Monday, December 22, 2008

Missouri Authorities Charge 7 People With Cyberbullying

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Missouri prosecutors have filled charges against seven people under a new anti-cyberharassment statute. The law went into effect in late August and was passed after 13-year-old Megan Meier hanged herself in Missouri in 2006 following online harassment through a MySpace account.

Missouri lawmakers drafted the new legislation to outlaw future threats or harassing communication that causes emotional distress, including electronic messaging on computers, text messaging and e-mail. Charges can be filed as misdemeanors or felonies.

The reported charges are as follows:
  • A 21-year-old woman named Nicole Williams was charged for allegedly sending harassing text messages to a 16-year-old girl and allowing others to use her cellphone to leave vulgar voicemail messages for the victim threatening her with rape, among other things. Williams allegedly targeted the teen over a jealous dispute involving a boy, according to the Post-Dispatch.
  • Two St. Louis men were charged separately with sending harassing text messages to their ex-girlfriends.
  • A man protesting the development of a proposed resort was charged with sending a threatening e-mail to city hall staff.
  • A 28-year-old woman was accused of sending harassing text messages to her ex-husband's girlfriend.
  • A 19-year-old man was charged with sending some 17 text messages to his mother's husband.
  • A 17-year-old involved with a classmate in a dispute over a girl is accused of sending the classmate death threats via text messages.

The majority of these charges look fairly ridiculous. I mean who hasn't sent or received a nasty message from an ex? It would appear as though this is just another knee-jerk reaction. Which resulted in the creation and implementation of a poorly written law. Unfortunatly the government is forced to respond in some manner or they risk facing more public backlash.

G2 Rumors Seen As Unlikely

Rumors posted on Cell Phone Signal about a new T-Mobile G2 being released in January are starting to seem more and more unlikely. T-Mobile officially launched the G1 a mere 3 months ago amidst a mediocre reception and less than stellar reviews. So it would seem very unlikely that they'd rush out the new model potentially creating friction with supporters.

Cell Phone Signal created a lot of buzz when the story first appeared, but it looks like this is nothing more than a case of slightly overzealous reporting. Several sites including the Android Community and The Boy Genius Report refute the report claiming some of the details might be correct but the speculated release date is all wrong.

Cell Phone Signal claims that most if not all of the features from the Android "cupcake" development branch will be included in the new phone. The cupcake branch was a private development working on their own Android projects, they have since been incorporated into the master project. So that part of the rumor may in fact be true.

The reported device feature list includes:
    The new Android OS
    3G capability
    Full Touch Screen support
    Enterprise Capable
    WiFi capability ( no word about UMA)
    5 Megapixel camera with aoutofocus and flash
    Address Book
    Calculator
    Calendar
    EDGE and GPRS
    New Games
    Instant Messaging
    Megatones, HI-Fi tones and wallpapers
    Memory card Slot ( up to 16GB)
    Mobile Backup
    Music and Video Player
    Phone Book
    Photo Caller ID
    Picture Messaging
    Real web browsing
    Speakerphone
    Speed dial
    Stereo Bluetooth connectivity
    Sync with PC ( better than air sync)
    Task list
    USB interface
    Video capture and playback
    Video Messaging
    Voice Dialing
    myFaves capable and T-Zones


BGR says that their sources confirm many of these features will be added. Adding that the device is a full touch device and there is no physical QWERTY keyboard and there is still a trackball at the bottom. BGR speculates the G2 won't be available until April, which would seem to be a much more likely scenario.

Rumor: Windows 7 Beta 1 Download Coming Jan 5th

According to reports at Ars Technica the first official Windows 7 Beta might be available for download as soon as Jan 5th. Details provided for members of the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription show the Windows 7 Beta being available as part of the Jan 2009 kit.

The kit will start shipping on "January 5, 2009, depending on region," however according to the footnote for Windows 7 Beta, it's only available via download, so waiting for shipping won't be an issue.

Microsoft Breathes More Life Into Windows XP

Microsoft has once again extended the Windows XP lifecycle extending the date by which PC makers can obtain Windows XP Professional licenses from January 31, 2009 to May 30, 2009.

"Microsoft is making accommodation through a flexible inventory program that will allow distributors to place their final orders by January 31, 2009; and take delivery against those orders through May 30, 2009," according to a Microsoft spokesman. "This is not an extension of sales."

Originally Microsoft said it would stop shipments of Windows XP on January 31st. Which meant distributors would have to stockpile licenses. Under the new program they will have until the end of May to actually take delivery of, and pay for, the licenses.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mahalo Answers Success Story User Pulls Support

Mahalo Answers user budgallant, who was used by TechCrunch and Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis to publicize the success of Mahalo Answers, has backed off his support of the site.

In response to my article "Mahalo Launches New Money Making Scheme" Gallant originally came forth with glowing support of the site, going as far as saying he didn't mind the 25% surcharge stating he didn't mind pay for supporting the site. That support quickly faded as Gallant now writes, "it would seem my glowing reviews were colored very much by the lottery winnings I received...I'm afraid, it turns out many of your criticisms are valid, and there's a lot more."

Shortly after the launch of Mahalo Answers, TechCrunch and Calacanis essentially made Gallant their poster boy for the success of the new service when they ran the article "Mahalo Answers User Gets $100 Payday For Giving PR Tips To Strippers". With several sites reposting the success story, and almost 350 diggs, the article undoubtedly added a little fuel to the Mahalo fire.

That fire seems to be flaming out quickly as Gallant now tell us. "Over the last few days, I've grown disillusioned... both with the site and it's operation, and with the CEO. This is a guy who after I asked him two simple yes or no questions, refused to reply. Sure, I realize he owes me no reply, but one would like to think when TechCrunch, in association with Mahalo, uses your name in an article, you'd at the very least get a question answered without being ignored. Apparently not...It's a personal slight, and frankly, I don't appreciate it."

It really wouldn't be fair to judge Mahalo or Mahalo Answers simply on the distaste Jason leaves in ones mouth and anyone that has talked to him or seen any of his interviews knows he's a hard pill to swallow. My negative views of the service were based more on the extremely high surcharge incurred by Mahalo Answers users wishing to cash out. Taking 25% off the top of payments seemed to be a bit extreme to me.

Once Gallant posted his original response I looked at Mahalo Answers a little closer. I had noticed a few things that really didn't sit right with me.

For one, there seemed to be several questions posted by website owners. Most the them were questions that would basically drive traffic to their specific site. So it looked to me like some of the users found a way to "game" the system and get some cheap/free advertising. Secondly, was the volume of questions posted by the Mahalo staff. That wasn't unusual as obviously you want to support your own site and what better way than using in house dollars to drive more support? However according to Gallant it would appear as though they were doing a bit more than that.

In comments posted to our previous post Gallant writes:
These things, and things like these [referring to his disillusionment] , put me off Jason... completely, but it wouldn't be fair to let my growing dislike for his personality and profiteering, affect my view of Mahalo Answers. I'm sure I'm not completely objective, but this brings me to the most important reason I no longer support the platform.

Mahalo Answers is gameable. Completely gameable. I suspect it is so, because Jason himself and his staff are the primary ones gaming it. Where do the M$ come from? Well, if you are a user, you need to buy them at a 1-1 ratio with real money. If you are Mahalo, you simply create them out of thin air, and then "put them into the system". I read a claim that Jason had put hundreds of thousands into that system, on an msnbc news article, to promote tips. Is there a paper trail for all those M$, or are they just being created by the site? Good luck getting an answer on that. I strongly suspect it is the latter.

Regardless, the system is being gamed. Once M$ are in the system, the only way for them to cost Mahalo a penny is if they are converted to real money via paypal. The majority of this time, this does not occur. Instead what happens is this: Someone affiliated with Mahalo Answers who was given the M$ by the site (by their admission), posts a question offering a large tip $20-$100. Users believing they have a shot at it put in an amount of work, and that is what it is, based on the amount. MA gets around 20 good answers, for free, and then selects another MA-related user as the winner. The M$ go round and round, transfered through the Mahalo Answers affiliate botnet, and never reach an actual user who cashes them out (or do so only after multiple transfers, at best). It costs Mahalo nothing, to transfer the same M$100 from one affiliate to another, and each time they do this, they have essentially gamed the system, and saved the entire cost of that tip.

