Tuesday, May 31, 2011

HP Recalls More Than 160k Laptop Batteries

HP has issued a recall on as many as 162,000 laptop batteries from models sold as far back as 2007. The newly listed models included the HP Compaq 6520s and a battery in the HP Pavilion which were reportedly sold between July 2007 and July 2008.

This latest recall is a continuation of a previous recall which originally affected more than 200k batteries. The previous recall was announced back in May 2010 and affected more than 21 different HP/Compaq models.

HP customers affected by this program will be eligible to receive a replacement battery pack for each verified, recalled battery pack at no cost. Both the HP website and the USCPSC provided a complete list of all of the affected units. The USCPSC advised affected consumers to immediately remove the battery and contact HP. It also advised that consumers who were previously not included in previous recalls should check again.

For additional information, visit the HP Battery Replacement Program Web site at http://www.hp.com/support/BatteryReplacement or call (800) 889-2031 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. CT Monday through Friday.

Google Offers Being Launched In Portland, Oregon

Today, Google announced that the company will be launching a beta version of their Groupon competitor Google Offers in Portland, Ore. tomorrow.

At the D9 Conference in Palos Verdes, California, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Stephanie Tilenius, Google’s VP of commerce, demonstrated the company’s new product. The new service is very similar to that of, Bing deals, Groupon or LivingSocail in that it provides users a daily deal from what is said to be “thousands of merchant partners.” For their initial demonstration Google showed off a deal for $10 worth of Floyd’s coffee for $3.

The big selling point for Google Offers is that it integrates seamlessly with Google Wallet, the company’s NFC-based payment system. Instead of printing out a coupon or barcode, completed offers are saved to a user’s Google Wallet, where they are automatically saved and redeemable. Eventually they will be utilized automatically through NFC.

Google Offers will be available tomorrow in Portland and eventually roll out to New York, San Francisco and other cities during the summer. You can learn more about Google Offers and sign up at google.com/offers.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

7 Practical Gifts for College Grads

The following post comes courtesy of consumer Savings Expert, Andrea Woroch. Andrea has been featured as a media expert source on NBC's Today Show, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, ABC News NOW and many more. To view recent interviews or find more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com.

Sure, an all-expense-paid trip to Europe seems like the ultimate graduation gift. However, college students who face thousands of dollars in academic debt may need to jump on the job hunt sooner than expected. With new financial responsibilities looming, recent grads will appreciate whatever help they can get.

To help soften the real world blow, here are seven practical gifts job-seeking college graduates will appreciate.

Resume Service
The first thing employers see is an applicant's resume and cover letter. Unfortunately, the style of these documents has become more complex in recent years. Graduates won't get noticed using the old method of simply listing experience by date. Cover letters are now approaching works of art, mentioning much more than that applicant is interested in the job and is a good team player, trustworthy and a hard worker.
A resume service will create updated documents so subsequent resumes and cover letters live up to modern standards. Costs run roughly $100 to $200, depending on the services you desire. It's worth paying extra to have an expert explain the latest tricks and how graduates can alter these documents for each job. Sites like ResumeMyCareer can help you compile a professional and competitive resume at an affordable cost.

Home Furnishings
After living with cinder-block bookshelves and saggy mattresses for four years or, worse yet, being surrounded by their childhood furniture while living at home, graduates might appreciate an upgrade on everything from a couch to kitchen implements especially those moving into a new apartment to be closer to their new 9 to 5 job. You might also put together a basket of upscale bed and bath products so the grad can finally dump their dollar-store shampoo and soap.

Gift Cards
The 2011 crop of college graduates faces more debt than any other generation, so money is always a welcome gift especially to help them get through that first, unstable post-school year. Grads not comfortable with the idea of asking directly for money can create a gift card registry at CardAvenue.com to receive gift cards from hundreds of merchants in a variety of categories from apparel to food, gas and much more.

Job Interview Clothing
Suits can be overkill in some places, unless the graduate lives in a big city or is looking for a management position. Most employers will expect something a bit more casual these days. Men should have a dress shirt, pants and shoes with a matching tie and, perhaps, a sports coat. Women will need a demure outfit of skirt and blouse or dress with basic pumps. A coordinated jacket would nicely complete the outfit.

Foreign Language Lessons
College graduates face a tough job market and with high unemployment rates, that means more experienced competition. Given any opportunity to improve his or her skill set, grads can make themselves more marketable to potential employers depending on the position. Consider gifting Spanish lessons (Rosetta Stone) is an effective and affordable option) or perhaps a GMAT review course for help towards MBA school admissions.

Backpacks and messenger bags are great for toting books and water bottles, but grads will have a better chance of securing a job when they show up looking sophisticated. A soft-sided briefcase with room for a laptop, resume binder and lunch will give any job seeker a more professional appearance.

With instant email access & GPS navigation, a smartphone will keep recent grads connected with potential employers & recruiters so they never miss an interview opportunity or an offer. Not to mention, the various apps that offer banking on-the-go, cheap dinner recipes and location-based drink specials to help make their lives a little easier.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

PSN Users Get Your Free ID Theft Protection Now

Following the recent attacks on Sony's PlayStation Network and Qriocity Sony promised a years worth of free ID Theft protection to any users that believes they have been affected. Today the company is making good on that promise, they have arranged for eligible PlayStation Network and Qriocity account holders to receive a free twelve months of AllClear ID PLUS provided by Debix to those who choose to enroll.

How to get yours:
Sony has made this as easy as possible, and hopefully secure! Simple used this posted sign up form which asks for the email address associated with your PSN or Qriocity account click the "submit" button. Within 72 hrs of validation of the email address you submit, your personal activation code for AllClear ID PLUS will be sent via email.

Upon receipt of your AllClear ID PLUS activation code, you will have until June 28th, 2011 at 11:59:59 PM CST to redeem on the AllClear ID website.

AllClear ID PLUS is a service offered by Debix and not by Sony, so if you are interested in signing up for the service, please be certain to review all the information about the program on the AllClear ID website. The service is subject to the AllClear ID terms and conditions.

In order to be eligible, account holders must be residents of the United States with an active account as of April 20, 2011. This offer is likely a limited time offer for enrollment but the only date posted is June 28th for activation, just keep that in mind. If you want it I'd say get it now!

The details of the program include, but are not limited to:

  • Cyber monitoring and surveillance of the Internet to detect exposure of an AllClear ID Plus customer’s personal information, including monitoring of criminal web sites and data recovered by law enforcement. If his/her personal information is found, the customer will be alerted by phone and/or email and will be provided advice and support regarding protective steps to take. The customer will also receive monthly identity status reports. Debix works with an alliance of cyber-crime experts from the government, academia and industry to provide these services.
  • Priority access to licensed private investigators and identity restoration specialists. If an AllClear ID Plus customer receives an alert, or otherwise suspects that he/she may be the victim of identity theft, the customer can speak directly, on a priority basis, with an on-staff licensed private investigator, who will conduct a comprehensive inquiry. In the case of an identity theft, the customer can work with an identity restoration specialist to contact creditors and others, and take necessary steps to restore the customer’s identity.
  • A $1 million identity theft insurance policy per user to provide additional protection in the event that an AllClear ID Plus customer becomes a victim of identity theft. This insurance would provide financial relief of up to $1 million for covered identity restoration costs, legal defense expenses, and lost wages that occur within 12 months after the stolen identity event.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Newer Nastier Version Of MacDefender Malware Found

Just days after Apple posted a fix for the recently discovered MacDefender malware a new even nastier version new version called MacGuard has reared its ugly head!

