Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Google Maps For Android Now Offers Indoor Maps Of Malls, Airports, and Retail Stores

We've all been there, visit the local mall and can't seem to find the nearest bathroom. Or traveling out of town and just happen to be in an unknown airport location and need to find your way around but can't seem to find a map. Well Google has come up with a solution.

Today Google introduced Google Maps 6.0 for Android which features indoor maps for establishments like malls, airports, and retail stores. Now, air travelers don't have to bother with information booths and freestanding maps: Via your Android based phone Google Maps can provide directions to your gate, the nearest coffee shop or bathroom.

Detailed floor plans automatically appear when you’re viewing the map and zoomed in on a building where indoor map data is available. User will see the familiar 'blue dot' icon indicating your location within several feet, and when you move up or down a level in a building with multiple floors, the interface will automatically update to display which floor you’re on.

Google has partnered with some of the largest retailers, airports and transit stations in the U.S. and Japan, including:
  • Mall of America, IKEA, The Home Depot, select Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, Daimaru, Taskashimaya and Mitsukoshi locations and more. Watch an IKEA demo here.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Narita International (NRT), among others.
  • JR and Tokyu Corporation
For a detailed list of participating locations, please visit the Google help center. To start using Google Maps 6.0 for Android, download the update from Android Market. This update works for Android OS 2.1+ devices everywhere Google Maps is currently available.

How To Add Siri Dictation To Your iPhone 4, 3GS And iPod Touch 4G

The Siri voice command assistant is undoubtedly one of the most popular features of iOS 5 and the new iPhone 4S. Unfortunately for previous generation iPhone users Apple made it an iPhone 4S exclusive. Thanks to the hard work of the iPhone hacking community there is now a way to add some of the features and functionality of Siri to your older generation iPhone and iPod Touches.

A jailbreak-friendly program dubbed Siri0us add some of Siri's voice dictation to the iPhone 4 the iPod Touch 4G and the iPhone 3GS. Siri0us does not at present offer all of the functionality to set alarms, check weather forecasts, set reminders, or check for nearby businesses etc; but the writer says the dictation feature is very much comparable with the actual Siri.

Since this is not an official release from Apple in order to use the application iPhone users will first need to jailbreak their devices. Then they will need to visit the Cydia App store and then search for Siri0us. At this time it looks like the free app is ad-supported and you'll need to add 'http://apt.if0rce.com' as a source within Cydia.

The developer has noted a bug that some may run into when trying to install. If your iDevice keeps respringing, do not restore! Use a SSH tool to remove the /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/AssistantServices.framework file.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Intel Answers 6 Commonly Asked SSD Questions

As a tech blogger and member of various forums often times I find myself facing some rather common questions from readers that aren't totally up on technology. Some of the more popular questions asked lately relate to solid state drives (SSD), what they are, what the benefits are and if you need them.

Here is a post courtesy of the Intel free press blog which might help the average user more clearly understand what SSDs are and their key benefits.

1. What is an SSD?
Forget file cabinets, photo albums and record collections -- increasingly, our personal computers are where we store life's important documents and memories. For years, the classic PC hard drive was the data-storage device of choice -- but now SSDs are rising fast in popularity.

SSDs use the same type of memory -- NAND flash -- found in USB "jump drives" and SD camera cards. But they're faster and have much higher capacities -- from 40 gigabytes up to 600 gigabytes.

2. Why are they so popular?
SSDs' biggest advantage is that they don't have any moving parts. Regular hard drives store data on magnetized platters spun by an electric motor at thousands of revolutions per minute. SSDs access and store memory in ways more similar to a microprocessor than a hard drive. And because they have no moving parts to break down or to misalign, SSDs are up to 10x as reliable as hard drives.
  • They're rugged: The lack of moving parts makes SSDs much more rugged than regular hard drives. You can drop an SSD onto a concrete floor, watch it bounce and then plug it back into your computer with no problem. Don't even think of trying that with a regular hard-disk drive.
  • They're fast: Because SSDs don't have to search for data over the entire surface of a spinning disk, they can access data much faster than hard drives. In fact, SSDs can access and transfer data twice as fast as even the fastest hard drives.

