Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Should Windows 7 Be Free?

Published by Sunbelt Software FORUMS | RSS | MY PROFILE | PRIVACY  

Vol. 1, # 9 - Nov 5, 2009 - Issue # 9 
 Should Windows 7 Be Free?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Holiday Online Shopping Survey
    • Should Windows 7 Be Free?
    • Follow-up: There ain't no such thing as a problem free launch
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • What's Windows 7's real "killer" feature?
    • Watching and recording clear QAM channels with Windows 7 Media Center
    • Win7 SP1 already on the way?
    • Windows 7 upgrade problem: endless reboot loop
  4. How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features
    • How to change default save location for libraries in Windows 7
  5. Windows 7 and Vista Security
    • Turning off the Windows 7 firewall - the right way
  6. Question Corner
    • How can I view my Windows 7 Media Center content throughout the house?
  7. Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Install and configure Live Mail on Windows 7
    • How to configure the Autoplay settings in Windows 7
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • New Version Of Directory Opus 9.5 Released

Kiss Your Antivirus Bloatware Goodbye

We asked users of antivirus products what they didn't like about their AV software. They told us they are resource hogs and slowed their computer down. They told us that scan times took way too long, and that the AV software nagged them. In short, old-style AV software takes too much Memory and CPU. Time to switch to VIPRE! It gives you malware protection that combines antivirus, antispyware, anti-rootkit and other technologies into a seamless, tightly-integrated product.

Even if you run "free" antivirus software, it hijacks 20% of your PC, so it's really not free at all! Get VIPRE now and see how fast your PC can really be:

Editor's Corner

Holiday Online Shopping Survey

It's November, and the holiday shopping season is almost upon us! We need your help with some security research we're doing on online shopping habits and we'll be announcing the results the week of Thanksgiving, just before the Black Friday and Cyber Monday online shopping madness begins. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

Should Windows 7 Be Free?

The cost of software has been on my mind a lot lately. It started with a not-so-great experience with a "free" operating system, Ubuntu Linux. I spent more than eight hours tweaking things to try to get the OS to install in a VM, something that took only about an hour when I did it with Windows 7. Based on what I normally bill for my time and the hours that I lost (but not accounting for the frustration factor), I figure I spent over $1000 on the repeated attempts to get to the Ubuntu desktop.

It's good that I didn't pay for the software, on top of all that. Then I would have really been annoyed. Instead, I wrote it off as one of those "you get what you pay for" deals. And before five thousand of you write to tell me that Linux installed without a hitch for you, or that you spent the same amount of time trying to get Windows to work, please don't. I believe you. I'm not complaining about the software itself. My complaint is something that I read in the Ubuntu documentation during the ordeal: the statement that "we believe software should be free." That rubbed me the wrong way, so much so that I wrote a blog post about it. You can read that mini-rant at

That post has already triggered quite a discussion among some of my friends on Facebook. Some misunderstood what I was saying. Of course I believe that if an individual or corporation wants to give away what it makes, that's great. If that statement from Ubuntu had been "we believe our should be free," I would never have written that blog post. It's the implication that all software should be free that bothered me.

Of course, not all distributions of Linux are free. And some companies give away the software but charge for support. I'm not sure what the effective difference is between paying for software and getting free support vs. paying for support and getting free software. If you want to stumble and bumble your way through and spend your time instead of your money, that's okay - but for many of us, our time is worth money.

But if software shouldn't necessarily be free, how much "should" it cost? The free market answer to that is "whatever the market will bear." As one of my friends pointed out, the concept of "free" Linux came about at least partially in response to the very high cost of UNIX, which was way beyond the reach of the average user. Server operating systems typically cost in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. For example, Windows Server 2008 costs anywhere from $469 (Web Edition) to $2999 (Datacenter Edition). Red Hat Linux Enterprise sells you an annual subscription, costing from $349/year (basic) to $2499/year (premium, advanced platform). Others, such as HP-UX, are purchased in a bundle with the server hardware so it's hard to ascertain the real cost of the OS.

