Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hackers, Modders, Geeks of All Sorts Red Bull Wants You

Hackers, modders and inventors Red Bull is making a call to arms as Red Bull presents the Red Bull Creation Contest.  Red Bull Creation is a competition about making things. The challenge for inventors, builders, modders and Hackers is to push their limits, by creating something new and inspiring, while under the pressure of short time constraints and big city lights.

Red Bull invites you to build a four person team, the goal is to build, modify or invent something based on a specific topic. Teams will be judge based on an as of now unknown criteria with the top qualifying teams will being invited to compete in this summer's Red Bull Creation competition. There your four person team will be invited to create a device based on an unspecified topic in a short 72 hr time frame.

The details:
From July 7 - 10, 2011, a soon-to-be-disclosed location in NYC will be turned into the ultimate hackerspace and serve as the laboratory for Red Bull Creation.  For 72 hours, you'll be thrown smack into the middle of a marathon of high stakes innovation.  New York will become your playground as you roam the streets of the city and the alleys of your imagination, tapping into parts of the brain you've never heard of (or strike that, you're the inventor here, you probably know way more about that than we do.)

On the final day, the event culminates in a live exhibition and show for all of New York to see. One catch: you won't know the build topic until the first tick of those 72 hours. You want a shot at the glory? You've got to qualify first at www.redbullusa.com/creation.

How to Qualify:

You must first build a four person team and submit a device built around the current current theme "Hack The Past. Create the Future." Your team has until April 24th to complete your build and upload images and video of what your entry.

  1. You must somehow incorporate an Arduino controller into the final creation.
  2. Final submission must be bigger than a bread box, but smaller than a box truck.
  3. Other than that, Red Bull is making the criteria intentionally broad. They invite you to take chances, and have fun.  They’re looking for a combination of technical skill, out of the box creativity, and dynamic teamwork! 

  1. Like algebra, you need to show your work. Posting a video of your creation is a must during the online registration process that starts March 25.  It should include an introduction of your creation and how you made it. All team members must be in the final submitted video.
  2. We said it before and we'll say it again: You must be a team of four. 
  3. You must nominate a team Captain to be in charge of all team correspondence.  
  4. This competition is open to residents of the U.S. ages 18 and up.
  5. You must be ready for your 15 minutes of fame. You may be on television. We plan on sharing the brainchild of your creative genius with the world.  We hope you're okay with that.
  6. You must be willing to travel to New York this summer, whether Red Bull gives you a travel stipend or not. So be sure to pencil in July 7-10 on your calendar as "Days I take over the world."
  7. Consider repurposing material in your creation. Brainpower is stronger than spending power anyway.  And using objects that have a story behind them always adds intrigue.
  8. Only one submission per team is allowed.
  9. Your submission must be uploaded by midnight PST on April 24. 
  10. You agree to all of the legal terms and conditions at www.redbullusa.com/creation when you register.  And complete the release form.
  11. Bask in the creative process!

The top teams will be selected by a panel of judges and invited to compete in Red Bull Creation this summer. Judges will be announced soon... keep checking @RedBullCreation for possible leaks. (This might help give ideas on each judges criteria and possibly even help with topic ideas)

Internet Explorer 10 Platform Preview Now Available

Many of us are still getting use to using the newly released Internet Explorer 9 but Microsoft isn't resting. The company has recently made available the Internet Explorer 10 Platform Preview.

Much like the IE9 Platform Preview that was released before the browser's beta, RC, and final release builds, there isn't a whole lot going on with the IE10 preview at this point. There isn't any real UI to play with and no amenities like tabbed browsing, though you can run Microsoft's HTML5 demos, including brand new ones like Fishbowl, an update to the original FishIE tank.

There are several other tests avaialbe that show off some of the HTML5 and CSS3 features as well as speed demos showing off gpu acceleration. You can run these at www.ietestdrive.com to see emerging standards like CSS3 Multi-column Layout (link), CSS3 Grid Layout (link) and CSS3 Flexible Box Layout (link), CSS3 Gradients (link), and ES5 Strict Mode in action. MS also demonstrated additional standards support (like CSS3 Transitions (link) and CSS3 3D Transforms (link)) that will be available in subsequent platform previews of IE10, which we will update every 8-12 weeks.

For more details checkout the IEBlog -
Native HTML5: First IE10 Platform Preview Available for Download

Cisco Shutters Flip, Is Linksys Next To Go?

In a cost cutting restructuring effort Cisco Systems has announced that it is killing the company's Flip portable video camera and reducing its headcount by 550 workers. Considering the company has only owned Flip for a little over two years the announcement makes us wonder what might be next on the chopping block?

"We are making key, targeted moves as we align operations in support of our network-centric platform strategy," said John Chambers, Cisco chairman and CEO. "As we move forward, our consumer efforts will focus on how we help our enterprise and service provider customers optimize and expand their offerings for consumers, and help ensure the network's ability to deliver on those offerings."

As part of its plan, Cisco will:
  • Close down its Flip business and support current FlipShare customers and partners with a transition plan.
  • Refocus Cisco's Home Networking business for greater profitability and connection to the company's core networking infrastructure as the network expands into a video platform in the home. These industry-leading products will continue to be available through retail channels.
  • Integrate Cisco umi into the company's Business TelePresence product line and operate through an enterprise and service provider go-to-market model, consistent with existing business TelePresence efforts.
  • Assess core video technology integration of Cisco's Eos media solutions business or other market opportunities for this business.

