I have been bombarded with questions about AVG's free anti-virus program, which periodically expires in an effort to sell the commercial (nonfree version) to unsuspecting consumers.

This happened about a year and a half ago, when version 7.1 "expired" and was replaced with version 7.5. AVG's manufacturer, the Czech company Grisoft, didn't make it widely known that a free version still existed. Now, here we are again. On May 31, many users of version 7.5 got a notice to "please upgrade now." Clicking on it brought up links to AVG Security 8.0, which costs $55 and includes a firewall, anti-spyware and other stuff not included in the free product.

I certainly don't begrudge AVG's efforts to sell product, considering it has been giving away anti-virus to home users. However, hiding the free product is disingenuous, at best. The company should be up-front. It should either offer a choice or offer the upgrade for downloading.

Even when you visit the company's home page (www.free.grisoft.com), the free download is hard to locate, which is an odd strategy. It is almost as if Grisoft, which once was proud to offer the free product to home users, is hoping you stumble into a purchase.

In my opinion, it should not take five clicks to get to the free product. In the process, the company further confuses consumers by putting only some of the correct links in boldface type. It's pretty smarmy.

Overall, I am conflicted. On one hand, the anti-virus is free. On the other hand, the company has made it hard to find and use.

But I'm not conflicted, just dismayed, by the news that Time-Warner is going to test — and charge for — metered Internet access. According to news reports, the company will begin a trial this week in Beaumont, Texas, charging customers $1 for each gigabyte of content over their plan limits. These range from $30 a month for five GBs and a 768 kbps connection to $55 for 40 GBs and a 15 mpbs connection. The limits apply to both downloads and uploads.

Comcast also is considering limits of 250 GB a month. And these won't be the last.

The charges are being brought on by a few consumers who use a huge amount of bandwidth by sharing movies and running other peer-to-peer file-sharing services.

Legitimate services such as NetFlix also are going to be affected by these limits.

I am saddened, but I fully understand the frustration of the Internet service providers that are seeing a few users ruin the party for everyone. Time-Warner told news services that 5 percent of customers use half the capacity of local cable lines and that the charge would offset this.

Comcast's proposed limit of 8.3 gigs a day is perfectly reasonable. Time-Warner's ridiculous limits will be eliminated by marketplace pressures, I think.


James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm, and tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is jim@cyberdads.com.