I have witnessed this occurring on the site, and the evidence of it remains. I first suspected this when I noticed users who are direct employees of MA, not disclosing it on their profiles. One of them Is Mary. I have an e-mail from her MA account with a link to her profile, to demonstrate it. Even after I raised this issue, her profile was not changed. Instead Jason claimed all employees disclose. That is a lie, and I suspect he knows it. Why Mary is notable is because she has been funneling hundreds of dollars through the system, and selecting "best answers" that indicate the system is rigged.

This would be no different than a business owner paying the $100 for M$100 and then asking a question that can be used to profit his business. After receiving all the answers, he selects a "best answer", and transfers that money to an employee or to an affiliate of his business. And the scam gets repeated ad infinitum. Mahalo Answers seems to be running the same scam, with the difference that the M$ do not even need to be purchased. They can simply be created.

Due to the above, I officially withdraw all support for Jason Calacanis and Mahalo Answers. While it is possible to believe these are simply "accidents" or "coincidences", it would be naive to think so.

Users have a right to know who the Mahalo employees are, and that they primarily select other employees to receive the tips. Users also have a right to know where the M$ used by these employees came from, and whether or not Mahalo actually payed for them, or just created them. In addition, and most importantly, users should know that the system in use can be gamed, and gamed easily, and nothing effective is being done to guard against this. I doubt that is negligence, but rather more profiteering, something which JC is a master at.


At this time I can not confirm the fact that Mahalo is "gaming" the system in any way. I'm not familiar with the current staff so its hard to say who is and who isn't on the payroll. I can say that I see numerous questions and answer posted by Mahalo staff members that I did know. I don't know if they still work their nor did I take the time to look through all the questions and answers to see which staff members received tips for their answers.

Mahalo's response to this so far:
Mahalo for the feedback. Couple of quick points:

1. If you click on the profiles of our staff you'll see they all disclose they work at Mahalo. If someone hasn't it's an oversight.

2. 25% is very reasonable since it costs a lot of money to build an maintain a system like this. Google AdSense takes 35-45%, so we're a much better deal than all the ad networks.

3. We have no interest in gaming the system to ask a question and answer it ourselves. That would be very short sighted. In fact, we don't have the TIME to answer questions nor do we need to since thre are so many folks answering them.

4. Also, since we're making 25% it's better for us to
sit back and collect that fee rather than waste time trying to answer our own questions!

5. If you have specific examples where you think something is fishy just ask me jason at mahalo.com or ask a question about it on Mahalo Answers. We'll look into it immediately.

Is Jason now comparing Mahalo Answers to AdSense? Answers is supposedly a Q&A site not an advertising network. Mahalo acting as the middle man would be more akin to comparing PayPal to eBay. All Mahalo does is provide the platform and transfer (via paypal btw) the payments. eBay and PayPal fees combined rarely top 10%, so my point is still valid. Taking 25% off the top is ludicrous!

As to the rest of the questions being raised, I'll let you come to your own conclusions and leave you with a few related links.

**Update**
Jason has posted a "semi-official statement", which ironically confirms the statements made by both Bud Gallant and myself. In another twist of irony, Jason feels as though my sentiment that Mahalo takes too big a cut is somehow motivated by my past dealings with Mahalo.

Jason you might want to read my post before making such claims. I have nothing against the Q&A process. My issue has always been the fact that Mahalo is engaged in profiteering. If you are making money off of your advertising then why is there a need to make even more money off your users by charging a surcharge.

I've said it before and will say it again, Mahalo Answers is nothing more than a money making scheme for Mahalo. It is a fairly clear statement one that Jason even admits, "For the record, our business model is to make money off of a) the 25% fee and b) advertising on the site (the Google ads you see)."

One thing I found interesting was that Jason and Mahalo Q&A users wanted to address this posting, however there was no reference to Mr. Gallant or his postings. As mentioned I'm not a Mahalo member therefore I can't respond on site. But I'd think you would want to address the concerns of your disillusioned members before address your critics.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Japanese Group Asks Google To Shut Down Street View

According to a Reuters report, a group of Japanese lawyers and college professors have asked Google to shut down Street View and and delete all saved images of Japanese cities.

Citing concerns over privacy and stating that Google might have violated privacy rights the Campaign Against Surveillance Society, a Japanese civilian group headed by Yasuhiko Tajima, a professor of constitutional law at Sophia University in Tokyo as reportedly asked Google to stop providing detailed street-level images of Japanese cities on the Internet.

"We strongly suspect that what Google has been doing deeply violates a basic right that humans have," said Yasuhiko Tajima, in an interview with Reuters. "It is necessary to warn society that an IT (information technology) giant is openly violating privacy rights, which are important rights that the citizens have, through this service," he said.

According to Reuters Google had no direct comments choosing to instead reiterate the Street View privacy policy stating it was blurring the faces of people seen in Street View scenes by special technology and that it would delete the pictures of people and buildings upon request.

This isn't the first time Google and Street View have come under scrutiny. Earlier this year, in stupid news of the week, we reported that a Pennsylvania couple sued Google alleging Street View violated their privacy by posting street level photos of a private drive way. While the US doesn't currently place restrictions on street level photographs Japan has stricter protections on privacy in public than we do. Given these restrictions its possible that the Japanese might be able to stop their pictures from being used against their will.

Guardian's 100 Top Sites For 2009

British news site Guardian.co.uk has released a great compilation of their picks for the 100 top sites for the year ahead. The sites are broken down into several categories including, music, news recommendation (digg, reddit ect), gaming, maps, offbeat, browsers, social networking and blogging.

For you Twitter fans there is even a Twitter specific category featuring, monitter.com which allows you to watch keywords on Twitter, twitter.grader.com, the popular Twitter ranking site and twitterfeed.com, a very useful tool for us bloggers that allows you to send blog posts to your Twitter account.

The list mainly features well know sites that you more than likely have bookmarked already. I think there are one or two sites that I haven't heard of or at least tried once or twice. Like me you might be a bit surprised by some of the selections, or should I say lack of selections. I was surprised Twitter warranted it's own category, but agree with most of the selections. I was also a little surprised by their "rough ranking" of a few sites or services.

There are 8 video sites listed, YouTube, Vimeo and Joost all make the grade there. Many of you might notice Hulu will oddly be absent, but Hulu is a US only site and since this is a UK site they didn't list it. I'm a little surprised there are only 2 blogging sites listed - bloglines.com and wordpress.com. For browsers they seemingly list every popular option, not deciding on just a couple, and oddly list Chrome at the top. I can't say I agree with that recommendation.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Apple Confirms Mac OS X 10.5.6 Update Issues

Maximize the capabilities of your Mac!Apple has confirmed there is a glitch in the update system "when attempting to update software using Software Update in Mac OS X 10.5." The company says," The update process may stop responding while "Configuring installation" is visible in the update window. This can occur if Software Update attempts to install an update that was only partially downloaded."

Apple has posted a resolution, telling users to delete the partial download from the "/Library/Updates" folder. To find the folder click the Finder icon in the Dock, from the Go menu choose "Go to Folder" and type: /Library/Updates. Click Go. The /Library/Updates folder should open, allowing you to select all the contents of this folder and move them to the Trash. Use Software Update to install the update again or you can download the standalone installer or the full combo installer

As far as we know the new work around should fix many of the issues that we reported earlier this week. If the standalone update work doesn't work then I'd suggest trying the larger combo installation.

David Pogue's iPhone: The Missing Manual App

New York Times columnist David Pogue's bestselling book iPhone: The Missing Manual, Second Edition is now available as a download via the App Store.

Missing Manuals, a publishing division of O'Reilly Media, today announced the release of its first iPhone App, iPhone: The Missing Manual. This new App makes it possible to read and browse David Pogue's--iPhone: The Missing Manual: Second Edition which covers the iPhone 3G, directly from your iPhone.

Full of humor, tips, tricks, and surprises, iPhone: The Missing Manual App, just like Pogue's book, helps you accomplish specific tasks with complete step-by-step instructions for everything from scheduling to web browsing to watching videos.