Cisco has seen disappointing results in recent quarters leaving analysts calling on the company to do more to divest itself of disappointing consumer product lines and operations. Many analysts are suggesting that Cisco might want to look at cutting loose Scientific-Atlanta cable set-top boxes and Linksys home routers, too.

"We still want Cisco to take additional aggressive action and we wish Cisco would have exited the consumer video and home networking markets altogether," states Ittai Kidron of Oppenheimer & Co. in a report on Cisco's moves titled "And Now the Flop." "We also feel Cisco will need to restructure or exit its [Scientific-Atlanta] video systems business at some point given the unfavorable longer-term secular trends."

The buy out of Flip's parent company Pure Digital for $590 million in 2009 never really seemed to make much sense to me. Cisco is best known as a networking company and their jump into the consumer business market seemed best left at obtaining the Linksys product line. The shoot and share video camcorder market just didn't seem like a reasonable fit so it doesn't surprise me that it would be the first to go.

I've always been a big fan of the Linksys line and hope that the company doesn't decide to dump them. They've been busy updating the line with a recently introduced a line of E-Series routers so we can hope the product update mean the company is going to try to keep the brand alive.

Amazon Selling Cheap Ad Supported Kindles

If you don't mind looking at the occasional ad you can now get your hands on an Amazon Kindle for the low price of only $114 - or $25 off the original price.

On Monday Amazon introduced what it is calling a new member of the Kindle family - Kindle with Special Offers. This "new Kindle" is identical to the company's bestselling Kindle e-book reader with the exception that readers are subjected to special offers and sponsored screensavers. Kindle special offers and sponsored screensavers display on the Kindle screensaver and on the bottom of the home screen.

"We're working hard to make sure that anyone who wants a Kindle can afford one," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO. "Kindle with Special Offers is the same #1 bestselling Kindle - and it's only $114. Kindle is the best deal in consumer electronics anywhere in the world."

Buick, Olay (Procter & Gamble), Visa, and Amazon.com Reward Visa Card (Chase) are sponsoring the first series of screensavers specially-designed for Kindle's high-contrast, no glare electronic ink display (for screensaver examples, visit www.amazon.com/aboutkindlespecialoffers). Examples of deals that will be delivered directly to Kindle with Special Offers devices in the initial weeks include:
  • $10 for $20 Amazon.com Gift Card
  • $6 for 6 Audible Books (normally $68)
  • $1 for an album in the Amazon MP3 Store (choose from over 1 million albums)
  • $10 for $30 of products in the Amazon Denim Shop or Amazon Swim Shop
  • Free $100 Amazon.com Gift Card when you get an Amazon Rewards Visa Card (normally $30)
  • Buy one of 30 Kindle bestsellers with your Visa card and get $10 Amazon.com credit
  • 50% off Roku Streaming Player (normally $99)
To make sure customers don't miss any of the offers, a full list of active offers will be available from the menu of Kindle with Special Offers at any time. Learn more about all three latest-generation Kindle family members--$114 Kindle with Special Offers, $139 Kindle, and $189 Kindle 3G--at www.amazon.com/kindle. Kindle with Special Offers is now available for pre-order to customers in the U.S. and will ship on May 3.

Friday, April 08, 2011

ESPN Offers Free Live-Streaming To iOS Devices With A Catch

Sports geeks can now get their ESPN fix for free with live streaming videos to all Apple iOS devices assuming that is you are a cable TV subscriber with Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks or Verizon FIOS.

That's right ESPN has announced the launch of a new app that will enable iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users to live-stream the company’s most popular networks wherever they are — but there’s a catch its only limited to the services above. If you are a customer of Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, DirecTV or Dish Network you are out of luck!

For you sports geeks that are customers of those companies ESPN is making ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 and ESPNU available via the the free WatchESPN app. The free WatchESPN App includes a simple user interface that takes the current online viewing experience to the high-resolutions commonly found on the Multi-Touch displays of the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. A highly optimized version of the application for the Apple iPad will be available free to download in May and the company says the App will be available on "other" smartphones and tablets in the near future.

"This represents the culmination of our efforts over the last five years," said Sean Bratches, executive vice president of sales and marketing for ESPN. "We strive to serve the sports fan wherever they consume sports, and I can't think of a better way to do that than making our networks available to fans whenever and wherever they might be."

I'm really surprised to see ESPN snub it's nose at Comcast and satellite customers. There isn't anything about that app that would show a need for exclusivity to one set of networks over the other so it must be a purely money motivated event with Time Warner locking in the rights.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Geek Porn: Watercooled Wii Makes A Spalsh

When a normal person gets their hands on a gadget, pc or gaming console all they want to do is play with it. When a geek gets his hands on the same gadget they want to tear it apart, see how it works and if they can find a way to Pwn it.

That's exactly what Bit-Tech.net forum member "Angel OD" did when he decided to mod his Wii console. He decide it didn't look 'cool' enough in it's original Nintendo Wii case so he not only built a custom handmade open faced case but added some extra 'cool' with a custom built water-cooling setup.

From the looks of it it took a lot of modding and machine work, but as far asWii mods goes I have to say it has to be one of the best I've seen in awhile.

