqCbTfD-3A" target="_blank"></a>. The affected browsers are Internet Explorer, Chrome for Mac (patch available), Chrome for Android, Safari for Mac (patch likely in a week), Safari for iOS (patch likely in a week), stock Android browser, Blackberry browser, Opera for Mac and Opera for Linux. Maintained by computer scientists at the University of Michigan, the site also lets users check if their browser is vulnerable.</p> <p>“The FREAK attack,” the site warns, “is possible when a vulnerable browser connects to a susceptible web server—a server that accepts ‘export-grade” encryption.’” According to the researchers, an attacker could use the vulnerability to “intercept HTTPS connections between vulnerable clients and servers and force them to use weakened encryption, which the attacker can break to steal or manipulate sensitive data.”</p> <p><em>Follow Pulkit on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p> <p><em>Image Credit: Ghacks<br /></em></p> encryption Factoring attack on RSA-EXPORT Keys flaw freak attack Internet Explorer nsa patch SSL TLS Windows News Mon, 09 Mar 2015 04:12:21 +0000 Pulkit Chandna 29558 at Rumor: Google to Wrap up Development of 2-in-1 Chromebook in Q1 2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="" alt="Chromebook" title="Chromebook" width="228" height="141" style="float: right;" /></h3> <h3>Google-branded hybrid device is reportedly being developed by Quanta Computer</h3> <p>Google is getting ready to give Wintel-powered 2-in-1 devices a run for their money with a <strong>Chromebook-tablet hybrid</strong> of its own and the device is expected to be ready by the end of this quarter, notorious rumor monger <a href="" target="_blank">Digitimes</a> said Friday in a report citing unnamed sources in the “upstream supply chain.”</p> <p>Allegedly designed by Taiwan-based Quanta Computer, the rumored 2-in-1 Chromebook is said to feature a detachable screen that transforms into an Android tablet when detached. The device, Digitimes says, is a testament to the “dramatic advance” Google has made in integrating Android and Chrome OS — for long a stated goal of the company. The report adds that such integration could finally see Chromebooks gain a beachhead outside the United States, which accounts for over 85 percent of all Chromebook sales. Although the first 2-in-1 Chromebook will be a Google-branded device, the site says other vendors also plan to launch similar devices in 2015.</p> <p>If the report is to believed, Google and its chums are not the only ones working on 2-in-1 devices right not. Even Microsoft is said to be readying “an own-brand 10.6-inch Surface detachable 2-in-1 to promote Windows-based 2-in-1 devices” and fend off any future competition.</p> <p><em>Follow Pulkit on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> 2-in-1 android chrome os chromebook Google Hybrid intel rumor Windows wintel News Mon, 16 Feb 2015 12:15:07 +0000 Pulkit Chandna 29427 at Google Relaxes Project Zero Bug Disclosure Policy <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="" alt="Google Project Zero" title="Google " width="228" height="95" style="float: right;" />Companies working on a fix can now apply for a 14-day grace period after 90-day disclosure deadline</h3> <p>The whole <a href="" target="_blank">fracas over Google Project Zero team’s disclosure of three Windows zero-day bugs</a> before Microsoft could fix them may now be old news, but it seems to have done enough to get the former to revisit its bug disclosure policy. Google’s bug hunters took to the official Project Zero blog on Friday to announce a <strong>number of key changes to their disclosure policy</strong>.</p> <p>While a large part of the <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a> is dedicated to the importance of bug hunting and reporting programs having disclosure deadlines and how the outfit’s own 90-day deadline is “reasonably calibrated for the current state of the industry”, it ultimately concedes that Project Zero’s disclosure policy, as effective it is (over 85% bugs fixed within 90 days), could do with a few improvements. The outfit says it has “taken on board some great debate and external feedback around some of the corner cases for disclosure deadlines” and come up with a few policy improvements.</p> <p>The most notable of these policy updates is the provision of a 14-day grace period after the original disclosure deadline has expired: “If a 90-day deadline will expire but a vendor lets us know before the deadline that a patch is scheduled for release on a specific day within 14 days following the deadline, the public disclosure will be delayed until the availability of the patch. Public disclosure of an unpatched issue now only occurs if a deadline will be significantly missed (2 weeks+),” reads the blog post.