When it comes to desktop operating systems for business, Linux doesn't tend to be all that "free." Businesses aren't usually comfortable using unsupported software, so they tend to go with a commercial version like Red Hat, which costs $179/year for Workstation with a basic subscription. When you compare that to $299 for Windows 7 Professional full version (or $199 for the upgrade) and consider that you'll probably use the Windows OS for at least three years, you actually come out cheaper with Windows. And there are volume licensing plans for big companies that bring the price per desktop down more.

But what about the cost of an operating system for home users? Apple got plenty of great PR for offering their "new" Snow Leopard OS upgrade for only $29 - but when you look closely, it's obvious that the reason its name is a derivative of its predecessor (Leopard) is because this isn't a new OS at all. In fact, the "new" features are mostly things that Windows has had for years: 64 bit support, full Exchange support, faster wake up and shutdown, faster installation, a new version of the Safari browser. Even avid Mac fans have conceded that Snow Leopard is more like a service pack than a new version. Microsoft, of course, provides service packs for Windows at no cost. But hey, Apple charged $29.95 for the public beta of the original OS X in 2000. Can you imagine what people would say if Microsoft asked you to pay for a beta OS?

Still, some were saying that Windows 7 is just "Vista done right" and as such, should be available to those who bought Vista free or for a very nominal cost. I don't know. That would have been nice, but really - if I bought a 2007 Ford Taurus and I didn't like it as well as I liked my 2005 model, I wouldn't in my wildest dreams imagine that Ford would or should give me a 2009 model for free (or for $1000) to make up for my disappointment in the previous model.

Going back to the Apple comparison, it's true that the full version of Snow Leopard is only $129. Windows Home Premium is $199. That's not a huge difference, but can you really accurately compare just the software cost? You can't buy Snow Leopard and install it on a low cost computer of your choice, or put it on an old PC that you want to recycle. You can't even put it on an old Mac - my long-in-the-tooth iMac won't run it. The lowest cost Mac is the mini, which starts at $599 retail. You can buy a desktop PC with Windows 7 Home Premium loaded on it for $289.99 from HP (Pavilion p6200z series).

The good news is that the trend in consumer OS pricing is not an upward one. Windows 7 costs less than Vista, and Snow Leopard costs the same as Leopard, which cost the same as Tiger before it. And there are various ways to get software at discounted prices. Those who pre-ordered were able to get an upgrade copy of Home Premium for $49. And Microsoft employees can buy full versions of Windows 7 Home Premium for $30 or Ultimate for $50 from the company store. But you don't have to have been an early bird or work for Microsoft to get a deal. The Windows 7 student discount program allows those with student IDs to buy Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional for just $29.99.

Unfortunately, only one discount is allowed per student, so don't think that you can get your child who's in college to snatch up a dozen copies for you at thirty bucks each. And some options we once had have gone away. Once upon a time, if you built your own computer, you could get a "system builders" license that cost less than a retail license but more than the OEM pricing that the large hardware vendors get. Now that's not allowed under the licensing agreement; system builders can only do this on computers they sell to unrelated third parties. For a detailed description of Windows 7 licensing, see Ed Bott's column at:

Why about downloading a "free" copy of Windows 7 on BitTorrent? They're out there, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it. And don't even think about distributing illegal copies yourself. A Hong Kong schoolboy was arrested for selling pirated copies shortly after the official release of the OS, and he's facing up to four years in jail.