You can follow the step by step work log here, or jump straight to pics of the finished mod here and here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

AMD Releases Mainstream Minded Radeon HD 6790

The GPU wars continue on as AMD has recently released the new $150 Radeon HD 6790 Video Card which at its current price point puts it in direct competition with Nvidia's recently released (and same-priced) GeForce GTX 550 Ti.

The new Radeon HD 6790 currently sits at the low end of AMD's 6000 series positioned somewhere above the HD 5770 and between the OEM only Radeon HD 6770 and the low-end-enthusiast Radeon HD 6850. Pricing and specifications on the card would indicate that AMD has intended the card to be used by gamers running mid-range resolutions of 1680x1050 with low to mid-range detail settings.

The card comes loaded with 1GB of GDDR5 ram has a core clock speed of 840 MHz, memory clock of 1050MHz (4.2GHz data rate), 800 stream processors, 40 texture units, and 16 ROPs and packs 1.34 teraflops of compute power with a Texture Filtering Rate of 33.6 GTex/s.

Most reviewers seem fairly impressed with the card but seem to agree that overall the price point it sits at isn't the best. The card only slightly outperforms the cheaper HD 5770 and is bested by the HD 6850 which can be had AMIR for around (or slightly above) the same price.

Radeon HD 6790 Benchmarks and Reviews

Related Articles

Epsilon Data Breach What You Should Know

By now you are probably aware that there was a major data breach at the Epsilon marketing firm. What you may not know is exactly how this may affect you in the coming months. So we've thrown together a quick FAQs to help our readers more clearly understand whats at risk.

Who is Epsilon Marketing and why do they have my data?

Epsilon marketing is the world's largest permission-based e-mail marketer. Basically they are a large company that manages email marketing for other companies, such as Best Buy, Walgreens, Citibank, American Express ect. Epsilon is used to send promotions or other e-mails to the main company's customers.

If they have your information its because you visited and opted into marketing from one of the more than 2500 customers Epsilon has or it is because you have an account with one of their customers. Chase, Citibank ect automatically opt you into marketing when you open an account. To be removed you need to contact them via snail mail.

Who is affected?

Epsilon won't specify which of its 2,500 clients were affected, or how many customers' e-mails were stolen, but SecurityWeek has put together the following list: Kroger, TiVo, US Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, Citi, Home Shopping Network, Ameriprise Financial, LL Bean Visa Card, McKinsey & Company, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, Marriott Rewards, New York & Company, Brookstone, Walgreens, The College Board, Disney Destinations, Best Buy, and Robert Half Technologies.

The names and contact information of some students affiliated with the U.S.-based College Board -- which represents some 5,900 colleges, universities and schools -- were also potentially compromised.

What information was exposed? Are my accounts safe? Should I change all my passwords and cancel my credit cards?

For starters, according to Epsilon, no other personal information was exposed besides e-mails and names. That is it, since Epsilon is only an email marketer they shouldn't have had any of your account information. They may have had your name, email and mailing address but that should be all.

Law enforcement and individual companies are doing their own investigations to make 100% certain so until then I'd monitor your credit information and keep a close eye on your accounts but you shouldn't need to make any drastic moves. Its smart to change your passwords every couple of months just in case so you might want to go ahead and start spring off with a new one anyways but for now I see no reason to be overly concerned.

What can I expect? What happens next?

So here is the big question what happens now? No one can say for sure what the hackers will do with the data, if anything at all. Most security experts, as well as myself, fully expect a hard nosed phishing attack. The hackers will likely either spearhead their own highly targeted attack or sell off the names and email addresses collected to another group. Either way it seems inevitable that those email addresses will be misused by scammers.

Since the scammers have access to both a users email address and their names security experts warn that users might be vulnerable to spear-phishing attacks. Phishing is a random legitimate looking email sent to random email addresses. In the case of spear-phishing that legitimate looking email will take on a more direct approach being targeted to confirmed users of a service and maybe even containing the users real name.

Short of completely changing your email address there is no defense against such a scenario. Users have to use common sense and be very vigilant in their clicking of links.

Here are a few ways to avoid a phishing attempt:

  • No matter how legitimate the email looks never use the link in the email use direct links that you know are good or use your bookmarks.
  • Always check your URLs and only log into secure sites with https://
  • Banks and other financial institutions never ask you to send them account information or logins if they are then its not legit
  • Watch out for "confirm your account" or "there has been a security breach" emails. These are one of the most common emails I see and they are more likely now that there has been a security breach. The emails sent out from this incident DO NOT contain links and DO NOT ask that you check or confirm your account. NetworkWorld has a list of some of the legit email sent out.
  • If you think the email looks to go to be true or even question for a second the legitimacy then don't trust it and go directly to the source, be it BestBuy, Citibank whatever.

Cisco Releases Linksys E-Series Router Refresh

Cisco today announced the release of the company's new Linksys E-Series family − with a sleek new design and unmatched performance for premium video, gaming, and entertainment experiences .

