Monday, July 04, 2011

Android and the Samsung Galaxy S II

The following post comes courtesy of Bridget Knapp a freelance writer specializing in the converging worlds of technology and education.


Something very important happened in 2008: the Google Android operating system for smartphones was launched. This open source platform promised a revolution in smartphone technology, and it has clearly delivered on that initial promise. As well as providing a really slick and efficient operating system, it also integrates well with many of Google’s other applications.

As smartphone manufacturers do not need to pay a license fee to Google in order to include Android in their products, and the fact that the technology is at least as good as the iOS that powers the iPhone, Android became an instant hit with smartphone manufacturers.

Before late 2010 the Symbian operating system that powers Nokia and other phones had been the most popular; but by the end of the year Symbian phone sales had been surpassed by Android. Android phones now own over 35% of the total smartphone market.

Android based smartphones are continually getting smarter, as is clearly demonstrated by the latest release from Samsung: the Samsung Galaxy S II. This machine now has a 1.2 GHz dual core processor plus HSPA+. This adds speedy downloads, along with super-fast processing power.

The display uses super AMOLED Plus technology, which has several advantages over previous display technologies. These include:

- a twofold improvement of color gamut compared to LCD displays
- increased sharpness
- better luminescence
- a response time of only 0.01 milliseconds compared with 25 milliseconds of LCDs
- a massively increased viewing angle and contrast ratio (up from 1,263 to 150,950)

Unlike other displays, super AMOLED Plus does not need a special additional touch panel as the display is considerably thinner. This means that the phone can be kept slim and that light transmission is much improved. The phone is only 8.49 mm thick.

Voice recognition features allow you to create and send a text message without touching the phone, ideal when you are driving or it is cold and you are wearing gloves!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

HP TouchPad Charging Issues

 Update: We've recently added a new post with 5 Tips To Get Your TouchPad Running Again.

So you just got your new HP TouchPad home and it's not charging correctly, or perhaps you get an error box that says the connected charger isn't supplying enough power to charge the device. Well don't panic, you aren't alone, and the issue is actually pretty easy to remedy.

The TouchPad's North America Twist-to-lock plug adapter is actually a universal charging device. The top screws off so a second attachment for none US power prongs can be added. If the top isn't securely fastened your device will either show the aforementioned error box or simply won't charge. Right out of the box if you are having issues I'll almost guarantee the issue is the barrel connector.

How can you be certain its connected? Well that's the tricky part. Un-screw the top, and screw it back in, making sure it snaps into place. You might also notice some writing on the side of the connector. Make sure that is aligned correctly.

If it's still not working grab another micro USB charger and connect it to your TouchPad. Note: I've been told you can not charge your TouchPad via USB. USB ports do not provide enough power for charging (this might not include USB 3.0) we are waiting on confirmation of this!

If you are still seeing problems you should probably call or contact HP and use their HP webOS Butler Service (866) 945-7256. Its free for the first 90days.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

MoviePass Has A Short Lived Opening As Their Beta Is Put On Hold

Earlier today we blogged about MoviePass, a new all-you-can-watch movie service that was planned to launch in beta in San Francisco this week. Apparently plans to launch the new service weren't backed by major theaters as many have been pulling away and distancing themselves from the service. A

MC even claimed MoviePass included the theater chain without its consent.

“Plans for this program were developed without AMC’s knowledge or input,” Stephen Colanero, AMC Theatres‘ marketing chief, said Thursday in a press release. “It was news to us to see that we were participants and we will be communicating to those theaters they are not to accept MoviePass.”

At least two other major movie chains, Camera Cinemas and Landmark Theatres, also confirmed the would be turning away customers who attempt to use MoviePass.

“We are stunned that an announcement like this was made, and they ‘forgot’ to discuss it with their clients,” Landmark Theatres CEO Ted Mundorff told TheWrap in an interview. “We are not interested in outside entities setting ticket prices for us.”

MoviePass coordinated their ticketing with online ticket sellers, instead of directly through the cinemas, after not being able to get exhibitors to sign on. The company hoped to get a proof-of-concept out of its private beta and use that to get the movie chains on board, said MoviePass co-founder Stacy Spikes in a phone interview with Wired.com.

Even though the beta is currently on hold the company plans to purse other avenues in hopes to get other theaters to test the service, with the aim of resuming the trial period and proving the model to theater chains.

“We’re enthusiastic that once we can walk them through the service they’ll be excited, we just haven’t had that opportunity yet,” Spikes said. “The silver lining of all of this is that this has created the ability to have that dialog now.”

For now at least it looks like the plans to launch an unlimited movie experience are on hold. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if the theater chains warm up to the idea or if MoviePass will have to try a work around to get their service in place.

Back to Basics - 8 Common sense tips for maintaining a safe internet environment in your home

With today being Social Media Day I thought I'd share a great article written by Dave Barker of TrueCare Awareness Online.

