Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More iPad Security Issues Exposed

Goatse Security, the security group which exposed hundreds of thousand of iPad users emails last week, has revealed yet another potentially more serious security flaw found on the iPad.

Responding to AT&T's claims that the security researchers at Goatse Security were "malicious hackers who attacked AT&T's servers", Goatse researcher Escher Auernheimer has issued a new warning to all iPad users out there. Warning them that AT&T and Apple are doing too little to protect them from harm.

According to the post Apple has failed to fix two flaws, one of which could be used to determine an iPad owners location. The second flaw is an exploit in Apple's Safari browser which was originally published back in March. Apparently the company has failed to be patched on the iPad. This flaw combined with the ICC-ID data taken last week could be used to perform targeted attacks that could not only leave users at risk but nay major organization that has an iPad attached to their network.

The exploit uses an integer overflow exploit, which gives access to proxy connections over banned ports (behind corporate and government firewalls!), allowing a hacker full access to the machine for spamming, exploit payloads, password bruteforce attacks and other undesirables.

Goatse warns if Apple and AT&T do not patch this flaw and fast, the iPad could soon become the tool of choice for attacking corporate networks. All you would have to do is gain access to the network itself (which can be accomplished via a variety of techniques either social engineering or otherwise) and then jump on and carry out attacks -- bypassing all firewall protections.

Given some of the names shown on the ICC-IDs list handed out last week the potential here is very serious. We not only saw heads of major corporations but several big names in the government sector. You are talking about some serious ramifications and the potential to directly affect national security should hackers be able to utilize this exploit!

Let People Schedule Ahead of Time

This is a guest post by Darryl Vicks

DVR’s have become very popular in millions of households. A DVR is a digital video recorder that consumers can use to record movies and television shows from their television sets. I use my DVR with directtv Oregonand I love how well the DVR performs.

The DVR is separate from the television and looks like a square box. There are both HDTV DVR’s and regular DVR’s to record programming. HDTV DVR’s only differ in that they typically have a much clearer picture than regular DVR’s do.

A DVR works by having people select the programs that they want to watch later; users can fast forward, rewind, and pause the programs that have been recorded. There is a remote that works with the box and a guide will be displayed on the screen. The user then uses the arrow to click on a program that they want to watch. After this, they click DVR and set up the recording. People can view their schedule and record one recording while watching another.

Users can use the auto tune function to automatically change their TV to the channel that they want at a certain time. They can also use the DVR to set timers so that they can be reminded to watch certain programs during the week. The DVR typically lets people schedule recording up to a week in advance.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Malware Found On More Devices With Flash Memory

Following recent reports of malware being detected on the internal memory cards of gadgets like the Samsung Wave, HTC Magic and other similar devices Olympus Japan has issued a warning to customers who bought the new Stylus Tough 6010 shockproof and waterproof camera, informing them that their new cameras may be infected.

According to the advisory from Olympus Japan, just over 1700 units are at risk - and customers can check if their camera is carrying the malware by checking their serial number via a widget on Olympus's website (sadly, it's only available in Japanese).

As with most the cases of infection the malicious code, or worm,  is an auto-run hiding on the camera's internal memory. The auto-run itself does not affect the camera in any way and can not activate on the Stylus Tough camera, but it will attempt to infect your Windows PC should the camera be connected via the USB cord. Its currently unclear if the worm will try to infect external memory cards or not, I would say no considering the nature of the beast. However user that think they may be infected should not only check the camera but any external cards just in case.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

AT&T Confirms iPad User Info Exposed

According to Gawker the emails of over 114,000 iPad 3G owners were accidentally exposed over AT&T's network. The hackers were able to gather emails of every AT&T customer who purchased an iPad 3G before Monday June 7, 2010.

The specific information exposed in the breach included subscribers' email addresses, coupled with an authentication ID used to authenticate the subscriber on AT&T's network, known as the ICC-ID. ICC-ID stands for integrated circuit card identifier and is used to identify the SIM cards that associate a mobile device with a particular subscriber.

AT&T was already aware of the breach and had since closed the security hole but the victims have been unaware, until the news was leaked via Gawker. “The issue has escalated to the highest levels of the company and was corrected by Tuesday; and we have essentially turned off the feature that provided the e-mail addresses,” AT&T said in a statement.

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel confirmed the breach to CNET stating "AT&T was informed by a business customer on Monday of the potential exposure of their iPad ICC IDS. The only information that can be derived from the ICC IDS is the e-mail address attached to that device. We are continuing to investigate and will inform all customers whose e-mail addresses and ICC IDS may have been obtained," he said. "At this point, there is no evidence that any other customer information was shared."

The subscriber data was obtained by a group calling itself Goatse Security.