3. How do they improve your computing experience?
In many ways. Here are a few examples:
  • Faster boot-up times: In one test (which can be seen on this YouTube video) two identical computers, one with an SSD and the other with a modern hard drive, are turned on at the same time. The SSD-equipped computer has Windows opened and running in 21 seconds. The hard drive-equipped computer takes 101 seconds to boot up -- five times longer!
  • Faster responsiveness to apps: Opening up a number of programs at once? SSDs can access and open programs up to 66 percent faster than conventional hard drives.
  • No noise: As hard drives get older, their moving parts tend to wear and they can get noisy. That's not a problem with SSDs -- because they have no moving parts, they make absolutely no sound to distract the computer user from his or her task or entertainment.
  • Better battery life: SSDs are at least 20 percent more energy efficient than typical hard drives, thanks again to their lack of moving parts and efficient circuit design, meaning users' computer batteries should last longer between charges.
  • Lower laptop temperatures: Notebooks with SSDs run about 12 degrees cooler than hard drive-equipped laptops. Because they can access data more quickly, SSDs help the CPU and chipset do their job faster and go back to a "sleep" state, keeping the computer cooler.

4. What makes them so fast?
A modern, 7,200-rpm hard drive can access data at a rate of about 150 MB/second. SSDs that use advanced multi-level cell technology, which crams more bits of information onto each transistor, can retrieve data at 500MB/second.

5. Why are SSDs so expensive?
In a nutshell, they cost more to make. SSDs are basically chips made with cutting-edge semiconductor process technology. Right now they're being made with the 25nm process by Intel and will soon transition to an even smaller, 20nm process.

6. When will the price come down?
All that performance does not come cheap. 120GB SSDs are available online starting around $150. For about the same amount, you can get a 3-terabyte hard drive -- 25 times more storage for less money.

While SSD prices are falling by about 50 percent per year, it will be quite some time -- if ever -- before SSDs are as cheap as hard drives, which store data on inexpensive magnetized platters.

But SSDs' sales growth shows that many computer users find the increased performance, energy savings and reliability worth the price premium.

6 SSD Questions, Answered

Battlefield 3 PC Patch Released, Promises Tons Of Fixes

Just under a month after its release Battlefield 3 had received a major patch thanks to the hard working team over at DICE. The company promised a sizable patch to fix several bugs and issues that were plaguing the just-released game, and sizable it is.

Below is a lengthy list of fixes and enhancements, including some big changes to the multiplayer squad features. You can view the full release notes via the Battlefield 3 Blog.

Selected improvements in the Nov 22 Battlefield 3 client-side updateA full list of changes is available on the Battlelog
  • General performance and loading time improvements
  • "Black Screen" fix for an issue occurring on some PC configurations
  • Stereo and rendering support for Nvidia and AMD graphics cards
  • Fixed several crashes that occurred when joining multiplayer and co-op sessions
  • Fixed a problem with high speed mouse movement (aka "negative mouse acceleration")
  • You should no longer be able to damage a friendly vehicle when sitting in an open position
  • Grenades now drop to ground if you get killed while attempting to throw it (dangerous in Hardcore mode!)
  • You should no longer spawn too close to enemies in TDM, SQDM, or Conquest
  • A large number of damage and range tweaks on a number of weapons to fine-tune overall balance in the game
  • Added round duration and ticket summary at End of Round screen
  • Fixed a problem regarding key bindings while playing
  • Significant changes to the Join Squad interface, detailed at the bottom of this post

Selected improvements in the Nov 22 Battlefield 3 PC server-side update
A full list of changes is available on the Battlelog
  • EOD Bot exploit fix
  • Several crash fixes
  • Anti-stat padding measures taken, disallowing ranked servers to run obscure settings
  • Improved team kill kick configuration
  • Support for unranked servers. Unranked servers do not report players' scores to Battlelog, but server administrators can freely control all settings