Back to Basics 8 Common sense tips for maintaining a safe internet environment in your home.
by Dave Barker, TrueCare Awareness Online

In a world where almost everyone has a nightmarish story involving kids and social media, being a parent in 2011 can be a terrifying thing. It is almost impossible to monitor a child’s online presence at the level we’d all like to. No one has that much time. That said, we’d like to offer some tips for preserving sanity and peace of mind when it comes to worrying about your sons and daughters on the internet.

1. Discussion. Discussion. Discussion.

Parents must have a good sense about what’s going on in their kids’ online worlds. Since Facebooking has become a daily routine for kids, it needs to be part of the daily conversation. The more open you are with your kids and facilitate a safe and non-judgmental environment for conversation, the more likely they are to tell you if they come across an issue. While the idea of openness and parenting sometimes seem like they shouldn’t go together, imagine this: do you want to talk about things at the dining room table in a calm atmosphere or after something forces the issue?

2. Keep The Computer In A Common Area
Laptops, smart phones, and tablets have allowed us to overlook the cardinal rule of kids on the internet – keep the communication vehicles in a common area where parents can monitor websites and time allocated to internet activity. Making them mobile makes it even more difficult to monitor and manage. We all grew up without access to the internet on our phones and still managed to survive. Your kids can too.

3. Manners For Texting, E-Mailing Or Chatting Online
As you have in every aspect of your child’s life, you set the expectations for manners and appropriate behavior. Coach them to behave as you have taught them in real life.  Typed content is the same as verbal communication. Digital manners need to be reinforced just as regular manners do.

4. Understand the Settings of Social Media Sites
While settings can sometimes be difficult to find and hard to navigate, understanding the settings can save you time and heartache down the road. They control what information people can and can’t see and what information is sent out upon posting.  Be certain that any settings are set to your preferences. Also remember that Facebook technically prohibits children under 13 from even having a Facebook account.

5. Posting Pictures – Interpretation is in the Mind of the Beholder
A picture posted online is not private. A photo sent between cell phones is not private. Make sure that your children are aware that mistakes do happen and so-called private messages go public, or that sometimes people you trust make mistakes in judgment.  Once a photo hits Facebook, it is legally owned by Facebook and will always be on their servers even if you delete it. It can be downloaded and reposted across the entire web within hours.  Explain that on the internet, nothing is really ever gone, and the consequences of an immature decision will be viewable for years to come.

6. Kids and Adults should Not Be Friends
You and your kids should be connected in social media so you can monitor their behavior. However, you may need to be careful with their connections to other adults because of the adult content that person and their friends can bring to your kids’ social networks.

7. Teach children what to do if they get an offensive or threatening IM, e-mail, or chat room post
According to the National Crime Prevention Center, in 2010 over 40% of children were the victim of an online bully. Of that number, 90% never discussed the situation with their parents.  The more conversations you have with your kids about what occurs online, the more likely they will be to talk to you about what’s going on. Take every opportunity to teach them how to manage themselves in confusing situations.

8. If Your Child Has A Social Media Account, They Are At Risk.
No one can hide on the internet.  A social media account means that a child’s personal information is available in a search engine. Be certain that content is managed appropriately. Performing a Google search every once in a while may be a good idea to make sure that you’re aware of your kids’ online presence.
 
We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, and we know that what we’re saying is largely common sense. However, we feel strongly that there’s no such thing as too much caution when it comes to our kids and the internet. That’s why we started TrueCare, and why we feel so passionately about what we do. We are all concerned parents and nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our children.

Unfortunately, these days it is almost impossible to devote the necessary time to comb through their pages. However, there are programs out there that are able to monitor your child without your daily intervention. Such programs are available to sift through your child’s social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace) and when they come upon certain keywords will alert you to a potential issue on your child’s page. References to sex, alcohol, bullying, drug abuse, depression, suicide, violence, and racism will trigger an email to you containing an alert.

We don’t do this because we don’t trust our children. We do this because we know that the world we live in now isn’t the same as the one we grew up in. It’s our job as parents to try to protect our kids from as much as we can, in whatever way that we can. We do this to try to keep bullies and predators from harming the things that we love most. We feel that nothing is worth more than that, and we think you do too.

DOJ Shuts Down Full Tilt Poker

The U.S. Department of Justice has pulled the plug on one of the internet's most popular online poker sites, Full Tilt Poker.

That's right the site that runs all those ads claiming you can play like the pro's with real life professional poker players, including Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, Phil Gordon, and several others has been shutter by U.S. authorities cracking down on online gambling. According to a report in the L.A. Times, the gambling commission on the island of Alderney in the British Channel Islands suspended the licenses of Full Tilt Poker following an investigation prompted by indictments in the U.S. Those indictments charged Full Tilt Poker executives with bank fraud, money laundering, and other crimes.

The Alderney commission said its investigation found evidence that Full Tilt was operating in violation of local laws.

"The decision to suspend the eGambling license was in the public interest and, because of the seriousness and urgency of the matter, it required that immediate action be taken," said Andre Wilsenach, the commission's executive director.

The site now bears a notice posted by the FBI stating they have seized the domain pursuant to an arrest warrant.