</p> <p>And don’t you worry about Google having double standards (a <a href="" target="_blank">concern we raised</a> late last month): “As always, we reserve the right to bring deadlines forwards or backwards based on extreme circumstances. We remain committed to treating all vendors strictly equally. Google expects to be held to the same standard; in fact, Project Zero has bugs in the pipeline for Google products (Chrome and Android) and these are subject to the same deadline policy.”</p> <p><em>Follow Pulkit on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p> apple disclosure Google microsoft OS X project zero team responsible disclosure Security Windows zero-day News Mon, 16 Feb 2015 09:31:28 +0000 Pulkit Chandna 29426 at Silicon Dust HDHomeRun Plus Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A grand slam for some, a foul ball for others</h3> <p>We like free. We also like doing things ourselves, which is why building our own DVRs to capture OTA broadcasts has been a habit for years. And we’re fans of devices that give us wide flexibility and range in their use. Given all these preferences, Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun Plus—a networkbased external TV tuner—fulfills all our wants, on paper. In practice, it very nearly does likewise.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p>Initial setup for the HDHomeRun Plus is super easy: plug in the power connector, an Ethernet cable, and your antenna’s coaxial cable, then download Silicon Dust’s software from the company’s website and install it. Running the setup—to scan for channels and to set the default programs for watching live TV and recording TV—takes 10 minutes. You can then watch broadcasts immediately through the Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun Live TV software or Windows Media Player. You can also use VLC, but setting it up is far trickier.</p> <p>The experience begins to diverge, however, when you move on to setting up PVR software. When we tried the HDHomeRun Plus with Windows Media Center as our recording program, getting our home brew DVR off the ground was as easy as opening WMC and tweaking its settings to scan channels and input the correct location info for the channel guide. Trying Next-PVR—the other officially supported piece of Windows PVR software—was far more frustrating. On our Windows 7 machine, running the installer caused our system to lock up and required either force-closing the installer or a soft reset; on our Windows 8 machine, we installed the program, but it couldn’t detect any channels through the tuners, despite repeated tries.</p> <p>Equally split is the quality of the device’s streaming functionality. When accessed from computers or DLNA devices, audio-video syncing is excellent and the feed has the same crispness as a direct connection from the OTA antenna to a TV. But on mobile devices, audio was consistently ahead of video—an annoying fail given the app to watch live TV costs an additional $2.</p> <p>Using the HDHomeRun Plus can go one of two ways, depending on which path you take. If you’re a Windows 7 user, comfortable with Windows Media Center, and plan to watch TV through your HTPC or a media extender (such as an Xbox 360), the Plus will work perfectly and offers good flexibility for viewing options. If you’re running Windows 8, want to use NextPVR because it’s free and also not WMC, or plan to do a lot of your live TV viewing through a mobile device, the HDHomeRun Plus becomes less of a surefire hit. But regardless of the scenario, you’ll have to contend with one inescapable fact: its fan is annoyingly loud when the device is transcoding. If you can handle the noise, or you’re able to stash it somewhere remote, this downside might be tolerable. For us, it was a bit of a dealbreaker when combined with the mobile device performance--and that’s despite how much we liked using it with a Windows 7/WMC configuration.</p> pvr Windows From the Magazine Sat, 14 Feb 2015 17:59:49 +0000 Alaina Yee 29602 at Microsoft's "Windows 365" Trademark Hints at Subscription Model <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/windows_10_4.jpg" alt="Windows 10" title="Windows 10" width="228" height="128" style="float: right;" />Examining the different scenarios</h3> <p><strong>Microsoft has been granted a patent for "Windows 365"</strong> by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and of course, the immediate reaction is that Windows is headed toward a subscription model similar to Office 365. Indeed that may be the case, though from everything that we know, it probably won't apply to Windows 10, which will remain a free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users for the first year.