Intego has issued a new warning for Mac users that a new variant of the Mac Defender malware has been found. Much like the old version it uses an infected site to act like scareware. Users see a prompt that tells them their system is infected and they need to download the "security tools" to remove the infections.

The so called fake tools come in several variants: MacDefender, MacProtector, MacSecurity and now MacGuard, all of which are the same application using different names. The goal of this fake antivirus software is to trick users into providing their credit card numbers to supposedly clean out infected files on their Macs.

The difference with this new variant is that unlike previous versions it doesn’t require that you provide an administrator password during the installation process.

The new malware comes in two parts. The first part is a downloader, called avSetup.pkg. Should you happen upon one of the afflicted sites this package may be downloaded automatically. If Safari’s “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading” option is checked, the package will open Apple’s Installer, and the user will see a standard installation screen. If not, users may see the downloaded ZIP archive and double-click it out of curiosity, not remembering what they downloaded, then double-click the installation package. In either case, the Mac OS X Installer will launch.

This package installs a secondary downloader application named avRunner, which then launches automatically. At the same time, the installation package deletes itself from the user’s Mac, so no traces of the original installer are left behind.

The second part of the malware is the new fake anti-virus software MacGuard. This is downloaded by the avRunner application from an unknown IP address that is hidden within an image file in the avRunner application’s resources folder.

Precautions from Apple and Intego, as well as general Mac-using common-sense precautions, include disabling Safari’s “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading” option (under Safari -> Preferences -> General), and immediately quitting (or force-quitting) your browser if you see a Web page that attempts to disguise itself as an OS X window.

Apple provides detailed instructions on removing the older variants from your system. The company also promises a software update that will remove the infection. At this time its unclear if the update will address this new variant or not or if there are any nastier variants out there. So Mac users should use caution and common sense when they see anything suspicious.

HTC Re-evaluating Their Locked Bootloader Policy

Customers have complained and apparently HTC is listening, or so it seems. Tuesday the company posted an update via Facebook concerning the input of Android users that have voiced their opinion about the company's locked bootloader policy. The Android community wants openness and wants HTC to make some changes.

Update on Bootloaders

Thanks so much for providing feedback, we hear your concerns. Your satisfaction is a top priority for us and we’re working hard to ensure you have great experiences with our phones. We’re reviewing the issue and our policy around bootloaders and will provide more information soon. Thank you for your interest, support and willingness to share your feedback.

Several companies have taken to locking their bootloaders which effectively prevents users from using custom UIs and personally updating their software to newer version. This wouldn't be such a bad thing if the companies were pushing out incremental updates as new versions of Android were coming out. However HTC hasn't nor has the company supported some of its older devices.

Since posting the update yesterday HTC's Facebook page has been inundated with hundreds of thousands of customer complaints and requests to change their policy. Customers have even gone as far as creating a petition, which currently stands at 5800+ signatures. I've also noticed several Android community sites as well as HTC forums where as members were calling for HTC to do more than just review the policy but actually act on it.

Will they, I can honestly say I don't know that they will. HTC's, and well any other company's for that matter, big marketing point and biggest selling point is their UI. For them to open their phones to custom UI's would mean loosing that as a point of sales. Now on the flip side many users out there love HTC Sense so it might not be that big an issue and the openness might actually grab the attention of more users looking for that open alternative.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see!

Apple Finally Admits To Mac Malware, Plans A Fix Via OSX Update

Apple has been reluctant to admit the existence of a new piece of malware that is targeting Mac users. So much so that Apple had reportedly been informing tech support representatives not to help Mac users who had been duped into downloading and installing the malicious MacDefender application. (also known as MacProtector and MacSecurity)

With the release of a new support document that offers support on how to avoid or remove Mac Defender malware Apple has finally publicly admitted there was an issue. In the coming days, Apple will deliver a Mac OS X software update that will automatically find and remove Mac Defender malware and its known variants. The update will also help protect users by providing an explicit warning if they download this malware.

In the meantime, the Resolution section of the support document provides step-by-step instructions on how to avoid or manually remove the malware.

The MacDefender malware was originally discovered by Security firm Intego and originally reported on earlier this month. The professional-looking download tricks users into downloading a malicious file that then installs an applications that looks and acts like a real piece of ant-virus software.

"When a user clicks on a link after performing a search on a search engine such as Google, this takes them to a Web site whose page contains JavaScript that automatically downloads a file. In this case, the file downloaded is a compressed ZIP archive, which, if a specific option in a Web browser is checked ("open safe files" after downloading in Safari, for example), will open," the Intego blog stated.

The application will then begin popping up notifications telling users that they have been infected with a virus and in order to clean the infection they first have to register their copy of MAC Defender. Once the user clicks the link you will be sent off to an unsecure Website that offers a 1-year, 2-year, or lifetime license to the program for $60, $70, or $80 respectively. Registering halts the virus warnings, thus "confirming" that the program is working. When in all reality, outside the malware there was never an infection to begin with.

TweetDeck Officially Bought By Twitter For A Cool $40 million

In two separate announcements Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and TweetDeck Founder and CEO, Iain Dodsworth, officially put an end to the rumors and speculation that Twitter would be buying TweetDeck. The terms of the deal weren't disclosed however CNN.com reported Tuesday that Twitter was buying the maker of the very popular TweetDeck applications for $40 million in cash and stock.

"This acquisition is an important step forward for us," wrote Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in a blog post on the official Twitter blog. "TweetDeck provides brands, publishers, marketers and others with a powerful platform to track all the real-time conversations they care about. In order to support this important constituency, we will continue to invest in the TweetDeck that users know and love."

Dodsworth also confirmed the announcement in his own TweetDeck blog post.

There is no word whether or not Twitter will keep moving forward with development of TweetDeck, something that concerns many of the applications users. Dodsworth would only confirm that his team would remain intact for now. Stating, "Change may well be inevitable, but we remain the same team, staying in London, with the same focus and products, and now with the support and resources to allow us to grow and take on even bigger challenges."

Hopefully Twitter won't strip down the application or the team and the company will allow them to continue to work on bettering an already great piece of software!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Amazon Now Offering $164 Ad Supported Kindle 3G

Just over a month ago Amazon treated customers to the new Kindle with Special Offers program which featured an ad supported Amazon Kindle for the low price of only $114. Today the company has extended that offer to include a new Kindle 3G with Special Offers.

Starting today customers can purchase the Kindle 3G with Special Offers for only $164. Amazon claims at just $164, Kindle 3G with Special Offers is the lowest price of any 3G e-reader. You can learn more about the entire Kindle family, including the $114 Kindle with Special Offers and the new $164 Kindle 3G with Special Offers, at www.amazon.com/kindle3G.

Special offers that will be available in the coming weeks include:
  • $10 for a $20 Amazon.com Gift Card - customers loved this offer, so we're making it available again in time for Father's Day
  • Save up to $500 off Amazon's already low prices on HDTVs with a unique 20% discount on 200 HDTVs from brands including Sony, Panasonic, LG, and VIZIO
  • $1 for a Kindle book, choose from thousands of books including Water for Elephants and the Hunger Games trilogy
  • Spend $10 on Kindle books and get a free $10 Amazon.com Gift Card

Kindle 3G with Special Offers includes all the same features that helped make the third-generation Kindle the #1 bestselling product in the history of Amazon.com:

  • Free 3G wireless , no annual contracts, no monthly fees
  • Global 3G coverage means books in under 60 seconds in over 100 countries and territories
  • Paper-like Pearl electronic ink display, no glare even in bright sunlight
  • Lightweight 8.7 ounce body for hours of comfortable reading with one hand
  • Up to two months of battery life with wireless off eliminates battery anxiety
  • Kindle Store with over 950,000 books - largest selection of the most popular books
  • Seamless integration with free "Buy Once, Read Everywhere" Kindle apps for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry and Windows Phone

Win A Chance To Review A New Unreleased Sony Ericsson Phone

Sony Ericsson recently announced a new competition that will give twelve fans the exclusive opportunity to review one of the company's two newest smartphones (or other device) before their official launches.