You'll learn how to:

  • Use the iPhone as a phone -- get a guided tour of 3G's phone features and learn how much time you can save with things like Visual Voicemail, contact searching, and more.
  • Figure out what 3G means and how it affects battery life, internet speed, and even phone call audio quality.
  • Treat the iPhone as an iPod -- listen to music, upload and view photos, and fill the iPhone with TV shows and movies.
  • Take the iPhone online -- learn how to get online, use email, browse the Web, and use the GPS.
  • Go beyond the iPhone -- discover how to use iPhone with iTunes, sync it with your calendar, and learn about The App Store where you can pick from hundreds of iPhone-friendly programs.

Missing Manuals is currently offering the app at an introductory price of $4.99 (which will increase to $9.99). For more information about iPhone: The Missing Manual App, see: http://missingmanuals.com/iphone_app. To purchase iPhone: The Missing Manual App from iTunes, please check: http://missingmanuals.com/iphone_app/get.

About the Author
David Pogue, Yale '85, is the weekly personal-technology columnist for the New York Times and an Emmy award-winning tech correspondent for CBS News. With 3 million books in print, he is also one of the world's bestselling how-to authors. He wrote or co-wrote seven books in the "for Dummies" series (including Macs, Magic, Opera, and Classical Music); in 1999, he launched his own series of complete, funny computer books called Missing Manuals, which now includes 30 titles.

Give Your Intel Atom-based PC Or Netbook A Boast With NVIDIA's Ion

When it comes to gaming or HD videos a netbook or low cost notebook is going to be just about useless. That is where NVIDIA steps in with their recently announced Ion platform.

This box that literally fits in the small of your hand, features an integrated Atom CPU and GeForce 9400M GPU. That together should significantly boost the performance of netbooks, small form factor PCs, and all-in-one PCs.

nvidia ion

The new Ion features:
  • Full support for Windows Vista Premium as well as Windows 7, Premium DirectX 10 graphics with advanced digital display connectivity,
  • CUDA technology unlocks the processing power of the GPU to accelerate video transcoding and run the most compute-intensive applications
  • Premium 1080p HD video with true-fidelity 7.1 audio
Connections include VGA, HDMI-out, dual-link DVI, SATA connections, 12x USB 2.0 ports, an ethernet port as well as 7.1 surround sound support.

nvidia ionnvidia ion

In their demonstration videos NVIDIA claims a boost of 10x the speed for graphics and video transcoding in netbook and All-in-one PCs with Atom CPUs and integrated video. They also claim Ion will run Call of Duty 4 on lowered setting. As for the rest of the specs you get a max resolution of 2560x1600, gigabyte ethernet support, 128 bits of DDR3 1333mhz memory and a total power consumption of 18Ws.

Pricing and availability are not set yet, however speculation sets the price in the $50range and we shouldn't expect to see it before mid year.

LCD TV Revenues And Sales Expected To Fall

DisplaySearch has revised its TV market forecast for 2009, now estimating that worldwide LCD TV revenues are expected to fall year-on-year for the first time since LCD TV was launched in 2000.

Blaming ongoing economic turmoil which is unlikely to improve in 2009 DisplaySearch estimated revenues could fall as much as 16% on year to $64 billion in 2009, and total TV revenues will fall 18% on year to $88 billion. DisplaySearch expects that 2009 will be the most difficult year yet for the TV industry and supply chain.

The LCD TV market is expected to reach 102.2M units in 2008, which would be 29% Y/Y growth; this is a reduction of 3.6M from the Q3’08 forecast for 2008. In 2009, the LCD TV market is forecast to reach 119.9M units, for 17% Y/Y growth; this has been reduced by 11.5M units from the Q3’08 forecast for 2009. Unit growth in developed regions such as Japan, North America and Western Europe will be just 2% Y/Y, largely due to the impact of the economic crisis.

DisplaySearch forecasts that LCD TV growth in emerging regions will be 45% Y/Y in 2009, lower than the 68% Y/Y growth in 2008. As CRT TV penetration in these emerging regions is 60-70%, the shift to FPD TV continues to be driven by price reductions.

DisplaySearch’s total global TV forecast is 206.4M units in 2008, up 3% Y/Y; 2009 shipments are forecast to be 205.3M units, down 1% Y/Y—the first time in recent memory that there has been a drop in unit shipments.

In addition to a reduction of units, the revenue decline in 2009 will affect the TV supply chain in 2009. Without revenue growth, top brands may aim to increase their market share to maintain revenue, causing challenges for lower-tier players. TV brands, as well as panel manufacturers and material suppliers, will need to aggressively increase 1080p penetration (even for 32"/37" sizes), and accelerate penetration of 120 Hz and differentiated products such as Ultra Slim FPD TVs in order to maintain ASPs.


Don't miss Dell's TV Days of Deals!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Will Microsoft Give Away Free Versions Of Windows 7 & Office 14

A few years ago Microsoft ran a great promotion though a site called powertogether.com. The site offered a free chance to receive Windows Vista Business Edition as well as Office Professional 2007 for viewing webcasts and participating in virtual labs.

The promotion was, at least in my mind, a big hit. The site was flooded with people trying to get in to get their chance at free versions of the new software. Last year Microsoft held another similar promotions through the Windows Feedback Program. Users this time had to download a piece of software that monitored your computer usage as well as participate in a few surveys from time to time.

So I'm wondering if Microsoft will be nice enough to hold a similar promotion once they've released Windows 7 and Office 14. Both programs were great for me, I probably wouldn't be running Vista today if I hadn't received my free copy. And I know for a fact I wouldn't use Office 2007 if it wasn't free, that new UI is not to my liking.

So how about it Microsoft, are you guys going to give us a chance to earn some more freebies?

Google Adds Android and iPhone Optimized Search Results

iPhone and Android users searching through the search widget on the Android home screen, the built-in search box of the iPhone's Safari browser, or google.com on either device, will now see optimized search results.

According to the details posted on the Google Mobile Blog, the new results will show pages that are faster and are formatted to fit the screen so you don't have to zoom or scroll side-to-side. Searchers will also see touchscreen-friendly buttons and expandable maps for local business results. The optimized search results pages are currently available in U.S. English for Android and for iPhone and iPod touch devices with firmware 2.x. If you prefer, you can always view desktop search result pages by selecting the "Classic" link at the bottom of any page.

Mozilla Responds To Claims That FireFox Is The "Most Vulnerable App"

As we reported earlier this week FireFox topped Bit9 Inc.'s list of 2008’s Most Popular Applications with Critical Security Vulnerabilities, shortly following the release of the article Mozilla fired back refuting Bit9’s vulnerability claims.

On the Mozilla Security Blog Johnathan Nightingale writes, "There has been some interest in the last few days about a recent report from a company called Bit9 about application vulnerabilities. While we’re always happy to see stories that focus on educating our users about security, there are some problems with Bit9’s methodology that hinder its ability to draw any meaningful conclusions."

Mr. Nightingale says comparing companies that publicly report vulnerabilities against those that don't is an unfair and unreasonable assessment. Simply put a company that doesn't disclose vulnerabilities isn't necessarily less vulnerable than one that does, you just don't get to hear about those issues.
"Bit9 says it drew up this list by identifying popular applications that have had a critical vulnerability reported in 2008. This is an ineffective test, as it rewards software companies that conceal their security vulnerabilities.

Mozilla security process involves regularly identifying, fixing, testing, and releasing security updates to keep our users safe, and we do that in a public way so that others can scrutinize our processes and help make them better. To suggest that this openness is a weakness because it means that we have “reported vulnerabilities” is to miss the reality: that software has bugs. A product’s responsiveness to those bugs and its ability to contain them quickly and effectively is a much more meaningful metric than counting them."


Nightingale concludes stating, "Firefox vulnerabilities Bit9 discusses are long-since fixed, with the majority of these fixes coming within days of it being announced." This was a fact Bit9 was clear on conceding, in their full report they added that most all of the vulnerabilities from almost all of the companies had been fixed.

The clear problem is not with FireFox, nor is it with FireFox's security. While being very secure, and probably not the most vulnerable app on the list, FireFox is still a vulnerability when it is un-patched just like any other applications. In his response Nightingale appears to have overlooked one of the main criteria which is the application "Relies on the end user, rather than a central IT administrator, to manually patch or upgrade the software to eliminate the vulnerability, if such a patch exists."