Goatse Security obtained its data through a script on AT&T's website, accessible to anyone on the internet. When provided with an ICC-ID as part of an HTTP request, the script would return the associated email address, in what was apparently intended to be an AJAX-style response within a Web application. The security researchers were able to guess a large section of ICC IDs by looking at known iPad 3G ICC IDs, either their own ICC-IDs or some of those unwittingly posted on the internet.

According to the Gawker article there were some rather big names who's addresses were leaked and may now be vulnerable. Among those are several military based email addresses from all branches of the military, NASA, the Department of Homeland security and several devices registered to the domain of DARPA, the advanced research division of the Department of Defense. There are also several major names in the tech sector, finance and media.

While there may not be much information leaked and hackers may not be able to do much with what little was leaked the fact that the info and email addresses are out in the wild might be a reason for concern. I'm sure they all have security measures in place to avoid phishing scams, spam and or other malicious emails but that doesn't mean hackers won't be trying and we all know it doesn't take much to slip something by.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Microsoft Puts An End To Bing CashBack

Sad news today for online shoppers as Microsoft has announced plans to put and end to their popular online rebate program.

Bing CashBack was an MS related service which offered users cash back for buying products after searching for them and purchasing through Bing.com links. The program, which launched back in May 2008, attracted millions of customers who shopped the more than 1,000 merchant partners who offered cash back to shoppers.

According to a blog post byYusuf Mehdi, senior vice president for Microsoft's Online Audience Business Group, Bing's CashBack program was part of a part of a “test-and-learn” mentality, whereas the company could constantly experiment and learn from their results. As such they felt the program "did not see the broad adoption that we [Microsoft] had hoped for."

The program will be retiring July 30, 2010, though you will have a year to redeem any cashback you have earned through your cashback account consistent with the cashback Terms and Conditions. In addition, Microsoft will provide 12 months of customer support to ensure a smooth transition.

For more information please see the cashback FAQ.

Sad to see the program go, I've found several great deals through the BCB program including many through eBay.  Even though the BCB program is ending MS did leave the door open to a possible replacement. Stating, "we have some ideas for making it easy to get a broader array of products and offers into Bing." There wasn't much elaboration as to what that may be but we'll be keeping an eye out to see!

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Announced

Activision, the producers of the popular Guitar Hero series have officially announced the latest incarnation of the popular game. The latest installment, version 6 to be exact, of one of the world's most popular music game series will be known as Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and will feature the biggest on-disc selection of rock music ever in a Guitar Hero game and Quickplay+, which invites gamers to rock out to any of the on-disc or over 500 songs in the Guitar Hero Music Library.

"Guitar Hero has set the standard for music based gaming and with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock's all-new Quest Mode, robust and authentic set list, over-the-top challenges and rock-inspired new hardware, we are once again bringing the soul and energy of rock n' roll to fans around the world," said David Haddad, Chief Operating Officer, Guitar Hero.

In Quest Mode, using any combination of instruments, players will embark on a larger-than-life, epic rock journey from the stage of CBGBs, the infamous punk-rock club in New York City, to the molten lava fields of rock treachery as eight Guitar Hero characters transform into rock warriors that must join together to use their unique, game-changing powers to help the Demi-God of Rock take down "The Beast" and save rock n' roll.

"The world is a boring place. Come with me, and enter a world populated of Demi-Gods and Beasts. Transform from an everyday person and become the savior of rock and roll," said Gene Simmons of KISS. "It was an honor and privilege to narrate Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, even more so, to voice the Demi God. From the God of Thunder to the Demi-God, how cool is that..."

The first songs off of Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock's new set list which will eventually feature more than 90 tracks are:

  • AFI – "Dancing Through Sunday"
  • Avenged Sevenfold "Bat Country"
  • Black Sabbath "Children Of The Grave"
  • Buzzcocks "What Do I Get?"
  • Children Of Bodom "If You Want Peace... Prepare For War"
  • The Cure "Fascination Street"
  • Def Leppard – "Pour Some Sugar On Me (Live)"
  • Dethklok "Bloodlines"
  • DragonForce "Fury of the Storm"
  • Drowning Pool "Bodies"
  • Foo Fighters "No Way Back"
  • Foreigner "Feels Like The First Time"
  • Jane's Addiction "Been Caught Stealing"
  • KISS "Love Gun"
  • Megadeth "Sudden Death"
  • Metallica & Ozzy Osbourne "Paranoid (Live)"
  • Muse – "Uprising"
  • My Chemical Romance "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)"
  • Queen "Bohemian Rhapsody"
  • Rammstein – "Waidmanns Heil"
  • The Rolling Stones "Stray Cat Blues"
  • Silversun Pickups "There's No Secrets This Year"
  • Slayer "Chemical Warfare"
  • ZZ Top "Sharp Dressed Man (Live)"

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock will be released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii.