Sony Ericsson is reaching out to their Facebook fanbase of over 4.5 million to enter for a chance to be the "best reviewer of one of its two new feature phones." Entrants will be asked to first answer a simple question then explain why they should get the chance to be the first to review one of them. 12 lucky fans will then receive a phone and be asked to design an entertaining 45 second video review. 4 of the best video reviews will then be featured on Facebook where other fans will vote for their favourite. The review that receives the most ‘likes’ will then receive the grand prize – a set of 10 more for their family and friends.

How to enter:
  • Visit the Facebook page to guess the names of the phones and explain why you would make a great reviewer in 50 words or less.
  • Return to the competition page on the 31st May to find out whether you are one of the lucky 12 to receive a handset.
  • The 12 finalists will then create and submit a 45 second video review before 6th June.
  • On 7th June see if your review is on the site for fans to ‘like’.
  • Follow the competition to see which are the most liked reviews until the final winner is announced on the 13th June.

Warning Phishing Scam Targets Apple AppStore Users

Security firm F-Secure is warning Apple AppStore customers about a new new phishing scam that has some rather uncanny timing.

The scam email, which oddly enough was sent to a person who recently made a purchase from the AppStore on his iPad, appears to be from the "Apple AppStore," with a message informing the recipient that their app order "has been successfully cancelled." Users are directed to click on a link titled "order information," to get to the bottom of the problem.

Currently the link sends you off to a fake pharmaceutical site. Typically in these scams you'd be sent to a traditional phishing site that looks more like an official Apple page. So its really uncertain as to the goal behind the attack but F-Secure is more worried about the fact that the phony Apple AppStore message appears in email inboxes immediately after you purchase an app from Apple's legitimate App Store. At this time it is still unclear how the scammers know you just bought something from the App Store.

Microsoft Shows Off Windows Phone 7.1 "Mango"

Microsoft today provided the first official look at the next release of Windows Phone, code named “Mango.” The new release includes as many as 500 new features set to boost the phones performance and deliver smarter and easier communications, apps and Internet experiences. Microsoft also confirmed a partnership with three new hardware partners; with Acer, Fujitsu Limited and ZTE Corp.

Some of the new or upgraded features we can expect to see:

  • Threads. Switch between text, Facebook chat and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation.
  • Groups. Group contacts into personalized Live Tiles to see the latest status updates right from the Start Screen and quickly send a text, email or IM to the whole group.
  • Deeper social network integration. Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are now integrated into contact cards, and “Mango” includes built-in Facebook check-ins and new face detection software that makes it easier to quickly tag photos and post to the Web.
  • Linked inbox. See multiple email accounts in one linked inbox. Conversations are organized to make it easy to stay on top of the latest mail.
  • Hands-free messaging. Built-in voice-to-text and text-to-voice support enables hands-free texting or chatting.

  • App Connect. By connecting apps to search results and deepening their integration with Windows Phone Hubs, including Music and Video and Pictures, “Mango” allows apps to be surfaced when and where they make sense.
  • Improved Live Tiles. Get real-time information from apps without having to open them. Live Tiles can be more dynamic and hold more information.
  • Multitasking. Quickly switch between apps in use and allow apps to run in the background, helping to preserve battery life and performance.

  • Internet Explorer 9. A browser based on the powerful Internet Explorer 9 and including support for HTML5 and full hardware acceleration.
  • Local Scout. Provides hyperlocal search results and recommends nearby restaurants, shopping and activities in an easy-to-use guide.
  • Bing on Windows Phone. More ways to search the Web, including Bing Vision, Music Search and Voice so it’s easy to discover and decide.
  • Quick Cards. When searching for a product, movie, event or place, see a quick summary of relevant information, including related apps.
  • Visual search enables users to initiate a Bing search by photographing barcodes, QR codes and Microsoft Tags (without using a third-party app).
  • Music search allows users to search Bing and get detailed information about music (like song title, artist and album title) by simply holding the phone up to a speaker.

Windows Phone will also add support for additional languages, expand access to apps by launching Windows Phone Marketplace in new countries, and partner with new OEMs to enable expansion to new markets.

Mango will be available for free to all eligible Windows Phone customers when it’s available in the fall. More details on device update timing will be provided closer to availability.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Apple Claims 'App Store' Is Not a Store for Applications

Apple has been fierce at defending their "app store" and "appstore" trademarks this latest position however has me scratching my head. According to Apple the term "app store" does not mean a store for applications. HUH?

According to legal documents filed with a California district court "Apple denies that, based on their common meaning, the words 'app store' together denote a store for apps."

"Apple denies that the words 'app store' are commonly used among many businesses to describe mobile software download services and further denies that the term 'app store market' is used to describe the market for mobile software download services," Amazon and Apple do not operate an "app store," Apple argues.

Now I think I've heard it all. An application store is not a place to buy and download applications? If its not then what is it?

Several States Looking At Legalizing Online Gambling

The following is an article submitted by Rachel from http://www.onlineslots.com/ an online gambling portal.

Despite the continued fight at the federal level several states including Colorado and Nevada have proposed the legalization of online gambling.

The Denver Post recently reported that the Colorado Gaming Association had requested a study be conducted toward the decision to implement the online activity. In the mean time Nevada's state Assembly has passed a stripped-down Internet gambling bill calling for the state to develop a licensing process for online poker businesses.

For many, this is a major step forward in the fight to the legalization of online gambling. Colorado and Nevada could become industry trail blazers along with Washington, D.C., who recently authorized Internet gambling within its borders, and states such as Hawaii and New Jersey who have also considered doing the same this year.

The recent crackdown of three online gambling websites has proven that it is not affecting the demand or necessity of implementing the activity.

Founders of Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker were among 11 people charged by the U.S. on April 15 with offenses including bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling. While all three sites have taken a hit sites outside the US have shown continued growth.

Clearly the states want in on the billions of dollars of annual revenue. Global online gambling consists of approximately 17 percent Americans and the total revenue generated from online gambling by residents of the United States equates to $6 billion per year including, online casinos, online sports betting and online poker rooms.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Students Get A Free 4GB Xbox 360 With Windows 7 PC Purchase

Microsoft has had a long standing as a supporter of students. Be it through great discounts on software, hardware or offering up other discounts they always seem to have you covered. This year they have announced a new program that will send you off to college or high school with a new Xbox.

Starting May 22 students with a qualifying .edu email address and/or student ID, who purchase a new Windows 7-based PC priced at $699 or above will also get a free Xbox 360 4GB console, no cost and no strings attached. The offer is for high-school and college students who can prove student status. You will need to check with individual retailers on May 22 for requirements. Microsoft has not listed any other info.

Dell's eligibility page is now up confirming that both students enrolled in high school and college are eligible for this offer.

If you have a .edu email address you can purchase your new PC through one of the participating retailers including Dell.com, HP.com or directly from MS through the Microsoft Store. If you don't have a .edu address or prefer to walk into a store, touch the PCs and test their features, bring your Student ID into Best Buy or any Microsoft Store retail location.