Newly added Battlelog functionality – Share your stats

  • Ability to share your Profile and Stats pages to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter
  • User Profile and Stats pages on Battlelog can now be accessed without being signed in to Battlelog if you know a user's URL
  • Single sign on from Battlelog to Origin. If you're not logged in to Origin and join a game server, Battlelog will automatically sign you in to Origin in the background and join the game server

Quick notes on Squad changes in the Nov 22 update
  • Removed FIND ME A SQUAD option
  • Allow players to join empty Squads alone, thus having 1/4 squad members
  • Change order of options to LEAVE SQUAD, INV A FRIEND, SWITCH TEAM
  • Disable Privacy flag when 1 man squad
  • Reset Privacy flag from Private to Public when squad drops to 1 player
  • All occupied Squads will now show up colored blue on the Squad Selection screen
  • Players who choose not to join squads will also show up as Blue in the "Not in a Squad” line
  • Squads that are currently empty will display as white -- if you wish to join an empty Squad, you can choose the first one marked with white text

A detailed look at Squad refinements
Today's PC client patch features numerous tweaks to Squad functionality and is part of our ongoing efforts to make it easier to play with friends and Platoon mates. These changes will also be implemented for consoles when we release the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 updates shortly. Stay tuned for the exact date of the console updates.

First, we need to look at how joining with Squads and Platoons affects the balance of teams. Initially, servers are commanded to equal out each side, so joining with friends can impact that balance while joining with Platoons further hinders this. As a result we have made some adjustments to the in-game Squad management screen.

The update is live now for PC and will follow for consoles "in the near future."

iFixit Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet Teardown

Fresh off their teardown of Amazon's Kindle Fire, those geeks over at iFixIt have turned their attention to the competition The new Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet.

This $249 competitor to Amazon's $199 slate. It's a good thing they did, too, because iFixit says the Nook Tablet is tougher to disassemble and service than the Kindle Fire. Giving the Nook a repair-ability score of 6 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair), compared to the Kindle Fire's 8/10 score.

Image courtesy iFixit

Inside the Barnes & Noble Nook iFixit found:
  • 1 GHz Dual-Core Processor (likely a Texas Instruments OMAP4 1 GHz dual-core processor)
  • Texas Instruments 6030B107 Fully Integrated Power Management IC)
  • 1 GB of Hynix H9TKNNN8P DDR2 RAM
  • Up to 48 GB of storage (16 GB SanDisk SDIN5C1-16G internal)
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • Custom OS (based on Android)
  • 3.7 V, 4000 mAh battery provides an advertised 11.5 hours of reading time

Some of the more significant points iFixit notes is that the LCD is not fused to the front panel assembly, making replacement easy, if necessary. This however is offset by some areas that made other repairs a bit more tedious. Mainly the addition of hidden screws to prevent removal of the rear panel and an excessive amount of adhesive and adhesive strips.

Replacing the battery also requires a bit of work. You have to remove the motherboard as well as do some serious prying. Components such as the headphone jack, microSD slot, etc. are soldered to the motherboard and would require a bit of work to replace.

You can checkout the full teardown as well as the usual detailed step by step guide here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Google Adds Ski Slopes To Street View Special Collections

Looking for the best trails to hit this winter? Well thanks to a recent update of the Google Maps special collections you can do so from the comfort of your own home.

Google's Street View team used the Street View snowmobile, which made its debut two years ago at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, to add imagery of a number of new ski resorts to the street view experience. So you can tour some of the world’s most beautiful ski terrain right from your browser.

Here are just a few of the resorts added:

Squaw Valley Resort - Going down Gold Coast Face
Whistler Blackcomb, Whistler Peak
Crystal Mountain Washington, Ca
Breckenridge Resort, Looking down Four O’Clock

To see more of the special collections visit the Street View gallery.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

iOS 5 Bug Allows Free iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS Unlocking

A newly discovered bug in iOS 5 lets you unlock your AT&T iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS for free, without the need of jailbreaking or special codes.

This fairly simple hack doesn't use any special tools, codes or software. In fact all you’ll need is a T-Mobile SIM card cut down to micro SIM size, your AT&T SIM from your current iPhone and the steps below which were originally tweeted by the famous hacker known as Chronic.