The new Linksys E-Series lineup includes five routers, each with the latest technology in home wireless for a multitude of home entertainment experiences. The new routers not only provide the performance needed for today’s connected home, but also help to future-proof for new and emerging media technologies that are gaining traction with consumers, such as Internet-enabled TVs and Cisco’s ūmi telepresence. Designed with faster speeds (up to 450 Mbps*), other key features for select routers in the line include a 3x3 spatial stream configuration for improved coverage, external power amplifiers to maintain signal strength over a greater distance and reduce dead spots, and virtual USB technology to connect USB printers, storage and devices to the network. The full line also boasts a new industrial design that combines sleek contours and advanced functionality − recently earning the prestigious 2011 Red Dot Product Design Award for product design, innovation and quality.

“With more than 70 million routers sold, Linksys brings a decade of leadership and innovation to create products that consumers trust for the best wireless quality, performance and experience,” said Simon Fleming-Wood, vice president of marketing, Cisco Consumer Products. “Our new Linksys line offers an array of solutions for the needs of today’s home networking consumer - from basic Internet surfing to video and music streaming, to gaming.”

E-Series Wireless-N Routers

Pricing and Availability
There are eight new products in the Linksys family -- five routers and three switches. The suggested retail prices for the routers range from $59.99 to $179.99. Prices of the switches range from $29.99 to $74.99. The full line of Linksys routers and switches are available starting today at retailers nationwide or by visiting the Linksys website at www.linksys.com/store

For more details checkout our review of the new Linksys E4200, we'll also be reviewing a few of the other next generation E-series routers soon.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Geolocater Add-On For Firefox Great For Facebook Pranks

In celebration of April Fools Day I give you the Geolocater Firefox Add-On, perfect for editing your default geolocation for check-ins to places like Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter or Gowalla thus allowing you to trick your friends into believing you are someplace you are not. Whats best is you don't have to know the latitude and longitude, simply use the search feature to find a point of reference you want and Geolocater will give you a handy little map to select your location. You can also pin-point specific addresses for specific sites and you can setup and save several locations.

For reference I wanted to check-in at Google's Mt. View headquarters. The address is 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043. I select create new geolocation and then I have two options. Either I can use the search bar or I can switch to select geolocation. Since I know my address and the exact spot I want it might be easier to select the location manually. I input my exact information and as you can see from the image below I get a complete map of the area. This will now be my pinpoint location when checking in from Firefox.

Now I can go over to http://touch.facebook.com/ and check-in from Google's headquarters even if I'm half a world away.

I've been messing around with my friends and family all day. I've checked-in from Vegas, Hawaii and Mexico and from several different sites from each.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Samsung Keylogger Reports Due To False Positive

Reports published on several major sites yesterday about a potentially damaging keylogger being pre-installed on brand-new Samsung laptops have now been refuted as being nothing more than a false positive, some overzealous, perhaps even poor reporting and apologies have now been issued.

Mohamed Hassan the founder of NetSec Consulting Corp, a firm that specializes in information security consulting services. wrote in Mich Kabay’s Security Strategies newsletter that as soon as he received his Samsung R525 laptop, he ran a full system scan and found a commercial keylogger called StarLogger. Upon returning the laptop for another again ran similar scans detecting the same keylogger.

Without any other corroboration or verification from other sources NetworkWorld ran with Hassan's story which was picked up by several other major news outlets creating a major stir. The problem being no one worked to verify the reports, rather they took them on face value and spread the false information like oil on water.

GFI Labs, the maker of VIPRE, has issued an explanation and apology for generating the false positives that led to these articles: "We apologize to the author Mohamed Hassan, to Samsung, as well as any users who may have been affected by this false positive."

"The confusion arose because VIPRE mistook Microsoft's Live Application multi-language support folder, "SL" folder, as StarLogger. (Depending on the language, under C:\windows folders "SL" for Slovene, "KO" for Korean, "EN" for English are created."

Researchers at other antimalware companies confirmed early today that the original detection that led to the confusion was indeed a false positive.

Personally I think Samsung should look to hold someone accountable. Right from the start this looked very suspect to me. One report from a guy that buys two machines from one store hardly lent any credibility to the claims that Samsung was at fault. Back that by the fact that not one of the news outlets that ran the story, nor Mr. Hassan himself, tried to get corroboration from any outside sources and you had the making of some seriously bad reporting.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Apple Worldwide Developers Conference June 6-10 Highlighting iOS and Mac OS Futures

Apple today announced that it will hold its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) June 6 through June 10 at San Francisco’s Moscone West. The five-day conference is already sold out however those lucky enough to get tickets will be treated to details of Apple's plans for the future of the company's iOS and Mac OS platforms as well as hundreds of tech sessions, hands on previews and other goodies.

“At this year’s conference we are going to unveil the future of iOS and Mac OS,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “If you are an iOS or Mac OS X software developer, this is the event that you do not want to miss.”

Mobile developers will be able to explore the latest innovations and capabilities of iOS and learn how to greatly enhance the functionality, performance and design of their apps. Mac developers will see and learn how to develop world-class Mac OS X Lion applications using its latest technologies and capabilities. Developers can even bring their code to the labs and work with Apple engineers, applying development techniques and best-practices to enhance their apps.

