Thursday, December 02, 2010

Microsoft Launches Xbox LIVE Rewards Program

Microsoft has officially launched their Xbox LIVE Rewards program a new rewards system aimed at giving back to Xbox gamers.

The program is open to all all Xbox LIVE members, both paid and free although those with paid memberships such as Silver and Gold Xbox LIVE members will be able to take advantage of more opportunities to earn reward points. Users will earn points for things like purchasing an Xbox Live Gold membership, or purchasing games and movies from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. Users can earn additional points by taking surveys and participating in Xbox promotions.

Xbox LIVE Rewards Points are essentially the same as Microsoft Points. For those familiar with the Microsoft Points Rewards program you'll be right at home with the Xbox LIVE program. Points can be used to purchase anything you would normally buy with your Microsoft Points on Xbox LIVE Marketplace.

Gamers can earn Microsoft Points/Xbox LIVE Rewards by performing any of these activities outlined in the chart below.

The maximum number of Microsoft Points a participant can earn during a twelve (12) month period is fifteen thousand (15,000) and any Microsoft Points awarded during the Program Period must be redeemed by June 30, 2012. Any Microsoft Points remaining in an Enrollee's Account after the expiration period described above will be forfeited without compensation.

For more details checkout the Xbox LIVE Rewards FAQ and the Xbox LIVE Rewards Terms And Conditions.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

iPhone Jailbreaking Pros And Cons

Breaking your iPhone free of the death grip that Apple has over the device might be all the rage these days but is it a good idea? Does it actually put users at a great risks as Apple suggests? Kaspersky Lab Director of Global Research and Analysis Costin Raiu offers his thoughts in this exclusive video Q&A with Threatpost Editor Ryan Naraine.

My thoughts:

Mr. Naraine has a few spot on observation but to me many of his thoughts miss the mark. For instance the exploit that uses a PDF flaw to remotely jailbreak your phone. In no way is this going to make your phone any less secure than it already is. Obviously the flaw is there, jailbreaking isn't opening that flaw any more than it already is. The iPhone and iOS operating system have already been shown to be very insecure jailbreaking doesn't really open any doors that aren't there!

The second point I disagree with is that jailbreakers are less likely to upgrade to a new version of iOS or apply patches. Sure they don't want to lose their jailbreak, however devs are always working to break the newest version of the OS and most geeks want the latest greatest. So I'd say jailbreakers are more likely to update than other users. They might not apply these updates immediately but lets face it how many of us actually do?

One area I can agree with Mr. Naraine on is that some of the third party apps might not be as secure as those in the Apple App Store. This isn't to say that all the apps in the App Store are secure or that those 'unapproved' third party apps are malicious. Just that users need to take extra caution and be careful when using them.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New 'Seftad' Ransomware Encrypts Drives Demands $100 For Fix

There are several new version of the GpCode ransomware running wild around the web these days however there is a new even nastier piece of code that researchers have discovered that is even more alarming. The new MBR-infecting ransomware known as Seftad overwrites the master boot record on infected machines telling victims that their hard drives have been encrypted and demands a payment of $100 to reverse the damage.

This malware which was first detected and analyzed by Kaspersky Lab malware analyst Denis Maslennikovas shows as Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Seftad.a and Trojan-Ransom.Boot.Seftad.a. This ransomware is downloaded by If Seftad.a was downloaded by and run, the victim’s PC is rebooted and the following message appears on the screen:

Entering an incorrect password three times will cause the PC to reboot a second time and display the same message again.

"If the victim browses the malware author’s website, he is asked to pay $100 using ‘Paysafecard’ or ‘Ukash’. If you are infected by this malware do not visit the website. Use the password ‘aaaaaaciip’ (without quotes) to restore the original MBR. If the password doesn’t work, you can cure your MBR with Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10," Maslennikov said.

This new approach at attacking the master boot record (MBR) is something new that we haven't seen from ransomware in the past. Several variants include the new GpCode utilizes actual encryption (GpCode is now using theAES 256 and RSA 1024 encryption algorithms) but doesn't attack the boot records. Since the MBR is the first section of a users hard drive to be loaded damaging the MBR can be extremely difficult to reverse.

