Friday, February 29, 2008

Microsoft Cuts Vista Prices

Microsoft has announced plans to cut retail prices on several Vista versions once service pack one is released to the public.

Windows Vista Ultimate will drop to $319 from $399 for the full version and down to $219 from $259 for an "upgrade" version. Vista Home Premium will be slashed down to $129 from $239. And for users that are ready to take the Vista plunge yet Microsoft said it would continue to sell Windows XP until June 2008.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Intel Vs AMD, The Updated Version

With emerging technologies coming out so quickly its always hard to stay on top of the latest and greatest. Finding accurate updated comparisons of Intel and AMD's CPUs is no different.

There are several sites on the web that have posted great articles comparing the best of the best from both companies. And doing a quick Google search turns up many great results. However articles such as "AMD vs. Intel: What to Get? Which is Better?" posted on back in Aug. 2007 or "Intel vs. AMD: Today's generation compared" posted on The Tech Report in March 2007 aren't going to be very useful given the fact that we now have several new CPUs on the market.

In fact one of the top hits shown on Google was from Thew article titled "CNET prizefight: AMD vs. Intel dual-core CPUs" is from 2005. While it was a decent article back then it really shows little relevance to todays market.

To avoid the pitfalls of finding outdated material I recommend looking at two sites that are constantly updating.

The first would be Tom's Hardware, they have CPU charts dated from 2004-2007 (with '08 CPUs). The 2007 Interactive CPU Chart allows users to compare most of the popular CPUs on the market today.

The second site is the PassMark CPU Benchmarks at PassMark is a hardware benchmark utility that allows users to test and compare the performance of their computers to a number of standard 'baseline' computers. The charts provides a visual guide of CPU rankings from low-end to high-end CPUs.

Both charts provide accurate, easy to use impartial information. The PassMark chart doesn't allow for comparison within common programs as Tom's Hardware does however for the beginner its a great place to start. I highly recommend either one for anyone from beginner to advanced as a guide on which CPU would best fit their budget for their next PC.

Bill Seeks Crack Down On College File-Sharing

The College Opportunity and Affordability Act includes provisions to crack down on students downloading music and movies over the school's network.

The College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 not only tries to make college more affordable and loan agencies more transparent it also adds penalties for noncompliance if colleges don't set stricter controls over P2P file sharing.

Many colleges already have policies in place, and try their best to prevent students from illegal file sharing however as well all know that is next to impossible. Once a barrier is set into place it only take a determined mind a few tools and time to find away around it.

Mark A. Luker, vice president of Educause, a nonprofit that works with colleges to promote the intelligent use of technology has said technologies—such as those that Congress, the RIAA, and the MPAA are promoting—just aren't effective yet.

"Monitoring technology touted by the MPAA and RIAA is still in a primitive stage," Luker says, "and the proposed law asks every college to implement these expensive monitoring technologies that simply aren't developed enough to handle the task. These applications often miss music or movie downloads, or they block many transfers that are legal for students to download."

eBay Sellers Strike Worth Noticing

After the recent pricing and policy changes at eBay sellers went on strike forcing a 13% drop in new listings.

According to and, eBay auctions dropped to around 13 million since the strike began, amounting to an estimated 13 percent dent in listings overall.

An article from USAToday titled "Online auction listings down 13% in boycott of eBay", shows just how wide spread the boycott has reached. However it looks like it has made little impact on the "power to be" at Ebay.

Jim Griffith, dean of eBay Education, is quoted as saying that the site's internal statistics show the boycott "has had no impact on our listings." Despite the protest, eBay is not considering altering or postponing its policies, Griffith says. "A lot of deliberation went into these decisions."

Personally I don't see how they can ignore such a far reaching outcry from its sellers. They may be able to shrug of a small decline in auctions over a short term but there seems to be a big move away from eBay. I've seen many long term powersellers taking their business elsewhere.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Name And Custom Domain

As you may have noticed I've changed the blogs name to Geek-News. This is due to a possible change in the blogs domain. I've bought two new domains and and have been working on setting up a custom domain. Unfortunately I'm not having much success as of yet. I decided on using Ipower as I recently joined their affiliate program. I'll post more on this and the issues I'm facing later.

I may jump ship from blogger/blogspot altogether and use wordpress for my personal hosting. However this seems to be a little more troublesome than I originally thought. I've been reading a few post about exporting/importing blogger posts to wordpress and a few related issues and I'll be keeping it open as an option.

So over the next few days if you see a few errors or reach a few bad pages, don't worry. It will most likely be me making a few changes, or trying to figure out the new settings.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

NVIDIA's Hot New Card The GeForce 9600 GT

Official reviews of NVIDIA’s newest mid-range graphics card, the 9600 GT are out and the card looks like a hit. The GeForce 9600 GT is the first release of NVIDIA's GeForce 9 series which will included a 9500 Series, 9600 series and 9800 series. Estimated pricing is $180-$210, competitively pricing the card with the Radeon HD 3850 and Nvidia's own 8600gts.

Official Specifications of the 9600 GT:
    64 Stream Processors. 20.8 billion texels/s fillrate. 650 MHz core clock, with a 1625 MHz unified shader clock. 900 MHz memory, with a 256-bit memory interface. 256 MiB, 512 MB or 1 GB of DDR2 or GDDR3 memory[5]. 57.6 GB/s memory bandwidth. DirectX 10, Shader Model 4.0, OpenGL 2.1, and PCI-Express 2.0[6]. Is compatible with HDCP, but the implementation will depend on the manufacturer. Supports the Quantum Effects physics processing engine. Almost double the performance of the current mid-range card, the GeForce 8600. Estimated cost between $180-$210.
Current reviews from Tom's Hardware , PC Perspective and ARS Technica show the new card to be an HD 3850 and 8600 GTS killer. The benchmarks in the reviews place it at the "sweet spot" for pricing and performance.