  1. Insert original carrier AT&T SIM card
  2. Dial 611 for AT&T customer service hotline and drop the call
  3. Turn on Airplane Mode
  4. Take out AT&T SIM card
  5. Insert T-Mobile SIM card
  6. Make sure WiFi is off ( also tap on ‘Forget this Network" to make sure it doesn't connect automatically later)
  7. Switch off Airplane Mode and iPhone will search for network. This is followed by the Apple splash screen appearing.
  8. Activation Required will be displayed on the screen
  9. EDGE network will activate automatically – notice the ‘E' on the top left corner of the screen
  10. Wait for about 20-30 seconds and turn off the phone
  11. Turn on iPhone and the same Activation Required screen will be displayed
  12. When you see one signal bar, tap on Use Cellular Connection
  13. Eject SIM card
  14. Activation Required screen will be displayed the second time
  15. Insert SIM card
  16. Unlocked!

This workaround seems a bit hit or miss, with several users on other sites confirming it has worked. While others have stated otherwise. It also seems some users had to attempt the trick a few times before they could get it to work right. Unlocking your iPhone would allow you to use it in T-Mobile's network as well as in other countries' networks. It will not allow you to use the phone on Verizon or Sprint.

To get a T-Mobile micro Sim you'll need to cut down a standard size T-Mobile SIM card down to the micro SIM card size, which you can accomplish by manually cutting it or by using a SIM cutter. Of course, you need to be careful when cutting the SIM card so you don’t damage it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Get A Free Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Key

Gamers wanting to get their hands on the new beta of the upcoming game Star Wars: The Old Republic now have a chance thanks to the folks over at IGN.

The game is currently in a closed beta testing stage, which gamers had previously been invited to apply for. Unfortunately not all of us received an invite. Well don't worry you're not out of luck. There are still keys being given away through IGN. All you'll need is either an IGN or FilePlanet account; from there you simply need to log in and request a key by the end of the day on Friday, November 18.

Once you've received your beta key, you'll need to register for a TOR account here, if you don't have one already. Redeem your key here and you'll be sent a beta test invite from no-reply@bioware.swtor.com at some point. Players will be invited every 24 hours until everyone with a key is in.

The beta is set to run for four days in total. So enjoy your 96hrs of gaming! The full game is scheduled for release on December 20. he first 30 days will be free with $14.99 being the price-per-month fee. Alternate plans will be available such as paying $41.97 for three months and $77.94 for six months at a time.

How To Root The Amazon Kindle Fire

Amazon's newest gadget, the Kindle Fire finally made its debut this week, and of course it geeks do what geeks do. They immediately tore it apart to see what glorious wonders can be found inside and then they began to hack it. The fine folks over at the XDA Developers forum have updated a previous published piece of software that works as a simple one clock rooting method.

Android Forums member, CLShortFuse, has created a root tool titled SuperOneClick which allows you to root almost any Android based device. Users have confirmed the tool will also work for rooting the Kindle Fire and posted a great how to that gives you all the steps needed to root yours.

Why root the Kindle Fire?

If you have to ask why would I want to do this then chances are you really won't. But geeks are geeks and we love to have full access to our devices. So here is a brief explanation:

Having root access to a device means that its software can be removed and replaced with something else (like a full version of Android). Or you could install a slightly tweaked version of the Kindle's software (once the developer community starts releasing them), which could give added functionality or speed. Or you could just leave the tablet as is—but install some additional applications you wouldn't have access to through Amazon's curated apps offerings.

I want to do it show me how!

First I'd like to add there are always risks associated with hacking your device and there’s an outside chance you could wind up with a bricked (or totally unusable) device. So proceed at your own risk!

You’ll need to start by downloading the SuperOneClick files. Second you'll want to download and install the Android SDK on your PC. From there you need to use the Android SDK and establish ADB access to your device, which stands for Android Debug Bridge. ADB is a developer tool that lets you communicate with a device via your PC for installing apps, copying files and running shell commands.