As of now its unclear if a user can use their installation media and run the FIXMBR command or if running a repair install or other work arounds will work.

EU Accuses Google Of Search Results Tampering

European Union regulators have launched an launches antitrust probe into Google's handling and potential abuse of search rankings. At question is rather or not Google is using its dominant position in the online search market to stifle competition by deliberately lowering links to smaller rivals' sites in the companies own search results.

The European Commission announced today that it has decided to open an antitrust investigation into allegations that Google Inc. has abused a dominant position in online search, in violation of European Union rules (Article 102 TFEU). The opening of formal proceedings follows complaints by search service providers about unfavourable treatment of their services in Google's unpaid and sponsored search results coupled with an alleged preferential placement of Google's own services. This initiation of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has proof of any infringements. It only signifies that the Commission will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as a matter of priority.

Several competitors, one owned by Microsoft, say that links to their services appear too low on Google's general search results. They also claim that when Google offers similar services, such as online price comparison, it puts its own links higher on the sponsored search results, the ones companies have to pay for.

In addition, the Commission will look into whether Google prevented advertising partners from posting ads from Google's competitors on their sites and whether it was making it more difficult for customers to move data from their advertising campaigns to other ad platforms.

If Google is found guilty of tampering with results to unfavorably position the competition lower in its ranks the company could could potentially face billions in fines, as in the recent cases levied against Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp.

Google has responded to the allegations, "It may seem obvious, but people sometimes forget this—not every website can come out on top, or even appear on the first page of our results, so there will almost always be website owners who are unhappy about their rankings," wrote Google SVP Susan Wojcicki and VP Udi Manber on the company's European Public Policy Blog.

Related Articles:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Save Money This Holiday Season Do Not Buy Expensive HDMI Cables

It often amazes me that people spend hours and hours waiting in line during the holidays only to walk into their local retailers and plop down 100's of dollars on expensive cables when they don't need to.

Just this past weekend I watched in horror as a couple got duped into spending nearly a hundred dollars on a couple of HDMI cables for that nice new HDTV they bought. I'm certain they spent hours scouring the web and wait just for the holiday sales to get the best deal possible only to blow some of the money they just saved on cables that they could have gotten for a fraction of the cost.

Consumers need to educate themselves. For the most part the sales staff of electronics stores (BestBuy, Staples ect) are trained to push sales and push expensive cables as add-ons. And why not they offer more overhead for stores that sell them for $20 on up. But what those sales people won't tell you is that there is actually little to no difference between a $100 cable and a $5 cable.

HDMI uses a digital signal unlike an older analog signal it takes a lot of interference to actual degrade that signal. Meaning those expensive HDMI cables you see offered at your local retailer for $40 or more are not worth it as there is no digital signal difference between a cheap or expensive HDMI cable and the amount of shielding on even the most inexpensive cable is going to be more than sufficient.

I always feel bad when I see people walking out of BestBuy with a bag full of over prices cables. When I can I mention that they should check Fry's, which often has HDMI cables for under $10 or I tell them to check online sites such as or even Amazon and their AmazonBasics Cables.

People really should be proactive and educate no only themselves but their family and friends, and help them learn that its ok to save some money and use cheaper cables. You should never pay more than $10 for a standard six-foot HDMI cable. And despite what salesmen and manufacturers might tell you, there's no meaningful difference between the $10 cable and the $50 cable. Unless you see something obvious, such as dropouts or a flashing screen, the digital information transmitted by both cables is exactly the same--no cable can make the picture any better or any worse.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

iPad 2 Rumors Include FaceTime, USB And Jan 11th Release Date

The holiday season is here and many of the Android Tablets have landed so what better time for rumors about the iPad 2 to heat-up and spread across the Internet like wildfire.

The first, and most commonly re-posted rumors comes via DigiTimes which cites Chinese-language Economy Daily News who in tern cites "industry sources" that claim Apple will add five new features to the iPad 2: video phone (Face Time), better mobility, a standard USB port, new retina display technology and 3-axis gyroscopes.

The video-phone feature (probably Face Time) is expected to benefit Apple iPad's webcam suppliers, while iPad 2 may adopt smaller size panels featuring thinner glass. The USB feature will allow the device to be more connection friendly, while Apple's "Retina Display" technology will enhance image and color output performance. The 3-axis gyroscopes will enhance gaming, added the paper.