</p> <p>Some people took the free upgrade announcement to mean that after the first year, a subscription fee would kick in. That's not our understanding of things, though the Windows 365 trademark is certainly an interesting development. Here are three possible scenarios we see playing out.</p> <h3>1. Windows 10 Goes the Subscription Route</h3> <p>We'll say right off the bat that this is highly unlikely, at least as an all-or-nothing affair. As we understand the free upgrade path to Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users will have a year to make the upgrade at no cost, and after that, it will cost a flat fee, just like Windows does now. This is similar to what Microsoft's done in the past, except instead of offering a free upgrade, it offered a reduced rate and discounted family packs.</p> <p>That said, we could see Microsoft rolling out a subscription pricing plan as an option, just as it does with its Office suite. So, just as you can purchase Office 2013 or subscribe to Office 365, perhaps you'll be able to choose between Windows 10 and Windows 365, the latter of which would be an ongoing subscription that ensures you'll receive all futures versions of Windows, so long as your subscription is current.</p> <h3>2. Going All-In with Microsoft</h3> <p>Similar to the above scenario, Microsoft could offer an all-inclusive package of Windows products on a subscription basis. This could include Windows OS releases, Office, Skype, OneDrive storage, and even Xbox Live, though the more it bundles in, the higher the subscription.</p> <p>Alternately, it could relate to an all-inclusive package of Windows products, save for Windows itself. Microsoft COO Kevin Turner said during the Windows 10 event that "We've got to monetize [Windows 10] differently, and there are services involved." We don't want to extract too much out of that comment, though it could mean charging a subscription fee for certain products and services that tie into Windows 10.</p> <h3>3. Post–Windows 10 Era</h3> <p>One other possible scenario is that Windows 365 will follow Windows 10. Microsoft is heavily invested in the cloud and sees it being an integral part of its future, so perhaps Windows 10 will be the last flat-fee version of Windows.</p> <p>Unfortunately there aren't a lot of hints in the trademark itself, which is <a href=";state=4809:8qhezo.2.1" target="_blank">posted at <em>Neowin</em></a>. It covers everything from computer software and operating systems to telecommunications services and providing education and training. Including all those things would seem to support scenario number two above, though it's more likely Microsoft is simply covering all of its bases.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> microsoft operating system OS Software trademark Windows Windows 365 News Mon, 09 Feb 2015 17:13:17 +0000 Paul Lilly 29402 at Remembering Microsoft Bob, the Precursor to Windows RT <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/microsoft_bob_cd.jpg" alt="Microsoft Bob CD" title="Microsoft Bob CD" width="228" height="200" style="float: right;" />Treating users like idiots never works</h3> <p>I've written about the <a href="">demise of Windows RT</a> on <a href="">more than one occasion</a> over the course of the last couple of weeks, and in the comments section of both articles, there's mention of Microsoft Bob. Prior to those incidents, it had been a long time since I've seen anyone bring it up. References to Microsoft Bob usually only manifest when talking about forgettable Windows releases, like ME, Vista (pre-SP1), and RT. However, <strong>Microsoft Bob wasn't actually a Windows version, it was a patronizing GUI that foreshadowed Windows RT's demise. Never heard of it? Let's take a trip back in time</strong>.</p> <p>Microsoft Bob was released in early 1995 as a desktop replacement for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. Think of it as a GUI overlay. It was intended to make Windows less intimidating to novice users by dumbing down the interface -- instead of the traditional desktop with folders and icons, Microsoft Bob put users inside a graphical home with different rooms.</p> <p>Rooms were either public or private, the latter of which could only be entered into by whichever user account it was attached to. You could decorate each of the rooms with various objects, as well as move things around, change the theme, and even create new rooms altogether.</p> <p>What about the applications? These were integrated into the rooms. If you wanted to access Calendar, you could click on the calendar hanging on the wall. Likewise, clicking on the pen and paper on your desk would open up a word processor. These were essentially shortcuts presented as decorations.