Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You Can Now Inherit Digital Data And Accounts In Delaware

In the sad event of a loved one's passing their physical possessions typically go to their family members. Sadly however, the same inheritance laws generally do not apply to digital accounts, such as email or social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook. Which unfortunately, due to policies prohibit the sharing of passwords and generally deny access to anyone other than the original owner. Delaware is looking to change that in a major way. They just became the first state to pass a "Digital Inheritance" law.

Last week, according to Arstechnica, Gov. Jack Markell signed the Fiduciary Access to Digital Access and Digital Accounts Act. This law gives heirs and executors of wills the legal authority to take control of a digital asset or devices, just like any other physical document or item.

With the passage of the law, family members of the deceased or those that have been incapacitated will now have full legal access to any and all digital assets. Allowing them to either continue the usage of say their social media account (perhaps as a tribute page) or granting them access to important things like contact lists for email accounts.

According to Ars some states, including Idaho and Nevada, have few existing provisions pertaining to limited digital assets for heirs. These existing laws however are not nearly as broad as the new Delaware law and do not grant access to nearly as much data or accounts.

For now, the state's version of UFADAA only applies to residents of Delaware, however it is noted that people creating family trusts could conceivably use this Delaware law to their advantage, even without residing in Delaware. They could setup the trust to be governed by Delaware law

“If a California resident dies and his will is governed by California law, the representative of his estate would not have access to his Twitter account under HB 345,” Kelly Bachman, a spokeswoman for the Delaware governor’s office, said by e-mail. “But if a person dies and his will is governed by Delaware law, the representative of that person’s estate would have access to the decedent’s Twitter account under HB 345. So the main question in determining whether HB 345 applies is not where the company having the digital account (i.e., Twitter) is incorporated or even where the person holding the digital account resides.”

While this is seen as an important first step, Suzanne Walsh, an attorney with Cummings and Lockwood in Connecticut and chair of the UFADAA committee, told Ars that she is hoping more states will eventually adopt their own versions of the law further guaranteeing access to digital accounts..

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why Facebook Messenger Privacy IS An Issue And Why You Should Be Concerned

Over the past week you've likely read several reports raising concerns over Facebook's new messenger app and the alarming number of permissions the app requests access to. While many sites, including Facebook themselves, have tried to detract from the original reports, stating that those articles are from alarmists that don't really understand the app permissions. That doesn't mean that you should trust buy into those reports any further than you should the original flag raisers.

Why is everyone so concerned about the Facebook App?

First let me start by explaining why so many people have raised flags over the new app and why they are voicing concerns. When installed the Facebook Messenger App requests what many see as a rather large number of permissions. Those include the ability to take pictures and videos; record audio; send/receive and edit text messages; and read your calls logs and contacts - all things Facebook says you need in order to contact and interact with your Facebook friends within the app.

The concern here, and in my opinion rightfully so, is that there are no specific details as to how these permission will be used.  In their response, Facebook said "that Android controls the way the permissions are named, and the way they're named doesn't necessarily reflect the way the Messenger app and other apps use them." This doesn't exactly detail what these permissions are doing however. For instance, why does Facebook need to see me phone's contact information given my friends list on FB should already be accessible to the app? Or why does it need direct call or SMS/MMS access if I'm only using the app to send messages?

Sure the Facebook Messenger app does need some of these permission for authentic reasoning, but it hardly needs all of them. So why add them? My guess it is future thinking on Facebook's part. They want the app to become your go to service for all your messaging and calling needs. So they add those permissions now just in case they launch more services down the road.

What about my privacy? Why should I still be concerned?

Let me say first and foremost this boils down to one thing and one thing only! Do you really trust Facebook (or any other site for that matter) with access to your entire device, your location and all these permissions? You are trusting that they won't do anything bad, negligent ect with all that information they are collecting on you. So the question here is should you really trust them, or trust that they won't sale that information?

What they did with that so called 'emotional experiment' should show just how much influence your devices and social media websites can have over your daily life. If they are willing to cross that line the where does it stop? Facebook is already utilizing location information and background noise to start control the ads you see and the info you see in your news feed. Controlling what information a person has access to can be a very powerful tool and a very harmful one if used wrongly.

This is where most of my main concern comes from. The overall scope of data they are accessing and the overall lack of transparency shown when it comes to how they are using that data and these new permissions.

Unified services mean an end-all to privacy!

It wasn't too long ago that we used several services to satisfy all of our communications and web needs. You had separate services providers for search, email, chat and social media. The a few years ago many of those services started to blend into what we have now. Unified service providers with unified log-ins. These days you likely use your Facebook log-in for more than just Facebook and of course your Google log-in now works across all Google services and likely many of your favorite sites.

