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Microsoft has been offering its online version of Office called Office 365 for a while. Microsoft first envisioned this as a way to get people to pay for constantly updated productivity programs rather than buying a copy of Office once and never upgrading.
Microsoft announced this week that it was cutting the price of Office 365 for individual users. That subscription is called Office 365 Personal. Currently Microsoft Office 365 Premium for households sells for $9.99 monthly and lets users access the service on up to five computers.
Some people don't have that many computers or that money people needing access. Office 365 Personal will cost a bit less at $6.99 per month or $69.99 annually for one user. Office 365 Home Premium is getting a name change to Office 365 Home.
Valve has just released the source to ToGL, which is its translation layer to support a subset of the Direct3D 9 API on OpenGL systems. ToGL works with Valve's own Source engine, so this could be an interesting thing going into 2014.
ToGL doesn't support the full Direct3D 9c API, but instead an undefined "limited subset" that is focused on specific requirements of Source. ToGL can also support shader programs from Direct3D's HLSL bytecode to OpenGL's GLSL. As it stands, Valve's ToGL isn't useful to most, with its reference files not included in the package.
What ToGL will be useful for, is when developers want to migrate Direct3D engines to run on the open-source OpenGL API. This could be interesting as we move into the year, with SteamOS being based on Linux, so an open-source API like OpenGL and a translator could shift quite a few games under Direct3D over to OpenGL.
Beats Music is catching up on its competitors Rdio and Spotify by making its API public. Up until this point, the company only gave its API out to a few select partners so that they could create integrations with compatible devices.
Now that developers have access to the API, they have access to Beats' catalog of over 20 million tracks, as well as metadata, artist and album art, personal recommendations, and the company's own curated content. The curated content is what Beats believes will make its service stand out against the streaming music crowd.
Opening up its API has Beats in a more competitive nature, as it will allow developers to get elbows deep in its code, making the service available on more platforms.
Some people are impatient, and don't want to wait for their torrent to download before they want to click the play button, so Popcorn Time has released a piece of software (that is still currently in beta) that should have you smiling.
Popcorn Time is an app that works on Windows, Mac and Linux that lets you search the web for torrents, and watch them right away. The software will choose the best version of the content you want, and then begin streaming. Of course, torrents are illegal in most countries, so this news is for those who live in countries where this might not be illegal. You've been warned!
Valve released its Steam Family Options in January, but has just now unshackled Steam Family Sharing from its long-standing beta run, making it available to all Steam users.
If you haven't heard of Steam Family Sharing until now, let's run through it. Steam Family Sharing allows those with blood ties to you to freely share access to retail PC, Mac and Linux game releases through Steam. Valve's official description of Steam Family Sharing reads: "Players who share computers can now also share their available libraries with one another, each earning their own achievements and saving their own game progress to the Steam Cloud. It's all enabled by authorizing shared computers and the familiar accounts that log into them".
The FrostWire BitTorrent client has integrated bitcoin donation payments into its latest client build, opening the door to artists, content holders, and others to be rewarded for broader content distribution.
PayPal has remained a popular payment method for online file sharers, but bitcoin - and it's supposed increased layers of anonymity and security - and accepting a wider variety of currencies help spur donations from spontaneous contributors.
Thousands of companies and retailers accept bitcoin as a payment option, though there is continued concern related to value stability and legalities. However, services looking to receive donations and financial support should not have a problem receiving bitcoin, such as FrostWire's decision to accept payment.
The Game Developer's Conference 2014 is being held next month, where Microsoft will be hosting a session called "DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform". The session is being hosted by Anuj Gosalia, Developement Manager for Windows Graphics. The session is described as:
"For nearly 20 years, DirectX has been the platform used by game developers to create the fastest, most visually impressive games on the planet.
However, you asked us to do more. You asked us to bring you even closer to the metal and to do so on an unparalleled assortment of hardware. You also asked us for better tools so that you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of your PC, tablet, phone and console.
Come learn our plans to deliver."
Referring to 'closer to the metal' means more control over your GPU, with lower CPU overheads - which is similar, if not identical to AMD's Mantle technology. If this is the case, it could be quite the benefit to PC gamers, as it will increase performance across the board of hardware, not just limited to AMD GPUs, but NVIDIA, Intel, and others.
Back in November 2013, the FCC released its Speed Test App for Android users that is designed to let users of Android devices help test the speed of broadband networks around the country. The FCC has now announced that the app is available for iOS users as well.
The app for iOS is a bit different than the Android version. iOS users are unable to allow the app to run in the background periodically as the Android offering does. Users of the iOS flavor will need to run the test manually.
The app will gather valuable information about the speed and reach of broadband networks in the country. Data gathered by the Android app has been used in three reports already according to the FCC.
RSA 2014 - The Microsoft XP end of support date is looming on April 8, and while most users have migrated to Windows 7 or 8, there are some stragglers that still want to feel nostalgic.
The 2014 RSA Conference might be focused largely on cybersecurity and mobility, but XP-related solutions are also on display.
There is a unique opportunity for companies that want to cater to current XP users, such as the Unisys Stealth security platform - Stealth protection offers XP endpoints to be undetectable - and only admins and assigned users can make use of the XP endpoint.
Home users and companies that continue to wait to migrate to Windows 7 or 8.1 will face long-term security issues that open the door to an increased number of security vulnerabilities. However, there are companies that understand a small amount of users will continue to procrastinate before migrating, and want to offer added layers of security.
Microsoft's Office Web Apps was meant to take on Google's Drive / Docs services, unfortunately it seems like the masses never took hold of Office Web Apps the way we all adopted to using Google Drive. Microsoft seems to think that the issue lies within the service's branding, and this week made a major move to rebrand Office Web Apps to something that makes a little more sense.
The service is now called Office Online, something many feel that it should have always been named. Microsoft says that the new name more closely reflects what the actual product is, and is free to use for OneDrive users. The rebrand also includes a new URL, Office.com, which should go a long way in introducing new users to the service. Office Online is made up of Word, Outlook, OneNote, PowerPoint,Excel and more, and even includes Google Drive-like co-editing features. Microsoft has also refreshed the service with a wealth of new templates, and given the UI a handy drop-down toolbar to make life easier.
You might remember that Microsoft also rebranded its SkyDrive cloud storage service to the new name of OneDrive earlier this week. The renaming stemmed from a lost trademark battle with British Sky Broadcasting last year. OneDrive and Office Online sync up together just like Google Drive and Google Docs do, and users are given 7GB of storage space for free upon signing up. Additional space can be purchased, and 500MB of free storage is given with each user referral.