</p> <p><img src="/files/u69/microsoft_bob.jpg" alt="Microsoft Bob" title="Microsoft Bob" width="620" height="465" /></p> <p>As you moved about the house, a pet dog named Rover (think: Clippy) would follow you around and offer tips and suggestions, provided you didn't turn him off.</p> <p>Microsoft Bob isn't a project that came out of nowhere, but was born out of research by a pair of Stanford University professors, Clifford Nass and Byron Reeves. It was overseen by Microsoft researcher Karen Fries, and for a short while, Melinda Gates served as one of the project's marketing managers.</p> <p>Only one major version of Microsoft Bob was ever made (not counting the Gateway Edition that came with Gateway 2000 PCs) and it was discontinued less than five months later. The biggest reason it flopped is because users had no interest in being treated like idiots, though it didn't help that it had relatively steep system requirements for the time (minimum 486SX CPU, 8MB RAM, 32MB disk space, and 256 color Super VGA) and initially sold for $100.</p> <p>These days Microsoft Bob is remembered as one of Microsoft's biggest product failures, which makes it even more interesting that Windows RT and the whole metro interface came about. Just as interesting is that as recently as 2013, Bill Gates spoke out in support of Microsoft Bob, saying it will make a comeback someday.</p> <p>"We were just ahead of our time, like most of our mistakes," Gates said.</p> <p>Here's a look at Microsoft Bob in action:</p> <p><iframe src="" width="620" height="465" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> gui Microsoft Bob Software Windows windows rt News Fri, 06 Feb 2015 21:54:01 +0000 Paul Lilly 29388 at Alienware Alpha Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A great console-sized PC stuck in the alpha stage</h3> <p>As great as PC gaming is, let’s face it, when it comes to gaming in the living room, consoles have the PC beat. Alienware and the Steam Machines were supposed to change that, but considering <a title="steam machine delayed" href="" target="_blank">Valve delayed its hardware initiative</a>, Alienware decided to releases its box early as a small Windows 8.1 PC, dubbed the <a href=""><strong>Alienware Alpha</strong></a>. While the PC does an admirable job of attacking the PC’s problem areas in the living room, as the name implies, it’s still (unfortunately) in a bit of an alpha stage.</p> <p>The chassis is black and small. Measuring 2.1x7.8x7.8 inches, the Alpha is closest in size to Nintendo’s Wii U console. At 4.5 pounds, Alienware’s little PC is also extremely portable. We had an easy time lugging it around to friends’ apartments with four controllers inside a backpack. Speaking of controllers, the unit comes with a black wireless Xbox 360 controller.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/alienware-alpha-1920.jpg" alt="alienware alpha review" title="alienware alpha review" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>Ports on the Alpha include two USB 3.0, three USB 2.0, one S/PDIF, and two HDMI (one for output and another for input). It is a little disappointing that there isn’t an analog headset port, but Alienware told us it was one concession it had to make to produce such a small form factor.</p> <p>The box’s aesthetics aren’t very flashy. It’s got some sharp angles, akin to Alienware’s gaming laptops, a glowing triangular LED, and a glowing Alienware power button. You can also customize the LEDs through Alienware’s UI. Overall, it will look nice sitting next to your TV.</p> <p>Inside the box, the Alpha is running a mobile GPU based on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 860M, which was the same graphics card used in the <a title="hp omen" href="" target="_blank">HP Omen</a> gaming laptop we reviewed last month. Since this box has such a unique setup, the Omen seemed like the fairest candidate for a zero point to test against. Its GPU runs at 1,020MHz and has 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM clocked at 1,253MHz. Compared to our ZP, however, the Alpha’s performance was a disappointing 11 percent slower in our Metro: Last Light and 3DMark 11 benchmarks. It did perform 7 percent better in BioShock Infinite, however. Overall, the Alpha is nowhere near the most powerful gaming PC out there, but it should be able to run most AAA games on medium to high settings. It will, at the very least, be competitive with the next-gen consoles.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/alpha_tv.jpg" alt="alpha tv" title="alpha tv" width="620" height="342" /></p> <p>One aspect of the Alpha that we feel isn’t up to snuff is system RAM; our unit only offered what we feel is a minimal 4GB. Sure, the majority of games should run fine on 4GB, but that’s beginning to change with newer titles. We think Alienware should up the Alpha’s base RAM to 8GB. Luckily, you can upgrade the RAM to 8GB, though you’ll need laptop RAM to do so.