For more info checkout the full Activision press release or visit GuitarHero.com

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Tech Giants Back Linux Form Linaro

Six major tech companies have decided to join forces to boost Linux forming Linaro - a Software foundations for an open digital world.

Linaro, backed by mega hitters ARM, Freescale, IBM, Samsung, ST-Ericsson and Texas Instruments, is a none profit organizations whose goal is to bring together the open source community and the electronics industry to work on key projects. The main focus will be delivering great tools utilizing Linux-based distributions such as Android, LiMo, MeeGo, Ubuntu and webOS.

Linaro will work with the growing number of Linux distributions to create regular releases of optimized tools and foundation software that can be used widely by the industry, increasing compatibility across semiconductors from multiple suppliers. As a result, Linaro's resources and open source solutions will allow device manufacturers to speed up development time, improve performance and reduce engineering time spent on non-differentiating, low-level software. Linux distributions, open source and proprietary software projects will benefit from Linaro's investment, with more stable code becoming widely available as a common base for innovation.

To further its mission, Linaro aims to unite the open source engineering resources within its member firms with the broad open source community. Linaro engineers, leveraging their extensive embedded knowledge, will contribute to a wide range of open source projects covering areas such as tools, kernel, graphics and boot code. Linaro intends to work in partnership with the Linux Foundation to align on core operating principles.

The company's first release is planned for November 2010 and will provide performance optimizations for SoCs based on the ARM CortexTM-A processor family.

Read more in the full Linaro Press Release

Powermat Charges Up Promotion Through MyTown

Leading Location-based App to Offer Real Life Rewards to Consumers for In-App Activity

Powermat, the worldwide leader in wireless charging, is charging up Booyah’s MyTown location-based gaming experience for more than two million players. Powermat is rewarding consumers for interacting with the brand in MyTown, checking in on-location. In addition to virtual rewards, the campaign will include a first-of-its kind sweepstakes promotion through the “Ultimate Charging Station” page.

During the Powermat campaign, running through June 13, 2010, MyTown players who “check-in” to a Powermat retailer, such as Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, or Target, will unlock Powermat branded virtual items. The players will learn about available wireless charging products and will be able to enter into the sweepstakes to win Powermat’s Wireless Charging System for iPhone® by physically interacting with Powermat products in-store.

“Partnering with MyTown offers us a unique opportunity to engage millions of technology savvy consumers with a unique cutting-edge forum,” said Beth Harrison Meyer, Vice President of Global Marketing for Powermat. “Powermat is all about using technology to enhance consumer convenience. With MyTown, we are reaching the most tech savvy consumers right where they live. What could be more convenient than that?”

Powermat launched its premiere product line in the US in October 2009 and sold in excess of 750,000 Powermat products in the two months after its debut with most stores experiencing severe out-of-stock shortages late in the season. As the first wireless charging system to be made available at mass market retail, Powermat created the category that it now dominates. For the consumer, it’s as easy as plugging the Powermat into the wall once, at only one access point; enabling his/her device with a Powermat receiver, and then dropping and charging. Its simplicity and innovation eliminates the tangle of wires, ensures that devices stay charged without the constant hassle of plugging and unplugging and frees consumers from the angst of running on empty.

MyTown recently surpassed two million registered users and is expanding at a rate of more than 100,000 per week. The Powermat campaign led by Maxus Global (www.maxusglobal.com) and M80 (www.m80im.com), in partnership with appssavvy (www.appssavvy.com), Booyah’s direct sales team partner, includes the first sweepstakes to be integrated within MyTown.

“Powermat, pioneering wireless charging for consumers, is an innovator in consumer tech and we are delighted to have them on board,” said Keith Lee, CEO of Booyah. “Savvy marketers are beginning to see the potential of our vision to blend the real and virtual worlds.”

Unique to Booyah is their ability to blur the lines between the real and digital worlds. With extensive experience in the traditional gaming industry and cutting-edge mobile technologies, Booyah is poised to create new forms of entertainment for the masses and revolutionize the consumer experience. In the massively popular app MyTown users can check in at real-world locations using GPS features to unlock rewards. Players can purchase, upgrade and collect rent on their properties, enjoying MyTown ownership of their favorite real-life places.

More MAC Malware Found In The Wild

MAC antivirus vendor Intego has issued a warning about a new piece of malware being distributed primarily in freely available screen saver programs. This new spyware application dubbed OSX/OpinionSpy can scan files, record user activity and send stolen data to remote servers.

OSX/OpinionSpy is installed by a number of applications and screen savers that are distributed on sites such as MacUpdate, VersionTracker and Softpedia. The spyware itself is not contained in these applications, but is downloaded during the installation process. This shows the need for an up-to-date anti-malware program with a real-time scanner that can detect this malware when it is downloaded by the original application’s installer.