To date Full Tilt Poker's only statement is that issues on their home page.

Full Tilt Poker has always maintained the highest levels of integrity and compliance with the law. Due to recent events Full Tilt Poker is unable to accept ‘Real Money’ play from customers located in the United States. However, please know that your funds are safe and secure we are working to resolve the distribution of these funds.

Important information for US players in the US Player FAQ

How To Invite All Your Facebook Friends To Google+

If you where one of the lucky few (hundred thousand or so) that actually got in on the first round of invites to Google+ you've probably notice a nice barren landscape with few of your friends around. You've probably also notice that Google+ doesn’t have an option built in to transfer your Facebook friends. Well we've done some digging and came up with two options that should work for you.

Update: Over the weekend FaceBook blocked the Facebook Friend Exporter extension. The Yahoo option listed below may still work but it looks like they are working to block everyone from "taking" their friends with them to Google+

The first option comes via Mohamed Mansour on Google+ who shares what we think might be the easiest method of importing all of your Facebook users over from one service to the other. This option utilizes the Facebook Friend Exporter extension for the Chrome web browser. The tool adds an “Export friends” button to the Facebook toolbar so you'll also need that installed.

What this process does is add all of your Facebook friends to your Google Contacts. It does not actually add them to any of your Google+ circles. But you can do that later and with much great easy now that they are in your contacts. This might not be ideal, as it grabs all your FB friends however, this is far and away the easiest way to go about inviting and adding hundreds of friends on Google+. The best thing is it uses your Google Contacts to suggest people to invite using an easy drag and drop process.off adding them.

The second option, which is also fairly painless, involves creating or using an existing Yahoo account. This option will also allow you to connect with several other services like all your G-Mail, Windows Live Hotmail or AOL contacts.
  1. Sign up (or log into) a Yahoo! Mail account, click the "Contacts” tab at the top, and then "Import Contacts." Authorize Facebook (or whatever other service you want) access to your Yahoo! address book. This will add them to your Yahoo account.
  2. Log in to Google Plus (http://plus.google.com) and navigate to your "Circles" (https://plus.google.com/circles).
  3. Click "Find and Invite", and then click Yahoo! Import your Facebook friends to the "Suggestions" section.
Either suggestion will be a bit time consuming, especially for those of you with hundreds or thousands of contacts. But at this time they appear to be the only viable options. I'm looking for an extension that will work with Firefox but so far I haven't found any.

I should also note that at this time Google has shut down Google+ invites as they are over capacity. So for now at least you'll need to wait to invite all your friends to connect with you. Last but not least for all you that are worried about removing any of your contacts if you don't like the service Google has a new tool called Google Takeout. In short, it’s a way to quickly and cleanly remove your data from Google Buzz, Google Contacts and Circles, Picasa, your Google Profile, and Google Stream.

MoviePass Offers Unlimited Movie Tickets For $50 Per Month

All you movie geeks out there take notice there is a new service opening up this week that is right up your alley! MoviePass, is a new service scheduled to launch this week in San Francisco California.

For $50 a month users will be able to see as many movies as they want at one of the "at hundreds of cinema locations" that are currently participating. Simply download an app to your iPhone, Android or other smartphone, make your reservation and go. That's it!

From your smartphone you can search for a film, find a local show time, check in to the theater and go straight to the ticket-taker with your reservation confirmation number. If you want to see a 3-D or Imax film, you will have the option to pay a $3 surcharge. Eventually there will also be the option of a “limited pass” offering four movies a month for $30.

“MoviePass makes spur-of-the-moment movie-going as simple as choosing a film on the phone and checking in at the theater,” said MoviePass co-founder Stacy Spikes. “No more waiting in line.”

Currently MoviePass is running in beta and has only been rolled out to a dozen or so movie theaters in the San Francisco Bay area, with plans to roll out into other cities over summer. Exact locations and participating theaters aren't listed at this time.So you might be hit and miss at to which theaters you'll be able to visit.

My thoughts:

Would you pay $50 a month for all the movies you can see? Right about now, when all the big movies are hitting the screen, it might be well worth it for a single person, high schooler ect to pay the fee. You could easily watch 4-5 movies a month making the pass well worth the cost.

For a busy body or small family though it really wouldn't be feasible. You might get 1-2 movies in per month and in most cases you could get better deals going to matinees. During the off times when you don't see as many blockbusters in theaters you might also have a hard time recouping the cost. So while I like the unlimited movies idea I'm not sure the price range would be worth it for most people.

For more info checkout http://splash.moviepass.com/

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Amazon Officially Terminates California Based Affiliates

Early today Amazon was making headlines when the company went public with their fight against a new California law that would reqire the payment and collect of sale taxes for any sale originating from sites and affiliates based in California. The company sent out emails informing affiliates that if the law is inacted it would be forced to terminate contracts with those affiliates that are within the state.

Tonight unfortunately, Governor Brown has signed into law the so-called budget trailer bill, ABx1 28, authored by Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley). As a result of this, Amazon has sent out notices that contracts with all California residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program are terminated effective immediately, June 29, 2011.