In China, pirates are selling illegal copies of Windows 7 for the equivalent of about three U.S. dollars (Chinese customers can already buy the full, legal retail version for around $58, but apparently they still think that's too high):

Tell us what you think about software pricing. Do commercial operating systems cost too much, or do you get what you pay for? What strikes you as the "right price" for a full featured consumer OS? Should Microsoft have additional discounts (for example, for senior citizens)? Should Vista Ultimate customers get a special deal to make up for the lack of "Ultimate Extras" that they thought were going to be forthcoming when they bought the high end version of that OS? Did you/would you pay the full retail price for Windows 7? Do you think software "should" all be free? We invite you to discuss this topic in our forum at

P.S. Some folks will tell me that "free" isn't about the cost, but about allowing other people to modify and do what they want with the software. Sorry, but I don't go along with the "should" there, either. The owner of software is the person or company that creates it. That owner is the one who should be free to give it away, to give others the permission to modify it - or not. That owner should also be free to license it however he/she wants. I guess it comes down to a fundamental difference of opinion about property rights.

Follow-up: There ain't no such thing as a problem free launch

In last week's editorial, I discussed some of the problems that were reported in conjunction with the Windows 7 launch and my own observation that many of them seemed to be related to outsourcing various aspects of the launch process. Based on the discussion in our forum, it seems quite a few readers agree with me regarding the outsourcing issue. But I was glad to see that despite some of the obstacles posed by the House Party site, many of you also hosted or attended parties that turned out great.

For the reader who called the launch party concept a "Tupperware party" approach (and for all those in the tech press who made the same mistake), that's not what it was at all. At a Tupperware party, you're expected to buy something and your host gets something based on how much sells. The launch parties were just about sharing your own excitement about and enthusiasm for Windows 7 with your friends. If they go out and buy the OS, that's fine - but they can't buy it at the party and the host has no vested interest in whether they do or not. As for the "relentless follow-up," I didn't experience it and neither did any of the other hosts I talked with. And yes, I did give my public phone number on the site. No calls, no spam thus far. Nonetheless, I still strongly object to the extent of the questions that were asked.

A few days ago, I received a survey asking for my feedback on the launch party experience, and I made sure to express my displeasure with the questions and release forms and the overall HouseParty, Inc. experience. I urge the rest of you who hosted parties to take the time to complete the survey and let Microsoft know how you feel about that.

Thanks to all of you who participated in the discussion!

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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Quotes of the Week

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. - Mother Teresa

We all have a choice in every difficult situation in our life. We can become either bitter or better. - Corina Zalace

Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. - Kin Hubbard

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Cool Tools


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Your Uninstaller! 2008 takes the place of the clunky Windows Control Panel "Add/Remove Programs" and offers many other useful functions

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News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

What's Windows 7's real "killer" feature?

All of us have our favorite Windows 7 new feature or improvement, but what attribute is that really makes the upgrade worthwhile? Find out one person's opinion here (it's probably not any of the things you're thinking of):

Watching and recording clear QAM channels with Windows 7 Media Center

A few weeks back, I discussed some of the new features in Windows 7 Media Center. In this article on Amazon's EndUser blog, I focus on the one that might just be the best of all: the ability to watch and record clear QAM (unencrypted HD) programs. It's easy, it doesn't cost anything extra (if you have basic or digital cable service) and it makes a huge difference in the Windows Media Center experience.

Win7 SP1 already on the way?

Hey, Windows 7 was just released two weeks ago - but Microsoft programmers are already hard at work on the first service pack. And according to the latest rumors, a beta of SP1 is right around the corner - January 2010 - although it's not expected to be officially released until next summer. Right now it's all speculative, but some folks are already eagerly awaiting it. Read more here:

Windows 7 upgrade problem: endless reboot loop

I've upgraded more than a dozen computers to Windows 7 and haven't ever seen this happen. I've only heard from two friends that it's happened to (out of hundreds of friends and readers who have written to me about their Windows 7 experiences). But apparently a number of people are encountering an "endless reboot loop" - similar to what happened with Windows XP service pack 3 and Vista SP1 a while ago - when they upgrade Vista to Windows 7. The service pack problem was linked to the way some hardware vendors installed the Windows image on the machines. There has not been an official determination of the cause of the current problem. Some fixes have emerged, and they work for some people, but not for everybody.

