Monthly Archives: October 2009

Microsoft Office 2010 to appear in a free, ad-funded version!

Microsoft Office 2010, due out next year, will be available in a free version called Office 2010 Starter.

Like the no-cost Google Apps suite, Office 2010 Starter will be supported by advertising. Although its name implies a trial version, Office 2010 Starter will have no time-limit.

But there’s a catch.

While the freebie Office 2010 Starter will have a similar interface as the full commercial version, including the signature ribbon introduced with Office 2007, it offers only Word and Excel – and stripped down versions of the software at that.

If you want presentation graphics and database software as well, you’ll have to pay for the full commercial version of Office 2010 … or download one of the free business software suites, which includes OpenOffice 3.0 – bankrolled in part by Google, IBM and others.

Another draw-back: Office 2010 Starter will only be available on new PCs, according to the Microsoft TechNet blog that broke the news.

Microsoft first began talking about an ad-funded version of Office back in mid-2007. But with Office on track to generate $16 billion or so in sales this year – despite a 13% dip in its most recent quarter – Microsoft has been hesitant to mess with this cash cow.

For now, it seems, the growing popularity of free and no-cost alternatives is getting to great to ignore.

Office in your browser
Its decision to release a free, ad-supported version of Office 2010 is the second radical move Microsoft has made with its new 2010 suite.

Its first was to announce a free, web version of Office 2010 that will see Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and other apps available in iterations that can run inside any web browser, allowing a user to view or edit files without Office 2010 being installed on a PC. This browser-based version of Office 2010 is currently being rolled out in an invitation-only trial.

The web version of Office 2010 is aimed squarely at Google Apps, which is available in both a free, ad-supported version and a more full-featured Premiere version that costs users $50 per user per year.

10 Things To Consider When Planning Your Upgrade To Windows 7

Windows 7 will be offically released on Thursday, October 22nd and the buzz indicates many users are chompin’ at the bit to upgrade as soon as it hits the market.

Sooner or later, most home users and businesses will be upgrading from their current operating system to Windows 7. Here’s 10 important issues to consider when you begin planning your upgrade to Windows 7.

1: Do I need to buy new hardware?

Many people equate upgrading the operating system to the need to buy a new computer or, at the very least, add RAM and perhaps a bigger hard drive to their present systems. That’s because traditionally, each new version of Windows has needed more disk space and memory than its predecessor.

Will you need to buy new hardware if you want to use Windows 7? That depends. Microsoft’s recommended hardware specifications for Windows 7 Release Candidate include a 1 GHz processor, at least 1 GB of RAM, DirectX 9.0 support, 16 GB of free disk space, and 128 MB of graphics memory (for Aero). Those requirements are pretty much the same as the published system specs for Vista Home Premium/Business/Enterprise/Ultimate (the only difference is that the Vista specs list 15 GB of disk space). Many beta testers report that Windows 7 runs faster on their low-powered machines (512 MB of RAM) than does Vista. Based on our test systems we would not recommend anything less than 2GB of RAM.

General rule of thumb: If your computer is powerful enough to run Vista acceptably, it will probably run Windows 7 just as well or better. If you’re currently using XP on a computer with less than 512 MB of RAM or a processor that’s slower than 800 MHz, you’ll need to upgrade your hardware.

2: Can I upgrade directly from XP?

Many folks who are still running Windows XP want to know whether they can upgrade to Windows 7 without losing all their preferences and settings. The answer is, well, sort of. Microsoft is not providing a direct upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7. An in-place upgrade is available only if you’re running Vista SP1 or later. If you’re running XP, even if your hardware is adequate, you’ll have to do a clean installation of Windows 7. However, you can use the Microsoft Deployment Tool 2010, which includes the User State Migration Tool, to transfer your user settings for the desktop and applications to the new Windows 7 installation. You can get the tool here: 

3: Can I do a Vista in-place upgrade?

If you’re running Windows Vista, note that you must install SP1 or SP2 before you can do an in-place upgrade to Windows 7. If you attempt to upgrade a Vista computer that doesn’t have a service pack installed, you will get a message informing you that “to upgrade to Windows 7, the computer needs to be running Vista with Service Pack 1.”

