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.

Android

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.

Pros
  • 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

Cons
  • 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.

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

Cons
  • 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.

Update:

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, birthdates, 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.

Friday, April 29, 2011

MSI N560GTX-Ti Hawk – How fast is it?

The following is a guest post by Andy G of http://www.bravofiles.com/ which features a great collection of hardware device drivers and software.


Introduction
MSI had great success with the R6870 Hawk powered by AMB and now with the launch of the card, which is fueled with an Nvidia GTX Ti GPU; they hope to fly even higher than before. It has the makings of being the best MSI has in regards to graphic solutions ever. Containing military class II components and MSI claims it will deliver the best performance and stability. Also containing MSI Afterburner functionality and Triple Over-voltage Support, which allows for intrinsic level of tweaking and completely beefed-up power delivery?

Speed
The N560GTX-Ti Hawk has 950mhZ on its GPU, 1900khZ on its shader and an effective 4,200mhZ for its memory of 1,024MB GDDR5. MSI is extremely confidant that with the cooling systems abilities, the card will be able to have clock speed in excess of 1GHz, without any problems. It contains the revolutionary new Twin Frozr III cooling system.

Features
It features the unique technology of Propeller blade, which is exclusive to MSI, which delivers airflow of up to twenty present more as oppose to conventional fans as well as reducing GPU temperatures with 17 degrees. Also featuring the PWM design is an 8+1, which effectively doubles power for the GPU. The graphics card, combined with the Triple Over-voltage technology greatly improves the potential over-clocking of the card. Over-clockers can use the Afterburner over-clocking utility, easily monitor the condition of their cards, and thus simplify over-clocking processes. It will allow the most demanding users to monitor Memory, GPU and PLL voltages at voltage measurement points with added multi-meters. Over-clockers should really invest in this latest innovation of MSI.

The Military Class II components include Tantalum capacitors with over eight times the lifetime as opposed to solid capacitors. Thirty present more powers are gained from the SFC choke and ten-year life service is guaranteed from the solid-cap capacitors. The choice to use these components is only to further the stability of the card and to ensure the highest quality as extreme over-clocking potential. MSI has their unique P/S switches, which allows consumers to change speed of dual fans in regards to their own usage environment and preference. Different performance modes will let the GPU temperature stay low even during high loads, which will enhance performance. The silent mode of the graphics card balances the fan noise using thermal management when used for multimedia or during games. The APS helps saving power by automatically controlling usage of PWM with the enhanced design.

Conclusion
Currently it will be the fastest as well as best GTX560 Ti graphics card available in the industry and sells at $272.00. Competitors will have to really dig deep to go better on this new innovation although the only complaint against it is the fact that it is only 1GB and consumers wish they could see it at 2GB. The installation of the card is made simple with a driver download of Nvidia graphics drivers where you will find products and drivers for MSI products and then follow online instructions to install.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Amazon Offers Ten Days of Free Games

We might be a day late on this one but its better late than never right!

Amazon is running a Ten Days of Free Games offer, dishing out a freebie each day for what is now the next nine days. All the games look like they will be Windows-only, and they are from a cheap selection of titles with names you may or may not recognize. For instance yesterday’s freebie was Chicken Invaders 2, today's is Cake Mania.


Amazon has on occasion slipped in a few decent titles so you never really know whats coming next. You'll just have to keep your eye on the Game Downloads offer page each day.

Review: netTALK DUO VoIP Device And Digital Phone Service

VoIP devices offering digital phone service seem to be all the rage these days. It seems more and more people are opting to disconnect from their traditional phone services and look for cheaper alternatives. Today we get our hands on the new netTALK DUO and throw it through a few tests.

netTALK DUO2 Duo VOIP Telephone free USA and Canada Calling


Introduction

The netTALK DUO is new an up-and-coming competitor in the VoIP market. Competing against the likes of the MajicJack, with one great advantage there is no computer necessary to use the netTALK DUO. Simply plug the little box directly into a router or modem (or computer) and connect your phone or fax machine and you are up and running.

The services, or what you are paying for

The suggested retail price for the device is $69.95, including the entire first year of phone service and only $29.95 each year after. For the cost of your one year subscription you get digital phone service that includes free nationwide calls to any phone in the U.S. and Canada from anywhere in the world, as well as some pretty decent international rates. The device also offers a slew of other features such as; Free 411 Directory Assistance, Enhanced 911 Service, Three Way Calling, Call Forwarding and Call Waiting. (more details here)

More Features
  • Plug and play compatible
  • 1 x RJ-11 port (telephone), 1 x RJ-45 Ethernet port
  • Mini USB to PC or Power port
  • 3' USB to Mini A connector
  • 3' Ethernet cable
  • Color: Black/Chrome
  • Free calling to the US & Canada or DUO to DUO
  • No computer needed / No contracts / No monthly bills
  • Ultra-low cost international calling rates
  • First year of service is included. $29.95 each additional year
  • Live US-based technical support and personalized customer service
  • Free 411 directory assistance, Enhanced 911, visual voicemail, call waiting, conference calling, conference bridge, and fax friendly

Setup, is it really that easy to use

I've used several of the supposed plug and play devices and I've noticed most the time they aren't always as easy as they are suggested as being. The netTALK DUO really is just that simple. At the most you'll need to download the drivers for the computer setup option, otherwise all you do is drop by http://login.nettalk.com and follow the steps outlined.

I didn't want to be stuck leaving the device connected to my computer so I opted for the 'router setup' which allowed me to connect the device directly to one of the ports on my Linksys E4200. After dropping by the login site and setting up my info it was just a matter of plugging in a few cords and waiting for the device to automatically sync with the nettalk network.