Those California residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com. The company did say however that qualifying advertising fees earned before today will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.

Below we've attached the full text of the email we recieved earlier today.

Hello,
Unfortunately, Governor Brown has signed into law the bill that we emailed you about earlier today. As a result of this, contracts with all California residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program are terminated effective today, June 29, 2011. Those California residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned before today will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.

You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of California. If you are not currently a resident of California, or if you are relocating to another state in the near future, you can manage the details of your Associates account here. And if you relocate to another state in the near future please contact us for reinstatement into the Amazon Associates Program.

To avoid confusion, we would like to clarify that this development will only impact our ability to offer the Associates Program to California residents and will not affect your ability to purchase from Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com.

We have enjoyed working with you and other California-based participants in the Amazon Associates Program and, if this situation is rectified, would very much welcome the opportunity to re-open our Associates Program to California residents. As mentioned before, we are continuing to work on alternative ways to help California residents monetize their websites and we will be sure to contact you when these become available.

Regards,
The Amazon Associates Team

Generally, if sales tax would apply when you buy physical merchandise in California, use tax applies when you make a similar purchase without tax from a business located outside the state," according to the California Board of Equalization's Web page. That includes Web sites like Amazon, Google and others which under the new law would lose that profit to the state

My thoughts:

Otiginally I didn't understand the law specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers - including those referred by California-based marketing affiliates like even if those retailers have no physical presence in the state. I thought Amazon was taking a harsh stance punishing affiliate marketers because they didn't want to pay for goods sold in the state. I thought this only affected sellers with storefronts, selling physcial goods.

Personally I see no correlation between where a site, or affiliate is based with taxing those links. My personal address should have no bearing, I pay taxes on any affiliate money made and don't sell a physical good. I could understand if we are talking the transfer of actual goods, like a drop shipping store front or something similar but taxing an affiliate link seems like a stretch.

The really bad part of this is that this will not only affect sites like Amazon but almost any affiliate site. That means this could affectively put an end to any California based affiliates.

You May Soon See World of Warcraft On Your iPad

Blizzard's Greg Street recently spoke with popular gaming site Eurogamer about the company's thought on porting the hugely popular MMORPG to devices running on Apple's iOS.

"Everyone I know here has an iPhone or an iPad so we're huge fans of the hardware," Street said. "If we could make the right game changes to make that work, it's something we'd be interested in. It's not something you're going to see in the next week or two, but it's the kind of thing we're always looking at."

It appears as though some of the current focus is around the hardware requirements. Anyone that has played the game knows WOW is designed for use with a mouse and a keyboard. Currently they are facing similar issues with finding a console solution that lets could replicate keyboard and mouse input easily. Finding a viable solution for a touch based device might prove to be a much great challenge.

A second major issue would be the need to use an optimized, scaled-down version of the game with lower-resolution graphics in order to fit within the limited mobile hardware environment. This may also mean that the MMORPG would require its own servers to keep the gameplay experience even. A possible solution would be using a solution similar to that of David Perry's Gaikai service which has already proven that World of Warcraft can be streamed inside an Internet browser.

For gamers it should be interesting to see where Blizzard heads with this. The iPad is undoubtedly one of the most popular tablet platforms out there and WOW is by far one of the most popular games to date. If they can work out the interface its possible that we could see many more of our favorite games being shuffled over to tablets.

Own A Palm Pre or Pixi Get A $50 Rebate On The 32GB TouchPad

For those of you that own a Palm Pre, Pre Plus, Pixi, or Pixi Plus now through July 31 you can get a $50 rebate on the purchase of a new 32GB TouchPad.

The deal is initially pen in the US or Canada only and there is no mention of any other phones being accepted into the rebate program. Palm also says "proof of ownership" is required, however the details of how to provide that proof are missing. According to a few tweets you won't need a receipt to claim the rebate -- for most people, a serial number will do the trick.

A bit surprising is the fact that Palm/HP seems to only be accepting some of the older phones for the program and none of the company's newer phones. I'm sure Veer owners would love to be apart of the offer!

You can read more at The Official HP Palm Blog: Early adopters: your new TouchPad just got $50 closer

Friday, June 24, 2011

We Got Hands On The HP Touchpad And WebOS

Come July 1st HP is going to launch their culmination of HP ingenuity and Palm innovation, the HP TouchPad. It blends HP's styling with Palm's WebOS functionality, ease of use and productivity to build a tablet that may in fact challenge the iPad.

I've had the rare chance to get hands on the TouchPad and I have to say from what I've seen I'm pretty impressed. I will say I'm more impressed with WebOS than the design of the TouchPad, or at least the feel of it.

So here are my thoughts.