In the enterprise world, a lot of the time your patching is done through manual roll outs and not done by the actual user. Third party apps can, and often do, go un-patched for days, weeks even months. I'm sure we all know how reliable people are on keeping all their software up to date. So while FireFox might be secure and those bugs are fixed those fixes may or may not be applied.

I'm a big FireFox supporter, have been for years and will continue to be. I personally believe the software to be amongst the most secure out there. But to fully understand the context of the article you need to look at this from the enterprise stand point and not the end user side. If you take into account the reliability of the users using the software you can see Bit9 may have a point.

Mac Tops Rescuecom's Reliability List

According to Rescuecom Corp.'s third annual reliability report, Apple doubled its 2007 score on its way to once again taking the top spot for best overall reliability. The company beat out Panasonic, Lenovo, Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard, eclipsing its nearest competitor by more than 200 points.

The Report calculates the "Reliability Score" for each computer vendor based on the calculated difference between overall U.S. market share, from January 2008 to October 2008, and the percentage of calls requesting service received by RESCUECOM's call center. Higher scores indicate that fewer calls for service were received for the specific computer vendor versus expected levels based upon market share estimates (scores are in parentheses).
  1. Apple (700)
  2. Panasonic (489)
  3. Lenovo (393)
  4. Toshiba (299)
  5. HP (184)


Reliability Scores are based on a comparison of RESCUECOM's call center data with IDC's third quarter U.S. PC Shipments report: November 2008. Other notable findings from the data include:
  • Apple ran away with the number-one spot in the reliability survey once again, beating its closest competitor by more than 200 points.
  • In a climate in which notebook sales overtook desktop sales, Panasonic made huge market share gains while keeping reliability high - thereby rocketing the company to the number-two spot in the ranking.
  • Toshiba, not even a performer last year, took the number-four spot, beating the next closest vendor by more than 100 points.
  • HP, also not a performer last year, took fifth place, removing DELL from the top 5 reliability report.
  • Lesser-known brands and generic PC's performed notably lower than better-known brands.
Notably absent from the list was Dell. This year the company fell off Rescuecom's list for the first time, even though it improved its score, from 2007's 94 to this year's 129. Rescuecom CEO David Milman said, "It's not that Dell dropped, but that some very strong players -- like Panasonic and Toshiba -- came in, Dell's problem was that it didn't improve as much as [its] competitors." Dell has been slowly slipping down Rescuecom's list, two years ago they were placed fourth, while last year the claimed the fifth spot.

Apple MacBook Air 1.6GHz 2GB RAM 80GB Hard D

Joost Re-Invents Itself

Flash back a year or so and you might remember that getting your hands on a Joost invite was all the rage. The web a buzz over the new video streaming video site, and people would do almost anything to get in the door to check it out. Now over a year and half later Joost has all but been forgotten.

In an attempt to remedy that the company has decided to stop broadcasting videos through its standalone application, and will instead join the ranks of many other video Web sites broadcasting video via a flash based interface directly from it's site.

Originally launched back in October Joost's new Flash-based, download-free service at www.joost.com, has a social design element meant
to help people navigate through their favorite videos. To help reinforce their social side Joost implemented Facebook Connect, which allows people to enjoy Joost within the context of their real identity and friendships on Facebook, as well as adding a Joost application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Additionally the company says it is working with a number of third-party platforms, including Boxee, chumby, Delicious, Digg, FriendFeed, Lifestream, Meebo, Mister Wong, Netlog, Netvibes, reddit and VideoSurf, to make it easier for people to use and access Joost across the web.

In it's October announcement Joost claimed to have more than 46,000 professionally-produced videos for a total of more than 8,000 hours of video entertainment. Some of Joost’s partners include CBS (Entertainment, News and Sports, and classic library content), Showtime, Last.fm, Wallstrip, Moblogic; Viacom, including Atom, BET, CMT, Comedy Central, LOGO, MTV, The N, Nickelodeon, Spike and VH1 programming; television series and full-length feature films from Sony Pictures Television; and the Warner Bros. Television Group, which is partnering with Joost on three branded channels in the U.S.: The WB (featuring complete episodes of hit series, including “Friends,” and original digital productions from TheWB.com), Classic WB TV (boasting full-length episodes of classic favorites from the Warner Bros. collection of series) and WB Sci Fi Fix (featuring complete episodes of the Studio’s most popular science fiction titles).

Earlier this month Joost added 11 new content providers and more recently Joost bolstered their Indie music catalog with the addition of nine independent music labels and aggregators. Boosting the total to more than 18,000 music assets – including music videos, interviews and live performances – available in the Music section of Joost.com.

AMD Teams Up With XFX And iZ3D

amd logoLooking to boost it's position in the graphics market AMD/ATI announced it will be teaming with two new technology partners, popular graphics card manufacturer XFX and iZ3D manufactures of state of the art 3-d gaming monitors.

In Monday's press release AMD said, "XFX plans to provide new products based on the award-winning ATI Radeon™ HD 4000 series GPUs to consumers, beginning in early 2009."

“In the world of PC gaming, XFX is synonymous with the extreme performance that enthusiasts crave,” said Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager, Graphics Products Group, AMD. “Their decision to partner with AMD and launch AMD GPU-based XFX graphics cards, including the ATI Radeon™ HD 4870 X2, widely regarded as the world’s fastest graphics card1 by technology enthusiasts around the world, speaks to the level of excellence achieved by the ATI Radeon HD 4000 series.”

In a second separate press release (PDF) iZ3D Inc.,announced it has teamed with AMD on its recently released 3D monitor driver Version 1.09 to include support for AMD/ATI with an ATI 3D DLP output. This special feature, integrated exclusively for AMD customers – provides a customized 3D DLP output and is free for ATI Radeon graphics card users.

The iZ3D Version 1.09 S-3D driver is compatible with DirectX PC games running on 32-bit or 64-bit Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems. Most PC games released in the last five years, including many of the most popular multiplayer online, first person shooter, and role-playing games, have already been designed for 3D displays. iZ3D’s optimized driver unlocks the third (depth) dimension of these 3D-ready games to allow gamers to finally play them as they were written – in 3D. (list of supported games)

To encourage 3D game play using ATI Radeon graphics cards, iZ3D is offering all ATI Radeon graphics card users a $50.00 rebate on the purchase of an iZ3D monitor. The iZ3D 22-inch monitor has a manufacturers suggested resale price of $399.00 is currently available at online stores including Newegg.com. (note: I couldn't find the rebate listed on iZ3D)


“We appreciate the visual experience and excitement that is driving the trend towards 3D graphics,” said Godfrey Cheng, director of technical marketing, graphics products group, AMD. “3D gamers, designers and home theater enthusiasts will appreciate the sophistication that the ATI Radeon series of graphics cards will bring to the world of 3D. Our cards enable a feature-rich, 3D gaming and home theatre experience, especially when used in conjunction with an iZ3D 22-inch widescreen 3D display solution.”

Nintendo Reveals '09 Game Releases

Nintendo was nice enough provide 1UP.com with a nicely packaged list of all their upcoming titles for the beginning of the 2009 gaming season. Below are over 100 titles Nintendo plans to release on either the Wii or Nintendo DS in the first quarter of '09.