Activities at Apple’s WWDC 2011 include:

  • more than 100 technical sessions presented by Apple engineers on a wide range of technology-specific topics for developing, deploying and integrating the latest iOS and Mac OS technologies;
  • over 1,000 Apple engineers providing developers with code-level assistance, insight into optimal development techniques, and guidance on how they can make the most of iOS and Mac OS technologies in their apps;
  • the opportunity to connect with thousands of fellow iPad, iPhone and Mac developers from around the world; and
  • Apple Design Awards which recognize iPad, iPhone and Mac apps that demonstrate technical excellence, innovation and outstanding design.
 For more details visit the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2011 website developer.apple.com/wwdc

Sunday, March 27, 2011

AMD Challenging NVIDIA's World's Fastest GPU Claims

Laying out bold claims like "world's fastest" is nothing new and by now we should all be use to the marketing schemes that companies use to pry our money out of our hands. Savy consumers should know to wait for reviews, benchmarks and thorough testing before they jump on the band-wagon just because a company claims the top dog title.

This week, however, AMD has decided it wants to challenge the claims Nvidia is making about its latest graphics card, the GTX 590. When AMD launched the Radeon HD 6990, the company of course laid claims to the title of the fastest card on the market. The company even showed the card scored highest ever score using 3DMark 11 benchmark. Fast forward to a few days ago, when NVIDIA released the GTX 590, and NVIDIA is now claiming the fastest card title, but has not released any test scores to back that claim up.

Now AMD wants proof, and has challenged NVIDIA to prove its claim as to the title of fastest graphics card on the market. In a recent blog post Dave Erskine the Senior Public Relations Manager for Graphics Desktop at AMD threw out the challenge:

We combed through their announcement to understand how it was that such a claim could be made and why there was no substantiation based on industry-standard benchmarks, similar to what AMD did with industry benchmark 3DMark 11, the latest DirectX® 11 benchmark from FutureMark.  
So now I issue a challenge to our competitor: prove it, don’t just say it. Show us the substantiation. Because as it stands today, leading reviewers agree with us here, here, here, and here that the AMD Radeon HD 6990 sits on the top as the world’s fastest graphics card.

The gauntlet has been thrown down, it'll be interesting to see how (or if) NVIDIA responds. We know this is really just a war of the words between two rivals but I think its going to be fun to see how it plays out.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

NVIDIA Announces The New 'World's Fastest' Dual GPU GeForce GTX 590

As teased yesterday by NVIDIA today the company announced the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590.

The new high end, meaning very expensive and extra powerful, GTX 590 is designed for the über enthusiasts and those looking to build the ultimate PC gaming rig. With dual NVIDIA Fermi class GPUs the card is taughted by NVIDIA as the "fastest dual graphics card available today."

With a combined 1024 NVIDIA CUDA architecture cores, 3GB of GDDR5 memory, 6 billion transistors and over 2200 individual components all packed into an 11 inch dual slot card, the GTX 590 delivers a staggering 32 tessellation engines that can power today's cutting edge DX11 games at resolutions of 2560x1600 and higher. The core is clocked at 607 MHz, the shaders are clocked at 1214 MHz, and the memory is clocked at 853 MHz for a memory data clock rate of 3414 MHz. This gives you a total effective memory bandwidth of 327.7 GB/s and a texture fill rate of 7.7 GigaTexels/s.

All that power means the GTX 590 is a bit of a power hungry beast, which should be expected. It has a Thermal Design Power (TDP) of 365 Watts pushing the recommended PSU rating to 700watts.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 Benchmarks and Reviews

Related Articles

Newegg Pricing

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DUI Checkpoint Apps Under Congressional Scrutiny Removed By RIM

Earlier this week U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Tom Udall (D-NM) wrote to Google, Apple, and RIM to express concern about smartphone apps that could be used to keep tabs on - and possibly evade DUI checkpoints. Stating these applications could be "harmful to public safety," the legislators asked the companies to remove the apps or alter them so they do not allow for real-time DUI checkpoint information.

“Giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is a matter of public concern,” the senators said. “We hope that you will give our request to remove these applications from your store immediate consideration.”

The applications in question could be used to help drivers identify where local police officers have set up DUI checkpoints, possibly allowing offenders to escape detection.

Today RIM confirmed it has removed PhantomALERT, the only possible suspect reported found, from the BlackBerry App World. PhantomALERT provided users data on speed traps, red light cameras, speed cameras, school zones, DUI checkpoints, and dangerous intersections.

A RIM representative reportedly contacted the senators to say it would comply with their request for removal. "Drunk drivers will soon have one less tool to evade law enforcement and endanger our friends and families," the senators said in a joint statement. "We appreciate RIM's immediate reply and urge the other smartphone makers to quickly follow suit."

App makers feel their apps are wrongfully being targeted, and deservedly so.

Joe Scott, CEO and founder of PhantomALERT, one of the companies targeted by the senators said "They're misjudging us, it's a safety tool. It's approved by a lot of police departments. How is that we're being sanctioned? It just doesn't make sense."

The maker of “FuzzAlert,” Steve Croke, says he didn’t design his app to help people evade DUIs but to let people know where things like red-light cameras and speed traps are. He says he added information on DUI checkpoints because other apps had it and it publicizes the existence of such checks.

“I don’t think anybody realistically is going to go into a bar and get smashed and then check my app,” he said. “Is government really allowed to come in and say ‘You can’t do this?’”

On their website EveryCheckpoint.com the makers of “Buzzed” write that the purpose of their app is to send “a powerful and direct message” that local police departments are ”cracking down on driving under the influence, and this causes drivers to think twice about getting behind the wheel.”