Once you have the ADB established you need to modify the adb_usb.ini file in your %USERPROFILE%\.android folder to add support for the Kindle Fire — complete details on doing that are available on the Android Forums via this thread.

Once you’ve modded the .INI file, fire up SuperOneClick and tap the root button. That’s all there is to it!

So now my Kindle is rooted, now what?

As of right now there isn't a lot of information that has been verified as to what rooting can and can't do. Theoretically, rooting means you should be able to install almost any Android compatible application you can download from the internet. It should also mean you can install new baseline software. Though I don't see anything out at this time that is ready. For now it seems like a waiting game for devs to come up with something new.

For those of you looking to install non-Amazon approved apps, a process called sideloading, is already available on the Fire by checking a box in your device settings that allows you to install apps from unknown sources. This can let you do things such as install Barnes & Noble's Nook app on your Fire or, perhaps even install handy Android tools such as the Swype keyboard.

iFixit Does An Amazon Kindle Fire Teardown

Ah the joys of getting your hands on the newest gadgets. Don't we all just love opening new boxes to reveal the hidden treasures inside. Then just imagine how those geeks over at iFixit feel every time they get a new toy. Not only do they get the fun of opening the box but they get to immediately tear open the device itself!

Images courtesy iFixit

Earlier this week the iFixit geeks got their hands on, what is is likely to be the hottes item this holiday season, the new Amazon Kindle Fire. As with tradition the very first thing they did was a complete teardown, with step by step instructions and a complete list of specs of course.

On the inside they found:
  • 7" LG Multi-Touch Display with IPS Technology
    1024 x 600 pixel resolution at 169 ppi, 16 million colors
  • Dual-Core Texas Instruments SoC Processor
  • 512 MB Hynix DDR2 RAM
  • 8 GB Samsung Flash Memory Storage
  • 8 hr. 4400mAh battery
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • Custom Operating System (Based on Android 2.3 Gingerbread)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

How To Enable iOS 5's Hidden Panoramic Feature

By now I'm sure you've all heard that iOS 5 has a really cool hidden panoramic feature buried inside. When the feature was first discovered it was thought that you had to jailbreak your device in order to take advantage of the feature. Alas you Apple Fanboys and Girls that don’t want to go through the pain of jailbreaking your device can rejoice. It turns out you can turn on this hidden feature without resorting to hacks.

The short description of it!
Enabling panoramic mode is as easy as making a make a backup of your device with iTunes. From there you edit a couple lines of code, restore your iPhone and the feature should be enabled.

The bit more detailed approach!
 Ok so its not just that quick and easy. For starters you need to create your iTunes back-up. Then you need to grab a free program called iBackupBot to edit a file in the backup you just made. The files is titled Library/Preferences/com.apple.mobileslideshow.plist. . Once opened you need to add in the following EnableFirebreakYES under the DiskSpaceWasLow value. From there you export the file saving it back to your original backup. After that you restore that backup with the modified file included, which enables the panoramic mode in the camera app.

That’s it! If you followed the steps correctly, you’ll now be able to access panorama mode in the iOS 5 camera app. To use the panorama mode, open up the options in the Camera app, and you’ll see a setting for the mode right next to Grid and HDR.

Should you have a jailbroken phone and are looking for a bit easier route you can grab hacker Grant Paul's Firebreak tweak, which can be found in the Cydia storefront. The app essentially does all the same things posted above, however it doesn't require the back-up step or manually changing anything.

Holiday Shopping Made Easier With Mobile Apps

We are all aware that holiday shopping can be a daunting task. Consumers have to fight long lines, out of stock items and other shoppers for the chance to get our hands on the best deals. With the influx of smartphone, and tablets to the mix retailers are adding in an array of digital offerings that might help alleviate the hardships faced by the tech savy holiday shopper.

Several major retailers including Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Brookstone, Kmart, J.C. Penney and the Disney Stores have rolled out new apps geared specifically for holiday shoppers.

