Microsoft bows to pressure: Office 2013 is no longer tied to a single computer

Microsoft Office 2013 logo

With the release of Office 2013 Microsoft took the opportunity to review and update the software license agreement in a way that upset just about everyone. The new license tied a retail copy of Office 2013 to a single computer forever. If your machine died, so did the copy of Office installed on it and you’d have to purchase a new license to continue using it.

The new terms clearly stirred up a lot of anger, and Microsoft has now responded to that by updating the license agreement to relax the restriction. Microsoft has stated that in response to “customer feedback,” you can now transfer Office 2013 from one PC to another. The change is effective immediately for anyone using a copy of Office Home and Student, Home and Business, Professional, or the individual Office applications.

The change effectively sees Office revert back to the license restrictions used for Office 2010. You can transfer Office 2013 to a new machine once every 90 days, or more frequently if your hardware fails. You can also transfer ownership to a machine owned by someone else. In all cases, you can’t continue to use it on the previous machine.

This decision will stop the complaints, but you have to wonder why Microsoft ever decided to do this in the first place. Hardware fails, and asking individuals to re-purchase software due to a hardware fault is ridiculous. Lets hope Microsoft has learned from this and doesn’t implement the same restriction again in future for Office or any other applications for that matter.

Now read: Microsoft Future Vision builds a smarthouse worthy of Tony Stark

CyanogenMod quickly brings Android 4.2.2 to many devices

CyanogenMod 4.2.2

With all the excitement surrounding Android 4.2.2 this week, as you look down at your non-Nexus phone or tablet you may be feeling more than a little left out. Fortunately, the CyanogenMod team has worked quickly to release nightly builds of CM 10.1 to their lineup.

It’s not always easy to sift through an Android update, as history has taught the CyanogenMod team. Previous Android updates that seemed small on the outside have often had so much underlying code that the merge took weeks. Android 4.2.2 is all about polish, slightly changing dozens of tiny things across the operating system. Adding colons and changing font size, as well as fixing some known performance and Bluetooth bugs.

There are more than a few tiny changes, but now that the changes are live in the Android Open Source Project, Android developers can get to work merging the changes into their own projects. CyanogenMod, as one of the largest third party Android OS developers, will be releasing updates to their lineup of supported smartphones over the weekend.

Android 4.2.2

On top of the Nexus devices that are already running Android 4.2.2, CM10.1 nightlies for the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Tab P1000, and Asus Trnasformer Prime Infinity are available. Throughout the weekend, more smartphones and tablets are likely to become available. The CM team briefly commented on their progress, noting that as one device in a “family” becomes available, the others will be quick to follow behind. So, if your carrier version of something like the Galaxy S3 isn’t available yet, you won’t be waiting for very long. All of the work being done here continues toward the monthly stable release of CM10.1, which will be announced later this month.

CyanogenMod 10.1 remains the best way to bring your gadget to the latest version of Android, since even phones that will be announced next week will not get the update to Android 4.2.2 from the manufacturer for at least a couple of months. In the case of a phone like the Galaxy S3, whose version of Android is so heavily augmented by Samsung, it’s more likely that the Galaxy S4 will be released before an update is available.

Now read: Android 4.2.2 coming to most Nexus devices

Retail copies of Office 2013 are tied to a single computer forever

Microsoft Office 2013 logo

With the launch of Office 2013 Microsoft has seen fit to upgrade the terms of the license agreement, and it’s not in favor of the end user. It seems installing a copy of the latest version of Microsoft’s Office suite of apps ties it to a single machine. For life.

What does that mean in real terms? It means if your machine dies or you upgrade to a new computer you cannot take a copy of Office 2013 with you to new hardware. You will need to purchase another copy, which again will be tied to the machine it is installed upon forever.

This license change has been confirmed by The Age’s reporter Adam Turner after several frustrating calls to Microsoft’s tech support and PR departments. It effectively turns Office 2013 into the equivalent on the Windows OEM license where you get one chance to use it on a single piece of hardware.

Microsoft Office 2013 apps

On previous versions of Office it was a different story. The suite was associated with a “Licensed Device” and could only be used on a single device. But there was nothing to stop you uninstalling Office and installing it on another machine perfectly legally. With that option removed, Office 2013 effectively becomes a much more expensive proposition for many. As a reminder, Office 2013 costs anywhere from $140 to $400 depending on the version chosen (Office Home & Student, Office Home & Business, or Office Professional), all of which carry the new license agreement.