Pricing Updated 12/16/08
  • ASUS GeForce 9600 GT EN9600GT/HTDI/512M Video Card
    $94.99 After $20.00 MIR Exp 12/31
  • Leadtek GeForce 9600 GT PX9600GT Extreme Video Card
    $94.99 After $15.00 MIR Exp 1/05/09
  • GIGABYTE GeForce 9600 GT GV-NX96T512H Video Card
    $109.99 After $10.00 MIR Exp 12/31
Given the cards recent release the prices are fairly in line with estimates, however I expect to see a few deals coming down the line. ATI/AMD has already been lowering prices on both the HD 3850 and the 3870. So we could see prices for this card fall slightly rather soon.

Be On The Look Out For Tax Related Phishing

Scammers using very good phishing techniques are targeting people in both the US and the UK.

US IRS phishing emails redirect their victims to sites hosted in Russia and other former Soviet States and they mimic the actual Internal Revenue Service web site almost perfectly. As soon as you've entered your personal and financial information you get redirected to the actual IRS site. Fiendish! Message Labs reports that this type of spam spiked in January, hitting ten times the normal level.

The IRS has pointed out that "The IRS does not send unsolicited e-mail about tax account matters to individual, business, tax-exempt or other taxpayers." If you're wondering how your refund is doing, go directly to and check the "Where's My Refund?" page. Don't click any links in email that claims to come from the IRS--it doesn't!

According to McAfee, UK phishers are pulling off a similar scam.

Currently an email is being sent out that claims that recipients can get an attractive tax refund from the Government by visiting what turns out to be a bogus website.

"After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of £215 ($420)," says the email. Clicking the links send you off to a bogus site, which is intended to steal person information for identity theft.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Internet Censorship

Think it can't happen, well think again!

Several European countries are moving forward with Internet filtering. Censorship has hit everything from the popular P2P site The Pirate Bay to sites with pornography.

In Finland, programmer Matti Nikki is under investigation for publishing a secret list of domains that authorities had allegedly censored in an effort to stop the spread of child pornography. Nikki published his list on his site to prove that the system was being abused, and was himself censored as a result.

Finland isn't the only country filtering content and blocking sites. Danish authorities recently decided to block file-sharing site The Pirate Bay. So far the only ISP that has been ordered to block the site is Tele2 but plans are in the works to expand the ISPs that have been ordered to block access.

But the censorship doesn't stop there. European Union Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini has asked ISPs to block access to Web sites hosting information about bomb-making, and U.K. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said in January that she wanted action taken against sites that encouraged terrorism, including social networking sites.

Such actions could have wider consequences: "If the EU starts to filter sites related to piracy, terrorism and child pornography, it will have some serious effects on the freedom to communicate," said Swedish Internet activist Oscar Swartz.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

GSM Calls Cracked

An "attack" on GSM based phones can open a vulnerability allowing would be attackers to eavesdrop on calls.

The attack the was recently demonstrated by David Hulton and Steve Muller at the Black Hat security conference using less than $1000 worth of hardware.

GSM is used all over the world by mobile phone companies, and is used in the U.S. by several networks, including AT&T and T-Mobile. So far the GSM network has been considered to be secure enough that even criminals use it.

According to the TechWorld article "GSM phone calls cracked for $1,000 a time" The 'attack' depends on exploiting a vulnerability in the way GSM sets up calls. Assuming an attacker was able to find out a phone's mobile subscription identification number and built-in hardware ID - garnered by sending a text message to that phone say - they would have enough information to isolate calls from that phone.

Hulton has said, "his company, Pico Computing, is now developing the fast version, which cost approximately $100,000 and can crack phones in as little 30 seconds to sell to agencies such as law enforcement, but plans to give away the slower version for free."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Unlimited Calling Plans Start Price War

Verizon Wireless and AT&T unveiled $99.99-a-month plans for unlimited calls, a great deal right? Well not much after the announcement T-Mobile went a step further by including text messaging in that price.

Now it looks like Sprint/Nextel will be offering an even better deal, an unlimited calling plan for as low as $60 a month. At least according to a recent Reuters article. The article "Sprint expected to undercut rivals' call plans" predicts that Sprint Nextel Corp is expected to offer flat-rate calling plans at up to a 40 percent discount to its rivals.

This could be great news for many cell phone users. Personally I'd like to see lower fees across the board. AT&T, my service provider, has been raising fees gradually over the last several years. The new price war might reverse that, or could lead me to switch providers.

Convert Your HD DVDs to Blu-Ray has a great how-to for converting HD DVDs to Blu-ray.

The process is described as "simple in principle but excruciating in practice". Mainly do to the complexity of the technology, the need for several applications and the fact that the industry doesn't want you format-shifting at all.

But it is still a useful article for anyone that currently owns HD DVDs and wants to upgrade them to the Blu-ray format.

Customer Sues Comcast

Sanford Sidner is one pissed off Comcast customer. He's so mad in fact that he has filled a lawsuit in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit accuses Comcast of false advertising over its claim that its Internet service allows "unfettered access to all the content, services, and applications that the Internet has to offer."