</p> <p>You can also upgrade the storage with any 2.5-inch drive. If you’re like us, you’ll really want to do this. Our unit came with a 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive, which was embarrassingly slow. It took the Alpha one minute and 35 seconds to boot up, and then another 35 seconds to boot up into Steam Big Picture Mode. If you’re loading a really big game, it’s only going to lengthen the wait.</p> <p>At the heart of the console is the Alpha’s i3-4310QT CPU. Despite the box’s size, it’s actually a quad-core desktop CPU running at 2.9GHz. You can upgrade this to a quad-core i7, too. And you may want to, considering this i3 gets beat up by 30–54 percent compared to the HP Omen’s mobile i7-4710HQ processor. While dual-core CPUs are fine for the majority of games, for a little more future-proofing, we would have preferred at least a quad-core i5 chip.</p> <p>Of course, the hardware means very little if the software isn’t properly optimized to take over the living room. While the Alpha is running Windows 8.1 underneath, Alienware has wrapped its own user interface around it, which you can navigate with a controller. The Alpha UI also allows you to launch directly into Steam Big Picture Mode, which comes pre-installed. Because some Steam games only offer partial controller support, Alienware has done some super-nifty software tweaks to allow you to use an Xbox controller like a mouse in a pinch. You can do this by pressing down on all four shoulder buttons and pressing down on the left stick. This will allow you to navigate past any pop-up window boxes.</p> <p>The Alpha isn’t perfect, however. One of the taglines Alienware is using for the Alpha is that it “combines the freedom of PC gaming with the ease of a console,” but the slogan doesn’t always ring true. We encountered some resolution issues. For instance, in Shadow of Mordor, it defaulted to 1280x1024 resolution on our 1080p TV and had no in-game option to adjust it to 1080p. Some games that allowed us to adjust the resolution ended up blacking out the screen when we cranked it up to 1080p. Meanwhile, some games would open up off-center in a windowed mode by default. When we tried to boot up Skyrim, it gave us an error message that read, “Failed to initialize renderer. Your display doesn’t support the selected resolution.”</p> <p>The consoles also allow you to watch Netflix, and the only real good way to do that on the Alpha at the moment is to boot it up to the desktop mode, but here you’ll need to have a keyboard/mouse plugged in. Because of that, we really recommend getting something like <a title="k400" href="" target="_blank">Logitech’s wireless K400 keyboard</a>, which pairs well with the Alpha.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/alpha_010.png" alt="alpha review" title="alpha review" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>Another area in which the consoles have at a little easier than PC gaming is that console gamers don’t have to tweak their settings. Nvidia has a solid workaround to this problem with its GeForce Experience, but unfortunately the Alpha does not support GeForce optimal playable settings, which is a shame considering many console noobs might not know which graphical knobs to twist.</p> <p>At $550, the Alpha certainly isn’t cheap, especially when you look at its specs and compare it to the consoles. And the Alpha has a bunch of little software hiccups to overcome. Despite these problems, however, when the Alpha works, it’s awesome. Steam has a surprising number of fun local co-op games like Broforce, SpeedRunners, and more. Alienware’s box does a great job of bringing PC games to the living room. Sure, you could build a cheaper, more powerful system, but Alienware has spent a decent amount of R&amp;D trying to solve the software/UI issues. Yes, the box is in a bit of an alpha stage right now and isn’t the console-killer it set out to be, but we hope that Alienware continues to make future iterations of the Alpha. As it stands, the Alpha is a good machine for the PC vet, but not a perfect solution for the console noob.</p> <p><strong>Alienware Alpha Specs</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/alienware_alpha_benchmarks.png" alt="alienware alpha benchmarks" title="alienware alpha benchmarks" width="620" height="373" /></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/new_spec_chart.png" alt="alienware alpha specs" title="alienware alpha specs" width="615" height="249" /></p> alienware alpha review console Hardware small gaming pc steam machine Valve Windows Gaming News Reviews Mon, 26 Jan 2015 22:21:34 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29316 at After Windows, Google Discloses Three Zero Day Bugs in OS X <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="" alt="Google Project Zero" title="Google Project Zero" width="228" height="95" style="float: right;" />Apple remains silent</h3> <p>Having recently <a href="" target="_blank">ruffled Microsoft’s feathers</a> by (responsibly) disclosing three unpatched vulnerabilities in Windows to the general public, Google’s Project Zero team has now turned its attention to the other side of the PC-Mac divide. The outfit recently spilled the beans on <strong>three zero-day vulnerabilities in Apple’s OS X operating system.