OSX/OpinionSpy performs the following actions:
  • This application, which has no interface, runs as root (it requests an administrator’s password on installation) with full rights to access and change any file on the infected user’s computer.
  • If for any reason the application stops running, it is re-launched via launchd, the system-wide application and service launching facility.
  • It opens an HTTP backdoor using port 8254.
  • It scans all accessible volumes, analyzing files, and using a great deal of CPU time. It is not clear what data it copies and sends to its servers, but it scans files on both local and network volumes, potentially opening up large numbers of confidential files on a network to intrusion.
  • It analyzes packets entering and leaving the infected Mac over a local network, analyzing data coming from and being sent to other computers. One infected Mac can therefore collect a great deal of data from different computers on a local network, such as in a business or school.
  • It injects code, without user intervention, into Safari, Firefox and iChat, and copies personal data from these applications. Code injection is a form of behavior similar to that of a virus, and this malware “infects” applications when they are running to be able to carry out its operations. (It infects the applications’ code in the Mac’s memory, and does not infect the actual applications’ files on the user’s hard disk.)
  • It regularly sends data, in encrypted form, to a number of servers using ports 80 and 443. It sends data to these servers about files it has scanned locally, and also sends e-mail addresses, iChat message headers and URLs, as well as other data. This data may include personal data, such as user names, passwords, credit card numbers, web browser bookmarks, history and much more.
  • Given the type of data that it collects, the company behind this spyware can store detailed records of users, their habits, their contacts, their location and much more.
  • The application can be upgraded automatically, with new features added, with no user intervention, and without the user being aware of this. It occasionally asks users for information, via the display of dialogs, such as their name, or asks them to fill out surveys.
  • In some cases, computers with this spyware installed no longer work correctly after a certain period of time; it is necessary to force-reboot such Macs.
  • If a user deletes the original application or screen saver that installed this spyware, the spyware itself will remain installed and continue to operate.
The amount and type of data the malware collects makes it a very high risk piece of spyware. Not only does it collect sensitive data such as user names, passwords and credit card numbers, but it opens a backdoor that could led to further attacks and or more malicious code being injected. While Intego suggest the distribution is limited, the company warns Mac users to pay careful attention to which software they download and install. 

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Shattered Horizon Free This Weekend Via Steam

Futuremark Games Studio today announced that Shattered Horizon™, their PC exclusive multiplayer first-person shooter, will be free to play and 50 percent off to buy on Steam this weekend. Shattered Horizon’s innovative zero gravity gameplay has recently been enhanced by the Firepower weapons pack which added eight new weapons and three new grenades encouraging different styles of play and providing the opportunity for new team tactics.

"Shattered Horizon continues to evolve as we add new features requested by the community," said Jaakko Haapasalo, head of Futuremark Games Studio. "This weekend PC gamers can play the complete game for free and experience the new Firepower weapons. And those who wish to continue playing can buy Shattered Horizon for just $9.99 / €9.99."

In Shattered Horizon, a catastrophic explosion on the Moon has filled near-Earth space with billions of tons of rocky debris. Teams of players fight in zero gravity to control the limited supplies that mean the difference between survival and death in the cold of space.

Shattered Horizon is available from Steam and the official website: http://www.shatteredhorizon.com/buynow/

Source: Futuremark Press Release

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 465 Arrives

nvidia logoNVIDIA this week announced its latest addition to the DirectX 11 compliant GeForce 400 series, the GeForce GTX 465. Based on the 40 nm GF100 GPU, the GTX 465 is a drop in performance from the flagship the GTX 470. To achieve the lower performance numbers NVIDIA slashed some of the components off the GTX 470 reference design.

The new GTX 465 drops five streaming multiprocessors (SMs), leaving a CUDA core count of 352, and a memory bus width of 256-bit. The GTX 460 reference design features 1 GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at a slightly slower 1603 MHz compared to the GTX 470 at 1674 MHz. Both cards feature graphics clock speeds of 607 MHz and processor clock speeds of 1215 MHz

Additional features for the GTX 465 include:
  • 11 dedicated tessellation engines
  • Support for Blu-ray 3D, with GPU decoding for enhanced 3D movie playback and 3D Internet streaming
  • NVIDIA SLI(R), the most popular multi-GPU solution for gamers
  • NVIDIA PhysX(R) which brings dynamic realism to PC gaming
  • Next-generation CUDA architecture, with support for CUDA C/C++, DirectCompute, & OpenCL

The GeForce GTX 465 is available for purchase now from add-in-card companies including ASUS, Colorful, EVGA, Galaxy, Gigabyte, Gainward, MSI, Palit, PNY, Zotac and others, with a target price of $279.

Geforce GTX 465 Reviews

More reading:

Metered Data Plans, Tethering Coming To AT&T June 7th

AT&T has announced that the company will be moving away from their unlimited data plans to a new metered pricing plan for its smartphones and iPads. This comes as bad news for high end users that will now see a cap of 2 GBs/mo for $25 rather than the existing unlimited plan for $30.

