It's an all-too-familiar marketing ploy: download a utility you really want, and get a toolbar for your browser free. This week, Microsoft joined the "download one, get one free" bandwagon, but with a twist: Redmond announced a deal with Sun Microsystems to offer the MSN Toolbar to US users of Internet Explorer whenever they download the Java Runtime Environment. MSN Toolbar offers one-click access to Live Search, direct access to Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger, and stories from the MSN network. If you hate toolbars, or your browser's already running your favorite toolbar, you can opt out of the MSN toolbar.
This Microsoft plus Sun pairing represents a big "win" for Microsoft, as Google's toolbar was previously being offered as the freebie with Java. As El Reg points out, this sort of thing is nothing new for Sun and Java. Java's also been used to deliver offers of OpenOffice and the Yahoo! toobar (the latter to Mozilla Firefox browser users only).
So, how do you feel about these combo deals? Would you rather get a coupon for free french fries, or are you comfortable with getting "two for one" downloads"? Join us after the jump and sound off.
While researching an antivirus article here at Maximum PC, we noticed something very curious: a Google AdWords link for “Antivirus xp 2008,” which led to the url “antivirus-world-2009.com.” (Don't go there)
Anyone who’s been paying attention during the last year or so know that "Antivirus xp 2008" is the name of one of the most widespread and obnoxious bits of malware floating around the internet. It hides itself in your system and launches a bogus antivirus program at intervals to warn you that you’ve got spyware and trojans and the sky is falling. Then, it recommends that you buy the pro version of the program, which presumably also does nothing except rip you off. The virus is frequently updated to evade malware removal tools, and is just generally a pain.
Wrath of the Lich King may barely be ripe for the picking, but Blizzard's already hard at work on its next attempt at supplanting real life. Blizzard COO Paul Sams recent spoke with VG247 about the second generation of its MMO monarchy, and long-time WoW players will be both happy and relieved to hear that this game certainly isn't WoW 2.0.
“We want to create a great game,” Sams said. “Something that’s cool, and new, and different, and kind of next generation in terms of look and feel and gameplay. That’s a challenging endeavour.”
But as a dab of disappointment for WoW players' flagon of infinite joy, the new Blizzard MMO is still deep in the grimy pits of development, with no release date in sight.
“We’re definitely at the beginning, in the first half of development,” Sams continued.
“When we’re building a new game from the ground up, what happens is that it’s slow going for the first bit, while the team goes round and round and round figuring out how it’s going to look and feel, what the player experience is and what the differentiators are, and then the speed at which we then bring in the content and polish and actually get to the finish line…"
"I think the second half of the process is always substantially faster than the first half of product development,” he added.
Find out why it'll be quite some time before Blizzard gives fans an eyeful of its new MMO after the break.
InfoWorld's Randall C. Kennedy has put Windows 7's Milestone 3 pre-beta build 6801, a freebie from last month's Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference, through a variety of benchmark tests, and isn't all that impressed:
As I reported on my Enterprise Desktop blog, the more I dug into Windows 7, the more I saw an OS that looked and felt like a slightly tweaked version of Windows Vista.
Just as slow as Vista...Just as consumer-focused as Vista...Just as confusing as Vista...
Kennedy cites these similarities:
The number of execution threads in key subsystems is almost the same in Windows 7 as in Vista
Benchmarks of Windows 7 and Vista Ultimate SP1 using the DMS Clarity Studio tools suite show almost identical results
Similar amounts of RAM are used by Windows 7 and Windows Vista
From these facts and visual similarities between Windows 7 and Vista, Kennedy concludes:
Bottom line: So far, Windows 7 looks and behaves almost exactly like Windows Vista. It performs almost exactly like Vista. And it breaks all sorts of things that used to work just fine under Vista. In other words, Microsoft's follow-up to its most unpopular OS release since Windows Me threatens to deliver zero measurable performance benefits while introducing new and potentially crippling compatibility issues.
Is Kennedy right, or is he missing a big difference between Windows 7 and its predecessor? For my take, join me after the break.
Nearly a quarter century ago, a young, pinup version Bill Gates released Microsoft’s first operating system, Windows. While the announcement was made in 1983, and the boxes wouldn’t see store shelves until 1985, Gates’ debut at New York’s Helmsley Palace Hotel was a notably ambitious one.
Gates stated that his fledgling operating system would be powering 90% of IBM’s computers by 1984. This didn’t come true initially (read: missed release date by a year), but it has managed to come to fruition as a number that’s near Windows’ market share today.
While Windows 1 was a short-lived ride, being made obsolete only two years later by Windows 2, it was a great start for Microsoft. Using a brand new graphical interface, it certainly made an impact on computing, as we know it today.