Wii

  • Monsters vs. Aliens -- March 24
  • Monster Pals -- March
  • Solitaire & Mahjong -- February
  • Puzzle Challenges and More! -- February
  • Crayola Colorful World -- March
  • Onechanbara Bikini Zombie Slayers -- February
  • Coraline -- January
  • WordJong Party -- January
  • Battle Rage -- February
  • Cradle of Rome -- February
  • Cate West: The Vanishing Files -- March
  • Burger Island -- March
  • Disney Sing It: High School Musical 3: Senior Year -- Winter
  • DreamCatcher Play the World -- March
  • NASCAR Kart Racing -- Feb. 10
  • SimAnimals -- Jan. 27
  • TRIVIAL PURSUIT -- Early spring
  • FISHING MASTER WORLD TOUR -- Jan. 6
  • Marble Saga Kororinpa -- Spring
  • DanceDanceRevolution Disney Grooves -- March
  • Escape the Museum -- January
  • Major Minor's Majestic March -- March
  • Little Kings Story -- Feb. 17
  • Rune Factory: Frontier -- March
  • Mastiff Deer Drive -- Jan. 20
  • We Ski and Snowboard -- March
  • New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis -- March
  • New Play Control! Pikmin -- March
  • The House of The Dead: Overkill -- February
  • SONIC and the Black Knight -- March
  • MADWORLD -- March
  • Roogoo Twisted Towers -- Feb. 17
  • Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball -- March 17
  • Brave: A Warrior's Tale -- Feb. 17
  • Paws & Claws Pet Resort -- Jan. 5
  • Neighborhood Games -- Jan. 5
  • Tenchu: Shadow Assassins -- February
  • Broken Swor: Shadows of the Templars (Directors Cut) -- March
  • Super PickUps -- Q1

Nintendo DS

  • Monsters vs. Aliens -- March 24
  • Pimp My Ride 2 -- March 24
  • Animal Planet -- March 10
  • My World, My Way -- Feb. 3
  • Legacy of Ys: Books I & II -- Feb. 10
  • Trackmania DS -- March 17
  • Monster Pals -- March
  • Puzzle Quest: Galactrix -- Q1
  • Coraline -- January
  • USA TODAY Puzzle Craze -- January
  • DinoPets -- March
  • Phineas and Ferb -- Winter
  • Inkheart -- January
  • Learn Math -- January
  • Drivers' Ed Portable -- January
  • Monster Band -- January
  • Zoo Quest -- February
  • My Personal Diary -- February
  • Music Star: Pop Star -- February
  • Paint by DS -- March
  • Matchstick -- March
  • Dreamer: Top Model -- March
  • Sarah - Keeper of the Unicorn -- March
  • Learn Chess -- March
  • Dragon Master -- April
  • Zubo -- March
  • Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure -- Q1
  • SimAnimals -- Jan. 27
  • Jagged Alliance -- Feb. 17
  • American Popstar - Road to Celebrity -- March 9
  • Elebits: The Adventures of Kai and Zero -- Q1
  • Suikoden Tierkreis -- Q1
  • Little Magician's Magic Adventure -- Q1
  • WonderWorld Amusement Park -- January
  • Powerbike -- January
  • Our House -- Q1
  • Hot 'n' Cold -- March
  • Avalon Code -- February
  • Flower, Sun, and Rain -- March
  • Mastiff Moon -- Jan. 13
  • MumboJumbo Chicken Hunter Star Karts -- March 10
  • Nintendo Personal Trainer: Math -- Jan. 12
  • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon -- Feb. 16
  • Pokémon Platinum version -- March 22
  • Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars -- Winter
  • Big Bang Mini -- Jan. 6
  • Roogoo Attack -- Feb. 17
  • Brave: Shaman's Challenge -- Feb. 17
  • FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES: Echoes of Time -- Spring
  • THE GAME FACTORY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES -- Jan. 19
  • Paws & Claws Pampered Pets -- Jan. 5
  • My DoItAll -- February
  • Jake Power Fireman -- January
  • Jake Power Policeman -- January
  • Imagine Cheerleader -- February
  • JoJo's Fashion Show -- February
  • Petz Horseshoe Ranch -- February
  • Imagine Family Doctor -- February
  • Imagine Ice Champions -- March
  • Jake Power Handyman -- March
  • My Fashion Studio Paris Collection -- Feb. 17
  • American Popstar - Road to Celebrity -- March 24
  • Broken Sword: Shadows of the Templars (Director's Cut) -- March
  • Games Retro Game Challenge -- Jan. 6
It looks like Nintendo plans on keeping gamers pretty busy over the next three months. Most of the titles probably aren't games you'll rush out to get, but there are a few names on there that might draw a little extra attention.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Google Introduces New File System For MacFUSE

Google announced the addition of a new file system for MacFUSE 2.0 today. MacFUSE is an Open Source mechanism that allows you to extend Mac OS X's native file system capabilities. It aims to be API-compliant with the FUSE (Filesystem in USErspace) mechanism that originated on Linux. Therefore, many existing FUSE file systems become readily usable on Mac OS X. The core of MacFUSE is in a dynamically loadable kernel extension.




The source code for the new file systems discussed and demonstrated during the talk is also available. Please head over to the MacFUSE source repository for the following:
  • AncientFS - a file system that lets you mount ancient, and in some cases current-day Unix data containers as regular volumes on Mac OS X.

  • UnixFS - a general-purpose abstraction layer for implementing Unix-style file systems in user space.

  • ufs - a user-space implementation (read-only) of the UFS file system family.

  • sysvfs -a user-space implementation (read-only) of the System V file system family.

  • minixfs -a user-space implementation (read-only) of the Minix file system family.
For more details checkout the original posting at the Google Open Source Blog and Google's MacFUSE Discussion Group.

Mac OS X 10.5.6 Update Crashing Systems

Since the release of the new update on Monday several reports have surfaced claiming installation of the update "completely kills" users systems.

Two separate articles released by PC Magazine, " Mac OS X 10.5.6 Update Crashing Users' Systems" and "More Users Report Apple's Update Kills Their Macs" outline many of the complaints. The most common of which seem to be broken Bluetooth connections, devices no longer being recognize, no sound or even worse large popping noises during boot-up and dead USB ports. In a few rare cases it looks as though the updated was to blame for completely dead machines.

Several threads have popped up on the Apple Support Forums with a growing amount of users asking for assistance. Apple tech support has been able to get a few of those users back up and running, but it would appear as though the majority of people haven't been helped.

In the short term it would appear as though it might be best to hold off on installing the update. At least until Apple has had the chance to address these reports.

IE8 Release Candidate Almost Ready

ie8 logo
Good news for the Internet Explorer fans out there, Microsoft has said they are almost ready to make public their first release candidate of IE8.

In their exclusive first look of IE8 RC1 TgDaily writes
Microsoft quietly released the first update to its IE8 beta 2 to its closest partners last week. This new version is marked as “Release Candidate 1” and is expected to be the final IE8 pre-release update Microsoft intends to make available to the public sometime in the first quarter of 2009

In an interview with eWEEK, Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer for Microsoft, said, "If I had a bumper sticker in mind for this it would say: 'Developers, start your engines.'" Hachamovitch declined to provide details about what kinds of new functionality and fixes will be in the RC, only stating the RC is just around the corner.

Internet Explorer 8 has been in public beta testing since back in March. As reported at that time, Microsoft was adding several new features to the browsers. Private browsing, search suggestions, automatic crash recovery and a new favorites bar are listed amongst the new user features.

Users wanting to try out the current IE 8 beta can get it via the IE 8 download page.According to TgDaily a final public and feature-complete pre-release won't become available until some time in the first part of 2009.

Apple Will Hold Their Final Macworld Keynote Without Jobs

On Tuesday Apple announced their final Macworld Conference & Expo keynote address would be delivered by Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, and not CEO Steve Jobs. In typical Apple fashion there was no direct explanation of why Jobs has opted not to appear this year, which as always led to rampant rumors and speculation over Jobs' health.

Now that the wildfire has subsided a bit and some of the speculation has calmed we are getting a more level headed view of things. Needham & Co said, "Our reliable sources, which we spoke with this fall, indicated that [Steve] Jobs is cancer free." Wolf speculated that Apple wants to introduce new products on their own schedule, and not feel the need to meet demand to have something new at every Macworld.

Several other analysts and websites have speculated that Apple's decision may be related to a lack of new products to announce. It may simply be that Apple doesn't have a blockbuster up it's sleeve this year and they have decided to pull back on the reigns a little. Apple's Steve Dowling says that since “this will be our last year, it doesn’t make sense for us to make a major investment in a trade show that will we no longer be attending.” The announcement of the Macworld withdraw seems to back that sentiment:
Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Apple has been steadily scaling back on trade shows in recent years, including NAB, Macworld New York, Macworld Tokyo and Apple Expo in Paris.

Either way the speculation over Jobs' health hit Apple's stock pretty hard today with a 6.5% drop. The stock was downgraded by Oppenheimer & Co. from "outperform" to "perform". Off course this isn't new to investors, any time Jobs' health comes into question we see a major drop in Apple shares. MacDailyNews asks, "Has Steve Jobs become too much of a liability for Apple shareholders?" Even going so far as calling for a return of the UpTick rule.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Microsoft Will Release Emergency IE Patch

Microsoft announced today that they will issue an emergency patch on Wednesday to deal with a critical bug in Internet Explorer (IE) that attackers have been exploiting for more than a week.

