Windows 10 – New Coke or Coca-Cola Classic?

150px-New_Coke_can

New Coke

Those of you of a certain age will likely remember one of the most controversial events of 1985 — the day when Coca-Cola changed its formula and rebranded its flagship product as New Coke.  This led to an inevitable customer backlash and the company re-introduced Coca-Cola Classic a mere 3 months later.  Many viewed this as one of the largest marketing blunders in history, but others saw it as a brilliant ploy.  When the classic version returned to the shelves, Coca-Cola sales surged, and it allowed Coca-cola to make one other change — the cane sugar ingredient in the original was replaced by high-fructose corn syrup in the re-introduced Coca-Cola Classic.

Why bring this up?  Well, we see some similarities with Microsoft’s recent operating systems changes.  As many know, Microsoft has had a bumpy road of it since the introduction of Windows 8 and 8.1.  Gone was the Start menu, the interface changed radically, and even basic things like printing changed dramatically with the introduction of a Charms bar.  Windows 8 added new interface support for tablets and touch-enabled PCs, but then forced these same (often non-intuitive changes) on regular desktop and laptop users as well.  Many businesses said, “No thanks,” and kept their users on Windows 7 or XP.

Cue the bugles, because now Microsoft intends to (hopefully) bring back some of the classic features in its upcoming Windows 10 operating system, scheduled to be released in the Spring of 2015.

Wait a minute?  Windows 8.1 is the current available operating system.  What happened to Windows 9?  There was actually a funny April Fool’s Day joke by Infoworld titled Microsoft skips ‘too good’ Windows 9, jumps to Windows 10.  But the truth is actually a little simpler but not too far off the mark.  According to this article in the Times of India:

Microsoft doesn’t want people to associate the next version of Windows with the unpopular Windows 8…  “Windows 10 is not going to be an incremental step from Window 8.1,” he explained. “Windows 10 is going to be a material step. We’re trying to create one platform, one eco-system that unites as many of the devices from the small embedded Internet of Things, through tablets, through phones, through PCs and, ultimately, into the Xbox.”

3_10s

Earlier this month, Microsoft released a public preview build of Windows 10 which we immediately downloaded and tested.  The most obvious addition to Windows 10 is the return of the Windows Start menu, which replaces the Start screen by default on desktop PCs.  And the whole Charms bar interface to access devices like printers (which includes access to PDF creators like Win2PDF)? Windows 10 disables the Charms bar on non-touch-enabled PCs.  The interface returns to a more Windows 7 friendly view of the desktop, which is what most business customers want.

And Win2PDF?  Well, good news there.  Win2PDF is currently working with Windows 10 with our Win2PDF 7 release without any code modifications, which is a good sign.  We’ll keep on top of developments to make sure Win2PDF will be fully supported by the time Windows 10 is released to the public.

If your business relies on PDF files, make sure you stay up-to-date with new developments.  We’ll be covering all of the news here.

P.S. If you want to try the Windows 10 Technical Preview, sign up at Microsoft’s web site.

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Dark Patterns – More on “Free” software

Free Lemonade

Free Lemonade

At my lemonade stand I used to give the first glass away free and charge five dollars for the second glass. The refill contained the antidote.

— Emo Phillips

As a follow up to our last post on the high cost of free software, it’s probably worth discussing the related topic of dark patterns in the user interface of software products and web sites.  Essentially, dark patterns refer to the intentional use of user interface elements that are designed to you “trick” you into doing something you probably didn’t intend to do.

And why would a web site or software publisher want do this?  Most often, it’s to get you to click on a link for a paid advertisement.

For example, many “free” download sites serve ads that look like real download buttons, but actually download software that have nothing to do with what you were searching for.  Here’s a real screen shot showing what comes up for a search for “Adobe Reader”:

darkpattern4

Many users would logically just click on either of the “Free Download” buttons (which also use the label “Start Download”).  After all, all 3 buttons on the page look the same – same size and shape, same green color, a little download arrow on the left…  But one is different.  The two “Free Download” buttons take you to an advertiser’s site so that you can download their products, not Adobe Reader.  And the site hosting the “free” software gets paid a commission for this link – even though it didn’t do what you though it would.  Only if you look closely and find the link that says “Visit Site” are you directed to the read Adobe Reader download.

This example shows a web site doing this type of dark pattern interface, but it can also be embedded within the interface of a “free download” product. If you’re curious to see other examples, go to the Dark Patterns web site and browse the different examples that other users have submitted.  And if you need to download a product like Adobe Reader, it is always safest to go directly to the publisher’s web site to obtain the download.

Just another reminder why “free” sometimes isn’t free.  And why companies like ours only charge you for the lemonade, not the antidote…

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The High Cost of “Free” Software

Adware.  Spyware.  Malware.  Bloatware. [Link goes to another good blog post on this subject].  These are all names for software that are secretly installed on your computer when you download so-called ‘free’ software programs.  Our recommendation?