Most of these claims seem relatively in-line with what most industry insiders are expecting after all many of the features such as the USB port are items many users have been requesting since the release of the original iPad. As for the front facing camera and Face Time capabilities during the teardown of the original iPad, it was shown that there was a space for placement for a front-facing camera, so that is also a likely addition.

The last feature leaked is the 3-axis gyroscope. This is a feature currently used in the iPhone 4 and iPod touch and Apple has been pushing gaming on the iPad so it just seems a natural evolution. So again despite these being rumors this is a likely addition.

The next major rumor involves release date. is claiming that Apple might be gearing up for a January 11th release date for the iPad 2. Citing Three Guys and a Podcast the site claims that Apple has two special events planned for the first quarter of the new year.

First, and this should come as no surprise, Apple will reportedly hold a special even this coming January where the company will introduce the iPad 2. Apple, of course, first introduced the iPad last January and the scheduling is in line with Apple’s typical release/upgrade cycle.

It'll be interesting to see if that rumor holds true. Just this week Apple release iOS 4.2 and a number of new rumors claim that Apple is planning to release its next major mobile operating system update -- iOS 4.3 -- in December, with recurring app subscriptions. It would be a bit surprising to see another set of major announcements for the iPad coming that quickly, however I wouldn't put it against Apple.

Several other sites speculate that the iPad 2 could see an April 2011 release, possibly available in multiple sizes. (smaller iPads anyone?) Again this is all pretty much speculation so Apple fans will have to wait and see!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to Score Hot Gadgets for Cheap on Black Friday

The following is a guest post from Tarrah a blogger who helps write for, a website dedicated to helping people find the best deals online.

Each year, before the Black Friday kickoff to the holiday shopping season even rolls around, retailers and shoppers alike wait with baited breath to see what the hottest “must have” gadgets will be. Retailers hope for large profits on high dollar items while shoppers anticipate getting those high dollar items at rock bottom prices. Although there’s really no way of knowing what the biggest sellers of the season will be until the sales actually get under way, the current market is usually a very good indicator of what will be hot - or not.  For 2010, current market trends show that the most popular items this holiday season are likely to be Apple products, Sony’s new gaming console and the Amazon Kindle 3G eBook Reader.

  • Tablet PCs, like The Apple iPad look to be wildly popular among consumers this holiday season. The iPad has dominated the tablet PC sales so far, but will it hold of the other tablets this season?
  • Smartphones are another potentially hot item this season. Android phones such as the Droid and HTC Hero continue to take market share away from the iPhone, but at 50 Million sold, an “iPhone killer” has still yet to be seen.
  • Speaking of Apple, the new iPod touch is another item to watch for. It combines all the technology of a regular iPod with advanced features like a gaming center, video chat and video recording plus editing.
  • The Amazon Kindle 3G is an eBook reader that can hold over three thousand eBooks. Unlike previous Kindle models, the 3G offers free 3G web browsing, which can be accessed at any Wi-Fi location.
  • Sony's new gaming platform will be available just in time for Christmas. The PS3 Move combines the Nintendo Wii with Microsoft Kinect and includes a camera that records all your movements in 3D. The camera is integrated with a motion-sensitive controller so all the game moves can be re-enacted again and again.

Because of their popularity among shoppers, getting the best deal on these items means planning your shopping strategy ahead of time. Search as many “leaked” Black Friday sales ads as you can find. These ads will tell you which merchants will be offering these items so you’ll know where to go first, whether you do your Black Friday shopping online or in person. Remember to take advantage of any coupons or shipping offers to make great deal even better. If you find that a merchant has sold out of a particular item on your list before you get there, ask if they offer a rain checks. These will allow you to purchase the item at the advertised price long after the sale has ended. If you have no luck with rain checks, try searching for the item on eBay. Some eBay sellers will purchase popular items in bulk and sell them for slight profit. Even at the inflated reseller prices, you still have a chance of getting the item well below retail cost. You can also search your local classified ads for people selling these items. Some choose to do their reselling this way instead of auctioning the items so you may still be able to land a deal. If all else fails, you might have to wait until after Christmas to purchase that hot item on your list. Although this isn’t the ideal situation, if you combine sale prices with coupons and other promotions, you may still be able to get the item at very near the Black Friday sale price long after Black Friday has come and gone. >

Oh, and if standing in line at 4:00 am for low prices isn't your thing, then consider shopping on Cyber Monday.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Starbucks '12 Days of Sharing' Launches Dec 1st

Starbucks has announced this year's version of their 12 Days of Sharing program which is slated to being Dec 1st. The program provides exclusive text message offers each day from December 1 – December 12, 2010. The offers range from discounted mugs to deals on coffee or other in-store treats.