The new AT&T plans are setup as follows:

  • DataPlus. Provides 200 megabytes (MB) of data – for example, enough to send/receive 1,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 150 emails with attachments, plus view 400 Web pages, plus post 50 photos on social media sites, plus watch 20 minutes of streaming video – for just $15 per month.**  This plan, which can save customers up to 50 percent off their wireless data charges, is designed for people who primarily like to surf the web, send email and use social networking apps. If customers exceed 200 MB in a monthly billing cycle, they will receive an additional 200 MB of data usage for $15 for use in the cycle.  Currently, 65 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 200 MB of data per month on average.
  • DataPro. Provides 2 gigabytes (GB) of data – for example, enough to send/receive 10,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 1,500 emails with attachments, plus view 4,000 Web pages, plus post 500 photos to social media sites, plus watch 200 minutes of streaming video – for $25 per month.**  Should a customer exceed 2 GB during a billing cycle, they will receive an additional 1 GB of data for $10 for use in the cycle.  Currently, 98 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 2 GB of data a month on average.

Additional the company offered a new tethering plan, allowing smartphone owners with a compatible phone to use their phones as a data modem. Smartphone customers – including iPhone customers – who choose the DataPro plan have the option to add tethering for an additional $20 per month. Tethering lets customers use their smartphones as a modem to provide a broadband connection for laptop computers, netbooks or other computing devices. Tethering for iPhones will be available when Apple releases iPhone OS 4 this summer.

With the new wireless data plans, pricing for a smartphone voice and data bundle now starts at just $54.99 per month for an individual plan, or $24.99 per month for an additional line on a FamilyTalk plan, $15 per month less than the price of the previous entry level bundle.

For new iPad customers, the $25 per month 2 GB plan will replace the existing $29.99 unlimited plan. iPad customers will continue to pre-pay for their wireless data plan and no contract is required. Existing iPad customers who have the $29.99 per month unlimited plan can keep that plan or switch to the new $25 per month plan with 2 GB of data.

These new metered plans will not affect customers that are currently under contract. They will only take affect should a user upgrade to a new phone, and/or sign a new contract.

Update:  According to the AT&T Facebook page folks on the current $30 smartphone data plan will be able to keep that plan when upgrading hardware. You won't be able to add the tethering option as tethering specifically requires the DataPro plan. But you will be able to keep your unlimited data plan.

Source: AT&T

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Apple May Face More Antitrust Issues This Time Over iTunes

Apple has undoubtedly seen some major growth over the past several years, growth that is now starting placing the company directly in the headlights of government regulators. According to many reports the DOJ and FTC have been keeping an eye on Apple, the App store and their recent stance on mobile advertising. Now it appears as though the Justice Department isexamining Apple’s tactics in the market for digital music.

According to the reports Apple is facing an antitrust inquiry is in the early stages involving the company's use of its dominant market position to persuade music labels to refuse to give online retailer Amazon.com exclusive access to music about to be released.

In March, Billboard magazine reported that Amazon was asking music labels to give it the exclusive right to sell certain forthcoming songs for one day before they went on sale more widely. In exchange, Amazon promised to include those songs in a promotion called the “MP3 Daily Deal” on its Web site.

The magazine reported that representatives of Apple’s iTunes music service were asking the labels not to participate in Amazon’s promotion, adding that Apple punished those that did by withdrawing marketing support for those songs on iTunes.

Apple has been the top music retailer in the US since early 2008, now holding as much as a 69 percent market share. Amazon, the second largest music retailer only holds and 8 percent share. This dominant position in the market is undoubtedly the reason why the DoJ has taken a special interest in the company's tactics.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Futuremark Announces 3DMark 11, Releasing 3Q 2010

Futuremark, the developer of the world’s most popular benchmarking software, today announced 3DMark 11, the latest version of their industry standard benchmark for real-time 3D graphics. Designed to measure the performance of DirectX 11 gaming PCs, 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine created in-house. To accompany the announcement Futuremark has released a trailer and screenshots taken from a 3DMark 11 tech demo called "Deep Sea". http://www.3dmark.com/

3DMark 11 will be released in the third quarter of 2010. There will be a free edition available at launch. 3DMark 11 will join existing Futuremark benchmarks 3DMark Vantage for DirectX 10 and 3DMark06 for DirectX 9.

Read more

Best Buy Advertised Price May Not Be A Deal After All

Popular consumer affairs blog The Consumerist is reporting that Best Buy may be taking advantage of uninformed customers by advertising computers and laptops at slightly higher than regular prices and passing them off as incredible deals without actually calling 'sales'.