WebOS is the big thing
  • Just type is beyond belief, apps, email contacts whatever are right there with a few characters. You hit a few keystrokes and anything you might want to open is intuitively ready. It gives you suggestion based on what you typed.
  • Real life multitasking, you can have 1,2 3..10 apps open and they are actually live. Nothing goes to stand by everything you see on your screen is ready to go. So if I wanted to play a YouTube video, go back and send an email its all set. No waiting, no switching back and forth. Big plus this is for any apps not "some"
  • They have this really cool syncing feature that does calenders, photos and something else. Calenders is really cool, it syncs almost any services and it adds a color to each for easy distinction. So you have a business calender for GMail, personal for Yahoo! and something else. They all show up in colors. It also syncs photos from Facebook, Photobucket and a few other accounts.You get to see them all without having to actually go to the accounts.
HP Touchpad How Does It Feel?
  • Hands on it feels pretty fast. From what I've seen you can run, or have open, at least 5 apps without it slowing down
  • The screen looks top notch. It takes fingerprints like most but its bright, clear and it is Gorilla Glass so that's a plus.
  • The backing sucks! Plastic these days is a bad call. It doesn't fell bad, just not my choice.
  • Weight, that is always a big concern. Bigger screen, more weight! 10" tablets to me are two handers but even that holding it in me off hand and trying to type got tiresome.
So do I think the TouchPad will be iPad competitor? No not really. WebOS has a great deal of potential. It does so much in the way the way of integration. Its way above everything the Droid based tablets I've seen.

The down fall if any is the fragmentation for one and the overall design of the device.
  • Fragmentation: We have the Android Market (Amazon's version and others), Apple AppStore, RIM MarketPlace, MS Market and now a WebOS market?
  • Design: Personally I'm on the middle on this one. I think either go mid range 5-7" and ultralight or go bigger 10-12". You add some weight but you get some functionality. For me the screen size is ok but the weight is a bit much.

For all I've said I'm probably overly impressed with WebOS. I'd honestly buy a TouchPad just for that, it really is that good. I haven't seen a tablet that, functionality wise, performs anywhere close.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

J.K. Rowling Talks Pottermore, Harry Potter E-Books And More

Author J.K Rowling has released a new Harry Potter site called Pottermore, which when launched provided little details other than a landing page with a coming soon sign. Today the author of the ever popular Harry Potter series has released several details about the new site, the plans for the release of the Harry Potter series on e-book and more.


Rowling has described Pottermore.com as an online version of the Potter world and the stories from the books, but with a highly interactive user experience allowing you to shape certain part of the storyline. On top of that it will form the exclusive home of Harry Potter audio books and e-book versions of all the books from the series.

Rowling also teased fans with the hint that additional information will be revealed from her extensive notes through Pottermore to help felsh out the world and the characters beyond what has gone before. The free site allows visitors to become part of the stories by going through the Sorting Hat process where Rowling herself has written a "vast pool" of questions to direct users to their correct home. Users will also be able to do other things covered in the first book for example choosing wands, shop on Diagon Alley and experience life at Hogwarts. Currently the site only covers the first novel "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorcerer's) Stone," with the remaining books being added over time. The storyline of the second book will go live in early 2012.

Points can be won for houses by casting spells and mixing potions, users will be able to comment and add their own drawings and content – and Rowling herself will be dropping in "as a normal punter".

The site won’t launch until October (there is currently a sign-up page for notices), but on July 31 it will be opened up to a select few in a sort of beta phase to work out the kinks. Harry Potter fans should definitely keep an eye on Pottermore.com for more details.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wal-Mart Gamecenter Lets You Play Games From Your Browser

You can now try out several games for yourself right on Wal-Mart's Gamecenter website, no downloading, no special equipment required. The games are loaded right in your browser thanks to game streaming company Gaikai.

The speed and specs of your computer is irrelevant, the game is run on Gaikai's servers and then streamed to you, much like with OnLive. The one major requirement is that your Internet connection be fast enough to handle the bandwidth load. The website automatically detects your speeds, no testing required and if it isn't up to par then the website omits any mention of being able to try the game and displays videos, screenshots, and other information instead.

According to 1Up.com Dead Space 2 is one of the titles currently available to be played on Wal-Mart's Gamecenter website. I however couldn't get any of the games to show up for free play.

According to Gaikai CEO David Perry more games are apparently on the way. "Over the next 12 months, when people see a video game on TV and want to try it out, they can be sure the fastest way will be on Wal-Mart's website," Perry said. "It's an exciting time and you'll see more sites around the world doing these stealth launches with us."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mozilla Very Quietly Releases Firefox 5.0

You might not have noticed but earlier today Mozilla released the newest version of Firefox for you to update to. Following up on their recent promises to push out rapid releases of Firefox faster than ever the company has officially released Firefox 5.0. To some surprise the company made none of the normal announcements, nor do you have any annoying pop-ups trying to tell you to install the update.

So whats new?

Good question, overall you won't see much in terms of UI changes. Its really whats under the hood that matters most. Here are the release notes that will give users all the info they might want or need.

Firefox 5.0 has the following changes:
For more information you can view the complete list of changes and if you are interested in downloading it you can get the latest released version of Firefox here or from your toolbar click help>about Firefox and it will download automatically.