In most cases the information is publicly available with many police departments posting the details of potential checkpoints on their websites or giving the public notice via the local media. In the case of a few of the apps its a matter of social networking, with users posting details of checkpoints they see or have heard about. This information can often be found via Twitter, Facebook or other sites.

While these apps make make it easier to find the information or may better pinpoint the locations of checkpoints they certainly aren't doing anything that should come under fire from US Senators.

8 Tips To Combat Possible Rising Wireless Prices

The following is a post by consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch, Andrea has been featured on NBC's Today Show, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, ABC News NOW and many more. To view recent interviews or get more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com.

With news of a possible merger between two of the nation's largest wireless carriers and one of the most significant deals since the financial crisis, AT&T and T-Mobile's proposed $39 billion deal have many speculating: will this lead to price increases for cell phone plans and other wireless services?

Although this merger is a winning deal for the two companies involved, financial experts and consumer advocates suggest that there's a potential loser in the outcome of the decision - the consumer.

Don't let the uncertain future of unlimited minute and data plans keep you up at night. Prepare for the possible increase in wireless service prices with these 8 savvy saving tips.

1. Extend Your Family
Family plans are great for any group of reasonably trustworthy people, including roommates, friends and extended family. Members of your plan don't need to be related to receive these money saving rates, but make sure everyone on your plan is trustworthy enough to pay their share of the monthly bill.

2. Switch to Pay-As-You-Go Phones
The New Millennium Research Council says that 25 million Americans could save money by switching to a prepaid phone. Prepaid service companies like Boost Mobile, NET10 and Virgin are more accessible than ever and even major national companies are getting in on the act, crafting reasonable prepaid plans for those who want the reliability of a nationwide network. Some carriers have watered-down versions of other plans, such as the text-friendly T-Mobile offering of $15 per month for unlimited text (but no voice). Others opt for a credit model, where you pay per usage. Rates differ by company, but most charge between 5 and 10 cents per minute or text.

3. Purchase Unlocked Phones
Consider purchasing an "unlocked" phone when switching networks, signing up for a new plan or simply updating your phone. The SIM card (Subscriber Identification Module) isn't associated with one specific provider, therefore these free-agent phones are compatible with any network, allowing you to use them for the service you prefer. Amazon and eBay are just a few of the electronic stores you can purchase an unlocked phone at a very reasonable price.

4. Use Coupon Codes
You can buy unlocked phones online with coupons for Best Buy and TigerDirect from a site like CouponSherpa.com. Don't forget to use a coupon when buying accessories to compliment your new phone.

5. Make the Trade
If you are just looking for an upgrade and your phone still works, check GreenPhone or CellTradeUSA to switch for another model. The trade will cost you, but often you will discover a better deal than purchasing elsewhere. Also, consider CraigsList to purchase from a private individual. But, buyer beware, as electronics purchased from this website come with no guarantees.

6. Download Text for FREE Apps
Texting can cost upwards of $10 per month. Cut your provider out of the picture if you have a smartphone. Download free texting apps like Textfree With Voice for iPhone and chompSMS for Android which also include free voice minutes too. Even though you'll only be able to connect to others who have the app, the savings make it worth convincing your family and friends to try out this new method.

7. Take Advantage of Employer Discounts
Switch to the provider your employer uses if you're not voraciously committed to your current provider. Almost every major carrier offers a business discount that can be applied to personal phones. The only thing required is a valid e-mail address or other form of ID from your employer. From major corporations to school districts, plenty of outfits are part of these programs.

8. Let Go of the Extras & Go Basic
Service providers have started heaping on extraneous fees. Almost any desirable phone these days now requires a data plan in addition to voice, text and other services. The key is leaving all else behind and selecting only what you'll use.

NVIDIA Teaser Video Promises Big Things Tomorrow

NVIDIA is trying to build a little hype for tomorrow's release of their "next generation" graphics card. What may it be you ask well unless that have something totally shocking that no one has heard rumors of its the new Nvidia Geforce GTX 590 dual-GPU card. The card has been delayed a few times but speculations says it should be releasing tomorrow.

The GTX 590 combines two of NVIDIA's massive GF110 GPUs on one package menaing the GTX 590 is essentially a down-clocked GTX 580 SLI setup compacted into a single dual height card. The GTX 590 packs 1024 CUDA processors, 128 texturing units, 96 ROP units as well as dual 384-bit memory buses with the clock speeds set as 612 MHz for the core and 3420 MHz for the 3GB GDDR5.

Pricing is expected to be $699. We'll have more details of the release, final specs and benchmarks as they are released tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Amazon Opening Android App Store Gets Sued By Apple

According to a Wired report Amazon will open its own Android app store on Tuesday however the company is already facing hurdles as Apple has filed a lawsuit against Amazon trying to block the company's use of the term "App Store."

Unlike Google's open-door policy Amazon will reportedly be active in determining which apps are worthy of inclusion in the store. Mobile users will be able to access the store through Amazon.com or via a native app on their Android-based devices. Amazon has made no official announcement of a launch date; its stance has been that the store would launch "later this year."

The location of the store was first discovered last week when Androidnews was hitting various Amazon.com pages. They discovered a Web page for what appears to be the location of the new Amazon app store (www.amazon.com/apps). The page apparently revealing a selection of 48 apps and their prices - many of which undercut Google's Android Market. The page has since been removed and now redirects users back to the Amazon homepage.