4: Can I upgrade from Windows 7 beta to final release?

Many people are currently running either the public beta of Windows 7 (build 7000) that was released in January or one of the subsequent builds that has been leaked to various peer-to-peer sites since then. Many of them are wondering whether they’ll be able to do an in-place upgrade to the RC and/or final release.

Microsoft has recommended that beta testers go back to Vista and upgrade from it to the final release, but that’s something many will resist. Another option is to do a clean install, but again, many folks are using Windows 7 now on their mission-critical desktops and notebooks, and they don’t want to have to start all over. In deference to them, Microsoft representatives have said that it will be possible to upgrade from the beta, but it won’t be easy; it will involve a number of steps. The installer will tell you “no” when you attempt to do an upgrade from an earlier build of Windows 7. There’s a procedure to bypass the version check so you can do the upgrade anyway.

Microsoft asks that you do this only if you “absolutely require” it. It’s likely that you’ll have a much more stable OS if you do a clean installation.

5: Will there be driver compatibility issues?

A big complaint about Windows Vista was driver incompatibility. Too many people upgraded their OS from XP to Vista only to find that a favorite peripheral, such as a printer or scanner, would no longer work. Vista also introduced a new display driver model, WDDM, which required video card vendors to write completely different display and video miniport drivers. And security enhancements in Vista affected how the OS handles drivers. Even though Vista was in development for five years, many hardware vendors did not have Vista drivers ready for all of their products when the OS was released.

Now that Vista has been out for more than two years, most hardware vendors have updated their drivers to work with it. Because Windows 7 uses the same driver models as Vista, the vast majority of hardware devices that work with Vista will work with Windows 7. For Vista drivers that won’t install on Windows 7, you can usually solve the problem by installing in Compatibility Mode. To do this, right-click the driver’s setup file, select Properties, click the Compatibility tab, enable compatibility mode, and select the appropriate operating system from the drop-down box.

6: Will there be application compatibility issues?

As with drivers, most applications that run on Windows Vista will run on Windows 7. You may need to enable Compatibility Mode on some applications, as described above. Interestingly, some applications that ran on XP and would not run on Vista will run on Windows 7. Microsoft reported in March that it had identified at least 30 old applications that will run on Windows 7 although they failed to do so on Vista. These are being referred to as “rescued applications.”

7: What if I have apps that won’t run on Windows 7, even in Compatibility Mode?

There may be some XP applications that you can’t get to run on Windows 7, even using Compatibility Mode. In the past, that might have been considered a reason not to upgrade. However, you may still be able to enjoy all the benefits of Windows 7 without giving up your favorite apps, thanks to a new compatibility feature called XP Mode. XPM is a host-based virtualization solution that will reportedly be made available at no cost to users of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions.

XPM includes a fully licensed copy of XP that runs in a virtual machine on your Windows 7 computer. This differs from just installing XP on Virtual PC or VMware. The virtualized applications appear like local applications on the Windows 7 desktop because they’re published to the Win 7 host operating system. With XPM, you will be able to run any XP application on Windows 7. The caveat with Windows 7 virtualized “Windows XP Mode” is that you WILL NEED TO UPGRADE  your hardware in order to use this feature. It will only run on an Intel VT based processor (vt – virtualized technology)

8: Should I wait for Windows 7 release to buy a new computer?

Some individual computer users may be wondering if they should wait until Windows 7 is released to buy a new computer, to ensure that the system will work with the new OS. An advantage of waiting is that after Windows 7 is released, (you can pre-order systems with Windows 7 today) you’ll be able to buy a computer that has it preinstalled, so you won’t need to take the upgrade path.

9: Which edition of Windows 7 should I choose?

A big complaint about Vista is that there are too many editions to choose from. Windows XP offered only two retail editions: Professional and Home. (XP Media Center edition and Tablet PC edition were available only to OEMs.) But Vista offers a large and sometimes confusing array of options: Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate. (Starter is available only in “emerging markets,” and Enterprise is available only to volume licensing customers.)