You should not that even though this is a minor update some of your add-ons might not support the new version. Its not that they won't work but the authors need to update support for the new release. So you might want to hold off for a day or two, or check with the add-ons site to see yours has been updated.

How To Burn A Mac OS X Lion Install Disk

Apple has announced that for the first time will ever it will be offering it's latest OS X update as download-only via the Mac App Store. But what happens if you want to do a clean install of OS X Lion, or have a back-up disk just in-case?

Well for those of you that like the idea of clean installs or just want to Burn your own Lion DVD Richard Austin of Blog Champion has figured out the steps needed to create your own Mac OS X Lion install disk once it's available to everyone next month.

Here's the steps needed:

  1. Download Lion from the App Store.
  2. Locate the Lion installer file in your Applications folder from the Finder. Right click the icon and select "Show Package Contents."
  3. Open the Contents folder and locate the file called InstallEDG.dmg. Copy it to your desktop.
  4. Open Disk Utility (just search for it using spotlight) and click the yellow and black Burn icon. Select the InstallEDG.dmg file from your desktop and drag it to your DVD-R to burn it.

Now you may ask why I would want to do a fresh install and not the in-place upgrade. For most people a quick upgrade is great. It will preserves most of what you already have on your machine and you won't need to re-install anything. It will be the quickest easiest way to go.

For me, I like to start from scratch when I install new operating system or major update. This allows me to remove any remnants of old software, registry entries or anything else that might be hanging around. I get to experience things the way new users experience things when they start up their new Macintosh or PC for the first time.

It also forces me to think about my back-ups. If I haven't backed up recently doing a clean install will force me to do one. It will force me to update any of my apps but that too is welcomed as it then removes anything that might have been outdated.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Apple Sued Over iCloud and iBooks

Apple, who has traditionally been on the offensive when it comes to trademark claims, now finds itself playing defense as at least two companies have sued the company claiming two of their newest naming schemes are violating trademarks.

A Phoenix, Ariz.-based communications company, named iCloud Communications is seeks an injunction against Apple's use of the iCloud name, as well as an unspecified amount of monetary compensation alleging Apple has copied its name. The six-year-old company, which provides voice-over-IP and other cloud computing products and services, claims Apple was "willfully blind" and knew about its iCloud name.

ICloud's Complaint
The goods and services with which Apple intends to use the "iCloud" mark are identical to or closely related to the goods and services that have been offered by iCloud Communications under the iCloud Marks since its formation in 2005. However, due to the worldwide media coverage given to and generated by Apple's announcement of its "iCloud" services and the ensuing saturation advertising campaign pursued by Apple, the media and the general public have quickly come to associate the mark "iCloud" with Apple, rather than iCloud Communications.

In a second similar complaint a New York publisher is suing Apple over its use of the term "iBooks." Publisher John Colby claims that his company purchased rights to over 1,000 books published under the "ibooks" name, beginning in 1999. The lawsuit notes that Apple holds an "iBook" trademark for computing equipment, but didn't start using the term to refer to its e-book products until 2010, several years after Colby purchased the book rights.

"Apple's use of the mark 'iBooks' to denote the electronic library that can be accessed via its iPad tablet computer and its iPhone is likely to overwhelm the good will of plaintiffs' 'ibooks' and 'ipicturebooks' marks and render them virtually worthless," says the lawsuit.

It looks like Apple's reign of using generically trademarked "I" terms might be crashing down upon then. The company is currently fighting a trademark dispute with Amazon and Microsoft who are both arguing that the company's App Store trademark is invalid because generic ideas like "tire store" can't be trademarked.

These two lawsuits might hold a little more weight as they are directly involving specific trademarks rather than a more generic term. It should be interesting to see how these cases turn out.

Related reading:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Redbox Now Renting Games for $2 Per Day

You will now have more options when you make your trip to Redbox as the company has started offering a select lineup of videogames at select kiosk locations.

For $2 plus tax, you can rent a game for one day. You will have the option of several titles for all three major systems Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. A full list can be seen at Redbox's website. Most the games are going to be new release like L.A. Noire (PS3 only), Brink, Red Faction: Armageddon, Infamous 2, and the controversial Duke Nukem Forever are all offered.

As with movies you can place a hold on titles right from Redbox's website, so there's no need to worry about visiting a kiosk only to find what you want is out of stock.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NRDC Reports Set Top Boxes Waste $2 Billion of Electricity Every Year

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has recently released a report on the energy use of commonly used set-top boxes including the DVRs installed by the cable, satellite and telephone companies that enable you to access pay-TV. According to their findings Digital video recorders (DVRs), cable and other pay-TV boxes cost American consumers and average of $3 billion a year -- $1 billion to operate when in active use and an additional $2 billion while inactive but still running at near full power.

NRDC and its consultant Ecos recently went into the field and monitored the power used by basic set-top boxes and DVRs that were connected to a wide range of service providers including Time Warner, Comcast, Dish Network, Direct TV, AT&T and Verizon. According to their research almost all the boxes tested consumed nearly as much power when powered off as it did when its powered on. Hitting the power button simply dims the clock or display leaving the units in "standby mode" which for a typical DVR, instead of consuming 30 Watts when on, the box used 29 Watts. 