While this makes things easier for the end user it also makes it easier for these sites and services to closer track their users which in turn quickly erode away at your privacy. When Google unified its privacy policy it quickly came under fire with a lawsuit filed via EPIC. In that case the concern was that the aggregated data would allow for more accurate, targeted advertising.

The problem there lies not with the actual social media services, but Google's back end advertising service that is being tied to all the rest of its sites. This is similarly where we sit today with Facebook and some of the concern over the site's policies. Previously most of our social media sites where just that, websites not actual services. Today those sites looking to diversify want to become our all-in-on location for more services. Facebook, Apple, Google et al. don't just run single side services anymore. They run giant conglomerations all tied together that provide many different services under the guise of one entity.

These giant entities now have cross platform access to higher levels of user data than ever before! They can not only access emails, messages and on-site data. But they are accessing user location information, daily habits, and off site information and details (something Facebook is currently facing lawsuits over).

I for one think it is about time that someone starts to question the validity of these unified services and privacy policies. How about you? Do you think this is 'much ado about nothing'? Or are users concerns really valid?

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

New Flagship Phones From Samsung & Apple Expected To Be Announced In September [Update]

The two largest players in the smartphone market are reportedly planning major announcements early next month and if the speculation holds true we'll see at least two new flagship phones announced!

Update: In typical Samsung fashion the company all but confirmed earlier reports that they'll be annoucing the new Note 4 at the Sept. 3rd event. A teaser image was released today with 'Note the Date' and the Note 3 style pen window.

Earlier this week we saw several reports that Samsung had sent out invites to a Sept. 3rd press event (another Samsung Unpacked event). The timing for the event falls in line with previous speculation that the tech giant would be announcing their latest smartphone, the Galaxy Note 4, prior to the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin.

While the invite doesn't specifically mention the Galaxy Note 4, or any other devices for that matter, the timing would be inline with previous announcements. Rumors also suggest that we may see more than one device released from Samsung during the event, or during IFA conference. If those rumors hold true we may see more than one smartphone or perhaps a new Galaxy Smartwatch or other wearable.

Not one to be left behind Apple is also said to be planning a major announcement for early in September. Reportedly Apple will be revealing the iPhone 6 at a media event on September 9th. Recode reports that Apple will hold an event that Tuesday to announce the next line of iPhones, which if you have been following the rumors are expected to include not one but two, new models.

Of course this is all still speculative to say the least. However, the rumor mill surrounding both companies has been running overtime lately and that generally doesn't happen until right before major releases.

What can we expect from these new devices?

While there is nothing official yet known about the Galaxy Note 4  rumor has it the device will feature a 5.7-inch QHD display. It is also rumored to be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 chipset with an Exynos variant for markets without LTE. It will also be accompanied by at least 3GB of RAM, at least a 16MP rear-facing camera, and will most likely run on Android 4.4.4 KitKat. Other enhancements are said to possibly be a retina scanner, UV sensor and of course many of the updates seen in the Galaxy S5 like fingerprint scanning, heart rate monitor and the TouchWiz enhancements like Ultra Power Saving Mode, Download Booster and more.

Apple's highly anticipated iPhone 6 series is rumored to be the 'biggest' launch for iPhone yet (and yes they mean that, both literally in device size and scope of sales). It has been rumored for quite a while now that Apple's next iPhone would come in two sizes: 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches. If that holds true the 5.5 inch model would be the biggest iPhone to date!

Other rumored improvements are said to be Sapphire crystal screens, higher resolution displays with more pixel density, aster and more efficient processors, NFC support and a few camera enhancements.

Friday, August 01, 2014

GameStop Now Requires Fingerprints To Trade Games At Some Stores

In an attempt to combat crime several state and counties have created ordinances requiring pawn shops or second-hand sellers to fingerprint customers looking to sale or trade goods. According to GameSpot popular gaming retailer GameStop has taken that requirement and applied it to some of the company's Philadelphia locations.

Originally reported from CBS Philadelphia, it appears as though GameStop stores in some Philadelphia are location have started requiring that customers who wish to trade in games provide a fingerprint scan for "certain transactions." When GameSpot buys used video games from customers, the chain says it is following a local law that allows the store to collect thumb prints, which go into a database to help law enforcement track down thieves who fence stolen goods.

However, the law isn't as cut and dried as GameStop seems to be making it out to be and in fact the company may simply be acting on their own. According to City Solicitor Shelley Smith, the city has not contacted GameStop to make such collections and the nature of the company's business is such that it does not specifically have to abide by the pawnbroker’s ordinance:

“What GameStop does doesn’t meet any of the elements of the definition in the code, so the pawnbreaker ordinance doesn’t apply to GameStop.”