This is the second such lawsuit that Comcast has been hit with in a matter of months. In November 2007 a Comcast customer in California filled a similar suit. PC Magazine covered that lawsuit in the article "Comcast Sued for Blocking P2P Sites". In that suit Jon Hart claimed that "Comcast was sending hidden messages to computers that are running file sharing applications, [which] appear to the computer as coming from the other computers with which it is sharing files, telling it to stop communicating,".

Comcast has been defending its filtering practice for years now. However recently the FCC stepped in to determine what, exactly, constitutes reasonable network management by ISPs.

The fight between customers and their ISP's over Net Neutrality looks to be a heated one. Recently AT&T, TW, Verizon sided with Comcast against the recent Net Neutrality regulation.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Intel's "Skulltrail"

Intel ships out the long awaited, much anticipated "Skulltrail" Gaming Platform.

The Skulltrail features the Intel D5400XS motherboard, supporting two QX9775 processors, at 3.2GHz, with 12MB of L2 cache and a 1,600 MHz FSB. The QX9775 processors will be shipped unlocked, so overclockers and system builders will get a chance right out of the gate to see how far they can push these CPU's. TG Daily has already published an article Toughting 5ghz

The D5400XS motherboard also supports up to four PCIe x16 graphics cards meaning triple and quad graphics cards for multiple monitors may be supported.

PC Perspective has an impressive article with some preliminary benchmarks, "Intel Skulltrail Platform Review - Eight Cores, SLI and CrossFire". ExtremeTech has a similar article "Skulltrail: A Preview of Intel's Beast".


Paying for this beast of a machine will set you back a pretty penny. The QX9775 processors are available now at $1,499 each, and the D5400XS board is $649. Add on $500 or more for a couple high end video cards, throw in a few Raptor drives, and don't forget that FB-Dimm (aka fully buffered server memory) and you'll be paying a small fortune.

Microsoft Gives Away Software

Microsoft is giving away, free of charge, development and design tools. Yes its true, Microsoft is giving away Visual Studio 2008, Windows Server 2003, XNA Game Studio 2.0 and Microsoft Expression Studio.

The program labeled DreamSpark is available to students whose studies include technology, design, math science and engineering. Currently the offer is available to 35 million college students in the U.S., China, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. with plans on expanding to more than 1 billion high school and college students

"We want to do everything we can to equip a new generation of technology leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to harness the magic of software to improve lives, solve problems, and catalyze economic growth," Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said in a statement.

HD DVD Dead, Long Live Blu-Ray

Following much speculation and several reports, including my own, Toshiba finally made the announcement that they are pulling out of the HD DVD market and will stop shipping players at the end of March.

"We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called 'next-generation format war' and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop," said Atsutoshi Nishida, president and CEO of Toshiba Corporation in a statement. "While we are disappointed for the company and more importantly, for the consumer, the real mass market opportunity for high definition content remains untapped and Toshiba is both able and determined to use our talent, technology and intellectual property to make digital convergence a reality."

Now that HD DVD has been dealt its final death blow Blu-ray prices are to fall. A single format should help accelerate the shift to the new technology. It has been speculated that prices will fall slowly over the year, with more major cuts coming later in year towards Christmas time.

Analysts expect more Blu-ray players to be embedded in laptop and desktop personal computers from next year. Companies such as Apple Inc, Dell Inc, Philips and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, could start investing more aggressively in the technology and get a head-start in terms of launching products. Dell has already showed an influx of desktops that are fitted with Blu-Ray drives, however the prices are still a little too high for many consumers.

The announcement has had an impact on the gaming world as well. Currently Sony is expecting a bigger push and better sales of their PS3. Microsoft however has not commented on any plans for their HD DVD equipped Xbox 360's. So its unclear if there are plans for a Blu-Ray equipped version or not.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rinspeed sQuba Car

Mobile Magazine covers the Rinspeed sQuba. An underwater concept car created by Rinspeed a Swiss automobile manufacturer and tuning designer.

The sQuba is the world's first car that can be driven both on land and under water. The sQuba is a zero-emission, all electric vehicle which uses three electric motors, one for land travel and two for water. It drives on land powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Upon entering water, it floats on the surface until the operator floods the interior to submerge it. It can be submerged to a depth of 33 ft, powered by twin electric-powered propellers supplemented by two Seabob water jets. It "flies" when underwater, like a submarine, as it is not designed to drive along the surface at the bottom of the water. The car's top land speed is measly 75 mph while on the surface of water, the top speed is 3.7 mph and underwater approx. 2mph.

The car transports a driver and passenger in its open cockpit. When underwater, the occupants breathe air carried in the vehicle through scuba-style rebreathers.

Read the entire Mobile Magazine article and view the video"Video: Rinspeed sQuba Car Can Actually Swim On Water, Underwater". For more information on Rinspeed and the sQuba or other Rinspeed concept cars visit Rinspeeds home page

Digital TV Converter Box Program

As previously reported on February 18, 2009 television stations in the U.S. will turn off their old-technology analog signals and broadcast only in a digital format. At that time anyone who owns an older television that gets its signal via antenna will need a converter box in order to receive the digital transmissions.

The government has set aside millions of dollars to help those households that need assistance with the change over. Each household is eligible for two coupons, regardless of whether they have pay-television service or not. To request a coupon apply online at or call the 24-hour hotline, 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009).