The new mobile based applications have grown in sophistication as retailers strive to give today's shopper more choices. No longer do tech wielding shoppers just want brief product information and pricing. They want to compare prices, receive discount offers, buy products and even get in-store maps through their handheld devices. According to a National Retail Federation/BIGresearch survey more than half of all shops this year own smartphones and plan to use them during holiday shopping. And 71% of tablet owners have said they will use their devices to tackle holiday tasks.

To better prepare for the tech-savvy holiday shopper, half of retailers significantly invested in mobile-optimized websites, while one in five chose to create tablet specific apps.

Wal-Mart's newest offering includes an enhanced iPhone app that allows users to add shopping list items by speaking, typing or scanning bar codes. It also provides the price, local store availability and, in select markets, aisle location of those items.

For many, these devices are "indispensable tools," says Mike Gatti, executive director of the NRF's marketing division. "They allow you to shop wherever and whenever you want."

Checkout these great apps for your 2011 holiday shopping season:

A Guide to Internet Speed for Gaming

The following post is guest article by Ruben Corbo, a writer for the website Broadband Expert where you can find internet service providers in your area with a great online speed test application and compare prices on different deals for your mobile broadband needs.

So you're playing a game that relies on a good, stable internet connection and you find out that your link to the World Wide Web is slow and is affecting your game-play.

You're not alone, and you can't ignore it. Internet speed is crucial for an online game and for MMORPGs where players interact within a virtual game world. MMORPGs like Eve Online or World of Warcraft require an Internet connection with two characteristics: fast speeds and a quick ping.

(Courtesy of Flickr User: Akyan)

Is your internet connection good enough for gaming? You'll need to test it. Use a speed test to test your download and upload speeds, as well as your ping. Download and upload speeds measure how much data is transferred from your computer to the internet service provider (and thus the internet) and back per second. Ping is a measurement of how fast these data packets travel between you and the internet provider.

These numbers will give you a good idea of if your internet connection can handle your game. Compare your download and upload speeds to those required or recommended by your game. Speeds are usually measured in megabits per second (Mbps) or kilobits per second (Kbps). The more important number is the download speed. Upload speeds are only important if you are hosting an online game.

(Courtesy of Flickr User: tvol)

Some people test their internet connection and completely ignore ping. That's a mistake. Ping, which is also called latency, is measured in milliseconds and a great ping is less than 30ms. That means it takes 0.03 seconds for data to travel from your computer to another computer or network. A fast ping will guarantee that your game actions are quick and responsive. A ping of 30ms to 60ms is good, but a ping of 90ms could be a serious detriment to your gaming experience. If you have a large ping, you may find that your game actions are slow and unresponsive.

Don't just test your speeds and ping once. Test them multiple times, or even better, test them multiple times at different parts of the day for up to a week. This way, you can get a picture of the spikes in your speeds. Speeds can plummet during peak times when internet use is heavy, especially if your internet connection is shared. This way, you can find the times you get the best connection possible while avoiding peak use.

Which internet providers and plans you pick can have a significant impact on your internet connection speeds and ping. Try to aim for a company that can provide you with broadband internet, like DSL, cable, or FiOS, and do your research over the internet plans they provide and their max speeds. However, if you live in a rural area, your options may be limited.

If I were encountering issues with my internet speed during the middle of a game, I would ask myself these questions in this order:

- Are my current speeds and ping good enough for this game?

- What internet provider do I have right now, and is there any chance I can upgrade my internet connection or improve it? I would call my internet service provider and ask about ways to improve my speed and ping.

- Are there higher-tiered plans for slightly more per month?

- What high speed internet providers in my area can provide me with a reliable, stable internet connection? What high speed internet providers in my area can provide me with an internet connection with a low ping? If I can change internet service providers, which one can give me the best connection and speed in a plan that suits my budget?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader Gains Firefox Support

Kindle books users now have the added option of reading their Kindle books live from within Firefox as Amazon added the popular browser to the support list which already included Apple's Safari on iPad, or Mac desktops and Google's Chrome.