The patch will fix the much publicized zero-day exploit that was confirmed by Microsoft late last week. The exploit which originally was down played by Microsoft could potentially allow hackers to take over victims' machines simply by steering them to infected Web sites; users don't have to download anything for their computers to get infected, which makes the flaw even more hazardous.

The Associated Press reports that thousands of web sites have already been compromised by criminals looking to exploit the flaw. The bad guys have loaded malicious code onto those sites that automatically infect visitors' machines if they're using Internet Explorer and haven't employed a complicated series of workarounds that Microsoft has suggested.

According to today's advance notification, Microsoft will deliver the out-of-cycle patch Wednesday at 1 p.m. EST via its normal update mechanisms, including Windows Update, Microsoft Update and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).

iPhone Dev-Team Does It Again, New iPhone 3G Unlock Coming Soon

iPhone Dev-Team members have been hard at work coming up with a software based solution for unlocking youe iPhone 3G. According to today's post on the Dev-Team blog, they have come up with a working solution.

We have been working hard on a few other things. The main one being the 3G unlock codenamed “yellowsn0w”. This is now completed and is currently being packaged into a user-friendly application with the simplicity that you see in QuickPwn or BootNeuter.

  • The target release date for the unlock is New Year’s Eve 2008.
  • This unlock method is available to iPhone 3Gs that have 2.11.07 baseband or earlier, we did warn you.
  • The unlock requires a jailbroken 3G iPhone. It’ll be installable via Cydia and so it doesn’t matter if you have a Mac or PC.
  • Please refrain from updating your baseband, regardless of what version you’re at. We’ll have complete directions on New Year’s Eve.
  • We’ll stream a live demo of the unlock before Christmas (see the update at the end of this post)

Yahoo Goes Social

On Monday Yahoo took the lid off Yahoo Open Strategy (or Y!OS for short) with a major retooling of Yahoo Mail, My Yahoo start page, and new a Yahoo Toolbar.

Originally introduced in April, Yahoo! Open Strategy is the companies plan turn itself into an open social platform. The goal behind Y!OS is to "deliver open, industry-leading platforms that attract the most publishers and developers."

Yahoo's updates for Y!OS, included:
  • Yahoo! Mail - Announced separately today,Yahoo! Mail's smarter inbox focuses on streamlining access to a user's most relevant and useful information. The new Welcome Page surfaces email messages, information and activity from people users care about most, and the integration of relevant third party applications will allow users to be more productive, all from within their inbox. The Yahoo! Mail smarter inbox is the company's largest-scale implementation of the Y!OS initiative to-date.
  • My Yahoo! - Beginning today, My Yahoo! users can enhance their personal start pages by adding applications created by third-party developers. Built using the Yahoo! Application Platform, these interactive "apps" will range from productivity tools to games, and will infuse My Yahoo! with new social relevance. Also being launched today, a new My Yahoo! Theme API lets third-party designers create and share their own look and feel for My Yahoo! pages, giving users access to an even wider range of creative backgrounds and styles.
  • Yahoo! Toolbar - Available for a sneak preview later this week at toolbar.yahoo.com, the new Yahoo! Toolbar will provide constant access to essential online tasks and up-to-the-minute news from the sources that matter most. Features of the new Toolbar that will rollout to users next year include:
    • Apps for checking new emails from Yahoo! and other popular Web-based email providers, monitoring or searching for items on eBay, and finding local movie showtimes.
    • Alerts that notify a user about Updates from their personal connections - including their friends' recent activity across the Yahoo! network and eventually, elsewhere on the Web.
    • Personal search suggestions that surface the sites a user has visited and provide vertical search results directly from the Toolbar.
  • Yahoo! Updates - In addition to surfacing friend updates in the new Yahoo! Toolbar and Mail, Yahoo! will begin sharing relevant updates within Yahoo! Music and Yahoo! TV. Yahoo! Updates enable Yahoo! users to have visibility into the online activities of their connections across the Yahoo! network, such as a recently Buzzed article, a hotel review in Yahoo! Travel, adding a new app to My Yahoo!, or a rating on Yahoo! TV. Earlier this fall, Yahoo! began displaying activity updates in Yahoo! Messenger and Yahoo! Buzz, and will include activity updates from other social sites across the Web in the coming months. The Yahoo! Updates platform is also available as an open API, allowing any site on the Web to submit activities into it.
James Kittock, My Yahoo! product lead, answered several questions about the new changes as well as the way Yahoo is opening up My Yahoo! and how developers can create applications for My Yahoo! using the Yahoo! Application Platform.

"Yahoo Mail is what we consider a key starting point on the Web. It’s got 275 million monthly global users," said John Kremer, vice president of Yahoo Mail. "We really believe opening up Yahoo Mail will have a game-changing influence on the industry," Kremer said. Developers with Monday's rollout gain access to documentation and guidelines for building applications that run on the new mail canvas, according to Yahoo.

A limited beta testing program has started for bringing in third-party applications into Yahoo Mail. Users will be able to access these applications from within the Yahoo Mail interface. Initial applications include Family Journal, for building a family tree; Flickr, for photo-sharing; Flixster, for sharing movie show times; WordPress, for posting photos and links to a WordPress blog; Xoopit, for sharing photos stored in e-mail, and Yahoo Greetings, to send e-cards.

Michael Phelps Signed For Swimming Game, But Will It Float?

505 Games announced on Monday that it has signed Michael Phelps to headline a competition-oriented swimming game. (press release)

The three-time Olympian, world record holder, more gold medals than you can count unworldly swimming stud, will lend his likeness to a yet-unnamed game in development at 505 Games' newly formed LA studio. The games is said the be slated to be released on unspecified consoles and the iPhone in spring 2010.

Aside from the game's obvious swimming platform, details on the project are pretty slim. 505 Games did say that it plans to incorporate more than just Phelps into the title, with "some of his teammates" also possibly making an appearance. In a statement, Adam Kline, president of 505 Games U.S., said the projects will "create innovative new gameplay experiences that celebrate active lifestyles, the spirit of competition and the inspirational dream of becoming a champion."

“I am really excited to partner with 505 Games and work with them to develop a game that is reflective of my personality, lifestyle and competitive nature,” said Phelps.“I believe this will be a tremendous opportunity to help continue my quest to raise the profile for the sport of swimming.”

The publisher also said that a portion of the game's proceeds will be donated to the Michael Phelps Foundation, which works to promote water safety and encourages kids to pick up the sport.

'Tis The Season Of Giving YouTube Style

Many charitable organizations are taking to YouTube to spread their message this year of asking you to add a charitable donation to your gift-giving plans. Nonprofit organization Changing the Present is asking users to donate livestock to impoverished farmers, while the Marine Corps charity Toys for Tots invites you to supply a toy for a child in need.

YouTube points out if you just want to go the old-fashioned route and donate money straight to charity, many YouTube nonprofit partners have a Google Checkout button embedded right on their channel pages, making it easier to donate to a good cause.

Palm Opens Its Own App Store, A New OS Might Follow

palm logoNaming for mobile applications stores is getting tight these days with just about every developer opening their own “App Store”, “Market”, or “Application Center". So when Palm decided to join the party it was forced to settle on “Software Store”.

Teaming with app distributor PocketGear, Palm's new software store already features 5,000 apps & games and more than 1,000 free apps. The software store is supported on more than 25 Palm devices, from the Centro to the Treo Pro. Palm also says they currently have more than 1500 developers developing apps.

For developers looking to get in on the action Palm has setup the Developers Guide, which provides details on setting up your account and listing your your apps. According to the overview PocketGear.com retains 40% of the revenue plus any transaction fees in return for the processing of credit card, online, fax, and phone orders.

The new software store might be big news for Palm although that might not be the biggest news we see from them. According to Peter Burrows at Business Week, On Jan. 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Palm will unveil a new operating system, code-named Nova, as well as the first of a family of products that will run on it.