Of course, Microsoft has a solution to this in the form of Office 365. Instead of buying a retail copy tied to a single machine, you could instead subscribe to Office 365, which is tied to the user not the hardware, and can be used across 5 PCs or 4 Macs at any one time. But subscriptions aren’t for everyone, and eventually you end up paying more for the software.

It’s more likely these new license terms will push users to choose an alternative to Office 2013 or Office 365. Both OpenOffice and LibreOffice are free and good enough for the consumer market. Google is also continuing to push its free-to-use Google Docs as an alternative to Office.

JJ Abrams and Gabe Newell hint at collaboration in the future

Gabe Newell and JJ Abrams

It’s usually pretty big news when Gabe Newell announces a new game, or When JJ Abrams announces a new television show or movie. The anticipation alone for the release of whatever was announced by either of these two is typically enough to power a building. Hearing — from their own mouths — that JJ and Gaben might be working together on a future project is almost more excitement than a geek could handle.

At the DICE summit, Gabe Newell and JJ Abrams took to the stage to offer a brief keynote on storytelling in games and movies. Since the act of telling a story in a movie or television show is a little different than in a video game, you can imagine that JJ and Gabe have very different opinions on how a story should be told.

Gabe Newell thinks that the person watching the movie wants to interact with the world they are in, while JJ Abrams feels that most people don’t really know what to do in an environment like that. Is it better to be the guy sitting on your couch shouting about how you would have done it differently, or the guy who gets bored half way through some important dialogue and decides to carve his initials in the wall with bullets?

Maybe it’s a little of both, and maybe that’s why Newell and Abrams teased that they plan to try and work on something together in the future.

It’s far from a solid commitment to make anything at all, but just knowing that these two heavyweights were involved would likely be enough to have people line up around the block for it. Whether it is JJ stepping into the Valve offices and working with Gabe and his crew on a game, or having an extra chair on the set of Abrams’ next smash hit that says Newell on the back, the idea of them working together is something that excites both of them. Whatever it is, we’re probably going to have to watch Star Trek: Into Darkness frame by frame to figure it out.

The European Space Agency is planning a 3D printed moon base

moon base

Humanity hasn’t been to the moon in decades, but various space agencies around the globe are planning to head back. This time it’s not just for a short visit — the plan is to build a permanent base that can act a launching pad for missions further out in the solar system. The problem is how to build a moon base without transporting all the heavy materials from Earth. The European Space Agency (ESA) thinks it’s got the solution: 3D printing.

3D printing on Earth has been used to make structures, so it is believed that the same could be done on the moon with lunar soil as the raw material. Using lunar regolith analog (basaltic rock from a volcano in Italy), researchers were able to build a massive 1.5 ton building block as a proof of concept. The design would utilize an inflatable dome to hold an atmosphere with hollow closed-cell structures printed on site.

The oversized 3D printer was supplied by UK-based Monolite. It’s a D-shaped rig with an extruder nozzle on a 6-meter wide frame. Like a 3D printer on Earth, the nozzle moves around and lays down material layer-by-layer. The machine can currently build 2-meters of wall units per-hour, but the next prototype should bump that up to 3.5 meters.

The big challenge is going to be testing the process on Earth, when the conditions on the moon are going to be so different. The lack of an atmosphere is going to make working with liquid impossible. The current process involves mixing water with the volcanic basalt, but researchers believe mixing lunar soil with magnesium oxide should produce a paper-like material that can be printed. Temperature is also a concern. The lunar surface is subject to wild swings in temperature. Setting up shop at one of the poles should provide a more moderate climate.

Qualcomm leak confirms next Android version inbound

Android Key Lime Pie

Google’s yearly developer conference in May is still a little while away, and despite no hard evidence it should surprise no one to hear that the plan is to release the next version of Android during the event.

It’s not easy to keep a secret on the Internet, and Qualcomm will likely spend the rest of the day learning that as their legal team scrambles to squash a leaked document that points to their involvement in the next version of Android.

Since the first public release of Android, Google has stuck to a Linux-style alphabetical naming system for their Operating System. Each letter of the alphabet is turned into a code name for that version of Android, and all of the code names so far have been common desserts. We’re on our way to the “K” version of Android this year, and while the Android team at Google IO last year assured everyone that there had been no decision regarding which dessert they would go with, Key Lime Pie is the most popular choice in the Android ecosystem so far.