Update: You can read more on the Amazon Appstore via their official press release.

The early discovery of the new Android based App Store may be the least of the the company's worries as Reuters News reported Monday that Apple had filed suit on March 18 in a California court defending their application for the trademark for the term "App Store."

"We've asked Amazon not to copy the APP STORE name because it will confuse and mislead customers," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told Reuters on Monday.

According to the lawsuit, Apple Inc v. Amazon.com Inc 11-1327, Amazon is unlawfully using Apple's App Store trademark in connection with what Amazon calls the “Amazon Appstore Developer Portal” and “Amazon Appstore” along with other instances.

Apple has applied to register, but as of yet doesn't officially own, the APP STORE trademark. The matter is currently before a trademark trial and appeals board due to Microsoft currently fighting Apple's attempt to trademark the term. Microsoft believes "App Store" is generic term used throughout the technology industry and therefore should not be permissible as a trademarked term.

"The term 'app store' should continue to be available for use by all without fear of reprisal by Apple," Microsoft Associate General Counsel Russell Pangborn said in a previous statement. "An 'app store' is an 'app store.'"

My thoughts:

It'll be interesting to see how things play out. I've always said that they need to stop allowing companies from trademarking all these generic nondescript terms that are now widely being trademarked. Apple has applied to trademark 'places' Facebook applied for 'face' these are terms that are already used by several tech companies. Its my opinion that terms that are trademarked need to be distinctive and not terms that are already widely used in a given genre.

How could it be validated to restrict a company like Face.com from using 'face' because Facebook has filled for the TM, or Google places, Facebook places ect from using the terms 'places' as it relates to social media. Much the same 'app' is already widely used by the tech community and therefore shouldn't be exclusive to one company.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New MacBook Pros Plagued With Freezing Problems

Owners of Apple's new 15-or 17-inch MacBook Pro are reporting serious freezing issues when their machines are under an extensive load. Issues that are only solved by powering down the system and doing a hard reboot. Reports have begun showing up on the Apple Discussion board, as well as on the MacRumors forum, indicating that the new machines are freezing up entirely when under an extensive load such as video rendering, gaming or running multiple applications simultaneously.

Just one of the Apple Support threads is already 63 pages long and counting. Posters are saying the problem is the notebooks will freeze even as sound continues to play the cursor will also still be movable, but the computer is completely unresponsive. The author of the post said he wasn’t doing anything unusual, but had seven apps open and was in the middle of an auto-backup to Time Machine. Other posts say they were using CPU-intensive programs like iMovie when their system crashed and yet more posters complain about crashes during gaming.

Apparently, there’s only one way to solve the problem: a hard reboot.

The problem was so persistent that one customer wrote in the Apple discussion board that he was able to reproduce it on every MacBook Pro at his local Apple Store. Another user said he reproduced the problem on three different machines. This MBP-Freeze Wiki runs through the steps you can take to re-create the crash to see if your MacBook has the issue. Though if it does, you’ve probably already noticed it by now.

Apple has responded with the release of an update, OS X 10.6.7, which Apple says fixes a MacBook 2011 graphics bug. "This update is especially important for owners of the new 2011 MacBook Pro systems because it addresses a graphics bug that caused hangs and crashes under heavy graphics load." Some users are reporting that the new update has alleviated their freezing issues for now while still others have said the patch had little or no affect at all.

One user on the MacRumors forums writes:

this still does not fix the issues on the new MacBook Pro 2011 models (15" 2.3ghz) - just tested on the two machines we have here. Still they are getting too hot, constantly the fans are blowing (testing with Transmission/Bittorrent downloading the Ubuntu DVD). Also we had two freezes already (only under heavy load). I am posting updates on our findings to our blog ( http://j.mp/dLSqgy ) - and we are still waiting for replacements from apple.

ArsTechnica is reporting there are indications that the issue might be with the AMD GPUs. The site is citing a post by user ND381whom apparently  narrowed down the problem to using discrete AMD Radeon GPUs—his tests repeatedly showed the issue would occur when CPU intensive operations coincided with running apps that cause Mac OS X's automatic graphics switching to move from Sandy Bridge's integrated Intel graphics to the discrete GPU.

The freezing problem doesn't appear to affect MacBook Pros using only the Intel IGP, and for this reason the latest 13" MacBook Pros aren't suffering from the issue. However, users of the latest 13" MacBook Pros do report having issues with hotter CPUs and in some cases fans that operate at higher RPMs than older models.

For users wanting the latest patch that is said to fix some of these issues you can download the standalone updates from the following links:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nvidia Releases Mainstream GeForce GTX 550 Ti

Earlier this week NVIDIA introduced the newest member of its Fermi based GPU family the GeForce GTX 550 Ti. A mainstream minded card with a $150 price tag and performance numbers to match.

The GeForce GTX 550 Ti is currently the bottom end of NVIDIA's 500 series lineup and is meant to be the successor to the GeForce GTS 450 which was released last fall, but will not directly replace it in the marketplace. (Nvidia claims the GTS 450 will be for sale until at least later this year.)

Both cards feature similar specs and build architecture. The GTX 550 Ti is an evolution of the previous-generation's GTS 450 - both cards utilize 40 nm chips with a 238mm die packed with 1.17 billion transistors. They both also feature a single graphics processing cluster that's made up of four 48-core streaming multiprocessors (SMs) giving them an identical 192 CUDA cores apiece, but that's roughly where the similarities end.