To take advantage of this offer, students or parents must provide valid student identification as defined by the participating retailer. More information about this offer can be found at http://www.windows.com/freexbox.

Amazon Launches New Electronics Trade-In Program

It would seem that everyone has a trade-in or buy-back program these days and while Amazon has always been a great place to paw off your used textbooks, video games and movies they've never before offered to buy your electronics goods. Not until now that is. The company recently announced the Electronics Trade-In Store, offering customers a new way to conveniently trade in used electronics for Amazon.com Gift Cards.

Starting this week, Amazon customers can trade in electronics, including tablets, cell phones, MP3 players, cameras, GPS devices and more. With Amazon Trade-In, only one box is needed to ship multiple items and shipping is free. Simply visit http://www.amazon.com/tradein and start searching for items to trade in.

Much like most of the electronic trade-in programs we've mentioned in the past, Amazon offers pennies on the dollar for what an enterprising eBay or Craigslister could get. It does however offer a ton of convenience as its really just as easy as ship it and forget it. No dead beat buyers, meeting in person or hidden fees.

How it works:

To start you search the trade-in site, find the item you want and navigate to the product page. So say you want to trade-in your Apple iPhone 3GS 16GB. Amazon is currently offering up to a $235.00 Amazon.com Gift Card if the item is in top notch condition. They are selling for $479, but hey Amazon has to make some money! The trade-in items you selected must exactly match the item displayed on the page. If it doesn't your trade will not be accepted. So make sure you have the iPhone 3GS and not the iPhone 3G.

From there selection the value you want according to the condition of your phone/device.If you aren't sure of the condition of your phone or what they are calling "like new, acceptable or good" you can check each box and a drop down with a description will pop up. Once you are happy with the item you are trading in you can add more items (other electronics or used textbooks, video games and movies) or click continue. You'll be promoted to verify your address. Once that is done you can either print a free pre-paid UPS shipping label or select another carrier that you'll need to pay.

Please note: There are limits on how much you can trade in. Each individual trade-in shipment is limited to a total value of up to $750. If your total trade-in shipment is greater than $750, you will need to make multiple trade-in shipments.

You will receive payment for items that meet or exceed the product eligibility criteria. If your items are considered to be in a better trade-in eligible condition than what you selected, you will receive the corresponding higher amount. (See an example). Exactly what better condition is isn't given but I'm assuming if you have a premium item like an iPad and its flawless they might give you more than one was in "decent condition".

Your Amazon.com Gift Card account will automatically be credited for accepted items. Learn more about Trade-In.

Tablet Gaming Android Vs iOS What Is Your Best Bet?

The following is an article submitted by Rachel from www.casino.org an online gambling portal.

Tablets may not yet have capabilities of gaming computers or dedicated platforms like the Sony PSP or Nintendo DS, they nonetheless offer impressive gaming potential and are quickly carving out there nook in the gaming arena. Currently the two platforms making the biggest splash (in terms of numbers) are Google's Android and Apple's iOS, with a few competitors like the new BlackBerry Tablet OS, Palm webOS and a handful of Windows based systems. We wanted to narrow the field a bit and compare just the two main competitors so today we are just going to highlight Google's Android and Apple's iOS

Our goal was to answer one simple question: which tablet operating system is better for mobile gaming? For each system, we looked at two types of games – dedicated and online. Dedicated games are anything written specifically for that platform; these usually need to be purchased, downloaded and installed in order to be enjoyed. Online games are just that – they're out there on the internet, and users just have to point their phone's web browser at them in order to play. These web games use either flash or java technology, and can range from simple Tetris clones to real-money casino games like slots, poker, or blackjack.


Released in October of 2008, Google's Android mobile operating system is based on a Linux kernel. As of early 2011 it had claimed the rank of the most popular smartphone platform, at least in the US. In the tablet arena however it was still seated well behind Apple as the second major player in the market. For the most part the current tablets running the Android OS are running a none tablet specific version or a scaled up version of the smartphone OS. Android 3.0 Honeycomb is the most current release which is more tablet centric providing greater support for both accelerometer and multi-touch interaction.

The Android platform and the tablets that utilize it offer a great gaming experience with excellent graphics capabilities, especially when it comes to there 3D rendering potential. Hardware in these tablets seem to be consistently high quality, with several options, screen sizes and a multitude of companies producing them. This give Android an much wider option base and allows for greater customization.

Visually, Android games can rival those of any tablet or handheld device like the Nintendo DS, Sony PSP and other dedicating gaming devices that offer a touch-screen interface. The one area that has notable been lacking is a great online gaming experience where the Android can often suffer. Java support is mediocre at best, and while it does support flash it can often be buggy and plagued with problems. (when hasn't it though) Where this may seem like a drawback flash support is often the biggest selling point especially for looking for a full web and gaming experience.

  • Excellent graphics capabilities
  • Multi-touch and accelerometer support
  • Most devices support user upgrades like additional memory via SD cards
  • Wide range of devices and sizes

  • Very poor web game support
  • Very fragmented OS
  • Wildly inconsistent experiences
  • Typically cost more

Apple iOS

Apple has been at the top of the tablet market for years now. They made a major splash with the introduction of the iPhone and iPods and built around them with the iPad. Its a solid device that is easy to use, offers great battery life and superb graphics. Right now it simply is the benchmark that other companies are compared to and are striving to reach.

Much like Android based tablets when Apple first released the iOS operating system found on the iPad it was the same OS they used on the iPhone and iPod. It is just a scaled version of the operating system and originally most of the games were to. Since then they've spent a bit of time doing select in house R&D working and refining their platform and developers have had a chance to tweak there games to provide a much better experience.

Despite that fact, for gamers however, not much is new. The latest iOS release brought us Apple's Game Center which has now been out for several months. Even with the fact that iPad, iPhone and iPod users love their games there seems to be little excitement.

Beyond the new Game Center, iOS via the Apple App Store supports an enormous variety of downloadable games. They currently lay claim to, one of if not, the largest selection of games of any market place. Many of these being free options. The variety is outstanding, and the quality of the games available is often much better than those in the Android Market.

As for online gaming, iOS tends to fare quite well. Despite its lack of flash support and due to its high market share, developers have made sure there are many dedicated iPhone games that can be played instantly online. There are some exceptions namely in the gambling and casino arena and some of your other highly flash based genres. This by no means that iOS is any worse for the wear.

  • Large developer arena
  • Tons of App Store games
  • Multi-touch and accelerometer support

  • No flash support a major downside for many gamers
  • Less free options
  • Some games can be more expensive
  • Fewer hardware options
  • Apple controlled App Store

With this break down it would seem that Apple and iOS would be a clear winner. And in most cases I'd have to say Apple would beat out Android. But it wouldn't be that cut and dry. Apple offers a much more consistent user experience, you can pick up the device and pretty much know what you are getting. But being that they are just Apple they offer far less options. For many users the control Apple exhibits over their devices and their App Store seems to be a turn off. As does the total lack of flash support, even if it is buggy.

Android has come along way and has made a lot of strides. There are a lot of options currently on the market today with a lot more coming down the road. I won't say they have caught Apple yet but I will say we shouldn't count them out.

So for my conclusion I'll have to say go with Apple for a better more consistent gaming experience. They offer a great deal for your money and you can't go wrong. Go with Android if you want more options, flash support and a bit more openness.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sony Pulls Plug On The PlayStation Network Yet Again

Sony has pulled the plug on the PlayStation Network yet again, this time due to an exploit that allows hackers to re-set the passwords of anyone using only a PSN account email and date of birth.