To give further proof that Android version K is right around the corner, Qualcomm accidentally published a document recently that confirmed the chip company was working with Google on the upcoming update.

As the dominant force in mobile processors today, it comes as no surprise that Qualcomm would be one of the first to collaborate with Google on the OS. Qualcomm’s LTE-ready processors have been in nearly every major Android phone of 2012, and will more than likely continue to dominate in 2013.

The documentation leaked by Qualcomm gave no real information regarding the next version of Android, so we still don’t know what version number or features to expect in version K. Qualcomm’s early participation will hopefully make it easier for manufacturers that have invested heavily in Snapdragon S4 processors to update to the next version quickly, though it is worth noting that so far no hardware but the Nexus devices are currently running Android 4.2.

We’d share the documentation that Qualcomm published accidentally, but it appears that the legal team at Qualcomm has been busy sending takedown notices to anyone who publishes the information. This could be the start of a three month long cycle of leaks leading up to the release of the next version of Android and the hardware it will run on at Google IO 2013.

via AndroidPolice

iRobot’s FirstLook surveillance robot begs to be thrown

When they aren’t working on the latest Roomba vacuum, the team at iRobot make equipment for more aggressive use cases. iRobot actually manufactures quite a few things that aren’t vacuums, and in all shapes and sizes, too. One of those other robots is called the FirstLook, and it begs to be thrown.

FirstLook is a five pound surveillance robot with tank treads and small mechanical flippers to help ensure it doesn’t get stuck. It’s waterproof up to one meter and can be used in up to 130 degree environments. The little robot is specifically designed to be thrown into an unsafe building or hostile location in order to evaluate the situation or see if anyone needs to be rescued. There’s heavy emphasis put on the ability to throw this robot through windows or down flights of stairs on to hard surfaces and still have it perform as intended.

The remote control for the FirstLook resembles a ruggedized Wii U GamePad and is dominated by a 5-inch display. The resolution isn’t great at just 800 x 480, but it’s good enough to see through the eyes of the robot. In fact it has four eyes, with a camera positioned on each side, all of which have tilt and pan capabilities. Anyone piloting a FirstLook should be able to assess the robot’s location and surroundings easily before proceeding.

The average consumer isn’t the target market here, like many of iRobot’s crazy projects. We certainly won’t be able to throw our Roomba’s around and use them like little tanks anytime soon, but it is undeniably cool that robotics are headed in this direction for those times where it is just too dangerous to send a person into a hostile situation.

Read more about FirstLook at iRobot, via Fast Company

10 reasons to embrace Windows 8 now

Windows 8

The switch has been flipped, Windows 8 is now upon us. Manufacturers will soon fill the shelves of your local big box store with new computers of every shape, size, and orientation running Windows 8. The holiday season will no doubt be filled with incredible deals on machines to encourage you to make the upgrade to some new hardware. Of course, if you don’t need new hardware, Microsoft offers a Windows 8 upgrade tool on their website. With everything Microsoft is offering to encourage uptake, it’s pretty easy to see why you would want to embrace Windows 8 now. If you’re not convinced, here’s a few reasons why it’s worth considering.

Inexpensive, for now

Historically, Windows upgrades have been a little on the pricey side. If the next version didn’t offer some killer feature, chances are it wasn’t worth shelling out the cash for the update on the day it came out. Windows 8, however, is starting out at $39.99 for anyone running Windows 7. All you need to do is download the update tool from Microsoft, send them some money, and when your PC reboots it will be running Winodws 8 with all of your files still intact. The $39.99 price tag is something of an early adopter rate, in January the $70 price tag you see in stores will apply for the download version, too.

Free Media Center Pack

One of the increasingly common uses of Windows machines is to have a Home Theater PC setup. If you aren’t running something like XBMC, chances are you’re running Windows Media Center. If you want things like DVD and Blu-ray codecs, you need Media Center on your Windows 8 machine. In Windows 8, you’ll need to pay a little extra for the Media Center Pack, unless you go with the Pro version. If you don’t feel like the Pro version is necessary, but still would like to grab Media Center, the pack will be free until January. This offer is available to both digital and physical disk upgrade users.

Windows 8

SkyDrive Integration

With smartphones, tablets, and PCs connected all the time, it feels natural to want access to all of your files from all of these devices. With the centralized user experience Microsoft has been pushing out to their products, the easiest way to complete that experience would be to allow your documents and photos to exist seamlessly across the platform. Microsoft’s SkyDrive has been deeply integrated into both Windows Phone and Windows 8 to offer exactly this. You can store all of your documents, photos, even game save data to your SkyDrive and access the information from anything that can connect to Microsoft’s cloud storage service.