The GTS 450's GF106 die utilized only two of a possible three memory-controller partitions, resulting in a 256KB L2 cache, two sets of eight ROPs and a 128-bit memory interface. Thanks to improved yields and transistor-level changes, the GTX 550 Ti's revised GF116 die makes full use of all three memory-controller partitions - that means a larger 384KB L2 cache, a total of 24 ROPs and a 50 per cent wider 192-bit memory interface capable of delivering almost twice the memory bandwidth.

Core clock and memory clock speeds are bumped from 783/900 MHz in the GTS 450 to 900/1026 MHz in the GTX 550 Ti.Nvidia claims that all these changes, taken together, result in 28 percent performance increase over what that of the GTS 450, and thus 20 percent more performance per watt.

GeForce GTX 550 Ti Specifications

  • Core Clock 900MHz
  • Memory Clock 1026Mhz (4.104GHz data rate) GDDR5
  • Shader Clock 1800MHz
  • Memory Type 1024MB GDDR5
  • Memory Interface 192-bit
  • Stream Processors 192
  • Stream Processors Clock 1800MHz
  • Transistor Count 1.17B
  • Feature Support DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.1, NVIDIA 3d Vison, Cuda, PhysX, NVIDIA SLI

GeForce GTX 550 Ti Benchmarks and Reviews

Related Articles

NewEgg Pricing

Motorola Confirms $600 Wi-Fi Only Xoom Coming March 27th

Motorola has confirmed the price and release date of the new Wi-Fi only Motorola Xoom. The device will be available at several  retailers across the United States starting March 27 for a suggest retail price of $599.

Amazon.com, Best Buy, Costco, RadioShack, select Sam’s Club locations, Staples and Walmart will be offering the 10.1-inch widescreen HD tablet with Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) through both online and retail store channels starting Sunday March 27th . The MSRP for MOTOROLA XOOM Wi-Fi with 32 GB of memory will be $599.

Rumors, as well as several pictures, have suggested that Sam's Club will be offering the Wi-Fi only Motorola Xoom for a discounted price of $539. This has yet to be confirmed however its likely if they are selling them at that price they would officially be on-sale on the 27th as well.

MOTOROLA XOOM showcases the innovations of the Honeycomb user experience – including widgets, true multi-tasking, browsing, notifications and customization – on a 10.1-inch widescreen HD display, enabling video content that’s richer and clearer than ever before. With a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM, MOTOROLA XOOM delivers exceptionally fast web-browsing performance. The latest Google Mobile services include Google Maps 5.0 with 3D interaction and access to more than 3 million Google eBooks and apps from Android Market. MOTOROLA XOOM also supports a Beta of Adobe Flash Player 10.2 downloadable from Android Market, enabling the delivery of rich Flash based web content including videos, casual games and rich Internet applications.

Google Shows Off Coming Blogger Updates

 According to Google blogger will undergo a major overhaul in the coming months with a major redesign of the user interface, some added features in the user dashboard and a move to the Google Webkit for rich text editing.

The video above was recently posted on the Official Google Blog showing off many of the new features including the cleaner more modern UI which now uses the Google Web Toolkit. In addition to a new blogging interface there will be an updated dashboard that features a similar modern design.

According to the video it looks like there will be several functionality changes as well as a new content discovery feature that lets you uncover interesting and related content based on the topics of the blog you’re currently reading. Blogger finds topic keywords and features them in a drop-down menu, allowing users to quickly jump between different Web sites posting similar material.

The video also promises some yet unrevealed changes that "could not be mentioned", I guess we'll have to wait and see what those are.

I for one can't wait to see the new changes in affect. The old blogger UI is getting rather stale and is flat out boring. The rich text editor is decent but lacking in several areas and the dashboard is just flat out dated beyond reason.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Internet Explorer 9 Officially Released

Microsoft has officially released the company's latest version of Internet Explorer, IE 9. Users wanting to try out the latest version can download IE9 here.

I've been running the beta and release candidate and have to say IE9 is by far my favorite version to date. It is far snappier than previous version. The tab function is much improved, there are more add-ons that have greater functionality and feel and the overall fit and finish of the browser seem much cleaner than previous releases.

As expected IE 9 features almost all of the enhancements shown in both the beta and release candidate. With improvements made to the new Tracking Protection feature, several user interface tweaks, more support for the emerging web standards like HTML support as well as support for Canvas, SVG and CSS3 properties. There were also improvements made to the InPrivate filtering feature. This new feature allows users to filter out content from external domains, such as Google Analytics scripts, Facebook buttons, counting pixels and externally hosted scripts. It uses blacklists and whitelists, making it similar to ad blocker extensions such as AdBlock Plus. Microsoft does not itself intend to publish tracking protection lists, but does host them.

On the performance end Microsoft has tweaked the JavaScript engine which according to MS now offers JavaScript performance comparable to that of Google's Chrome 10 and Firefox 4. During my initial use I can say it feels faster than previous versions of IE but I don't see it being anywhere near the speeds of Chrome. MS is also boasting greater hardware acceleration with additional tuning for low-end GPUs

More information is available at http://www.BeautyoftheWeb.com and for more on the new features and design changes see what's changed.