Thanks to a borked update, some PC users running AVG's free antivirus were in for a long and frustrating weekend. The virus definition update, which was released on Saturday, erroneously detected the "user32.dll" file for the Trojan Horse PSW.Banker4.APSA instead of recognizing it as a critical Windows component. Once the scanner went active, users found their AVG software recommending that they delete the quarantined file. Doing so caused systems to either stop booting or enter into a continuous reboot loop. Whoops!
The misinformed update affected both AVG 7.5 and AVG 8.0 installations on Windows XP. Vista users appear to be in the clear, though a spattering of user comments around the web have indicated otherwise. In any event, another update has corrected the error. For those who already deleted the critical system file, AVG is providing step-by-step instructions on how to restore your system back to a working state. Whether or not it restores your faith back in the program is another question altogether.
Hit the jump and let us know what security software you're using.
Slow and steady wins the race against piracy? That's probably the mantra that came of EA and DICE's recent mind-meld, in which the publisher-developer duo decided to keep lithe heroine Faith from tip-toeing across PC rooftops until 2009 -- at least two months after consolites get their fix.
Now, today, after an almost conspicuously lengthy session of nonchalant whistling and faux-confused shoulder-shrugging, EA has announced a release window for its totalitarian twist on the formula Mario laid forth.
"The PC version of Mirror’s Edge will ship in North America in January 2009," said the press release. But that's not all.
"To keep the action coming after launch, DICE is currently developing downloadable content that will be available at the beginning of the year. More details to be announced shortly."
A late release to keep pirates from affecting sales figures? A spot of DLC to make players think twice about dumping Mirror's Edge in GameStop's used games section? Sounds like EA's really playing things safe with this franchise. It's just a damn shame that we all have to suffer for it.
Actually, "damn" isn't quite potent enough to describe the shame stream that currently plagues this situation. Jump past the break to see a more fitting phrase.
For many, supercomputing seems like something that’s out of reach. At the most, we’ll usually just contribute our spare processor cycles to a project that involves it. But Purdue University is looking to change all that with their latest venture, Rack-A-Node.
Rack-A-Node is a flash-based game that requires you to become the network admin, and set up each rack so that they hold a solid cluster of servers that are good at tackling a variety of different tasks. From chemistry to physics, it’s all up to you to figure out if you’ll need more CPU power, more RAM or a wicked fast connection.
While the game isn’t meant to actually turn the average man into a supercomputing whiz, it is meant to let us get one step closer to it. “This is a dry and boring topic even for geeks,” claimed Gerry McCartney, the chief information officer at Purdue. “So, we wanted a way to get people excited about these things.”
Evidently they’ve been asked to create a more sophisticated version of the game that would be designed as a learning tool. “It is not stupid right now, but it’s way too simple,” Mr. McCartney said.
Google’s been on a real spree lately, rolling out one improvement after another for their Gmail service. Looks like that’s not about to stop, as they’ve just announced that the service's built-in messenger will be getting noticeably beefier with the addition of voice and video chat.
The feature will be built right into the Gmail page (no client download required) and will allow anyone to chat in real time with other Gmail users. Google has posted a video showing off how the feature functions, and frankly it looks pretty damn cool.
The service certainly isn’t as full featured as voice-chat top-dog Skype (it cannot, for instance, connect to a regular phone), but it looks like it might be just the thing for a quick chat with someone you’ve been talking to with email or Gmail’s chat. And, knowing Google, it’s probably just a matter of time until the service’s features are fully fleshed out.
The service is available now, and requires a plugin download.
Do you use video or voice chat on your computer? Will you give Gmail’s new service a try? Let us know after the jump.
This month's Patch Tuesday, unlike October's, is a quiet one, with just two security bulletins:
MS08-069 solves a remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft's XML Core Service that is rated as Critical for version 3.0 and Important for later versions. All 32-bit and 64-bit desktop versions of Windows from Windows 2000 SP4 through Windows Vista SP1 are affected, as well as Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007. The Exploitability Index is 1 (Consistent Exploit Code Likely - the most serious ranking) or 2 (Inconsistent Exploit Code Likely), depending upon the version of XML Core Services installed. Windows Server 2003 and some installations of Windows Server 2008 are also affected.
MS08-068 patches a remote code execution vulnerability in the SMB protocol. MS08-068 is rated as Important for Windows 2000 SP4 and Windows XP, and Moderate for Windows Vista. Windows Server 2003 and all Windows Server 2008 installations are also affected. Despite Microsoft's rating this vulnerability as only Important rather than Critical, MS08-068's Exploitability Index is 1 because exploit code targeting Windows XP is already public.
That's it for Patch Tuesday security bulletins, both of which will be arriving soon via Windows Update (or can be downloaded manually if you prefer). What else has Microsoft served up?
The only non-security content this time is the usual monthly update for the Malicious Software Removal Tool (KB890830; not yet updated as this article was posted now updated) and the usual monthly update for the Windows Mail junk mail filter (KB905866), available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.