Be aware and beware!  Just look at this example of an Internet Explorer window riddled with toolbars that have been included with other software downloads.

Example of Internet Explorer overwhelmed with extra tool bars, often loaded by 'free' software

Example of Internet Explorer overwhelmed with extra tool bars, often loaded by ‘free’ software

It may look extreme, but if you’ve seen these types of toolbars or unwanted pop-up windows appear on your computer, it’s quite likely that they piggy-backed on some other ‘free’ software that you downloaded.

As a developer of commercial Windows software, we get offers and inquiries almost weekly from other companies who wish to include their software bundled into our installer.  While we always decline such arrangements (Win2PDF is 100% free of any adware/spyware), this is a typical model that many providers of ‘free’ software use to make money.  After all, it costs money to develop, support, and host software applications:  Web hosting, security, development and version control software, live chat and other technical support software all have costs.  As does having to maintain multiple computers with different operating systems and servers for testing.  And staff.  Let’s not forget about actually having real people in place to create, test, and support the software.  Even a lone programmer working in their own basement needs some revenue to create and make their software available.

Google Search for 'PDF Writer'

If you perform a Google search of “PDF Writer” (see image to the right), the top result is for a “100% Free!” solution.

This is actually an Ad Supported download wrapper for the CutePDF software program, which is also Ad Supported.  If you follow the link to download, you’ll end up with at least 5 extra programs on your PC.  Do you know what these programs do?  Will they slow down your PC, or make it unstable?  Will it collect and transmit any personal information about you or your browsing history?  

If you don’t know, is it still worth it for the ‘free’ software?

Idealware.org posted a useful article on many of these same issues, along with questions to ask yourself when considering these free or low-cost software options.  For example,

    • If it’s truly ‘free’, how does the company afford to advertise it on Google or Bing?  Or pay to host the downloads?
    • Do the companies who make these downloads available even produce their own software, or are they just bundling other ‘free’ solutions?
    • Are you downloading directly from the publisher’s web site, or though a 3rd party site?  3rd parties often add downloaders that can add spyware.  Hint: It’s safer to download directly from the publisher!
    • Will it work in future versions of Windows, or with new service packs or updates?  Who do you contact if you have a problem or question?
    • How trustworthy is the publisher?
    • Do they offer independent reviews [Win2PDF example] on their products?
    • Do they list company information [Win2PDF example] on their web site?
    • Are they a member of the Better Business Bureau, and if so, what is their rating [Win2PDF example]?

Here’s a review of www.pdflite.com, one of the other companies that advertises on Google for the search word ‘PDF Writer’.  By contrast, here’s the review of www.win2pdf.com.  Can you guess which one is ‘free’?

Our company does not make ‘free’ software.  We charge for our products, and guarantee our products with a full 60-day return policy.  This allows us to say No to 3rd party spyware/adware publishers, and it provides the revenue we need to continue developing, supporting, and enhancing our products for the future.  We have a loyal customer base and we’ve been able to operate a successful business since 2000.

So, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your needs.  Just know that there usually isn’t such a thing as ‘free’ software.  There’s usually a cost somewhere – just know what that cost is before installing it on your PC.

And always remember, be careful what you download.

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VDI Management: In-house and In-the-cloud

As a follow up to our previous posting, we thought we’d link to some additional resources on Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).  In particular, how are VDI solutions being managed today, and where is this technology going in the future?  And how can you use Win2PDF with VDI to expand PDF functionality across more platforms and devices?

VDI in the Cloud

VDI in the Cloud (image from Virtual Bridges)

There are a couple of different ways of managing a Virtual VDI implementation – either hosting the infrastructure components in-house or hosting them in the cloud.  We won’t go into all of the details in this  post, but we did think it useful to share some resource links to the major vendors in this area.

The most common way VDI management is handled today is to have each enterprise host both the hardware and software in a centralized location.  This can be pricey (since the company needs to buy all the hardware and software components), complex, and difficult to manage from a load-balancing and performance perspective.  Organizations utilizing this type of approach probably use a solution from one of the major players in the VDI software space and you can find more information about each following the links listed below:

The second, newer way VDI solutions are managed are by utilizing a cloud-based service.  In addition to the providers listed above, a relatively new entrant into this space is Amazon.com, with their Amazon WorkSpaces product.  The following video provides a good overview of how their cloud hosted VDI solution differs from the traditional in-house solution.

Amazon’s hosting infrastructure could be a game changer in the way enterprises deploy VDI.  It allows organizations an easy way to support Windows apps on non-Windows devices, such as Android or iPad tablets.  And, as user mobility becomes increasingly common, the ability to support Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) technologies will only become more important.  Providing secure application access on any device is the ultimate goal.