According to the report users have caught sales advertising where some laptops and computers are actually advertised at prices higher than their regular price. The sales ads show Dell and HP laptops for $649.99 and $699.99 respectively, these prices are apparently $20 and $50 higher than their regular price. Not only is Best Buy's advertising misleading consumers but the stores are taking things a step further by placing "as advertised" signs on the laptops in store -- thereby giving consumers the impression that they're getting a great deal.

Image from page 15 of the BestBuy ad valid from May23-29

The tipster to Consumerist, known only as Donald, points to this week's sale ad pictured above. Donald writes:
Best Buy has been doing something sort of tricky lately on their laptop pricing. Each week, advertised prices on a number of laptops are higher than regular pricing.

In this week's ad, there is a Dell, sku 9693191, for $649.99. Regular price is $629.99. An HP, sku 9705373, is advertised for $699.99; regular price is $649.99. Last week, a Toshiba, sku 9705221, was advertised for $499.99, this week it's back to regular price, $479.99. Likewise, a Dell, sku 9693191, was advertised for $649.99 last week, and this week it's back to its regular price of $629.99.

This is certainly legal, because nowhere is the word sale used. The ad doesn't say that the price is reduced, and the in store signage just says As Advertised. Still, it appears that they are attempting to gouge the uninformed.

Its hard to believe a major retailer could be so unscrupulous in this day and age, none the less given Best Buy's past history will pricing it really doesn't shock me. This definitely lends credence to the adage buyer beware! I for one have always preached that consumers need to be better informed before making purchases. You should do as much research as possible before heading off to the store to make your decision and now days with the proliferation of smartphones and web enabled devices you should be able to check prices right there in-store.

There are tons of sites out there that are very helpful in finding or comparing prices of products. Consumers should always check these before making their purchases.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Want Android 2.2? Get One Of These Phones

Now that Android 2.2 is official and we have a list of all the mouth watering new features its time to figure out which phones will and won't support the updated OS.

At last weeks I/O Google revealed what looks to be the final list of handsets getting the Froyo update, they include:
  • Motorola Droid
  • Google Nexus One
  • Droid Incredible
  • HTC Desire
  • HTC Evo 4G
  • myTouch Slide

In addition to the above phones HTC will likely include Android 2.2 on all their phones launched in 2010. Most, if not all those new phones will be released in the second half of this year. We can also expect several new Android based smartphones as well as tablet PC later this year, full details are speculative at best but I'm sure we'll see several by years end.

This list might not be representative of all the phones that will support the upgrade considering at this time there are more than 60 different Android phones globally. This is just the list as we know it as of now.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Walmart Launches New Online Gaming HUB 'GameCenter'

Walmart has launched their new online gaming hub aptly called GameCenter. Gamecenter will be the mega store's new one-stop online destination for the latest video game previews, first-look exclusives and special Walmart only savings for gamers.

To celebrate the launch, Walmart is offering a $50 eGift Card to customers that preorder a total of three or more of the year’s most anticipated titles including Medal of Honor, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Fallout: New Vegas and more.

“Walmart Gamecenter combines incredible savings with exclusive gaming content all in a compelling and interactive experience online,” says Kelly Thompson, vice president of merchandising for Walmart.com. “Gaming enthusiasts will be drawn in by the exclusive content and developer interviews, while moms will appreciate the special savings only Walmart can offer on the hottest video game titles.”

Each month, Walmart Gamecenter will feature new video games, exclusive content, special offers and more for each featured title. In addition to the new features the site will also offer customers easy access to Walmart’s online Trade-In program, which allows customers to trade in their used video games and earn Walmart prepaid Visa cards in return at http://walmart.gazelle.com.

Used gaming consoles as well as video games are eligible for trade-in. Walmart Gamecenter is co-sponsored through a media partnership with Unilever. More information is available at http://www.walmart.com/gamecenter.

Source: Walmart Press Release

HP Recalls Hundreds of Laptop Batteries

In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and/or other safety regulatory authorities, HP announced voluntary recalls and replacement programs for some of the battery packs used in certain HP notebooks.

Recall programs were announced on the following dates:
HP and the battery manufacturers believe that certain battery packs shipped in some notebook PC products may pose a potential safety hazard to customers. The batteries can overheat, posing a fire and burn hazard. Check to see if your model is listed below and then hit the validation site to confirm if you've got one of the bad ones.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

THQ Becomes Second Game Developer To Charge for Playing Used Games Online

According to sports gaming blog Pastapadre video game producer and the makers of the popular UFC Undisputed series, THQ is playing on implementing a $5 charge for playing used games online.

THQ's UFC Undisputed 2010, due out next Tuesday, May 25th, will come with a one-time-use code on the back of the game's instruction manual, and players will need to type in the code if they want to play the game online. Similar to an activation code for your OS the code will be a one time use type deal. Once the code is used and registered to a user it will be none transferable. Meaning if you buy UFC 2010 used or rent it, you'll need to purchase a new code from the Xbox Live Marketplace or the PlayStation Store in order to play the full online version.