When talking about digital TV converters, usually means a basic device that attaches to your analog TV set, allowing it to receive digital over-the-air programs using your existing antenna. These are the digital-to-analog converter boxes (or “digital TV adapters”). The expected price is about $40 to $70, meaning with the coupon you may still need to cover some of the cost. Here is a full list of Coupon Eligible Converter Boxes (CECB).

How to tell if you need a DTV Converter

As of March 1, 2007, all television receivers shipped in interstate commerce or imported into the United States must contain a digital tuner. In addition, effective May 25, 2007, the Commission required sellers of television receiving equipment that does not include a digital tuner to disclose at the point-of-sale that such devices include only an analog tuner, and therefore will require a digital-to-analog converter box to receive over-the-air broadcast television after the transition date.

As for how to determine whether your television equipment purchased prior to May 25, 2007 is a DTV, many DTVs and digital television equipment will have labels or markings on them, or statements in the informational materials that came with them, to indicate that they contain digital tuners. These labels or markings may contain the words “Integrated Digital Tuner” or “Digital Tuner Built-In.” “Receiver” may be substituted for “Tuner,” and “DTV,” “ATSC,” or “HDTV” (high definition television) may be substituted for “Digital.” If your television equipment contains any of these labels or markings, you should be able to view digital over-the-air programming without the need for a digital-to-analog converter box. (Remember, you do not need an HDTV to view free over-the-air digital programming. As long as your television equipment contains a digital tuner, you can view over-the-air digital. An HDTV is only necessary if you want to view digital programming in “high definition.”)

Many newer DVD recorders and other TV equipment come with built in DTV tuners. So make sure to check all your components before you go out and buy a convert box as you may not need one!

You should also check the manual or any other materials that came with your television equipment in order to determine whether it contains a digital tuner.

If your television set is labeled as a “Digital Monitor” or “HDTV Monitor,” or as “Digital Ready” or “HDTV Ready,” this does not mean it actually contains a digital tuner. Thus, you still will likely need a separate set-top box which contains a tuner in order to view programs in the new digital TV transmission standard (which includes HDTV formats) on such a set.

Over-the-air digital set-top boxes can be purchased at retail stores. Cable and satellite TV providers also sell or lease digital set-top boxes for their specific services. (Note: the digital set-top box described here is not the same as the NTIA program digital-to-analog converter box, used to convert free over-the-air digital broadcasts for viewing on an analog TV set.)

If your television set is labeled as “analog” or “NTSC,” but is NOT labeled as containing a digital tuner, it contains an analog tuner only.

If you cannot determine whether your television set or other television equipment contains a digital tuner, you are advised to check your equipment for the manufacturer name and model number, and then contact your consumer electronics retailer, or the manufacturer, to determine whether it contains a digital tuner. This information also may be available online through the manufacturer’s website.

Because most broadcast stations in all U.S. television markets are already broadcasting in digital, consumers are further advised to contact their local broadcast stations to determine the channel numbers on which the stations are broadcasting digital programming. Consumers should then ensure that their televisions are set up to receive over-the-air programming (as distinguished from the signals of a paid provider such as cable or satellite TV service), and then tune to the over-the-air digital channels to see if they can receive the digital broadcast programming.

Do I need a new Antenna for DTV?

The antenna you've been using for watching analog TV over the air can also be used for digital TV, including HDTV. Viewers in some areas, however, will find that a better antenna—a rooftop one, perhaps—is needed to ensure reliable digital TV reception.

Digital TV reception differs from analog: Essentially, you either get a perfect digital signal for a particular channel, or nothing at all. It’s what’s known as a “cliff effect.” You will either find yourself at the very peak of reception capability or—less happily—in the deepest ditch. Which means you won't get the channel at all.

Do I Receive Digital Broadcasts If I Subscribe To Cable Or Satellite?

If you receive cable or satellite television service, contact your cable or satellite provider about any additional components, such as a digital set-top box, that you may need to watch digital broadcast programming. If you use the older style boxes then no you aren't receiving digital TV and you'll more than likely need to upgrade.

Will DTV work with my VCR, DVD Player, Camcorder, Video Games?

VCRs, DVD players, camcorders and video games will continue to work, even if they are only analog-capable. However they may not provide digital-quality picture and sound. Newer components may come with a digital tuner built in so check your owner manual or check the manufacturers site for more information.

Recent Updates
Important Information about Coupon Distribution from

TV Converter Box Coupons are plastic cards that look like gift cards. They will be:
  • mailed to households with approved applications, starting in late February.

  • sent based on the date of application, in the order in which the applications were received.

  • mailed on a staggered basis – not all at once.

  • delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

Coupons cannot be printed or downloaded from the Program Website and are not available to pick up at retail locations.

Remember to call ahead to confirm availability of coupon-eligible converter boxes at the store on the day you plan to shop.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Toshiba To Drop HD DVD, Is This The Final Nail In The Coffin?

PC Magazine reports that Toshiba is expected to "Pull the Plug on HD-DVD"

"Toshiba is expected to pull the plug on its HD DVD format in the coming weeks, after a rash of retail defections that followed Warner Home Video's stunning announcement in early January that it would support only Sony's rival Blu-ray Disc format after May."

Toshiba has not made any official announcements however the HollyWood Reporter which originally broke the story has cited sources that have stated, "An announcement is coming soon,It could be a matter of weeks."

Wal-Mart has also announced that it will stop selling HD DVD movies by June, and is expected to restock its shelves with ‘only Blu-ray movies, hardware machines, as well as standard definition movies and DVD players, and up converts. This follows the announcement earlier this week that both Best Buy and Inc. are supporting behind Blu-ray exclusively.