GameStop has issued a statement on the matter, saying the initiative was implemented at the request of local authorities and has been in place since the beginning of July.

"It's a process that we've recently implemented (starting in early July) in Philadelphia area stores at the request of the Philadelphia police department," the GameStop representative said. "[It] is a practice we've also put into place in other parts of the U.S., depending on local or statewide second-hand dealer or pawn broker laws. However, at this time we are reviewing the process to determine if it's one which should be continued in Philadelphia."

In several interviews conducted outside the local GameStop many customers voiced concerns with the new program. Customers told KYW Newsradio they were not thrilled with the company policy:
“I really don’t appreciate it. You fingerprinted me like I’m in a police district. No, I’m at a game store.”
“That is a little absurd, it’s just a video game.”
“I think it’s an overreach. It’s going too far.”
“I know that it only happens to people who go to jail, they get fingerprinted.”
“When I went, I got my finger scanned when he broke it out and said ‘I need your fingerprint,’ I said, ‘for what’?'”

The Philadelphia Police Department says the company is being proactive by storing fingerprints in a secure database – LeadsOnline – which is the nation’s largest online investigation system. This still begs the question however, if the city is not requesting the stores to meet the requirements then is this even lawful? Or should it be consider a violation of customer privacy?

We'd love to hear your feedback. Would you submit to fingerprinting in order to swap your games?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

NIVIDIA Shield Now Available Checkout These Reviews

Following up on last week's announcement of the all new NVIDIA SHIELD gaming tablet comes the launch of the $300 8-inch gaming device. The only question that remains now is whether or not you the SHIELD is geek-worthy enough for you gaming geeks to plop down your hard earned cash.

We scoured the web and found some reviews from our favorite geeks sites that we hope will help you make your decision.

Maximum PC: NVIDIA Shield Tablet Review
Would we buy the Shield Tablet if we owned the original Shield (now renamed the Shield Portable)? Probably not. If we were looking for a new tablet and top notch gaming performance was on the check list, the Shield Tablet is easily the top contender today. We’d take it over the second-gen Nexus 7 in a heart beat. While we understand why Nvidia decided to separate the cover and controller to keep the prices down and avoid the Kinect factor, we think a bundled package with a small price break as an alternative would have been nice. All things considered though, consider us surprised. The Shield Tablet is pretty dang cool.

AndroidCentral: NVIDIA Shield Tablet Review
If you're looking for something a little different in a tablet, and think that you'd take advantage of the huge gaming potential available in the Shield Tablet, this may be one to take a look at. As long as you're willing to go all-in with the accessories and spend a little money on games as they come out, this is a better value proposition than picking up a gaming device and tablet separately. But if your tablet budget is $299 and not a penny more, you'll likely be better served by something that's cheaper and simpler — just be sure keep your gaming aspirations modest.

GameSpot: NVIDIA Shield Tablet and Controller Review
Given that Twitch streaming is one of the key selling points of the Shield Tablet, it's disappointing that it doesn't work consistently across the device. Its small line up of games doesn't help matters either, particularly as there are frame rate issues with the more graphically intensive titles. Certainly, you're not going to be swapping your Vita or 3DS for a Shield Tablet anytime soon.

However, I like to think of the Shield Tablet this way: if you buy one, you're getting a great looking, powerful Android tablet with a near stock version of the OS for an enticing price; its gaming features are simply a nice bonus. PC players with a large library of games will also get a lot out of the tablet's Gamestream functionality, which--despite its issues over slower connections--is a great way to access your games away from your main machine.

Despite Nvidia's claims, I wouldn't get a Shield Tablet for its gaming features alone. Indeed, if you're buying it solely for the gaming features, then you might be a little disappointed. But, if you're interested in what the future of gaming might look like, Shield Tablet is perhaps the best glimpse we've had of it so far. If Nvidia can push the power of its mobile chips every year as much as it does its desktop ones, and if broadband keeps up, within a few years, something like the Shield Tablet may very well be the best way to game.