<br /></strong></p> <p>It is not that Google’s bug hunters have trained their guns on OS X all of a sudden, as part of some sort of balancing act. The Project Zero team privately notified Apple about the three bugs in October and, as is its standard operating procedure, gave the latter 90 disclosure-free days in each case to come up with a fix. The 90-day responsible disclosure deadline in each of the three cases expired earlier this week and as a result the vulnerabilities are now out in the open. </p> <p>Unlike Microsoft, Apple hasn’t uttered a single word on the whole issue.&nbsp; This probably owes to the fact that the company has already fixed the bugs. According to <a href="" target="_blank">iMore</a>, all the vulnerabilities in question have already been fixed and the patches are part of OS X 10.10.2, which is currently in beta.</p> <p>Do you think Microsoft should take a leaf out of Apple’s book and <a href="" target="_blank">just concentrate on fixing bugs</a>, or do you agree with the former that Google’s refusal to extend the disclosure deadline “feels less like principles and more like a 'gotcha'”? Or are you one of those people who would like Google — a company that has chosen to <a href="" target="_blank">leave 60 percent of all Android users to twist in the wind</a> by refusing to fix a bug in the default Android browser — to focus on plugging holes in its own products with the same zeal with which it adheres to the disclosure deadlines?</p> <p><em>Follow Pulkit on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p> android apple bugs Google OS X project zero team responsible disclosure Software Windows zero day News Mon, 26 Jan 2015 01:28:34 +0000 Pulkit Chandna 29308 at Google Posts Another Windows Zero-Day Security Hole <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/google_5.jpg" alt="Google" title="Google" width="228" height="171" style="float: right;" />Google and Microsoft have different opinions on public disclosure policies</h3> <p>For the third time in a month, <strong>Google has gone ahead and disclosed all the gory details of a zero day vulnerability affecting Windows</strong> before Microsoft could get around to releasing a patch. It affects both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 and has to do with how applications handle memory encryption to allow for data flow back and forth between processes running in the same logon session.</p> <p>"The issue is the implementation in CNG.sys doesn't check the impersonation level of the token when capturing the logon session ID (using SeQueryAuthenticationIdToken) so a normal user can impersonate at Identification level and decrypt or encrypt data for that logon session," Google's Project Zero team <a href=";jsonp=vglnk_14214161295196&amp;key=2b0adaafa9ad8a29fede7758fada1730&amp;libId=4da012ec-6be5-4f97-aa6b-a13dd92402f2&amp;;v=1&amp;;;title=Google%20publishes%20third%20Windows%200-day%20vulnerability%20in%20a%20month%20%7C%20PCWorld&amp;txt=a%20description%20of%20the%20flaw" target="_blank">explains</a>. "This might be an issue if there's a service which is vulnerable to a named pipe planting attack or is storing encrypted data in a world readable shared memory section.</p> <p>"This behavior of course might be [by] design, however not having been party to the design it's hard to tell. The documentation states that the user must impersonate the client, which I read to mean it should be able to act on behalf of the client rather than identify as the client."</p> <p>Microsoft had originally planned to plug the security hole in January's Patch Tuesday rollout earlier this week, though had to be postponed due to compatibility issues -- it's now scheduled to be fixed with February's Patch Tuesday rollout, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>PCWorld</em> reports</a>. In the meantime, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users are left vulnerable to what's now a publicly disclosed security flaw.</p> <p>The issue of publicly disclosing software vulnerabilities has become a point of contention between Google and Microsoft. It's Google's policy to give vendors like Microsoft 90 days to fix any security issues its Project Zero team finds, and any that remain unpatched after that three-month window will be disclosed to the public, no exceptions.