Gaming site Destructoid received the following official statement from THQ regarding online play in UFC Undisputed 2010:

THQ is delivering a truly unmatched online gaming experience for fans of UFC and across all fighting games in general. The main enhancement of UFC Undisputed 2010’s premium online content is the new “Fight Camp Mode” in which players can assemble ranks of up to 40 people and train together. This is a significant value-add to the game as players can continually improve their skills by training with their friends and bringing teams of MMA specialists together.

This multiplayer content for UFC Undisputed 2010 will be available via a one-time code included with the game at purchase. Codes for accessing the content will be available for second-time buyers for an additional $5.

Details for acquiring the codes and how this will work will be available via the UFC community site.

Keep your eyes on the UFC Undisputed community site for further details.

THQ is the second major game developer to confirm a fee for second hand games. Earlier this month we reported that starting with July's release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 EA would begin charging users $10 for using used games for online play.

Unfortunately it looks like the EA plan might be snowballing. Several gaming sites believe its only a matter of time before other major game developers enact similar programs. Ubisoft is already reportedly milling plans to implement a program similar to those announced by THQ and EA and with major gaming houses such as these already jumping on-board I'm sure its only a matter of time before more join in.

Update: Apple Controls iPad Sales Just Says No To Cash

Yesterday we covered the story of a California woman, Diane Campbell, who had worked hard saving her cold hard cash in the hopes of going to an Apple Store and buying an iPad.

Today it seems Apple has recanted their stance on "no cash sales" for the iPad.

Campbell had contacted ABC television affiliate KGO, which ran her story on 7 On Your Side, a watchdog group fighting for consumer rights. According to KGO after hearing the story, in which Campbell asked Steve Jobs to "give a sister a break," Apple decided to reverse its no cash policy and allow cash customers.

"We want to make sure it's as fair as possible for people to get iPads," Ron Johnson, a senior vice president at Apple, told KGO, adding that the company decided to change its policy after hearing Campbell's story. He also had two Apple employees personally deliver an iPad to her house for free.

According to Apple, anyone who would like to pay cash for the iPad at an Apple Store can now do so. The only catch is that cash buyers must create an Apple account in the store. Those who pay with a credit or debit card can set up their Apple accounts at home.

Google Teams With Sony, Intel To Introduce Google TV

Google may have revolutionized the way we search the web but can they do the same for the way we watch TV? That is goal of a recently announced join venture with partners Logitech, Sony and Intel on the development of Google TV.

Announced at the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco, Google TV looks to combine the entire Web and all available TV content in one place, with one interface – eliminating the need to move back and forth between multiple screens.

Google TV devices will be based on the Android platform running the Google Chrome web browser. Users can access all of their usual TV channels as well as a world of Internet and cloud-based information and applications, including rich Adobe Flash based content – all from the comfort of their own living room and with the same simplicity as browsing the web. Devices will be coupled with the Intel Atom processor CE4100, Intel's latest system-on-a-chip designed specifically for consumer electronics, the new platform will offer home theater quality A/V performance.

Sony and Logitech have already committed to delivering products based on the new Intel Atom processor and running Google TV. Those new devices are slated for launch later this year.

Logitech will be building a companion box featuring a special remote control, along with a wireless keyboard for the system while Sony announced plans to introduce "Sony Internet TV," the World's first TV lineup incorporating the Google TV platform. The first models are planned to be introduced in the U.S. market in the fall of 2010 with the lineup featuring both a standalone TV model and set top box-type unit incorporating a Blu-ray Disc drive.

Additionally Google TV will be available to Dish Network customers through an optimized Google TV DVR which allows for a seamlessly experience that integrates traditional TV and web content.

Google TV devices will be sold at Best Buy locations nationwide later this year.

Read More:

Official Google Blog - Announcing Google TV: TV meets web. Web meets TV
Sony - Sony To Introduce Sony Internet TV
Intel - Industry Leaders Announce Open Platform to Bring Web to TV
Reuters.com - Google, Sony, Intel join on Web television project
Wired.com - Google Introduces Google TV, New Android OS
Logitech - Logitech + Google TV

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Apple Controls iPad Sales Just Says No To Cash

Apple is dead set on limiting users to buying no more than two iPads, so much so that the company is not allowing customers at Apple stores to make purchase using anything other than credit or debit cards.

In a story recently ran from San Francisco based ABC affiliate KGO an Apple customer, Diane Campbell, chronicles her adventures attempting to buy a new Apple iPad.

Campbell is disabled and on a fixed income, forcing her to hold off on buying a computer or iPad until she could save up enough money. When they iPad made it's debut she figured the small mobile device and perfect for her needs. So, little by little she saved up the $600 she needed to get one.