In the matter of just a few minutes I was up and running and could make calls.

Call quality and features

With most of these devices the biggest question is "can you hear me now?" For me the voice quality seemed very good. I'd compare it to that of my AT&T cellphone service, which may or may not say alot. The option of not having it connected to a computer is great. I did some testing with it connected, mainly to try out the netTALK videophone app. I didn't actually get to make any calls but it looked like it would be fun.

They also have a NetTalk app for your Android, iPhone or Blackberry based smartphone (download here). I didn't really see the usefulness of this app, but then again I don't have a phone to try it on.

Since this is really a secondary line only setup for the review I only did a limited amount of testing. So to be honest I didn't get to test most of the other features like voice-mail and call waiting. I didn't want to give out a number that would see limited use to all my callers and all my voice-mail goes through my Ribbit Mobile account which I didn't feel like changing.

As an overall opinion this would be a great device for a small office that requires an actual in office line or someone that wants the functions of a land line without the cost. Being able to fax from the netTALK DUO is a definite plus as I do a ton of faxing. I would have liked the option of a couple extra phone ports but that's really not a big deal.

The netTALK DUO is currently available from Dell.com, Newegg and WalMart.com and sales for $69.99 with a full one year service included.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

T-Mobile Bets $1000 The Galaxy S Is Faster Than The iPhone

Apple fanboys, T-Mobile is calling you out!! The company is betting Seattle iPhone users $1000 that your Apple iPhone won't beat the T-Mobile Galaxy S smartphone on the T-Mobile 4G network.

Friday, April 29 – Sunday, May 1, 2011, bring your iPhone into one of the 10 participating T-Mobile stores to take part in a speed challenge. If your iPhone can beat the Galaxy S 4G in two out of three speed tests (download speed only), T-Mobile will give you 1,000 bucks.

If you own an Apple iPhone on either Verizon or AT&T and live in the Seattle Washington area you might want to find a participating store and see how you stack up. You can find all of the contest details and the participating T-Mobile store locations here.


The Speed Challenge Requirements
  1. Speed challenge offered 4/29/2011 through 5/1/2011; subject to change. First come, first served. Participating locations only.
  2. Limit one speed challenge per person.
  3. Participants must be 18 years of age or older and a legal resident of the 50 U.S. states or D.C.; iPhone models used on the AT&T or Verizon Wireless network (and not over Wi-Fi) only.
  4. Participants must agree to complete a T-Mobile survey / information form.
  5. Participants must download a free speed test Application specified by T-Mobile; standard data charges apply.
  6. Speed challenge consists of three tests of the Galaxy S 4G versus the iPhone based solely on download speeds as measured by the Application; participants will be eligible to receive $1,000 if their iPhones are faster in two out of the three tests.
  7. Successful participants must provide contact information; affidavit of eligibility and a liability release may be required.
  8. $1,000 provided in form of check; allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. All applicable taxes are the sole responsibility of the recipient. If check is returned as non-deliverable or participant is not eligible, $1,000 will be forfeited and T-Mobile will have no further obligation.

Apple Responds To Location Tracking, Denies All Wrong Doing

By now we've all heard to hoopla surrounding Apples gathering and use of location information on the iPad and iPhones. Today the company finally stepped forward to answer our questions and concerns and in normal Apple fashion denied there has been any wrong doing.

Apple's Q&A document published today, gives customers the how and why Apple is collecting location data.

Lets get some history behind this

Unless you've been living under a rock you've likely read the reports that two programmers discovered a file on the iOS devices that apparently held the logged location and wi-fi information of their devices.

The key issue mainly started out as being an uproar around the fact that the file is unprotected and unencrypted and being stored on iPhones, iPads and your Mac device. Then the issue arose that Apple doesn't allow you to opt out of the tracking service and that there was no way to turn it off. All this has lead to
at least two customers that have already filed a lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of violating computer fraud laws by secretly recording location data of iPhone and iPad users.

So why is Apple collecting my data

To put it bluntly Apple wants you to do their work for them. According to the Q&A they are using you to crowd-source a database which will then be turned into an Apple traffic service in the next couple of years. They will also likely use the information to create better iAds and other location based advertising.

Why I think this is an issue

I personally have no issues with Google, Apple or Microsoft gathering some of the information but I'm not happy with all that is collected. I don't feel that they should be accessing wi-fi data. Something Google got berated for when collecting street view info.

What I have issue with is the lack of transparency and what seems to be an "Apple can do no wrong" attitude. Not to mention I feel they are exploiting me as a user, and in Apple's case, without my consent. Google already addressed the issue, I have an opt-in clause on my phone, and Microsoft has already stated they don't currently do this. I can choose to share or not share my information and they aren't sneaking around behind my back first telling me they don't gather it, then confirming they do and telling me its really no big deal.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sony Warns Of Data Breach

When the Sony PlayStation Network went down it might have had a much larger impact on users than first thought. Sure the outage was annoying for gamers but it now appears as though some user information might also have been obtained during the attack. Information which included users names, addresses, birth dates, purchase history and online ID. At this time Sony is also warning users that their credit card number and expiration date may have been obtained.

Sony's Sr. Director, Corporate Communications & Social Media Patrick Seybold, provided details of the potential breach in a blog post on the Playstation Blog.

Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided: name, address (city, state, zip), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID. It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address (city, state, zip), and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained. If you have authorized a sub-account for your dependent, the same data with respect to your dependent may have been obtained. While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained.

To protect against possible identity theft or other financial loss, Sony is encouraging customers to remain vigilant, to review their account statements and to monitor credit reports.

U.S. residents are entitled under U.S. law to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus. To order your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call toll-free (877) 322-8228.