Kindle Cloud Reader is the latest Kindle reading application and leverages HTML5. With Kindle Cloud Reader, customers can read Kindle books instantly using only their web browser - online or offline - with no downloading or installation required. As with all Kindle apps, Kindle Cloud Reader automatically synchronizes your Kindle library, as well as your last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights for all of your Kindle books, no matter how you choose to read them. To make it easy and seamless to discover new books, Kindle Cloud Reader includes an integrated, touch optimized store, allowing customers one click access to a vast selection of books.

Amazon.com customers can start reading their Kindle books immediately using Kindle Cloud Reader at http://read.amazon.com

Friday, November 04, 2011

Official Windows Phone 7 Unlock Tool Now Available

The official Microsoft Windows Phone 7 unlock tool is now available (or will be once a bug is fixed) for all WP7 users that are willing to fork over $9 per to unlock their smartphones.

The process is fairly simply and pretty straightforward:
  • You'll need a Windows Live ID (it can be different from your Windows Phone Live ID)
  • Following the Windows Live Log-in you'll be prompted to allow ChecronWP& Labs access to your email address and asked to setup a quick profile
  • You have to purchase an "unlock token". Cost is $9.00 via PayPal and is good for infinite unlocks per single phone.
  • Download and install the unlocking application
  • Your phone will be placed in a queue to be unlocked and that's it!

Now in the case of WP7 unlocking the term takes on a bit different meaning than in most cases. The "unlock" tool, does not remove the phone's SIM card lock for use on other carriers as it would for other phones. In this case "unlocking" is more like an iPhone jailbreak, in other words you are opening the phone up to install, run, and debug unsigned, or "homebrew" code. Much like jailbreaking it's a way to run apps from outside of Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace.

If you're looking for homebrew Windows Phone apps, the XDA-Developers forum has a section dedicated to the topic. Here are a few interesting apps found via the ChevronWP7 site and the XDA forums:

European Commission Opens Antitrust Investigation In Samsung Vs Apple Patent Fight

Samsung and Apple have been locked in a heated legal battle over each company's alleged infringement over patents. This week the European Commission, the European Union's top antitrust authority, has decided to open an investigation into Samsung's attempted use of patents to retaliate against Apple and potentially block the sale of Apple products.

Follwoing several lawsuits filed by Apple claiming Samsung's designs have infringed up Apple's IP Samsung has taken retaliatory action suing Apple in five E.U. countries alleging infringement of its patents on 3G mobile technology.

The European Commission has opened a preliminary investigation where as the Commission submits requests for information from the concerned parties. Such requests for information are standard procedure in antitrust investigations to allow the Commission to establish the relevant facts in a case. If there is sufficient evidence the the EU's competition rules have been broken a wider investigation will then follow.

At the heart of the investigation is whether Samsung is abusing the principle of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing in these cases.

FRAND licenses allow companies to develop open standards for systems such as 3G mobile networks by sharing information and technology. Standards bodies typically require that companies participating in the development of a standard agree to license any relevant patents they hold on FRAND terms if their technology is essential to the standard. Under these terms Samsung and other companies must offer competitors fair and reasonable licensing terms. Something Apple is alleging Samsung refused to do.

Samsung said in a statement it had "at all times remained committed to fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing terms" for its wireless standards-related patents.

To date Apple has won several key battles against Samsung. Winning a temporary block the the Samsung Galaxy tab in Australian courts and a temporary block of Samsung from selling its tablets in Germany and some smartphone models in the Netherlands.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

GTA V Trailer And Details Announced

Rockstar Games has finally released a few details about the upcoming fifth installment of the highly successful Grand Theft Auto franchise with a GTA V press release and official trailer.

Much like the initial announcement, which was simply a logo, the press release only adds scraps of information about the project and very few specific details. What we know so far is that the new game will feature multiplayer play with a setting that is be described as a "re-imagined, present-day Southern California." The game is set in a Los Angeles-inspired city that will be called Los Santos and includes some of Southern California's surroundings, namely the "surrounding hills, countryside and beaches."

We still have no indication of when the game will be out but we expect it to be late spring maybe even early summer of 2012.