When you add it all up, this means it’s costing our nation $2 billion per year in electric bills to power devices when we are NOT using them.

Here are some of the key findings from their research:
  • More than 80% of US home subscribe to some form of pay-TV.  There are more than 160 million set-top boxes installed in US homes, or roughly one box for every two Americans.
  • On a national level set-top boxes are consuming 27 billion kilowatt-watt hours per year.  That’s equivalent to the annual electricity use of the entire state of Maryland.
  • It takes the equivalent of nine coal burning power plants (500 MW) to operate these devices. 

To put set-top box energy use into perspective for the average consumer, the NRDC developed the bar chart shown below. Some of the things to note:
  • Many DVRs consume more electricity each year than the big screen TV they are connected to.
  • A household with one DVR and one basic HD set top box uses roughly 450 kwh/yr or the equivalent annual electricity use of one new ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator.


What can you do you may ask? Unfortunately until newer better boxes are out there aren't many options. You can call your pay-TV service provider and request a set-top box that meets ENERGY STAR Version 4.0. That means you’ll have the most efficient box on the market. Another option would be opting to simply kill all the power to the devices when not in use. We recently reviewed the Belkin Conserve Switch which offers users a way to remotely disconnect the power to all the devices it's connected to.

Any device like a surge suppressor or the Belkin Conserve Switch are a great was to shave a few dollars off the power bill, espeically in the upcoming summer months!

Why Buy An Unlocked iPhone 4?

Unlocking iPhones to run on other networks has been big business in the past few years. Those technically proficient enough to unlock the prized phones have made a bunch of money not just selling the unlocked phones here in the states but also exporting them to other countries that have networks that will run them.

Apple has finally begun selling an unlocked version of the GSM iPhone 4 here in the US but those phone pack a hefty premium. The unlocked 16GB iPhone 4 is now available directly from Apple for $649, with the 32GB model going for $749. Sorry Verizon customers there is currently no option to buy an unlocked iPhone 4.

So the question is why would you want to buy one?

For years people were unlocking the AT&T phone and taking them to T-Mobile for a much cheaper alternative. Now with T-Mobile's service slowing, and the company blocking many of the options that made them cheaper it might not make as much sense as it did before. Then there is of course the take-over that is looming.

At this point paying a ton of money just for having your phone unlocked just doesn't seem as beneficial as it once was. There are some instance where it will make sense but for the most part it won't. For those wondering the main benefits would be:

  1. If you use your phone a lot for travel you still have the benefit of using your iPhone outside the US —GSM is essentially the rest of the world's standard when it comes to cell phones. So travelers will be able to use the device on other GSM networks anywhere else in the world. You'll need to pick up a micro-SIM card for whatever carrier you want but that's not all that hard.
  2. You can say good by to AT&T. You are paying full price for an unlocked version of the phone which means that you can upgrade without committing to a new contract with AT&T. 
  3. You still have the option of using T-Mobile. Even though their service isn't optimized to run the iPhone and in many cases it slower than AT&T you will still have the option and can probably save yourself enough money that it might work out in the long run.

So why is apple selling unlocked iPhones in the U.S.?

I've had a few people ask me this, and seen the question raised more than a few times so I thought I'd touch in on this one.

Apple does nothing without a reason, so the company has to have a reason here, although it's not saying what it is we can speculate to a few reasons.
  1. They want the iPhone to stay relevant until the new iPhone 5 comes out.
  2. They have too many in-stock and need to move them
  3. The have nothing to loose, AT&T no longer has exclusivity and they are looking at buying T-Mobile so why not give everyone a taste of the Kool-aid
  4. People can buy an iPhone 4 now without re-newing their AT&T contracts, which means they can then buy the new iPhone 5 later at a subsidized price.
  5. The export market: Because of exchange rates and taxes, Apple products are less expensive in the U.S. than in some other countries. An unlocked, 16GB iPhone 4 is £512 in the U.K.—that's $839 in U.S. dollars. Compared to that, $649 is a bargain. We could see an influx of Apple products being pushed out of the states for a decent profit!
Even though these phones are technically unlocked, they still only work on two US carriers so to be honest I think its has to be a marketing play. As I said Apple doesn't "just do" something without having a very good reason behind it. What it is we might not ever know!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Steam Now Offering Free To Play Games

Steam may best be known for pay to play downloadable games, however that might be changing. Starting today Steam is now now hosting to free-to-play (F2P) games with the addition of five new titles which will be available immediately. The launch titles are Spiral Knights, Forsaken World, Champions Online: Free for All, Global Agenda: Free Agent, and Alliance of Valliant Arms (AVA).

"The introduction of Free to Play games is another example of the constant evolution of Steam," said Jason Holtman, director of business development at Valve. "Free to Play games offer new game genres and game experiences for customers, while offering developers and publishers new revenue opportunities and the ability to reach customers in areas of the world where the traditional packaged goods model is less popular than F2P."