To sign up, send a text message containing the text, “12Days” to 29943. You should immediately receive a confirmation text from them stating, “Thanks for signing up to get 12 Days of Sharing Texts.”

Update: I'll post all the deals as they come in.
Starbucks Day 1: 5 cents from every beverage you buy goes to the Global Fund to
fight AIDS in Africa. At participating stores only, 12/1
Starbucks Day 2: Buy 1 lb Christmas Blend, get another free. Quantities limited,
participating stores only, 12/2
Starbucks Day 3: Buy a Starbucks VIA Ready Brew 12-pack, get one free 12/3
Starbucks Day 4: Coffee & Treats Gift Pack on sale $8.99 (reg. $12.95). Quantities
limited at participating stores, 12/4
Starbucks Day 5: Reusable tumbler on sale for $6.99 (reg. $10.95). Quantities
limited, participating stores only, 12/5
Starbucks Day 6: Get a free $5 Starbucks Card when you buy 1 lb Christmas Blend.
Quantities limited, participating stores only, 12/6
Starbucks Day 7: Free pack of Starbucks VIA flavored coffee when you buy a VIA
tumbler. Quantities limited at participating stores, 12/7
Starbucks Day 8: Reusable holiday tumbler just $6.99, holiday mug $3.99. Quantities
limited at participating stores, 12/8
Starbucks Day 9: Get a free $5 Starbucks Card when you buy any Starbucks VIA
12-pack. Quantities limited, participating stores only, 12/9
Starbucks Day 10: Cranberry Bliss Bar Gift Packs are half-priced! Quantities
limited, participating stores only, 12/10

According to the list of last year's “12 days of Wishing” posted over at FatWallet it looks like they'll be offering some pretty decent deals, and hey you'll be stopping in there anyways why not sign-up and see if they have anything you might want!

For those of you that are looking to get your holiday coffee fix on right now Starbucks is offering a Buy One, Get one FREE deal on some of their more popular holiday drinks from November 18 - 21, between 2 - 5 p.m. At participating locations only of course.

Included drinks are:
  • Caramel Brulée Latte
  • Peppermint Mocha
  • Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha
  • Peppermint Hot Chocolate
  • Gingerbread Latte
  • Eggnog Latte
  • Caramel Brulée Frappucino blended beverage
  • Peppermint Mocha Frappucino blended beverage

Found via Allen Stern at CenterNetworks: Starbucks Launches 12 Days of Sharing

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Get a 16 GB iPad For $399 at TJ Maxx or Marshalls

Select TJ Maxx and Marshalls stores are rumored to be carrying the 16 GB version of the WiFi-only Apple iPad for as low as $399 this holiday season.

In a response to a users Tweet @tjmaxx has confirmed the store will be carrying the WiFi-only Apple iPad for as low as $399 in select stores, with many holding them until Black Friday!

“The rumors are TRUE! Select (unadvertised) locations/limited quant,” TJ Maxx tweeted.

This is a solid deal, as the 16 GB version of the WiFi-only Apple iPad costs $499 at Apple stores and at most online retailers. TJ Maxx and Marshalls are running this is a 'doorbuster' deal and eating the costs of these discounts to get users in the store. That’s why these great deals aren’t in every store they are likely very targets in their approach and this will be a big YMMV as to which stores will carry them but this is a great deal for anyone that can get one!

Update: Just found the story posted via Engadget and they have confirmed some stores are selling now and some are waiting. So this is a very big YMMV!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Unofficial Version Of LimeWire Returns As 'LimeWire Pirate Edition'

Last month a court order injunction forced Lime Company, the parent company of the very popular P2P sharing application LimeWire, to shut down and halt any further development of the the LimeWire software. Not wanting to let the service slip quietly into the night "secret dev team" of programmers has resurrected the software and furthered it's development.