Centralized User Experience

Price and free things are always a good reason to upgrade if you are on the fence, but the truth is Microsoft is putting all of their eggs into this new basket. If you are a Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, or Xbox 360 user, you’re going to see the new user interface that Microsoft has implemented. Microsoft has made their user experience across all of their devices as seamless as possible. The tiled UI has been slowly making its way across Microsoft’s product line, finally ending with Windows 8. If you own multiple Microsoft products, the entire experience will look and feel the same.

Windows 8

Surface

Windows 8 is more than just a step forward for Microsoft software, it also marks the very first computer that has been built by the company. Surface was designed around Windows 8 to create a unique experience for the new OS. The $399 price point for a Surface RT is a steal for anyone looking for a new way to compute, and the soon to be released Surface Pro offers a no compromise solution for any user looking to get the best of both the PC and tablet worlds right now. The Surface hardware is incredibly high quality and a good first step into Windows 8, as well as the best way to enjoy the new OS the way Microsoft intended.

Performance

In theory, each version of Windows is going to offer a performance boost of some kind over the previous version of the OS. This isn’t always the case, as Windows Vista users can attest, but with Windows 8 the difference is all too clear. Everything from boot time to complex multitasking operations are noticeably faster on Windows 8. The OS breathes life into older machines, and the startup time on more recent machines alone is often reason enough to make the switch. Everything that has been tested so far has been much faster.

Windows 8 Exclusives

As is the case with any new OS, there will be Windows 8 software exclusives. Microsoft has accomplished this with the Windows Store, which serves as a destination for Windows 8 specific apps as well as interactive live tiles for the home screen. Especially if you have a touch enabled device, Windows 8 will grant you access to a significant number of apps that are exclusive to the platform.

If the apps aren’t exclusive, they are highly stylized to take advantage of the Windows 8 UI. The Netflix app for Windows 8 is a perfect example, and the design for this app is significantly improved over the UI used on iOS or Android. There are many apps that flow nicely and just plain look better on Windows 8 as a result of the new UI.

Backwards Compatibility

Windows 8 looks and feels very different from previous versions of Windows at first glance. Once you tap that Desktop tile, though, it’s like you never left Windows 7. The Desktop UI allows you to use all of your software from previous versions of Windows. On top of that, Microsoft has added compatibility modes to make sure the programs behave as close to their original design as intended.

This is only available on Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, however. Windows RT, being an ARM based version of the OS, isn’t quite as backwards compatible. Windows RT is limited to apps from the Microsoft Store, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Security

For a number of reasons, Windows has a reputation for being the least secure of the PC operating systems. Many users run everything as Administrator, and the volume of users makes the platform a huge target for malicious software. Over the last few years, Microsoft has been developing tools like the User Account Control system to help prevent crippling OS damage. With Windows 8, security was clearly a priority.

Aside from UAC, Microsoft has included services like Windows Defender by default. This is the first version of Windows to come pre-installed with antivirus software, and Microsoft has developed their own tools instead of relying on a third party to protect the OS. Windows 8 is far from impenetrable, and you can install other services if you feel they would be more effective, but the platform as a whole will hopefully be much more secure moving forward.

Windows 8

Xbox Live and Smart Glass

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console has grown significantly since its release. The gaming console almost doubles as a set top box now, offering streaming content and social interaction as well as access to massive digital content libraries. Windows 8 scoops up the best of these add-ons and makes them available on your PC with the same interface. Xbox Live social features, like chatting with friends or playing games against one another for achievements, are integrated into Windows 8 as well.

Then there’s Smart Glass, which allows you to control your Xbox 360 from your Windows 8 computer. You can push videos, music, and websites to the service as long as you and the Xbox are on the same network. Smart Glass is available on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, so you can sync this content across the entire product line.

Final Thoughts

Windows 8 is well worth the upgrade, and there are some pretty great incentives for pulling the trigger sooner rather than later. As Microsoft moves forward with this new user experience, there will only be more reasons to upgrade, with the eventual goal of everyone moving to the new platform.

As we look back at the now 11 year old Windows XP, moving to the wildly different Windows 8 forces you to embrace a lot of changes all at one. Once you move in, however, you see that most of the changes are undeniably for the better.