Sony's Senior Director of Corporate Communications & Social Media, Patrick Seybold, told 1UP that it did indeed take down the PSN and Qriocity password reset page as a result of the issue. However, there was no hack involved; this was a matter of a URL exploit that Sony says it has since fixed. Sony is still encouraging users to reset their PSN passwords on their PS3 or through the website once it's returned.

The problem was first reported by games news site Nylevia.com.

"While we will not reveal specific details regarding how the exploit is performed for obvious reasons, we can say that the exploit involves a vulnerability in the password reset form currently implemented, not properly verifying tokens," the site reported.

From the evidence I've seen, and I might not have the full picture, there is no actual "hacking" going on here. Sony simply dropped the ball on user verification. Instead of making use of a stronger system they implemented a week verification system that only uses a users email address and date of birth. Users requesting to change their passwords are then sent out an email that should contain a confirmation link. Apparently, this "exploit" works to get around those emails.

For now Sony has taken down the Web based PSN login/password recovery page as well as PSN sign-in for a number of its websites, including PlayStation.com the PlayStation forums, PlayStation Blog and Qriocity.com. All PlayStation game titles are also unavailable.

"Unfortunately this also means that those who are still trying to change their password via Playstation.com or Qriocity.com will be unable to do so for the time being," Sony said. "This is due to essential maintenance and at present it is unclear how long this will take.

"In the meantime you will still be able to sign into PSN via your PlayStation 3 and PSP devices to connect to game services and view Trophy/Friends information."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

4th Amendment Protections Be Damned Supreme Court Oks Warrantless Searches

In was seems to be nothing more than the stripping of basic constitutional rights the Supreme Court reached an 8-1 decision in a case involving a defendants 4th Amendment right, against unreasonable searches and seizures. The ruling essentially removes the requirement for police officers to obtain a warrant supported by probable cause before they knock down the door to your home and enter if they hear noises that lead them to believe that evidence is being destroyed.

The case in question involved Kentucky police officers and a defendant that was charged from the resulting intrusion into a home based on the fact that the police officers smelt marijuana in the hallway of an apartment building. The police had not been investigating those charge they were instead chasing a suspect they believed was engaged in selling crack cocaine.

According to the reports:

Police in Lexington, Kentucky set up a “controlled buy” of cocaine. After the deal went down, the undercover officer (“Gibson”) who had watched from afar radioed uniformed police to apprehend the subject. However, because they had left their vehicles before following the suspect into an apartment complex, they never heard Gibson state over the radio that of the two apartments the police were considering, the suspect had in fact entered the apartment to the right. In the meantime, the police smelled marijuana coming from the apartment on the left. They had no idea that the suspected drug dealer, whom they subsequently caught as well, was in the other apartment.

The police announced themselves loudly and in no uncertain terms to the apartment on the left. As a result, they heard noise inside the apartment that sounded as though things were being moved inside the apartment. Suspecting that evidence was being destroyed, three officers entered the apartment without a warrant and found a variety of drugs and paraphenalia.

Prior to this ruling police officers had to have some form of reasonable cause and a search warrant before breaking into a home unless they believed there was an emergency or life or death situation occurring inside. Basically the cops couldn't enter your home on a whim. If the police heard someone screaming, they were free to break down a door and enter a home without a warrant. However, hearing a flushing toilet, and suspecting that illegal drugs were being destroyed, was not enough to allow them to enter without a court issued warant.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only dissenting vote, expressed concern that allowing this type of police behavior would undermine the 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Ginsburg writes in her minority opinion –
The court today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases. In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant.

How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and …forcibly enter?”

These seems like a very poorly thought out ruling to me. It may sound a bit alarmist but what the Supreme Court did today was essentially entirely strip you from your 4th Amendment Protections. The ruling basically says its ok to go door to door knock and force entry if they hear something they deem suspicious.

NVIDIA Introduces New GeForce GTX 560 GPU

NVIDIA today introduced the new mainstream GeForce GTX 560 GPU, yes that is 560 and not the GeForce GTX 560 Ti which was released earlier this year. The new lower priced GTX 560 is the latest addition to the company's Fermi architecture-based product family and comes in priced at about $199 or $50 less than the GTX 560 Ti. Meaning the card is situated between the GeForce GTX 460 and GeForce GTX 560 Ti in terms of price and performance.

GeForce GTX 560 Specifications
  • 1024MB GDDR5 Memory
  • 810-950 MHz Graphics Clock
  • 1620-1900 MHz Processors Clock
  • 4008 MHz Memory Data Rate
  • 56 Texture Units
  • 336 Cuda Cores
  • 256-bit wide memory interface
  • 150w TDP
  • Support for Direct X 11, Open GL 4.1, 3D Vision, Cuda PhysX and 2 way SLI

GeForce GTX 560 Benchmarks and Reviews

For an in-depth look at the GTX 560, and to view a special video with footage from this summer's hottest PC games of the year, please visit: http://www.geforce.com/#/News/articles/560-game-previews/.

Related Articles

Dell Teasing New Ultra Thin Sandy Bridge Laptop

Thin is in, at least Dell hopes so. The company has been teasing a new ultra-thin laptop to replace the failed Adamo line which was dumped earlier this year.

Details are pretty scares with Dell only giving us a product name, Dell XPS 15z, and that they will be built around the the latest Intel "Sandy Bridge" Core i5 and Core i7 processors.

The video shows off a front facing camera, two USB 3.0 ports, as well as what looks like a slot-load optical drive. Reports indicate the laptop will feature a 15.6-inch screen size yet there is no word on which gpu we can expect to see powering the graphics. Pricing is reported to be in the $1000 neighborhood.

More photos have been posted on Dell's global Facebook page and CEO Micheal Dell has been tweeting details here and there.

It will be interesting to see how well Dell does with this new "thin" line. The Adamo line garnered a ton of  attention as a contender against the MacBook Air but interest quickly dissipated.

Mozilla Wants To Force Out Firefox 3.5

Firefox 4 has been out for sometime now and Mozilla wants users of their older browsers to migrate to the newest versions of the application. So much so that they have created plans to aggressively push the update out to Pre-Firefox 4 users.

We need a plan to obsolete Firefox 3.5 as we can't support it into perpetuity. We have been frustrated with our efforts to move users off of old releases and are worried too many people do not upgrade and are on vulnerable and unsupported versions of Firefox.

Mozilla believes there are currently more than 12 million people still running an outdated version of Firefox 3.5 which they are planning to end support for. Mozilla is now shifting to an 18-week release cycle, which means we'll see several updated versions of Firefox this year and they hope to get users updated as quickly as possible to their developers can concentrate on the newer releases.

So Mozilla is hoping through a continual nagging of messages at the bottom of the customized Google start/home page, continual messages from the automatic update channel and posts like this users will opt-in to the update. If not they have said they may "make the decision for users by automatically upgrading them versus leaving them vulnerable and unsupported."

According to the plans Mozilla would like to achieve 100% adoption of Firefox 4 and eventually Firefox 5 and beyond. However they would currently settle for anything above Firefox 3.6.x.

Mozilla believes pushing users to update from 3.5 to 3.6.x is ideal as there aren't any major variations between the two versions. Users will see little in UI changes and they note that more than 95 per cent of add-ons are compatible. Once users are updated to 3.6.x they can expect to be prompted to update to Firefox 4 and eventually to Firefox 5.

Firefox 5 is currently in Mozilla's Aurora channel, but is expected to move to beta soon. Aurora is a recently created channel that now comes between nightly builds and beta in order to "deliver features to users at various levels of quality and polish," Mozilla said last month. Firefox 5 is scheduled for a final release on June 21. Firefox 6 is currently in the nightly channel and is scheduled to move to Aurora on May 24.