It looks like HD DVDs days are numbered.

Best Buy Laptop Lawsuit

The $54 million're joking right!

In what can only be stated as a publicity stunt Raelyn Campbell is suing Best Buy for loosing her laptop. On her blog, she admitted that the $54 million in damages she was seeking was an "absurd amount," but said that she chose such a large sum in order to draw attention to the problem.

She's not trying to draw attention to the problem she's trying to gain attention for herself at Best Buy's expense. If she only wanted to draw attention to the problem then why sue for $54 million, a million would be sufficient.

Now don't get me wrong, I loath Best Buy and Geek Squad, and have been very out spoken about their shady business practices in the past. And while I do think she is entitled to adequate compensation as well as an explanation of what happened to her laptop I in know way agree with taking the position of suing just to make headlines.

For those interested in the full story you can check out the story MSNBC's Red Tape Chronicles.

I know it has been well over a year since this case drew public attention however I recently received an email asking for some follow-up. Thanks to Ron btw for that.

The case never made it that far. Washington Post blogger Raw Fisher posted some details and follow-up on his.

In that post he points out that a D.C. Superior Court judge has tossed out Campbell's case. Apparently she had whittled her demand down to $100,000 and "a full explanation" of whatever happened to her laptop at Best Buy's Tenleytown store. But in the end the judge tossed out the frivolous case and she got no money at all.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mahalo Lawsuit, Final Update

For anyone following my two previous posts "Mahalo Lawsuit Looks Inevitable" and "Mahalo Refuses Mentors Payments" this will come as no surprise. An agreement between myself and was never reached, forcing me to seek legal action.

My case was filled in Sacramento County Small Claims court (case number 08SC00893) February 01, 2008. Our court date has been set for 04/07/2008 1:30 P.M. in Sacramento.

Its probably in my best interest to make no further public comments on the case until there is a resolution one way or the either. But I did want to provide everyone with an update and thank everyone that has shown support.

Comcast Defends Content Filtering

Comcast tries to defend its net neutrality, network management and P2P filtering.

Wikipedia defines Network neutrality(equivalently "net neutrality", "Internet neutrality" or "NN") as a principle that is applied to residential broadband networks, and potentially to all networks. Precise definitions vary, but a broadband network free of restrictions on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, on the modes of communication allowed, that does not restrict content, sites, or platforms and where communication is not unreasonably degraded by other communication streams would be considered neutral by most observers.

This principal seems to be foreign to service provider Comcast (and now AT&T) as they have come under fire for their network management practices.

Comcast has taken to the approach of limiting or even denying file-sharing traffic. While they have admitted to delaying P2P traffic during peak hours, they deny blocking P2P applications completely. However many users have claimed otherwise.

Two articles "Comcast Defends Filtering in FCC Filing" and "Comcast Under Fire Again for Net Neutrality" both from PC Magazine have in-depth coverage of Comcast's position on the issues.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of a House Internet and telecommunications panel has introduced a new bill HR5353 labeled the "Internet Freedom Preservation Act". Markey claims the bill is designed to assess and promote Internet freedom for consumers and content providers. The bill tasks the FCC with the job of conducting an assessment of broadband practices and consumer rights. Finally, it requires the FCC to hold eight broadband summits around the nation and to report back to Congress on its findings and any recommendations for further action.

Crack Down on Pirated Software Auctions

PC Magazine reports: The SIIA has its eyes on eBay.

That was the message behind a statement released Wednesday by the Software & Information Industry Association, which said it had filed seven suits in a district court in northern California against eight defendants. Each was accused of trying to auction pirated software from Adobe, particularly copies of its Adobe CS3 suite.
Washington, D.C. – February 13, 2008 – The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) announced today it has filed the largest round of lawsuits since launching its auction site anti-piracy program two years ago. SIIA filed nine separate suits in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, on behalf of members Adobe Systems Incorporated and Symantec Corporation. The lawsuits are part of SIIA’s comprehensive program to battle rampant auctioning of pirated software.

Two suits were also filed against eBay sellers two weeks ago, naming two more defendants; one was accused of selling pirated Adobe Photoshop CS3 software, while the other involved the alleged selling of Symantec pcAnywhere 11.0 Host and Remote, pcAnywhere 10.5 Host and Remote and Norton Utilities 8.0 for Macintosh.

“SIIA has declared war against those who continue to sell pirated software on auction sites such as eBay,” says Keith Kupferschmid, SVP of SIIA’s Anti-Piracy Division. “Our goal is to give illegal software sellers a rude awakening, so that unsuspecting software buyers and legitimate sellers are protected. For too long, auction sellers have been able to sell pirated software while risking only the removal of their auction. SIIA has upped the ante by bringing those who pirate software to justice in court.”

Of the industry's top names, however, there is one notable exception; a list of the program's participants includes Apple, Adobe, Intuit, McAfee, and Symantec, but doesn't include Microsoft, which has its own methods of dealing with piracy, including working with the FBI.

A representative for Microsoft's Genuine Advantage program said that users who report that they own a pirated piece of Microsoft software, such as Windows, can notify the company at Microsoft's anti-piracy site. If the software meets the company's criteria, the user may be receive a free copy of authentic Microsoft software in exchange. Users that do not meet the criteria may be referred back to the Genuine Advantage department for a discounted copy of the software, the representative said.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Next Generation iPhone Hacks

More new iPhone Hacks are on the horizon.