</p> <p>As far as Microsoft is concerned, companies should be working together to ensure that security holes are addressed prior to being made public, or at least have some flexibility. That wasn't the case when, earlier this month, <a href="" target="_blank">Google disclosed</a> a Windows 8.1 vulnerability that Microsoft was scheduled to fix on Patch Tuesday, two days after its 90-day deadline. Microsoft had asked Google to refrain from publishing the vulnerability, but its request went ignored.</p> <p>"Although following through keeps to Google’s announced timeline for disclosure, the decision feels less like principles and more like a 'gotcha', with customers the ones who may suffer as a result. What’s right for Google is not always right for customers. We urge Google to make protection of customers our collective primary goal," <a href="">Microsoft stated</a> in a blog post.</p> <p>Google's stance is that 90 days is plenty of time to plug up known security holes, and with three disclosures in a month's time, it doesn't look like the search giant has any intentions of budging on its policy.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Google project zero Security Windows zero day News Fri, 16 Jan 2015 13:53:02 +0000 Paul Lilly 29263 at Microsoft Flips Kill Switch on EU Browser Ballot <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/microsoft_sign_7.jpg" alt="Microsoft Sign" title="Microsoft Sign" width="228" height="138" style="float: right;" />Has it been five years already?</h3> <p>Technology news can make you feel old. To wit, it may not seem like <strong>five years has passed since Microsoft agreed to a five-year deal in which Windows users in Europe would be offered a choice of browser upon first boot</strong>, but that commitment is not behind the Redmond outfit. Having lived up to its end of the deal, Microsoft has yanked the so-called browser ballot, which may not have done much anyway.</p> <p>The browser ballot came about following an investigation by the EU's Competition Commission into Microsoft's bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows. Microsoft agreed to show users in Europe a browser screen with download links to other browsers for a period of five years, though the company still faced a fine -- a technical oversight in Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 inadvertently removed the ballot screen in 2013, resulting in a $732 million penalty for Microsoft.</p> <p>While it's been costly for Microsoft, there's not much evidence that the ballot screen did much good for other browsers. As pointed out by <a href="" target="_blank"><em>ComputerWorld</em></a>, Opera lost 27 percent of its global usage share between December 2009 and November 2014, based on stats by StatCounter. Firefox fell even harder, dropping 42 percent of its share. There's a bit of irony there, as Opera Software and Mozilla were most critical of what they perceived as Microsoft's unfair advantage in the browser wars.</p> <p>What does the EU think? In an email to <em>ComputerWorld</em>, the EU called the browser ballot a "successful remedy," noting that it saw 795 million views resulting in 165 million browser installs.</p> <p>Image Source: <a href="" target="_blank">Flickr (Robert Scoble)</a></p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> browser ballot eu european commission european union microsoft Software Windows News Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:55:05 +0000 Paul Lilly 29116 at Xbox App Pops Up in Leaked Windows 10 Build <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/xbox_logo.jpg" alt="Xbox Logo" title="Xbox Logo" width="228" height="228" style="float: right;" />Yes console games, we can all get along</h3> <p>There are several interesting things taking place in the <a href="">leaked Windows 10 build</a>, the one that Microsoft is apparently <a href="">super calm</a> about making the rounds. One that we wanted to touch a bit more on is a <strong>new Xbox app</strong>. This is something that Microsoft is still working on, as the app clearly states when it's fired up, but the Redmond outfit is so excited about it that it wanted to give early users a sneak peek.</p> <p>The folks over at <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Verge</em></a> have been playing around with Xbox app. They say it appears to act as a gateway into the entire Xbox ecosystem -- you'll have access to achievements, your friends list, activity feeds, and the Store. And since it's an extremely early version, there's speculation that the final release might include SmartGlass integration as well.