Details of Palm's plans are a bit sketchy at the moment with only a few speculative guesses hitting the streets. The Business Week article says, "John Rubinstein, Palm's executive chairman in charge of product development, and others say the goal is to create products that bridge the gap between Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry devices, oriented to work and e-mail, and Apple's iPhone, oriented to fun."

What exactly that means is anyone's guess. Business Week says executives won't be specific about Nova however they make it clear that Palm is not looking to go toe-to-toe with the iPhone or BlackBerry. The general idea is said to be the creation of a platform that's flexible enough to support a wide range of customer desires.

I guess we'll just have to wait until CES to see exactly what Palm has up their sleeve. For now users wanting to checkout the new software store can do so by downloading the free software that corresponds to their current OS. For Windows Mobile users click here, Palm Os user click here. You'll also receive 25% OFF your first download when you enter coupon code SHOPMOBILE at checkout.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Google Weighs In On Net Neutrality And Caching Plan

Google’s Washington Telecom and Media Counsel Richard Whitt quickly responded to reports in the ">Wall Street Journal today that Google is no longer in favor of net neutrality and that the search giant seeks preferential treatment from ISPs.

Whitt's response was posted on both the Official Google Blog and the Google Public Policy Blog. According to Whitt's post Google stands by its net neutrality promise, but admitted that Google in fact works with ISPs to lower bandwidth cost through a concept called edge caching.

According to Whitt, "Google has offered to "colocate" caching servers within broadband providers' own facilities; this reduces the provider's bandwidth costs." Adding, "We've always said that broadband providers can engage in activities like colocation and caching, so long as they do so on a non-discriminatory basis."

So the question would be, if you help an ISP to save cost are you then gaining preferential treatment and as the WSJ put it "Fast Tracking" your content to users? Edge caching is nothing new companies have been using it for years. If companies didn't use it we wouldn't see some of the high-bandwidth services we have today. So long as content isn't prioritized by destination or source and is delivered at a uniform speed then there really shouldn't be an issue of neutrality

Mahalo Launches New Money Making Scheme "Mahalo Answers"

Calacanis and crew have launched yet another Mahalo born project called Mahalo Answers. Mahalo's vesion of Yahoo! Answers, Google Answers or ChaCha, lets you offer a tip to ask specific questions of other Mahalo users. Upon receiving a satisfactory answer (assuming you get one) users can give their promised tip, choose to give nothing at all, or give a little extra — depending on how happy you are with the answers.

For answer seekers, that either choose not to look on their own or absolutely can't find an answer themselves you can purchase "Mahalo Dollars" at a cost of $1 regular dollar per 1 Mahalo Dollar. Those that wish to provide answers, and some how see this as money making opportunity can answer as many questions as they want, however they will need to be considered the best answer as only one person receives the "tip". Upon reaching $30 you can then redeem your Mahalo bucks for real money, but watch out because Mahalo will skim 25% off the top. That's right you are hit with a 25% withdrawal surcharge to cash in your Mahalo Dollars.

As CNET News points out economically, [for Mahalo at least] this will be seen as a brilliant move--if it works. That's because, as Calacanis says, "Everyone is working on spec." When you ask a question, you put money into the system, and Mahalo is the bank. When you answer a question, you put knowledge into the system (which has value), and you might not get paid. Only one answer gets the bounty, and then Mahalo keeps 25 percent of it.

That is one hell of a money making scheme, Mahalo cuts a quarter out of every dollar for being the middle man. Sadly there are probably folks out there that will be duped into using the service. The funny thing is most of the answers probably won't be searched within Mahalo, but searched on Google and I'm sure more than a few will be asked and answered for free over at Yahoo! Answers, and then re-answered for pay at Mahalo.

As our friends over at ValleyWag pointed out the pay-to-search business is a lousy one. Google tried and failed, ChaCha had limited success, Yahoo! and Answers.com are a couple of the only ones that has really made a go of it, but they are both free services.

Apple Security Update 2008-008 Patches 21 Holes

Security Update 2008-008, which was released today, patches a total of 21 vulnerabilities in Mac OS X, including seven flaws in the Adobe Flash player.

At least half a dozen of the patches were tagged by Apple with its usual "arbitrary code execution" phrasing, a sign that the vulnerabilities are serious and, if exploited, could result in a hacker hijacking a machine. Security Update 2008-008 can be downloaded from the Apple site or installed using Mac OS X's integrated update service. Leopard users, however, won't see the security update separately on the latter; those patches were rolled into the Mac OS X 10.5.6 upgrade also released today.

On a related note, the aforementioned Mac OS X 10.5.6 upgrade released today fixes as many as 36 issues ranging from print reliability to archiving problems. The update also offers "general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac," according to Apple.

A full list of the issues addressed with 10.5.6 can be found here, while a list of the security improvements are likely to appear here within the next day or so. If you want to download the update from Apple's Web site, go here, but the Software Update function is the easiest way to get updated.

Google Makes Friends With Twitter

Google announced today it has made nice with Twitter and integrated it with Google Friend Connect, Twitter only seemed mildly enthusiastic about the integration in their blog posting.

Friend Connect lets you log in using an existing account from Google, Yahoo, AOL, or OpenID. Once logged in you can choose to either establish a new profile or use profiles and friend sources from other social networks that have opened up their services, like Plaxo and orkut. With the addition of Twitter users can now choose to use their Twitter profile to connect with friends via the Friend Connect interface. Users can discover people the follow on Twitter who are also members of the site, and easily tweet back and forth.

AMD Rolls Out The New Athlon X2 7000 Series

amd logoAMD has introduced a new set of "Kuma" based 65nm dual-core Athlon CPU's, the Athlon X2 7000 series. These new chips are basically 65nm Phenom (K10) processors with two of the four cores disabled.

The two CPUs in this budget series are the 2.7GHz Athlon X2 7750 Black Edition which will sell for about $79 and come with an unlocked multiplier and the 2.5GHz Athlon X2 7550, which will be OEM only. Both of the processors include a 256 Kbyte Level 1 data cache per processor, with a 512 Kbytes of L2 cache per core (for a total of 1 MB) and a shared L3 cache of 2 MB. The chips will also feature a new memory controller providing support for PC2-8500 (DDR2 1066 MHz). The chips will also sport a HyperTransport 3.0 3600 MT/s system interface.

Early reviews of the chips have shown a 10-15% overall gain over the previous generation Brisbane chip running at the same frequency. They've shown a little overclocking potential reaching as high as 3.3 ghz in a few cases. Overall the chips exhibit a fairly good price to performance ration making them a nice choice for the budget minded builder.

Early Athlon X2 7750 Black Edition Reviews

iPhone's Come Unlocked In Taiwain

iphoneiPhone users here in the states typically have to hack an iPhone to gain the ability to use a SIM card from another carrier. But that's not the case for our Taiwanese counter parts. According to reports from DigiTimes "Taiwan iPhone 3Gs are SIM unlocked out-of-the-box".

Prior to the launch last weekend, representatives from CHT and its retailers had said that iPhones bought in Taiwan would only work on its own network. However, when early adopters actually tried switching SIM cards they discovered that the phones operated fine on the other carriers' networks, with the only limitation being they could not access CHT's Hami value added web services.

DigiTimes believes Taiwan could become a popular source of "gray market" iPhones in other countries. I for one don't really see that happening, at least not here in the states. The price listed for the 8GB iPhone 3G in Taiwan without a contract is NT$26,600 (US$800). That would be a fairly hefty premium considering there are hacks and modified SIM cards out there that work. I will concede that there could be a market for the "none tech" crowd that either can't or won't attempt unlocking the traditional (hacking) way.

Futuremark Holding "Life of a Benchmarker" Video Contest

To celebrate 3dMark's 10th anniversary Futuremark has announced it will be holding a "Life of a Benchmarker" video contest sponsored by MSI and Enermax.

Fans of 3DMark are invited to show the "Life of a Benchmarker" in an original video with great prizes awarded to the best entries. Contestants are asked to create a video illustrating what benchmarking means to them. For example, they could record 3DMark running on their systems, or show what happens when benchmarking is taken to the extreme.

"We’re launching this contest as a thank you to all our fans who have helped 3DMark become the number one PC gaming benchmark," said Dr. Jukka Mäkinen, VP and General Manager at Futuremark.