From Technology Review
Apple's plan to release a software kit that lets people create legitimate add-ons for the iPhone could make the device appeal to an even wider audience.

Hackers have been crafting clever add-ons that range from instant access to a Blockbuster Online DVD queue to a pocket guitar that takes advantage of the touch screen. In addition, people have found ways to unlock the iPhone from AT&T, so that it can work on other cellular-phone networks.

All of these hacks, however, are done without Apple's blessing or technical support. This month, Apple is expected to release a software development kit (SDK) that will allow programmers to write legitimate software for the phone.

This will enable developers to make more reliable software, and it will let the average iPhone owner easily download new programs without needing to follow arduous online instructions from blogs. And importantly, an SDK will likely spawn a new world of applications--possibly even business software--that could extend the reach of the iPhone beyond a user base of four million, as announced in January. "When you have a device like the iPhone that can attract so many people, you also have enterprise developers who want to use that interface," says Mike McGuire, an analyst for Gartner, a market research firm. He says that an SDK will lead to commercial applications for the business sector, "and that's where the real money is."

More at

The Web's Best Laptop CPU Guides

Confused about laptop CPU choices? I'll be the first to tell you you aren't alone. I've been shopping around for a good laptop on a reasonable budget for months now and the 20-30 different CPU choices out there leave your head spinning. And if a technophile like me is confused then how can the average consumer fare?

Luckily I've found a few great guides that will help answer some of those questions and guide you along the way to making the informed choice. The guys over at, and Tom's Hardware have built a couple great guides. Some with benchmarks and side by side comparisons and some just well written guides that everyone interested in buying a laptop should checkout.

First off is the "The Ultimate CPU Guide" from This very informative guide provides a breakdown of both AMD and Intel CPU's from the older Celeron M 520 to the new Core 2 Extreme X9000.

Second is the Mobile CPU Benchmark Chart from This is a sorted and filtered table of the best-known laptop processors. It contains technical information such as model, codename, speed ratings, cache ratings, front side bus (FSB) Thermal Design Power (TDP) and average benchmark values.

Last but not least are the interactive Mobile CPU 2007 and 2008 Charts from Tom's Hardware. Unfortunately these charts are very limited to only a few processors. However they give some real life side by side comparisons. A great tool for beginners and advanced users alike.

New Phishing Method Could Be Undetectable

Loopholes in the the Domain Name System (DNS) could make financial scams such as phishing attacks practically undetectable.

According to a recent article "Phishing attacks could be undetectable". Researchers David Dagon, Chris Lee and Wenke Lee of Georgia Tech, and Niels Provos of Google presented their study "Corrupted DNS Resolution Paths" describing the exploit, called "DNS resolution path corruption".

The study noted in a previous article describes how an attack could be carried out by a simple piece of code implanted via a malicious website or email attachment. The code would change a file in the Windows registry settings, telling the PC to use the malicious server for all DNS information.

The Techworld article states, "The problem is "open recursive" DNS servers, which are used to tell computers how to find each other on the internet by translating domain names like into numerical Internet Protocol addresses. Criminals are using these servers in combination with new attack techniques to develop a new generation of phishing attacks, according to the study."

"Using Google's network of web crawlers, researchers uncovered more than 2,100 Web pages that used exploit code to change the Windows registry of visitors."

File-Sharing In The UK , Lose Your Internet Access

Illegal file sharers in the UK who go online and illegally download music and films may have their internet access cut under plans the government is considering.

Reports from the BBC News indicate that the British government is considering plans that would require internet service providers to take action over users who access pirated material via their accounts or face be prosecution, and the details of customers suspected of making illegal downloads made available to the courts.

It is estimated that six million people a year are downloading files illegally in the UK. At a cost of millions of pounds in lost revenues to music and film companies. The BPI (similar to the RIAA), the trade body that represents the UK record industry, said internet providers had "done little or nothing to address illegal downloading via their networks".

Representatives from the Internet Service Providers Association have countered by saying "ISPs are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the Post Office is able to open every envelope."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Starbucks Moves To AT&T Hot Spots reports that Starbucks Corp. has announced that it is moving away from T-Mobile as its in-store Wi-Fi provider and will transition to AT&T Inc.'s Wi-Fi service in more than 7,000 of its high-end coffee shops beginning this spring.

Starbucks has said it will give customers who use a Starbucks card two hours of free wireless access per day. Additional time will cost $3.99 for a two-hour session and monthly memberships will cost $19.99 and include access to any of AT&T's 70,000 hot spots worldwide.

Nearly all of AT&T's broadband Internet customers, about 12 million, will automatically have unlimited free Wi-Fi access at Starbucks, the companies said. This comes on the heels of the AT&T plans to offer free Wi-Fi to almost all of its current broadband subscribers.

The deal boosts the number of AT&T hotspots in the U.S. to 17,000 — the most in the nation. AT&T previously had around 10,000 Wi-Fi hot spots in the U.S. in places like airports, McDonald's restaurants, Barnes & Noble bookstores, coffee shops, and sporting venues.

A full list of hotspot locations can be found at the AT&T Wi-Fi website. AT&T users simply have to find the network (SSID: attwifi), and log in using their primary DSL or U-Verse account username and password.

Vista SP1 Integration Update

Slipstreaming Vista SP1

I've received several questions since my last post "Vlite Vista SP1 Integration". As I mentioned in that previous post, the folks over at have the only comprehensive guide to SP1 integration. Yesterday they updated the guide with a little more information for those that are still seeking answers.