"It took quite a long time for me to just save up this small amount of money to go down and purchase one," she said. "I had my cash in the backpack and I went up proudly to the counter and told them, 'I would like to purchase an iPad.'"

She was at the Apple store in Palo Alto, about to pull out the big wad of cash and take home her first computer. Instead, she received a terrible blow.

"They said, 'Sorry, we don't take cash.' And, so I looked at her and I said OK she's kidding," Campbell recalled.

However, the clerk was not kidding. The Apple sales policy says if you want an iPad, you must pay by credit card or debit card, gift cards will not work either. Diane didn't have any plastic and amazingly her cash was useless.

Campbell contacted KGO's 7 On Your Side, a watchdog group fighting for consumer rights. 7 On Your Side said Apple would not respond to request for an explanation of the policy, however, the store clerk told Campbell it was to prevent con artists from buying lots of iPads and selling them overseas.

The U.S. Treasury Department says there is nothing in the law that requires companies to accept cash as payment, even though it is "legal tender." The Apple no-cash policy applies only to iPads and iPhones, although you can at least use a gift card to buy an iPhone.

My Thoughts

I completely understand Apple's stance on the situation and I understand wanting to limit sales of the device when the iPad first hit the market that should however not push the company to place such tight restrictions on accepted payment. It would be one thing asking for suitable ID but limiting based on payment method is a bit ridiculous. Most people I know have at least one debit card and as many as two credit cards. What's to stop them from buying up to 6 iPads?

I know Apple want to keep a tight reign on their devices but I'd think there would be a much better approach than this one.

Google Announces Chrome App Store

Google today has announced the formation of a Chrome Web Store, an open marketplace for developers to sell (yes I said sell) their web apps.

According to the announcement the new app store will be launching later this year with early invited going to developers. It is Google hope that the new Chrome Web Store will become a centralized repository for web based apps for Google Chrome users to quickly and easily find their favorite web apps.

Google has also promised developers will have the option to easily sell their apps through the store using a convenient and secure payment system. To find out how to prepare your web app for the store, read our preliminary documentation and join our developer discussion group.

Frequently asked questions

Are applications in the Chrome Web Store different from other web apps?

No. Web apps listed in the Chrome Web Store are regular web applications that are built with standard web tools and technologies. The same web applications will run in other modern browsers that support these technologies.

What's the advantage of "installing" an app from Chrome Web Store?

When Google Chrome users "install" a web application from the store, a convenient shortcut is added for quickly accessing the app. Installed web apps can also request advanced HTML5 permissions. For more information, read the preliminary documentation about installable web applications in Chrome.

How will I add my web application to the store?

We will invite developers to start adding their web apps later this year before the Chrome Web Store opens. To find out how to prepare your web app for the store, read our preliminary documentation and join our developer discussion group.

When is the Chrome Web Store opening?

The Chrome Web Store will be available for users and developers later this year. Subscribe to our developer discussion group and the Chromium blog for updates.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

iPhone Case Coupled With microSIM card Turns Your iPhone Into A Visa Card

Visa along with mobile payment provider DeviceFidelity, Inc. today announced the availability of its In2Pay solution for iPhone. The new contactless payment system allows you to use a a removable In2Pay microSD equipped protective case turning you iPhone into a credit card.

DeviceFidelity and Visa collaborated to combine Visa's contactless payment technology, Visa payWave, and In2Pay technology to transform a mobile phone with a microSD memory slot into a mobile contactless payment device.

The In2Pay case uses Visa's PayWave contactless payment system where you hold your credit card up to a scanner, and your credit card information is transmitted from a small chip embedded in your card. Instead of the standard RFID chip the In2Pay iPhone case utilizes removable and reprogrammable near-field communications (NFC) MicroSD card that stores and transmits your credit card information.

Once your chip is programmed and inserted into the In2Pay case simply activate the iPhone application, wave your phone in front of the Visa payWave terminal and your payment will be made automatically.

Use Office 2010 For 180 Days with 'Rearm' Trick

Want to try out Microsoft Office 2010 but don't like the idea of being cut off after only 30 days. Well thanks to a very easy 'rearm' tick you can now Office 2010 for free for 6 mo's. Microsoft recently confirmed on its TechNet site that they incorporated a simple rearm to extend the grace period in Office. Here's how you do it:
  1. Make sure all office 2010 applications are closed
  2. Open an elevated command prompt (Click Start, type CMD, right-click cmd.exe and select Run as administrator)
  3. Go to %installdir%\%Program Files%\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\OfficeSoftwareProtectionPlatform. If you installed the 32-bit edition of Office 2010 on a 64-bit operating system, %Program Files% is the Program Files (x86) folder.
  4. Run ospprearm.exe.
The above rearm trick can be used up to five times, and if used at the tail-end of each 30-day grace period will allow you to run Office 2010 for up to 180 days without inputting an activation key.