My opinion

I understand Mozilla wanting to keep users updated and I totally understand the pains involved in supporting older versions. For me I just don't like the idea of being pushed to upgrade. I didn't care for the UI changes made in Firefox 4 and have yet to see Firefox 5. I have upgrade but only because I change my UI back to something that more resembles Firefox 3. Going from 3.5-3.6 really isn't that big a leap so users shouldn't have any regrets making the change but its still the 'forced change' I'm not big on.

I mean are we really going to see companies forcing us to change to new software every 1-2 years? I mean if it was several years off and if they gave me a UI I liked that would be one thing. I just can't think of any company that ends support that quickly?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sony PlayStation Network 'Welcome Back' Details Listed

Earlier today we reported that Sony has reestablished a limited set of services for most of the company's PlayStation Network and Qriocity customers. Now we have the details of the "welcome back" or customer appreciation program that will be available to all North American based registered PSN owners.

Once Sony has flipped the switch back on for the in-game store, all registered PSN users will have up to 30 days to download two games from the following five PS3 titles:
  • Dead Nation
  • inFAMOUS
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Super Stardust HD
For PSP owners, you will be eligible to download two PSP games from the following list. The games will be available for 30 days shortly after PlayStation Store is restored and can be kept forever.
  • LittleBigPlanet (PSP)
  • ModNation Racers
  • Pursuit Force
  • Killzone Liberation

In addition to the free games users will be given a few add-ons
  • A selection of “On Us” rental movie titles will be available to PlayStation Network customers over one weekend, where Video Service is available. Those titles will be announced soon.
  • 30 days free PlayStation Plus membership for non PlayStation Plus subscribers.
  • Existing PlayStation Plus subscribers will receive an additional 60 days of free subscription.
  • Existing Music Unlimited Premium Trial subscription members will receive an additional 30 days of free premium subscription.
  • Additional 30 days + time lost for existing members of Music Unlimited Premium/Basic subscription free of charge for existing Premium/Basic members.
  • To welcome users Home, PlayStation Home will be offering 100 free virtual items. Additional free content will be released soon, including the next addition to the Home Mansion personal space, and Ooblag’s Alien Casino, an exclusive game.

For full details checkout - "Details for PlayStation Network and Qriocity Customer Appreciation Program in North America"

Sony PlayStation Network Services Finally Being Restored

Over the weekend Sony started rolling out a phased restoration of limited PlayStation Network services which included a firmware update (v3.61) that forces users to change their PSN passwords. As of today partial services have be restored to North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East. Missing from the list is Japan which according to a report by Nikkei, are blocking Sony from bringing PSN online in their domestic territory until the company can demonstrate that certain new security measures have been met.

Sony has posted a PSN FAQ – Restoration Questions Answered as well as a has a step-by-step guide for resting your password; located here.

So far the roll-out looks like a success with very few reports of issues. If you have any and the guides above don't provide the answers you need please feel free to post any questions and I'll try to be of some assistance.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How To Run Google Android 3.1 On Your PC

Update: The Android SDK tools have been updated and make testing much easier. I've downloaded and installed the latest actually version, Android 4.0, which has been dubbed "Ice Cream Sandwich" and tested it out.

Have you ever wanted to checkout Google Android but don't have an Android phone? Or perhaps you want to checkout the latest tablet version of the OS but don't have a tablet. With a little help from a quick easy to use tutorial from the guys at How-To Geek you can test drive Google Android on just about any PC without having to buy a new smartphone or tablet pc.

In their tutorial How-To Geek shows us how you can run Android on your PC for free with the Android SDK Emulator. The emulator acts like a virtual machine of sorts, tricking the software into running on a platform it wasn't originally intended to use. The software was originally designed to let developers test their apps on the Android platform before running them on handsets. For PC users it gives us a small peak at what Android is capable of and most importantly what some of the latest versions look like before we run out and buy a new device.

Below I'll post some of the basic details on what you need as well as some of my insights into using the software. For a complete guide (with pictures) you should checkout the full tutorial here.

Getting Started - get the software that you need

You are going to need to download a few things before you can start testing Android.
  1. First off the Android Emulator requires Java and the Java JDK to run, so if you don’t already have Java installed on your computer you'll need to grab that as well as the Java Development Kit.
    Java Link | Java JDK link
  2. Secondly you'll need to get the Android SDK installer package from Google
    Android SDK Installer

When I first tried following the guide from HTG I had a few issues getting the Android SDK to recognize I had the Java JDK installed. To remedy this I had to completely remove Java from my system, download the regular Java JRE and then install the Java JDK package. Once I did that everything else went smoothly.

Choosing and installing Android SDKs

Once you start installing the Android SDK the installer will want to check Google’s servers for available packages. You'll have several options to choose from that include everything from older version like Android 1.5 to the newest Android 3.1 "Ice Cream Sandwich". You can pick and choose which version you want to test out or just download them all and test them all out.

Personally I recommend sticking with the newer versions which for those of you that want to checkout the tablet version would be Android 3.1 which at the time of this original post was being called "Ice Cream Sandwich" and Android 3.0 "HoneyComb". For those wanting to checkout the latest release for smartphones Android 2.3.3 or 2.3.4 "Gingerbread" would be best. Just keep in mind the more you download the longer it takes.

Almost everything is "accepted" by default so click on anything you don't want to download and tick the "reject button" making sure the selection then shows a red x next to it. There are several extra options I wasn't sure about downloading so I did anyways. I'm not sure they are needed but I figured what the heck.

We are up and running now what?

If you've followed the HTG tutorial and got everything up and running you are well on your way. The first thing you'll notice is that it takes awhile to get things to load. After your first use it will load a bit faster so don't be discouraged.

Since the emulator is really meant for basic testing your options will be fairly limited as to what you can do so don't expect the world.

You can view your favorite websites in the browser, and they will render just as they would on an Android device. You can view a few of the basic apps that come pre-installed and you can install apps that are available online but you won't have access to the Android Market.

Taking things for a spin

Two things to keep in mind, most of the versions of Android are meant to be used on smartphones are other smaller devices and the operating system is meant to be used on touch capable devices. Using a keyboard and mouse can be difficult. You'll notice there are no scroll bars and sometimes typing is difficult. You need to use your mouse like you would your finger, meaning you want to hold the button down and drag the page in order to scroll and I highly recommend trying to stick with the on-screen keyboard. I don't know why it just made things easier

One thing you are bound to notice right off is the emulator running Android 3.0 and 3.1 is really slow and shows some serious lag (keep in mind its meant to be used for a preview not real world usage). Because of the lag browsing the web was very tedious. Typing and scrolling in just about any of the apps lags alot, and I mean alot!! Applications seemed to react very slowly as well and I noticed a few issues with the wrong apps loading.

Final thoughts

The more I used the emulator running Android 3.0 and 3.1 the more responsive it seemed to become. But, for me at least, it never became responsive enough to be really useful. I could access the Android Market through the browser however since I had no actual devices associated with my account it wouldn't let me download anything. Overall for just a peek at the OS things weren't bad for much more than that you'd be better off heading to your local tech store and actually putting hands on the devices.

I found running Android 2.3.4 "Gingerbread" was a lot more responsive and actually easier to use than either of the tablet versions. Typing didn't lag nearly as much, web browsing was bearable and you could actually test some of the apps without wanting to pull your hair out. For this I could see the usefulness as you actually get a good feel for what Android does.