The latest post "Windows Vista SP1 Slipstreaming FAQ" quotes Kevin Remde from Microsoft and his Technet blog post "I can't do WHAT?! Why can't I create my own slipstreamed installation of Windows Vista SP1?".

As you can see the reverse integration method used by the folks at is currently the only method that will work! Vlite will still work for creating the ISO and ultimately creating the DVD, however you won't be able to remove unwanted Vista or Vista SP1 components.

MayDay Botnet, Storm Worm and Now Mega-D

The newest botnets and worms on the horizon are becoming increasingly hard to track, hard to find and harder to remove. Last week I posted about the MayDay Botnet which researchers are saying it sneakier and stealthier than anything they've seen so far.

Last month new warnings went out about the latest version of the Storm Worm. Sent to unsuspecting users as a simple innocent looking Valentine greeting. The spammed email messages are just plain text, but contain links that lead to malicious Web sites displaying one of eight cute Valentine images. If you run the executable named VALENTINE.EXE, your system will inevitably join the Storm botnet to start spamming other Internet users.

Previous variants of storm used the same similar approach sending emails with subjects such as, "You've received a postcard from a family member!" or "You've received an Ecard from a friend".

Now we face the newest, and possibly the worst spam threat in the form of "Mega-D". According to a recent Ars Technia article "New Mega-D menace muscles Storm Worm aside", the Australian security company Marshal, Mega-D now accounts for 32 percent of the total spam the company is tracking online. The experts at Marshal have said "Storm is one of five botnets that we have been monitoring that we believe are responsible for approximately 75 per cent of all spam in circulation. One particular botnet which heavily promotes a certain brand of male enhancement pills (Mega-D), accounts for nearly 30 percent. This one bot has already exceeded Storm’s records and it has done it quietly without attracting too much attention." writes "Storm worm dethroned by sex botnet". " The Mega-D botnet, which offers discounted sexual enhancement pills to users, delivers a whopping 30 percent more spam than Storm, famous for delivering malicious Valentine's Day cards. It is the largest botnet on record, according to security firm Marshal Ltd., and has exceeded Storm's highest spam output in September last year by 12%".

The best defense against viruses, malware, trojans, worms and botnets is a good offense. Meaning update all your virus definitions regularly, update your spyware programs, your windows installations and all your installed programs. Viruses can attack exploits in media players, flash players and even Adobe Acrobat while you are viewing PDF's.

Its also highly recommended that you avoid opening emails from unknown sources. While you might be tempted to read that e-card you are far better off being safe than sorry. If you aren't currently using an anit-virus program thenI'd suggest either AVG's Free Version or Avast's Free Home Edition. For spyware detection and removal Spy-bot Search & Destroy and Ad-aware Free Edition.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Revolution Money Exchange

I've posted an updated review
Great PayPal Alternative, Revolution Money Exchange Reviewed

*Correction note*
I previous stated the company was founded by Ted Leonsis and Steve Case. They are indeed investors and board members in the company. Jason Hogg and Patrick Graf however are the founders of Revolution Money, previously called Gratis Card.

Revolution Money Exchange is a new online payment system launched last year. The company founded by Jason Hogg and Patrick Graf and run with current investors and board members Ted Leonsis and Steve Case has placed itself in direct competition with PayPal. Offering free online money transfers and currently drumming up business by offering a $25.00 sign-up bonus. A deal that is spreading fast across sites like, and

InformationWeek and USAtoday did stories on the site back in November however until recently I hadn't heard anything about it. Of course once I heard of the $25.00 sign-up bonus I had to investigate. After reading several articles and several blog posts I saw I was just in the dark.

Revolution its self is more tied to a next-generation credit and debit card that promises to be more secure and less expensive than current cards. According to the InformationWeek article the card itself is anonymous, so it doesn't have the cardholder's name on the card nor does it contain any information about the cardholder in the magnetic stripe.

The MoneyExchange side of the business is the online money transfer. They offer FDIC insured accounts issued by First Bank & Trust. For most services there are no fees, however there do seem to be high fees for things like check withdrawals, check stop payments, paper statements, ACH returns, and overdrafts. You will also need to be prepared to enter your SSN, a step that can not be avoided to sign-up.

In addition to the $25.00 sign-up bonus they offer $10 refer a friend bonuses (up to 50/yr). The only draw back I've seen there is you can't simply refer people, you have to directly email them from within your account on the site. Personalized referral links would be helpful, but I guess that cuts down on the some spam issues.

Follow up 4/7/08

Having used the service now for a couple months, I can report no issues. I received my $25 instantly, attached my bank account and withdrew my funds. The only real drawback I've ran into is that eBay does not currently allow the service. I have seen a few questions regarding its use on eBay and from what I can gather it won't be approved, or endorsed by eBay because it doesn't allow buyers to dispute payments. (not to mention eBay doesn't want to loose out on Pay-Pal fees)

According to eBay's Accepted Payments Policy as a seller you can only accept payments through approved methods. So at least for now I won't be able to fully rid myself of Pay-Pal.

Friday, February 08, 2008

72 Tips for Safer Computing by PC Magazine

Some great beginner tips from the basics of disabling autoruns, to setting more secure passwords Pc Magazine covers them all in this comprehinsive list.

Vlite Vista SP1 Integration

According to Vlite and Winbeta Microsoft has confirmed that there will be no way to directly slipstream SP1 into Vista.

Of course, that doesn't mean it can't be done and the guys over at WinBeta have been working hard on the problem. They've released a Vista SP1 Reverse Integration Guide which will walk users through an involved process of reverse integration.