Windows 7 will also have both Home Basic and Home Premium editions. The equivalent of Vista Business edition will revert to the Professional moniker. As far as we can tell, Enterprise and Ultimate editions will be the same, except that the former is sold only through volume licensing. There will also be a Starter edition, which will be installed on low-powered netbooks. Here’s a Windows 7 comparison chart to help you out

A major change is that each successive Windows 7 edition will include all features of the lower cost ones. Many Vista Business and Enterprise users were annoyed that they didn’t get Windows Media Center, DVD Maker, and other consumer-oriented features that came in Vista Home Premium. Since Home Premium couldn’t join a domain and lacked support for EFS and some other business-oriented features, if you wanted both, you had to buy Ultimate. Windows 7 Professional will include everything that’s in Windows 7 Home Premium, and Enterprise will include everything that’s in Business edition. Companies will be able to easily block the consumer features when they deploy Pro (or Enterprise) on their networks.

Most people will find that either Home Premium or Professional will fit their needs. If you need BitLocker or the ability to boot from a VHD, you’ll want Enterprise or Ultimate.

10: What are the main reasons to upgrade to Windows 7?

Why upgrade to Windows 7 rather than stay with Windows XP or Vista?  If you’re still running XP, an important consideration is the fact that Microsoft ended mainstream support for XP on April 14. Although critical security updates will still be provided at no cost until 2014, additional support is provided only to customers who pay for a support contract with Microsoft.

Windows 7 also provides the improved graphical user interface (Aero) you get with Vista. Search is improved, and consumers with children will appreciate the parental controls feature. The most important reason to upgrade from XP is security; both Vista and Windows 7 provide much better security.

If you’re using Vista, some of the new features and functionality you’ll get with Windows 7 include a more streamlined GUI with a more functional taskbar that features Jump Lists; new and more sophisticated versions of Paint, Wordpad, and Calculator; easier windows management with snap-to docking; elimination of the sidebar (while maintaining support for gadgets); and new built-in troubleshooting tools. While Windows 7 still focuses on security, User Account Control (UAC) is far less in your face and more user-configurable than in Vista. Windows 7 also has built-in support for touch (if you have a touchscreen monitor). Keyboard fans will find a number of new keyboard shortcuts to help you avoid use of the mouse in many situations.

For administrators, Windows 7 offers new tools such as PowerShell v2, improved Group Policy, and VHD image management and deployment.

The Windows 7 October 22nd release will hopefully bring new life to the PC market – at least that’s what the major OEM computer manufacturers are betting their Q-4 sales figures on. Let’s see what the economy has to say.

What's YOUR ID Theft Risk?

What’s Your ID Theft Risk Number?

Just when you finally figured out how to get your all important FICO credit score – another important number pops up in your life: your ID score. Your ID Score can alert you to your risk for identity theft.

In use now for a decade by financial institutions and other creditors, the ID score calculates the risk that customers are who they say they are. Now for the first time, San Diego based ID Analytics, one of the companies that develop and sell the score to businesses, is making it available to consumers for free on the web.

You must fill out your contact information (your social security number IS NOT required) and answer some simple questions about your financial history. The result is a score between 1 and 999. The higher the score, the more you are at risk for identity theft. If your score is high, there are links provided to the nonprofit identity, Theft Resource Center, which can help you learn how to protect yourself.

From your results page, you can also request your free credit report, as well as get links to other agencies offering assistance if necessary. At the bottom of this article, I’ve included a link to the Federal Trade Commission and their information on Identity Theft.

I performed this risk check on myself and came up with a “low risk” ID score. Actually, it was lower than I had expected based on the number of Internet purchases I make on a regular basis.

Remember, it’s important to stay vigilant about protecting your identity. Always shred sensitive documents before throwing them away, exercise caution when providing personal information on-line, and perhaps even consider using a secure mailbox for receiving incoming mail. You can’t be too careful these days.

Federal Trade Commission- Identity Theft Website

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