How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features

How to change default save location for libraries in Windows 7

Libraries in Windows 7 help make it easier and faster to find your documents, pictures and music. But files aren't stored in the libraries themselves; libraries just point to the folders where the data actually resides. You can set a default folder in your library; this is the folder to which everything that is copied or moved into the library will be saved unless you explicitly save it to a different location in the library. Here's how you set the default save folder:
  1. Click the Start menu and right click the user name button.
  2. Select Open
  3. In the Libraries window, right click the library (for example, Documents) for which you want to set the default save folder
  4. Select Properties
  5. In the list of library locations, highlight the folder you want to set as the default
  6. Click the Set Save Location button
  7. Click OK
  8. Close the libraries

Windows 7 and Vista Security

Turning off the Windows 7 firewall - the right way

If your Windows 7 computers are behind a corporate firewall, you may want to turn off the local firewall. For instance, some software won't work on the local network with the host firewall enabled. Some folks are finding that if they stop or disable the firewall service on their Windows 7 computers, it blocks their connection to drives that are mapped to another computer. This is actually by design.

To prevent this problem, instead of stopping or disabling the firewall through the Services settings, try using this command: netsh advfirewall set allprofiles state=off

For other ways to stop the firewall, see

Question Corner

How can I view my Windows 7 Media Center content throughout the house?

I am starting to implement Win7 Media Center in my house and am searching for ways to be able to serve that digital content on one Media center PC to all HDTVs in the house. Short of having a PC connected to every TV, do you know of any good resources for doing such? - Victor L.

I would guess there are many people out there who want to do the same thing. The good news is that Media Center Extenders that worked with Vista Media Center also work with Windows 7. We have a Linksys DMA2100 extender in the bedroom, which we bought for $120 from Amazon quite a while back. Amazingly, this same model now costs $320. However, you can get a DMA2200 that includes a built in DVD player for $200. I haven't tried that model, but the one we have works great.

You connect it to the network via Ethernet or wi-fi and set up the extender in Windows 7 Media Center. Then you can watch any of your Media Center TV programs, listen to your music or view your videos and pictures on the TV that's attached to the extender. You can even be watching one program on the extender and a different one on your Windows 7 Media Center PC. Just be sure you get a "version 2" extender. The version 1 type was made for XP Media Center Edition and does not work with Vista or Windows 7.

The Xbox 360 can also function as an extender, so if you have one hooked up to one of your other TVs, you can use it to access your media. In 2007, HP made a TV called the MediaSmart HDTV that has media center extender functionality built in, but as far as I can tell, they've been discontinued. However, other companies could build the extender technology into TVs, DVD/Blu-ray players or other devices in the future.

Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting

Install and configure Live Mail on Windows 7

Some people are happy that Windows 7 doesn't include all the "extras" that were in Vista, but others miss some of those built in programs, such as the mail client. If you need a mail client, Windows Live Mail is available as a free download from the Windows Live Essentials web site.

This article tells you how to set up your Hotmail account in Windows Live Mail:

How to configure the Autoplay settings in Windows 7

Autoplay lets you specify how you want particular types of files to behave when you insert a device such as a USB stick or CD or DVD. For example, you can set software DVDs to automatically start installing, or you can set music CDs to start playing in Windows Media Player. This article explains how to configure the AutoPlay settings in Windows 7 to suit your preferences:

Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

Product of the Week

New Version Of Directory Opus 9.5 Released

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Personal & Educational Use Only This blog consists mainly of FREE newsletters from computer web gurus that I receive. I thought you might like to see them all in one place than try to discover them on your own. A moderate amount of editing may be done to eliminate unrelated repetitious ads or unnecessary text which bloat the post. However I have given the authors full credit and will not remove their site links because you deserve to see where it comes from and they deserve to get credit for what they have written. Your use of this site is simply for educational purposes. For more computer-related help go to: CPEDLEY.COM for free software, advice and tips on low cost products which are very helpful. If you want to contact the editor, please go CPEDLEY.COM and check the Contact page for email address.