After looking over the guide I'll say this is for more advanced users and is probably not for the average user. This of course is not official nor an easy method. However it does look possible, and I'm sure they'll be researching a way to come up with a less complicated method.

Flock Adds MySpace Support

The popular Mozilla-based social Web browser Flock added MySpace support. This comes following the recently released MySpace Developer Platform, the updated browser will allow users to surf the Web with their MySpace friends via constant updates on all their actions within the social network.

With the new refinements users can be informed within the browser when friends from MySpace or other supported social networks — like YouTube Photobucket and Flickr — post new photos or videos or when a user has new messages from friends on a social network.

I haven't used Flock in several years, but as you can see from my review I enjoyed my experiences with the browser. With the new additions and recent changes I might have to revisit their site and see how they've progressed.

Personally Customized Cell Phones

Two new cell phone companies Modu Mobile and zzzPhone have announced plans for build-to-order customizable cell phones.

The foundation of the Modu product will be a small phone designed to slide into special "jackets." These "jackets" are phone exteriors with extra functionality, plus software that instructs the phone about special color schemes and other features. For example, a user might use a "jacket" with a camera in it to take pictures, then replace that with a "jacket" with a QWERTY keyboard for easy text messaging.

zzzPhone on the other hand will be using a build-to-order site similar to Dell's. You use its Web site to choose the features you want, and the company will build it for you. Its base model costs $149. You can choose from a range of colors and add additional features, such as a 7-megapixel camera, TV tuner or GPS for additional cost.

ComputerWorld's article "Who wants a custom cell phone?" covers more details on the two companies, their phones and potential uses.

More information on Modu can be found in the recent EFluxMedia post "Israeli Startup modu Revolutionizes Phone Industry">

Thursday, February 07, 2008

MayDay Botnet

MayDay botnet is the newest peer-to-peer botnet causing havoc for thousands of U.S.-based large enterprises, educational institutions, and customers of major ISPs. MayDay is the potential successor to the Storm trojan. A botnet that infected hundred of thousands of computers late last year.

DarkReading reports that MayDay uses a combination of techniques to communicate with its bots, including hijacking browser proxy settings and It can communicate through an enterprise's secure Web proxy and conduct updates and attack activities.

Tripp Cox, vice president of engineering for Damballa is quoted in the recent DarkReading article "MayDay! Sneakier, More Powerful Botnet on the Loose". He states that "The botnet uses two forms of P2P communications to ensure it can talk to its bots, including the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP). "This malware is for multiple protocols and is specifically designed to be successful despite whatever security controls might be in place."

So far anti-virus companies have not been able to find a way for detecting MayDay's malware. It is unknown if it is because of the advanced techniques used in the malware construction or if AV companies can't identify these pieces of malware.

The infection comes in the form of what appears to the victim to be an Adobe Reader executable, but is actually the malware. Damballa is still studying the botnet's delivery mechanisms for the malware, Cox says.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

AT&T Broadband Prices Are On The Rise

InformationWeek announced that AT&T will be increasing the prices of all its DSL services by $5 across the board.

The recent InformationWeek article states that most consumers in AT&T's service area will see $5 jumps in their monthly rates. For instance Basic 768 Kbps service will rise from $14.99 to $19.95, Express 1.5 Mbps service from $19.99 to $25, and Pro 3 Mbps service from $24.99 to $30.

Just a few weeks ago I wrote about AT&T's plans to "play big brother" with their announcement of plans to implement voluntary content filtering. Now they go and raises prices to users, are they trying to drive customers away?

Google Experiementing With Search Results

Google has introduced what it is calling "Alternate Views" search results. Users will see results on a timeline, map, or in context of other information types. With these views, Google extracts key dates, locations, measurements, and more from select search results so you can view the information in a slightly different format.

For more information on this and other experimental Google projects check out the Google Experimental page or the Official Google Blog.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

PcWorld's How to Buy and Sell on eBay Scam-Free

PcWorld put together a great how to on buying and selling on eBay. The article "How to Buy and Sell on eBay Scam-Free" covers several of the most common ways buyers and sellers are scammed as well as ways to avoid such scams.

Of the many things that are covered are: account hijacking, payment fraud and fake and misrepresented items. This article is a must read for the average Ebay user that might not be aware of some of the hidden dangers.

New High Speed Solid State Drives

Intel and Micron have partnered to create solid state drives using NAND flash memory chips that can reach speeds of up to 200 MB per second for reading data and 100 MB per second for writing. The new technology would be approximately 5 times faster than current memory chips. Which have maximum read-write speeds of 40 MB and 20 MB.

Micron is expected to release a high-speed 8 GB solid-state drive later this year. With higher-capacity products expected closer to the beginning of 2009. These new drives will be ideal for HD video files. Where the content can be moved in and out of a storage device quickly, so it can be played on a handheld gadget or recorded in a camcorder.

Read's article "Intel, Micron Claim To Boost Solid-State Drive Speeds By 500%" for more information.

Friday, February 01, 2008

MacBook Air Has a Few Problems

Apple Support has released a few documents outlying the issues facing would be MacBook Air owners.

Of the several issues outlined many are networking problems. These include a reduction of throughput for wireless networks that use the 2.4-GHz band, slow speeds when connected to multiple Bluetooth devices and routers that refuse to work the Remote Disc magic.

Recent articles from, and Yahoo! News cover many of the problems as well as a few solutions.