Cool Tech Reviews

Just Cool Tech

August 31, 2006

Linspire makes “Click ‘N’ Run” service free

Stephen Shankland at CNET:

Linux seller Linspire has removed the $20 to $50 annual fees it charged for access to its “Click ‘N’ Run” library of software downloads, a bid to enhance the popularity of its product.

“CNR really makes using desktop Linux easy, and we want everyone to have access to this quality service,” Chief Executive Kevin Carmony said in a statement. The move was financially feasible for the company because it’s making enough revenue from premium products such as software to play DVDs, CodeWeavers’ CrossoverOffice software to run Microsoft Windows and Sun Microsystems’ StarOffice, a commercial variant of, the company said.

The library is a key feature of the company’s $60 Linspire and free Freespire Linux products. The company argues that its approach makes it easy to install new software.

And it does make it easier, particularly for users that aren’t overly proficient technically, which is what Linux need to attract if it is ever going to have broad appeal as a desktop OS.

Posted at 12:32 pm. Filed under Companies, Linspire, Linux, Operating Systems

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August 29, 2006

SpiralFrog offers free music downloads from Vivendi

Mark McSherry at Reuters:

SpiralFrog, a new music download service, on Tuesday said it would make Vivendi’s Universal Music Group’s catalog available for free legal downloading in the United States and Canada.

The new advertising-supported service, due to launch later this year, joins the ranks of rivals battling for a piece of the digital music market in the shadow of Apple Computer Inc’s dominant iTunes music store.

New York-based SpiralFrog said it would offer users of its free, Web-based service the ability to legally download music of Universal’s roster, which includes U2, Gwen Stefani and The Roots.

“Offering young consumers an easy-to-use alternative to pirated music sites will be compelling,” SpiralFrog Chief Executive Robin Kent said in a statement.

Kent said SpiralFrog’s business model is based on sharing income from advertising with content partners like Universal.

The company’s research revealed that consumers are willing to “pay” for their content by watching non-intrusive, contextually-relevant, targeted advertising, Kent said.

The SpiralFrog Web site won’t be ready to serve tunes until December, but it will be interesting to see how they define non-intrusive. The record companies are very insistent on getting their money so SpiralFrog is going to have to ensure that the ads get watched.

Update: Some pertinent details from Louis Hau at Forbes:

There’s a catch, of course. Actually two of them: First, consumers won’t be able to burn songs downloaded from SpiralFrog onto a blank CD. More important, all downloads will be formatted in Microsoft’s Windows Media Audio, or WMA, format. That means they’ll be playable on virtually any portable music player except the one that matters most: Apple Computer’s market-dominating iPod.

Well, you’ll be able to play them on your Windows PC at least.

Update 8/30: More details from Marshall Kirkpatrick at TechCrunch:

Spiral Frog will offer a desktop downloader for Windows Media Files (no iPods!) that can be listened to on one PC and two portable devices. Here’s the kicker – you must log in to the Spiral Frog service at least once per month, and see their ads, or your files will stop playing! The details aren’t fully set in stone, but it will be something like that. There will be links to third party sites of the record labels’ choosing if you’d like to buy your freedom to at least skip the ads.

Sounds like the ads are getting more intrusive by the second.

Spiral Frog will also offer far more than just music, but also video and other digital content. The selling point here is that users will be able to access media legally, without the malware, bad network connections and pirate’s shame that comes from other online media sources.

Well, it’s a dream.

Posted at 10:53 am. Filed under Apple, Bargains, Brands, Companies, Freebies, Internet, Music downloads, SpiralFrog

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August 25, 2006

Guba goes low on movie download pricing

Red Herring:

In an effort to jump-start their video pay-per-download service, Guba said Monday it has slashed the prices for buying or renting premium television shows and movies from their site.

Movie buffs can buy new studio releases for $9.99 on the same day the movie is released on DVD. Catalog movie titles cost $4.99, and TV show episodes are going for $0.49. And users can get a 24-hour movie rental for $0.99, the same price as a song on Apple’s iTunes.

Previously, new releases of films like V for Vendetta, Syriana, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, cost $19.99 to buy, and were not available for rent.

“Nobody knows what the right price is for this stuff online,” said Guba CEO Tom McInerney. “The studios don’t know, even Apple doesn’t know.”

Mr. McInerney said the promotion has been a hit with users. Traffic on the site has increased 500 percent since the promotion began last week. “Clearly pricing does matter,” he said.

I’m not shocked at that news.

Note that per the press release:

Technical requirements: GUBA’s Premium service uses Digital Rights Management (DRM) copyright protection software developed by Microsoft. Only devices with current Windows Media technology can play GUBA’s Premium content, including most Windows PCs.

Restrictions: GUBA Premium content is only available to users in the US due to international copyright ownership restrictions. Purchased videos are owned in perpetuity but cannot be burned to DVD due to current restrictions of the DRM software.

That’s a change from the previous Guba DVD limitation and actually the Guba FAQ indicates that their content comes with various different licensing terms. It just appears that this movie special is one of the more restrictive. Frankly, I’m not sure that I really would want an extensive movie collection tied to a particular PC, but maybe if you just view it as a on-demand video rental alternative, it’s OK.

Catherine Holahan has a review at BusinessWeek online which makes a similar assessment, but observes that Guba has a lot of free content that might be worth investigating.

Posted at 10:44 am. Filed under Bargains, Companies, Guba, Internet, Video Downloads

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