Top prizes will be awarded to contestants who impress the judges with their originality; prizes include an HDTV, MSI Eclipse motherboards, MSI R4870 graphics cards, Enermax Revolution 85+ power supplies and special 3DMark 10 Year Anniversary Collectors’ Edition bundles.

More information on the contest can be found on the Futuremark website: http://www.futuremark.com/community/competitions/10yearanniversary/introduction/

FireFox, iTunes, Skype Amongst Top Apps With Most Security Holes

Bit9, Inc., the pioneer and leader in Enterprise Application Whitelisting, unveiled its annual ranking of popular consumer applications with known security vulnerabilities. This year's list, know as "the dirty dozen", is comprised of 12 widely used applications with known vulnerabilities.

Five of the top 12 applications include: Mozilla Firefox, versions 2.x and 3.x, Adobe Acrobat, versions 8.1.2 and 8.1.1, Microsoft Windows Live (MSN) Messenger, versions 4.7 and 5.1, Apple iTunes, versions 3.2 and 3.1.2 and Skype, version 3.5.0.248. The remander of the list includes products from Yahoo, Symantec, Sun, Trend Micro, Citrix, Aurigma and Lycos.

Each of the 12 applications on the list have the following characteristics:

  • Each application must run on Microsoft Windows.

  • Is well-known in the consumer space and frequently downloaded by individuals

  • Is not classified as malicious by enterprise IT organizations or security vendors

  • Contains at least one critical vulnerability that was:
    • first reported in January 2008 or after,
      registered in the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) official vulnerability database at http://nvd.nist.gov, and given a severity rating of high (between 7.0-10.0) on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS).
    • Relies on the end user, rather than a central IT administrator, to manually patch or upgrade the software to eliminate the vulnerability, if such a patch exists.

  • The application cannot be automatically and centrally updated via free Enterprise tools such as Microsoft SMS & WSUS.

While Bit9 says most all of the vulnerabilities listed have been patched they point out the fact that these patches aren't easily deployed by IT administrators, who many not even know what programs employees are running.

"The nature of these applications is such that the user is responsible for implementing the patch. Enterprise IT organizations can not reliably ensure these patches have been properly applied—if at all—representing an inherent exposure in protecting the enterprise network."

As we all know workers enjoy downloading software to their workstations that they feel either makes their life easier or the work day a little funner. This list outlines how much of a security risk that practice could be to companies.

The complete Bit9 report can be downloaded here, registration is required.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Microsoft Releases iPhone App

Looking to cash in on some of the success of the iPhone and Apple's App Store, Microsoft launched it's first iPhone App. Seadragon Mobile, which was added to Apple's App Store on Saturday, is a free image-browsing app that allows users to "get super-close in on a map or photo, with just a few pinches or taps of your finger."

Other features include the ability to browse an entire collection of photos from a single screen as well as the ability to browse Deep Zoom Images that you can create from your own pictures or your Photosynth collection (or anybody else's).

Seadragon Mobile is available for free for all you iPhone users at the iTunes App Store.

Microsoft is reportedly working on other iPhone apps, however there is little news on what those might be or when they might be released. Cnet.com reported earlier this year that Microsoft's Tellme unit is actively developing a voice-activated search for the iPhone, to be launched by June of '09. As of yet there has been little to no update regarding progress on that app.

Tech Going Green, IBM, Intel & Dell Rank Amongst The Top In Climate Change Strategies

With millions of customers and massive operations and supply chains, consumer and technology companies face broad impacts from climate change, whether from higher energy costs due to emerging climate regulations or growing global demand for products that use less energy and contribute fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

According to the recently released Ceres Report, which uses a "Climate Change Governance Framework" to evaluate how 48 US companies and 15 non-US companies are addressing climate change, Inel, IBM and Dell all ranked in the top 5 companies with the best climate change strategies. IBM ranked 1st overall add first in the technology category with Dell ranking 3rd overall and 2nd in the tech category. Intel ranked 4th overall, and 1st for the semiconductor sector.



The report took six months to complete and uses data from securities filings, company reports, company websites, third-party questionnaires and direct company communications. Information collected includes: board of director oversight, management execution, public disclosure, GHG emissions accounting and strategic planning and performance. A 100-point scoring system based on this framework is setup. IBM scored 79pts, Dell 77pts and Intel 72pts. More than half of the 63 companies scored under 50 points, with a median score of 38 points.

A few notable companies that scored poorly on the report: Best Buy only scored 36pts, Apple 28pts, Costco 14pts and with by far the lowest score Abercrombie and Fitch scored a zero.

For more details you can download the report (pdf) or download the full report with Co. profiles (PDF 316 pages, 3.4 MB)

Download Company Profiles by Industry Sector:

Apparel
Beverages
Big Box Retailers
Grocery & Drug Retailers

Household & Personal Goods
Pharmaceuticals
Real Estate

Restaurants

Semiconductors
Technology
Travel & Leisure


In related news in a recent press release, Seagate has announced plans to run its massive Springtown manufacturing plant on 100% renewable energy. The company says it has switched from a traditional electricity supply to environmentally friendly wind power, supplied by Airtricity, Ireland’s leading renewable energy company.

“Going green was a significant factor for us when we were reviewing our energy supply contract,” said John Spangler, vice president at Seagate’s high-tech Springtown facility. “We are not a heavy or conventionally ‘dirty’ industry and we have no smokestacks to shut down, but we do not view that as a warrant for complacency. Internationally the company is making a positive difference through an aggressive programme of energy use reduction and we wanted to reflect those priorities here at Springtown.

“The Springtown manufacturing facility, by its very nature, is a heavy consumer of energy and we are constantly seeking ways to reduce energy consumption. Internally we have already implemented many excellent projects to decrease our carbon footprint, but switching to a renewable power source allowed us to go still further. This is an important demonstration of our commitment to doing business in a way that respects the environment.”

Seagate says the electricity required to run the massive Springtown plant will be 100 per cent renewable, reducing the site’s carbon footprint by 41,800 tons of carbon dioxide, which equates to 95 percent of the total carbon emitted each year by Springtown. The reduction is the equivalent to the carbon dioxide emitted by 4,500 households per year

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Free Wireless Broadband On Hold

The Federal Communications Commission has canceled a December 18th meeting scheduled to vote on a free wireless Internet plan using part of AWS-3 spectrum. That means that free nation wide wireless broadband service is on hold, for now at least.

The FCC has been considering whether it should auction off 25 megahertz of wireless spectrum in the 2155MHz to 2180MHz band (AWS-3 spectrum). In exchange for using the spectrum, the FCC would require license holders to offer some form of free wireless broadband service. This service would be used as a way to provide free Internet access to millions of Americans who either can't afford or don't want to pay for high-speed Internet access.

In addition to requiring that license holders set aside a portion of the spectrum for free wi-fi the FCC was also going to require that the Web service be filtered for pornography and material deemed not suitable for children.

The plan and its stipulations have been met with opposition from several top officials, wireless providers, and even civil rights groups. With the latest opposition coming from U.S. Representative Henry Waxman of California and U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. The two senators will chair the committees overseeing the FCC in the next Congress both wrote letters the week urging FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to hold off on the vote.

"We received the letter from Senator Rockefeller and Congressman Waxman today and spoke with other offices. In light of the letter, it does not appear that there is consensus to move forward and the agenda meeting has been canceled. The items will remain on circulation and the Commissioners can still vote on them," FCC spokesman Robert Kenny said in a statement.

Earlier this week the Bush administration also spoke out in opposition to the proposed auction. According to a report published Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez sent a letter to the agency's Republican chairman Wednesday afternoon expressing the administration's displeasure with the idea.

"The administration believes that the (airwaves) should be auctioned without price or product mandate," Gutierrez wrote, according to the Journal's report. "The history of FCC spectrum auctions has shown that the potential for problems increases in instances where licensing is overly prescriptive or designed around unproven business models."

The FCC might have better luck pushing along the auctions when President elect Obama takes control of the White House next year. In his tech agenda Obama outlines support for an open internet as well as a need for wider reaching broadband access. Obama hasn’t said if he agrees with the AWS-3 auction rules, but Obama has previously pledged 100% broadband availability across the country.