AnandTech: The NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Review
After getting through all of these observations over the past five days, I’ve come to realize that even though it’s not the perfect tablet, all of the features that this device brings to the table right now would be enough for me to seriously consider buying one. If NVIDIA manages to get enough multiplayer titles with an active community on Shield Tablet, there wouldn’t be a need to stop and consider at all. As someone that has spent the past few years never considering a tablet purchase at all, the Shield Tablet is the first ARM tablet that I would seriously think about buying.
Gizmodo: Nvidia Shield Tablet Review: A Gaming Beast, But So Much More
Do you care about games? Like at all? Do you think you might in the future? Then yes. Yes! The Shield tab is not quite the best all-around tablet tablet out there (mainly because of battery life reasons, and also because it's a little hefty) but it's still damn good for $300, futureproof like whoa, and the most bang for your buck because of it. Unless your use-case is literally "I want to watch at least 9 hours of consecutive video with a single charge, on a particularly small and light tablet" (get a Kindle Fire HDX) the Shield tablet is a Solid Buy.....It's not bar-none the best choice for normals and gamers alike—that wonderful ideal of gaming hardware that's also just "the best"—but it's delightfully close for a first stab. The future is bright. Get excited. Review: NVIDIA Shield Tablet
Shield Tablet's gaming credentials are unmistakable, yet it would be remiss of us not to mention the device's strengths as an everyday tablet. Take away the controller and Gamestream, and you still have one of the quickest Android tablets on the market, complete with 2GB of memory, excellent stereo speakers, a very handy stylus, dual 5MP cameras, expandable storage and solid build quality throughout. A higher-res display would have been preferred, but from a hardware perspective Shield Tablet ticks a lot of boxes at the $299 price point.

Nvidia has built a tablet that's undoubtedly strong on various fronts, however there's one crucial piece of the puzzle that's still missing: high-quality Android games. As it stands, Shield Tablet is a device with promise, but it needs developers to harness the power of Tegra K1 to deliver a truly outstanding games-playing experience.

Bottom line: for PC gamers in the market for an Android portable, Shield Tablet makes a lot of sense. For everyone else, it may pay to wait for the software ecosystem to catch up.

Reading the full reviews you will see a few mixed messages in there. However, for the most part everyone agrees that the NVIDIA SHIELD was a strong performer and not likely to disappoint and gamers or geeks that buck up for the purchase. It most certainly caught or eye and earns many kudos to being a very strong fist production unit. If this is a sign of things to come from NVIDIA then gamers should hold on to their seats because we might be in for a wicked fun ride!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Amazon Launches New 3D Printing Store

We geeks are always thinking outside the box, which often times leads us to needing that special one-off item. While 3D printing has become cheaper and more prevalent, there are still a good deal of costs associated with getting started. Enter Amazon to the rescue!

Amazon has announced the launch of a new 3D Printed Products store (, a marketplace that gives customers access to more than 200 unique print on-demand products, many that can be customized by material, size, styles and color variations, and personalized with text and image imprints.

“The introduction of our 3D Printed Products store suggests the beginnings of a shift in online retail – that manufacturing can be more nimble to provide an immersive customer experience. Sellers, in alignment with designers and manufacturers, can offer more dynamic inventory for customers to personalize and truly make their own,” said Petra Schindler-Carter, Director for Amazon Marketplace Sales.

To create custom pieces such as that cool new 3D phone case, slim wallet or personalized bobblehead you won't need any special skills. Amazon has created a new easy-to-use design template that will make it easier for you to add your individual style on an item. You'll also be able to see your new creations before ordering thanks to the 3D preview capability. With the 3D product preview function, you will be able to see your geekiest creations in a 360 degree view that rotates as a virtual model of a product so you can tailor the item from every angle.

Upon completion of your designs and the item is personalized to your liking simply finish the checkout process, the item is then 3D printed on-demand by a manufacturing provider and shipped directly to your door.

While it appears as though customizable items are limited to what is currently in the 3D Printed Products store template set the concept certainly has the ability to be expandable. Meaning Amazon may eventually add the options for customers to upload their own designs to include more custom items down the road. No matter how you look at it it is nice to see a viable 3D printing option that enables us the option to design our own geek gear at a reasonable price!

So what do you think, should we create a few custom Geek-News items for you geeks out there?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Beware: Magic Jelly Bean Key Finder Installs Search Protect By Conduit

For various reason it is often necessary to find and know the product keys of installed operating system and applications such as Windows 8 and Microsoft office. When such needs arise we often turn to some of our favorite freeware apps out there. Magic Jelly Bean Keyfinder typically being one of them.

Unfortunately we recently discovered an alarming issue. The app now installs a second, third party app, called ‘Search Protect’ by Conduit LTD. This third party app sneaks in on the install page, which the makers of  Magic Jelly Bean Keyfinder happen to minimize to a barely readable page. The serch app can be classified as nothing short of malware as it is barely noticed on the install information, is set to automatically install, even in custom mode and hijacks a users browser settings and changes them to use Conduit Search.

While the app appears to be easily removed by going into the control panel and uninstalling it. It still raises a few red flags!

First the fact that the creators of Magic Jelly Bean Keyfinder and OpenCandy, the company that creates the installer package, feel the need to minimize the install page to slip this app in seems highly suspect. Second is the fact that it creates browser changes, completely unrelated to the Magic Jelly Bean Keyfinder software with absolutely no confirmation at all