Whether enterprises move their VDI management to the cloud in serious numbers still remains to be seen, but it is an interesting option for companies that want to get started without the upfront cost and complexity.  Our Win2PDF products support both the tradition in-house VDI solutions and the new Amazon WorkSpaces product.  It’s a great way to provide the ability to generate PDF files to any BYOD user.

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Using PDF Software with VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) Solutions

Recently we’ve been getting some questions about using Win2PDF in a virtualized desktop environment. Specifically, how can customers license and install Win2PDF in this type of configuration.

The good news is that Win2PDF is supported and it works the same as in the traditional individual PC environment. Before we get into the specifics, we should provide a little overview to this topic. What exactly is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), or as it is also called, Desktop Virtualization?

Traditionally, a typical corporate IT department will manage a large number of physical PCs. Each employee may have a desktop or laptop PC (or both), and loaded onto each PC are operating systems, service packs, anti-virus software, office applications, printer drivers, and a host of other computer programs. For large organizations in particular, maintaining this type of computer environment can be quite challenging since the applications are installed specific to the hardware of each PC. And each user may update or upgrade applications at different rates, creating a patchwork of different versions for applications on different PCs.  And if a computer fails, the user may lose data or be offline for a period of time.

This is where VDI becomes useful. Essentially, it is a way of easily managing user desktops by using software that separates the desktop and associated applications from the physical client device that is used to access it. Since the desktops are not dependent on the physical hardware of each PC, the IT department can create a standard image that contains the desired operating system version and all of their applications.  A VDI service then connects users to virtual machines running the standard image.

Desktop Virtualization Benefits

Desktop Virtualization Benefits

The advantages of this type of configuration are numerous. Rather than trying to keep track of each individual PC with all of its changing applications and versions, IT only needs to manage the central image. When a new update or application becomes available, they can test it and upgrade all users simultaneously by updating this central image.

It is also useful for backup and disaster recovery. Again, if a particular computer hardware component fails, no data will be lost since the application data is all stored in the virtualized desktop environment. A new PC can be inserted and the user can login and continue working without any interruption or loss of data.

Now, back to Win2PDF: How does Win2PDF fit into this type of VDI environment? Basically, it works the same as in the traditional individual PC environment. Each virtual desktop will require a license of our standard Win2PDF or Win2PDF Pro software.  For large organizations, we provide volume license pricing and a volume license installer to facilitate the deployment, so it is still easy to manage many licenses.

VDI may not be for everyone, but we’ve seen a definite interest in this technology, especially with our larger enterprise customers.  If you have any specific questions about your own deployment of Win2PDF in this type of environment, let us know.

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New Win2PDF update supports Windows 8.1

Our latest update to Win2PDF (Version 7.6) now supports the new Windows 8.1 operating system update.

Win2PDF 8.1

Win2PDF 8.1

This is a free update to registered users of Win2PDF 7 or later, and the updates can be downloaded and installed from our web page here:

http://www.win2pdf.com/download/download.htm

In addition to the Windows 8.1 support, this update also includes the Win2PDF Desktop App, which provides easy access to the Win2PDF PDF conversion process and supports drag and drop functionality. During the initial installation of Win2PDF 7.6 you will be prompted to add (or not) this optional add-on.

Win2PDF Desktop App Setup

Win2PDF Desktop App Prompt During Setup

For more information about the Win2PDF Desktop App, please see our official documentation here:

How to use the Win2PDF Desktop App

And, as always, if you have any questions about the new Win2PDF 7.6 software, you can go to the Win2PDF Technical Support Page.

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Windows 8.1 Preview

On June 26th, Microsoft will release a free 8.1 update to its Windows 8 operating system.  Here’s the preview video demonstrating the new features in 8.1.

New 8.1 features at a glance:

    • Improved Personalization.  You’ll be able to view pictures on lock screen like a digital photo frame.  It will also provide more background images and colors for the Start screen, more tile sizes, and moving backgrounds.
    • Enhanced Search. The search charm will provide global search results using Bing.  The search results will be displayed in an app-like experience, allowing to to find information on both your local PC or tablet as well as the internet as a whole.
    • App Improvements. For example, the Photos app will now include basic editing features, and there will be better support of multiple app viewing.  An “All Apps” screen will appear when you swipe up from the main Start screen.
    • Improved cloud connectivity using SkyDrive. With 8.1, you’ll be able to save files directly to your SkyDrive cloud file storage account from any app.
    • Internet Explorer 11.  IE11 has improvements for page loading speed and touch performance.

For Win2PDF users, there aren’t any changes with this new operating system update, but we will be adding a Win2PDF Desktop app to the Windows 8 store soon (we’ll provide more details when it’s available).

If you are a Win2PDF user and are new to Windows 8, please feel free to check our our Windows 8 support topics using the links below:

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