</p> <p>As our sister site <a href="" target="_blank"><em>PC Gamer</em> points out</a>, there's a chance this could be what Microsoft's Phil Spencer was referring to a week ago when he said it was "time for us to talk about gaming on Windows." We're crossing our fingers that Spencer was hinting at something more than an Xbox app -- as cool as that is, accessing our Xbox achievements on our Windows rigs isn't exactly game changing.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> app Gaming microsoft operating system OS Software Windows windows 10 xbox News Mon, 15 Dec 2014 19:30:13 +0000 Paul Lilly 29095 at Microsoft Keeps Mum on New Plans to Monetize Windows, Will Reveal Strategy in 2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/windows_10_systems.jpg" alt="Windows 10 Systems" title="Windows 10 Systems" width="228" height="174" style="float: right;" />Along with a new OS release comes a new strategy to make money</h3> <p>Things are going to be different with Windows 10 in a number of ways, and all presumably for the better (or so we're hoping and knocking on wood with Hulk-like force). It's not just the features and design that Microsoft is altering, however, but also its business model. <strong>Microsoft COO Kevin Turner spoke at a Credit Suisse technology investment conference recently, revealing that his company is looking at new ways of making money off of Windows</strong>.</p> <p>One of the strategies has already been put in motion, and that's the removal of royalties on devices with screens that are 9 inches or smaller. The intention there was to fight back against the Chromebook push and reinvigorate the low-end laptop market with Windows machines. As a result, it's now possible to find plenty of Windows laptops in the range of $200, and a few that even go for half that much.</p> <p>However, giving Windows away for free isn't something we should get used to, as Microsoft has no plans of making Windows 10 a loss leader. <a href="" target="_blank">According to <em></em></a>, Turner revealed that Microsoft will instead make up some of the difference in revenue by looking at other ways to make money from Windows, though he didn't say exactly what they would be.</p> <p>"We've got to monetize it differently. And there are services involved," Turner said. "There are additional opportunities for us to bring additional services to the product and do it in a creative way. And through the course of the summer and spring we'll be announcing what that business model looks like."</p> <p>Turner added that Microsoft's first 39 years was highlighted by "one of the greatest business models of all time built around" Windows, though said that's in the past. Looking to the future, he sees opportunities in "becoming a cloud OS, a devices operating system, having first party hardware light up those experiences," while also providing a dual-user experience (work and play, basically).</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> kevin turner microsoft operating system OS Software Windows windows 10 News Tue, 09 Dec 2014 18:40:43 +0000 Paul Lilly 29062 at Microsoft Kicks Off '12 Days of Deals' with $79 Toshiba Encore Mini Tablet <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/toshiba_encore_mini.jpg" alt="Toshiba Encore Mini" title="Toshiba Encore Mini" width="228" height="143" style="float: right;" />Save on a new item every day until December 19th</h3> <p>Black Friday? Check. Cyber Monday? Check. Ongoing savings, Steam Weeklong Deals, and GOG DRM-Free Big Winter Sale? Check, check, and check again! Phew, talk about a busy holiday shopping season, and it doesn't feel like it's coming to a close anytime soon. Instead, more and more promotions keep popping up, like <strong>Microsoft's 12 Days of Deals starting with a Toshiba Encore Mini tablet for $79</strong>, marked down from $119.</p> <p>It's the first of a dozen deals over as many days, and to sweeten the pot, Microsoft is throwing in a 16GB microSD card ($20 value) with the package. The tablet already has 16GB of built-in storage, so the microSD card brings the total storage space to 32GB, minus what's used for Windows and Office 365 Personal, the latter of which you get free for a year (a $70 value).</p> <p>Toshiba's Encore Mini sports a 7-inch HD touchscreen display powered by an Intel Atom Z3735G processor and 2GB of RAM. Other features include a micro USB 2.0 port, microphone/headphone combo port, 802.11n Wi-Fi (Miracast enabled), front-facing and rear-facing cameras, and the aforementioned software.</p> <p>Tomorrow's deal will feature an unlocked BLU Win HD phone for $129, marked down from $179. Beyond that, you'll have to keep checking the <a href="" target="_blank">12 Days of Deals website</a> for the latest offer.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> 12 days of deals encore mini Hardware microsoft mobile slate tablet toshiba Windows News Mon, 08 Dec 2014 19:28:14 +0000 Paul Lilly 29053 at