This "secret dev team" of unknown programmers has released a new version of the software to torrent websites. The software dubbed 'LimeWire Pirate Edition (LPE)' is based off the last LimeWire 5.6 beta and comes with all the features of LimeWire PRO unlocked.

According to a posting on their website the folks at LimeWire are not endorsing the new software, in fact they sound none to happy that it has been released.

We have very recently become aware of applications on the internet purporting to use the LimeWire name, such as the LimeWire Pirate Edition. We demand that all persons using the LimeWire software, name, or trademark in order to upload or download copyrighted works in any manner cease and desist from doing so. We further remind you that the unauthorized uploading and downloading of copyrighted works is illegal.

As we reported last month Lime Company had lost their years long battle against the RIAA and MPAA and had been forced under court-ordered injunction to disable the file-sharing and music-searching features of its P2P software. Years of costly battle had astronomical fines had finally taken its toll.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 Is Here!

NVIDIA has announced the new GeForce GTX 580 or what they are calling the "World's Fastest DX11 GPU". The GTX 580 runs at 772MHz, features 512 CUDA cores and packs 1.5GB of GDDR5 at 4008MHz, which is capable of delivering bandwidth of 192.4 GB/sec.

GeForce GTX 580 GPU Highlights:
  • 512 cores and 16 PolyMorph engines deliver massive tessellation and compute firepower for games
  • Hard launch with immediate availability at an estimated SEP of $499 USD.
  • Up to 35 percent improvement in performance/watt efficiency
  • New vapor chamber thermal solution results in the quietest GPU in its class
  • New level of geometric realism -- 2 billion triangles/second
  • Provides game developers total creative freedom to create cutting-edge DX11 games

GeForce GTX 580 Specifications:

  • 512 CUDA Cores
  • 772 MHz Graphics Clock
  • 1544 MHz Processor Clock
  • 49.4billion/sec Texture Fill Rate
  • 1536 MB GDDR5 Memory
  • 2004 MHz Memory Clock
  • 384-bit Memory Interface Width
  • 192.4GB/sec Memory Bandwidth
  • NVIDIA 3D Vision Ready, NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround Ready, NVIDIA PureVideo Technology HD, NVIDIA PhysX-ready, NVIDIA CUDA Technology
  • Microsoft DirectX 11 Support

The GeForce GTX 580 is available starting today from the world's leading add-in card partners, including ASL, ASUS, Colorful, ECS, EVGA, Gainward, Galaxy, Gigabyte, Innovision 3D, Jetway, Leadtek, MSI, Palit, Point of View, PNY, Sparkle, Zotac and others. The initial retail price is listed as $500 with several companies planning to add mail-in-rebate promotions soon.

GeForce GTX 580 Benchmarks and Reviews:

Related Reading:

Monday, November 08, 2010

Google Gives Holiday Travelers Free Wi-Fi

Google wants holiday travelers to be able to stay connected when in flight this year so the company has teamed up with AirTran, Delta and Virgin America to offer free Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi on every domestic flight from November 20, 2010 through January 2, 2011. The three airlines have outfitted their entire domestic fleet with in-flight Wi-Fi in order to offer the free Internet service to more than 700 planes and approximately 15 million expected passengers this holiday season.

Typically, GoGo charges anywhere from $5 to $13 for Internet access per flight, depending on the travelers flight length with additional monthly packages ranging from $30 to $40 for you frequent travelers.

This season marks the second straight year that Google has provided free Wi-Fi to travelers over the holiday season. Last year, Google worked with Virgin America as well as more than 50 airports to provide free Internet both on the ground and in the air. This year, the Chrome team is continuing that mission by joining with AirTran and Delta in addition to Virgin America, to concentrate on connecting travelers while they’re in the sky.

“We are constantly working to help provide a better web experience to users around the world,” said Sundar Pichai, Vice President of Product Management at Google. “Whether it be building a better browser with Chrome or bringing free Wi-Fi to air travelers this holiday season, we are constantly innovating to ensure users’ access to the web is fast, simple and seamless.”

You can find out more about this partnership at