Google Launches Cloud Music Service, Beta Invites Now Available

Not to be out done by Amazon and Apple (who is reportedly launching a similar service), Google today announced Music Beta by Google, a new service that lets you upload your personal music collection to the cloud for streaming to your computer and Android devices.

With the new service users can store up to 20,000 tracks in the cloud – your music and playlists are automatically kept in sync, so if you create a new playlist on your phone, it’s instantly available on your computer or tablet. You can use a feature called Instant Mix to create a playlist of songs that go well together. There is even an offline option with Google automatically storing your most recently played music on your Android device allowing you to choose to make specific albums or playlists available when you’re not connected to the internet.

The service is launching in beta today to U.S. users and is currently available by invitation only. Google has said you’ll be able to find Google Music in the Android Market soon but for now you have to head over to this page to request and invite. BTW you will need a Google GMail account to request and invite or to log into the site.

Microsoft Buys Skype for $8.5 Billion, What Does That Mean For You?

Microsoft Corp. and Skype Global today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire Skype for $8.5 billion in cash from the company's current owners which is led by  investor group Silver Lake. The news off the buyout sent shock-waves through the Skype community with millions of user voicing concerns over what Microsoft might do with their beloved Skype service.

Some background

Skype has had turmoil filled past. Back in 2005 the company was bought by auction giant eBay for a mere $2.6 billion. At the time many in the tech world wondered where the service was headed as there were no obvious synergies with ebay's online auction business. It didn't take long for buyers remorse to set in as just four years later ebay put Skype on the block, eventually selling 70% of the business (for approximately $2 billion) to an investment group led by Marc Andreessen.

Last year, Skype had revenue of $860 million on which it posted an operating profit of $264 million. However, overall it made a small loss of $7 million, and had long-term debt of $686 million.

Despite the exchanges in ownership, the less than profitability of the company and several hardships, Skype has continued to grow and flourish. According to their acquisition announcement the company now has 170 million connected users with over 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations made in 2010.

Why did Microsoft pay so much?

This seem to be a question on everyone's minds. It really isn't clear why Microsoft wanted to shell out more than twice what the company is worth. The company already has its own, all be it not as polished, voice and video service in Windows Live Messenger. They have nearly double the amount of monthly users at around 330 million active users each month. Yet the one thing Microsoft is lacking is paid users which Skype can boasts a total of nearly 8 million users that actually pay for the service.

In addition to adding in paid users the other mostly likely reason for the acquisition is that Microsoft wanted to keep the company out of the hands of it competitors. Sources have said Google and Facebook offered to partner or buy Skype for $3 billion to $4 billion. Microsoft likely went on the defensive and made a preemptive strike but we still have to wonder why MS doubled that offering price.

Investors are just as confused. "It doesn't make sense at all as a financial investment," said Forrester Research analyst Andrew Bartels. "There's no way Microsoft is going to generate enough revenue and profit from Skype to compensate."

What can Skype users expect now?

Clearly Microsoft will have some decisions to make. This is reportedly Microsoft's largest acquisition ever, which means Microsoft is not simply planning on casting aside Skype in favor of its own services. Will we see Skype rolled into Windows Live or the Office platform or will Microsoft continue developing it as a standalone service. We just don't know yest. They have already stated that they will continue supporting Skype on competing operating systems and platforms, particularly mobile devices.

"We're committed to the Skype user base," Ballmer said. "We want to continue to build and engage that base. Part of that commitment is continuing to support Skype on non-Microsoft platforms. We all know that people have things that they do at home and do at work, what we want to do is to offer a tool to bring them together. Skype enables communication across all of people's lives and all of their devices."

So it seems the waters are murky now!

No one really knows for certain what we can expect from the buy out. One thing is clear, with huge investment it just made Microsoft won't look at just shutting down or radically altering Skype. In the short term at least, Microsoft will not run in and ruin the service. They simply can't afford to. So those of you scrambling to find alternatives can relax for now. The acquisition still has to be approved, MS still has to take full control and things still have some ironing out to be done. In my opinion you are going to be safe from any Microsoft tinkering for at least a year or two.

Monday, May 09, 2011

You Can Now Rent Movies Via YouTube

Google has officially expanded YouTube into the online rental market today with the announcement that the site will immediately begin allowing users to rent and stream full-length movies online.

As of today Google has begun adding around 3,000 new movie titles for rent which will be available to users in the U.S. Along side the feature films users will have access to reviews and behind-the-scenes movie extras. The selection is currently pretty limited but I did find a few of our favorite films. There are cult classics like Caddyshack, Goodfellas and Scarface. The new service also features a few new releases like Inception, The King’s Speech, Little Fockers, The Green Hornet and Despicable Me.

Movies are available to rent at what Google is calling "industry standard pricing", and can be watched with your YouTube account on any computer or YouTube capable device. The new titles will begin appearing later today and over the coming weeks to www.youtube.com/movies, so keep checking back.

Read More: YouTube Blog: Get more into movies on YouTube

Groupon Teams With Live Nation To Form GrouponLive

Building on the popularity of their daily deal site Groupon has teamed with ticket site Live Nation to create GrouponLive, a site for deep discounts on tickets to local concerts, sports, theater, and other live events.

The site itself is not totally live yet with the launch being planned just in time for the summer concert season however you can visit GrouponLive now and sign up with your e-mail address to receive limited-time deal notifications in the future.

"GrouponLive represents a new channel to drive value for fans, while helping artists and others to reach ever larger audiences," said Michael Rapino, President and Chief Executive Officer of Live Nation Entertainment. "By adding this channel to our ticketing platform, we will also provide our venue partners with another option for driving ticket sales across a wide range of events. Our success is based on selling tickets and filling seats and GrouponLive gives us another platform to achieve this."
The pairing of the two sites should be an interesting one. Live Nation currently operates the world's most popular ticketing service, Ticketmaster. It also runs Live Nation Concerts, which puts on over 20,000 shows from 2,000 artists around the world. Groupon of course, is one of the more popular deal-a-day providers featuring instant access to local deals. Personally I can't wait to see what kind of discounts we see on local events.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Sony Offering US Users Free Debix ID Theft Protection

Sony is scrambling to make things right to those affected by the company's recent data breaches. As a move to help some of those affect the company has detailed a plan to give PSN users free enrollment in an identity theft protection program for up to one year.

Sony has contracted with Debix, Inc. to provide all US-based PSN and Qriocity account holders with 12 months of free coverage in the company's AllClearID Plus program. The year-long term will begin upon registration with the program, with eligible users having until June 18 to sign up. Sony has said users should start to receive activation e-mails for the service in the coming days. As for users in other countries and territories, Sony said it is working to make similar programs available for them, although it did not indicate when such initiatives would be detailed.

The details of the program include, but are not limited to:
  • Cyber monitoring and surveillance of the Internet to detect exposure of an AllClear ID Plus customer’s personal information, including monitoring of criminal web sites and data recovered by law enforcement. If his/her personal information is found, the customer will be alerted by phone and/or email and will be provided advice and support regarding protective steps to take. The customer will also receive monthly identity status reports. Debix works with an alliance of cyber-crime experts from the government, academia and industry to provide these services.
  • Priority access to licensed private investigators and identity restoration specialists. If an AllClear ID Plus customer receives an alert, or otherwise suspects that he/she may be the victim of identity theft, the customer can speak directly, on a priority basis, with an on-staff licensed private investigator, who will conduct a comprehensive inquiry. In the case of an identity theft, the customer can work with an identity restoration specialist to contact creditors and others, and take necessary steps to restore the customer’s identity.
  • A $1 million identity theft insurance policy per user to provide additional protection in the event that an AllClear ID Plus customer becomes a victim of identity theft. This insurance would provide financial relief of up to $1 million for covered identity restoration costs, legal defense expenses, and lost wages that occur within 12 months after the stolen identity event.
More information will be available on the enrollment page, a link which will be included in the email you will receive.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Sony Responds To Congressional Inquiry On Data Breach

Sony executives have issued a statement to Congress in regards to the recent data breaches which compromised personal information of up to 100 million of the company's customers. Sony has now put the blame on the attacks on the group known as Anonymous, who a few weeks ago conducted a large denial of service attack on Sony's servers.

Sony was asked to testify before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. Even though Sony declined to attend the meeting the company did issue a  letter to committee chairwoman Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA).  The letter was summarized on the official Playstation blog site and shown in full on the Playstation Flickr web page.

In short Sony claims  they were the victim of a "very carefully planned, very professional, highly sophisticated criminal cyber attack" further explaining that they discovered that the intruders had planted a file on one of the Sony Online Entertainment servers named “Anonymous” with the words “We are Legion.”

In response, Anonymous released a statement Wednesday denying the allegations, but did allow that individual members may have been involved.

"Sony is incompetent," the group said. "While it could be the case that other Anons have acted by themselves AnonOps was not related to this incident and takes no responsibility."

It is still unclear exactly how the attack was orchestrated and whom is responsible. Sony is currently working with several major law enforcement organizations, including the Dept. of Homeland Security and FBI to find the prepetrators.

As we previously reported, Sony believes there is no evidence that credit card info has been lifted from the Playstation Network servers, although it has confirmed that a small number of older credit card numbers from 2007 were taken from an Sony Online Entertainment server.

The entire Sony network remains offline and has not yet brought it back up as the company claims it is taking steps to beef up security.

Related Reading

Apple Pushes iOS 4.3.3 Update, Fixes Location Tracking "Bug"

Following the discovery of a "location database" on iOS devices Apple responded stating it was nothing more than a bug and that the company would issue an update that would resolve said issue. Today the company has kept to that promise with the release of the iOS 4.3.3 update.

According to the release notes, iOS 4.3.3 reduces the size of the location database cache, stops backing the cache up to iTunes when you connect your device to a computer, and deletes the cache entirely when you turn Location Services off. There are no other notes attached to the update, though it's possible (as always) that Apple may have slipped some other bug fixes into it as well.

You can get the iOS 4.3.3 update by plugging your iOS device into your computer and hitting the "check for updates" button in iTunes.

It has not yet been confirmed whether or not this update really does what it promises to do, or if Apple just found another clever way at hiding their tracks. Rest assured that if they didn't fix the so called bug we'll, or if they did something sneaky someone out there will find out and we'll see yet more reports about it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Mac Users Beware A New Fake Anti-Virus App Is Targeting You

The threat of fake antivirus software and scareware is nothing new and have been around on Windows for several years. In the Mac world however, its a rare site seeing these finally crafted applications that look just like the real thing. The security firm Intego reported Monday that they had found just that. A new scareware scam that is targeting Mac users.

The MAC Defender application is a legitimate piece of Anti-Virus software. However scammers have launched a bogus application that looks much like the real software. Prompting the developers of the legitimate MacDefender software to put up a full page notice warning Mac users of the existence of the bogus application.

The bogus MAC Defender application named OSX/MacDefender.A looks as real as any other software. There are a number of different screens, and the grammar and spelling are correct, the buttons are attractive, and the overall look and feel of the program give it a professional look. That is where the comparison to the legit software ends. The bogus Mac Defender acts like any other form of scareware. It initially uses a secondary site with a Java-based scan script that claims to find malware on the user's system. If the victim falls for the claims and allows the download the malware starts to install a convincing-looking but bogus application called "MAC Defender", which also requests the admin password. Once installed the application will then launch itself every time the Mac is turned on.

The application will then begin popping up telling users that they have been infected with a virus and in order to clean the infection they first have to register their copy of MAC Defender; clicking on the link to do so via the program's About screen takes the users to an unsecure Website that offers a 1-year, 2-year, or lifetime license to the program for $60, $70, or $80 respectively. Registering halts the virus warnings, thus "confirming" that the program is working.

In actuality the infection remains as the bogus software is still there. In the case of many version of Windows based scareware infections the program may not just sit there dormant. Typically the software hosts a Trojan which also installs other viruses or malicious code that can be used to gain further information about the user. Its not clear if this software does that or not but potentially infected users should remove it as quickly as possible

To remove the fake MAC Defender application start by going to Activity Monitor in Applications > Utilities and disabling anything that relates to the file. Then find any references to the application in Startup Items, Launch Agents and LaunchDaemons and quit out of anything that's running. In the Applications folder, drag the MAC Defender app to the trash and run a Spotlight search to locate any MAC Defender references you may have missed, trashing whatever you find.

For more details and screenshots of the bogus application visit the Mac Security Blog from Intego.

Apple Gives The iMac A Boost

Apple has announced an update to their iMac desktops this time giving the computers a boost with Intel's second-generation quad-core processors and AMD Radeon Graphics cards. The new all-in-one devices will also features Apple's new high speed Thunderbolt interconnect technology.

“Our customers love the iMac’s aluminum enclosure, gorgeous display and all-in-one design,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “With next generation quad-core processors, powerful new graphics, Thunderbolt technology and a FaceTime HD camera, we've made the world’s best desktop even better.”

Pricing & Availability
The new iMac is available through the Apple Store (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers. The 21.5-inch iMac is available in two configurations: one with a 2.5 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, AMD Radeon HD 6750M and 500GB hard drive for a suggested retail price of $1,199 (US); and one with a 2.7 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, AMD Radeon HD 6770M and 1TB hard drive for a suggested retail price of $1,499 (US).

The new 27-inch iMac is available in two models: one with a 2.7 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, AMD Radeon HD 6770M and 1TB hard drive for a suggested retail price of $1,699 (US); and one with a 3.1 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, AMD Radeon HD 6970M and 1TB hard drive for a suggested retail price of $1,999 (US).

Configure-to-order options include faster Intel Core i7 processors up to 3.4 GHz, additional hard drive capacity up to 2TB, a 256GB solid state drive, additional DDR3 memory and AppleCare Protection Plan. Additional technical specifications and configure-to-order options and accessories are available online at www.apple.com/imac.

Sony Confirms Second Major Data Breach

Just days after a major data breach at Sony's PlayStation network the company has confirmed a second major breach, this time affecting Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) users.

Late Monday Sony confirmed that the names, addresses, emails, birth dates, phone numbers and other personal information from 24.6 million PC games accounts may have been stolen from its servers as well as an "outdated database" from 2007. This database includes approximately 12,700 non-U.S. credit or debit card numbers and expiration dates (but not credit card security codes), and about 10,700 direct debit records of some customers in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.

Sony said SOE was breached between April 16 and 17, the same time PSN and Qriocity was compromised. Sony shut down those services on April 20, but didn’t take SOE offline until May 1.

Combined with the PSN hack a total of approximately 101 Million users have been affected. Sony said it is working with the FBI and continuing its own investigation while working to restore all services. Hopefully with better security!!

Sony reminded users to be aware of scams that ask for personal or sensitive information and that U.S.-based customers can place a free fraud alert with national credit reporting agencies to protect themselves from credit card fraud. However, Equifax, one of the major credit bureaus, warned users that the alerts were not sufficient protection against identity theft.