For those that aren't sure what FTP means, its basically just what it sounds like. Free-to-Play games are available to download from Steam for free and can be played without a subscription or a credit card. You will have the option to use your Steam wallet to purchase items and content in-game to customize your gameplay but you won't be required to.

To help promote the launch Valve said that, beginning Wednesday and concluding on Sunday, each of the five launch titles will offer exclusive in-game content to those who try the "F2P game of the day" on Steam. The specific details on the "F2P games of the day" and their exclusive in-game content will be made available during their launch date.

For those of you wanting to checkout the F2P games you'll need to download the latest version of Steam. For details on the games you can visit one of the links below and you can click here to read the Free-to-Play FAQ.

Skype Teams With Comcast For HD Video Calling On Your TV

Comcast and Skype today announced that the two companies have entered into a partnership that will allow Comcast customers to utilize Sype's HD video calling on their televisions. The new service would allow any Comcast customer to dial up their friends' Skype accounts and chat with them live while watching a TV show whether their friends and family use Skype on their home TVs, PCs, compatible smartphones or tablets.

In a joint press release the two companies outlined their plans for the new program. Announcing that beginning this month they would be rolling out customer trials. Details are pretty sparse at the moment with further product details expected to be made available later this year.

Here are a few features customers can expect:
  • Make and receive Skype video and audio calls, or send instant messages via Skype on a television while watching their favorite TV show at the same time, and accept incoming calls during a TV show with the help of Caller ID.
  • Make and receive video and audio calls, or send instant messages via Skype on a compatible mobile phone or tablet.
  • Import friends to their address book from their Facebook, Outlook, Gmail and smartphone contact lists, find them on Skype and see when contacts are online and available to talk.

"Our unique relationship with Skype not only will change how our customers interact with their TV, but also will create new and meaningful ways to bring our customers closer to the people they care about," said Neil Smit, President, Comcast Cable. "TV has evolved into a social experience, and Comcast and Skype will be delivering a product that personalizes the TV experience even more, and brings friends and family together through the biggest screen in their homes."

Tony Bates, CEO, Skype, said, "We are pleased to announce this partnership with Comcast. By combining Comcast's broad living room reach with Skype's innovative communications platform and worldwide community of users, we can bring video calling into the heart of the home allowing people to share life's experiences both big and small."

This service will be delivered on the Comcast customer's HDTV through an adaptor box, a high-quality video camera, and a specially designed remote control that enables customers to text on Skype as well as control their television. The other calling party does not need any special equipment beyond what is needed to use Skype.

Comcast customers will also be able to access mobile features through Comcast's Xfinity Mobile app, and continue to enjoy conversations by switching from one compatible device (e.g., smartphone, tablet or television) to another.

Angy Birds Add-ons And Cheats Infected With Malware

Google has confirmed that it has suspended a number of suspicious applications from the Android Market after researchers discovered a new stealthy piece of spyware, dubbed "Plankton."

According to reports the malware has been found to infect as many as ten add-ons or cheats for the popular arcade game Angry Birds. The discovery was first announced on June 5 by computer science professor Xuxian Jiang and his team located in North Carolina State University.

“Plankton is the first one that we are aware of that exploits Dalvik-class loading capability to stay stealthy and dynamically extend its own functionality,” Jiang wrote. “Our investigation indicates that there are at least 10 infected Android apps in the official Android Market from three different developers. Its stealthy design also explains why some earlier variants have been there for more than two months without being detected by current mobile anti-virus software.”

A Google spokesman confirmed yesterday that the company has already taken action to remove the malicious applications.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

3 Great Gift Ideas For Geeky Dads

The following is a guest post by Maria Rainier a freelance writer and blog junkie. In her spare time Maria enjoys yoga, playing piano and working with origami.


Father’s day is right around the corner and whether it’s for your husband or your father many of us are still scrambling for the perfect gift. Here are three great father’s day gift ideas for those Geeky dads.


1. Apple iPad2


Apple’s iPad 2 is still the gold standard when it comes to the tablet market. Apple has managed to engineer one of the thinnest and lightest pieces of hardware while still giving it the power to handle HD video and web browsing with ease. This coupled with the iTunes app store and it’s virtually infinite number of apps with new ones being added each day and it’s a hard package to pass up. It’s not without its issues, a lack of flash video content for example and its IOS being geared more towards consumption than work. Still, at a starting price of only $499 for the 16gb wifi only option it’s a great gift that’s pretty adorable.


2. Personalized T-Shirt From Sites Like Custom Ink

One great fathers day gift idea is to use the create a T-shirt tool at sites like Customink.com to create a one of a kind T-shirt. Choose one of his favorite quotes or maybe a phrase from their favorite video game, then just choose the font and how large to make the letters. The prices may vary slightly depending on the size and material of the shirt. No individual shirt costs more than 30 dollars and every order ships free.


3. Samsung Droid Charge


The Droid Charge is an Android powered smartphone created by Samsung exclusively for Verizon Wireless. It features a 1ghz single-core Humming bird processor and 512 mbs of RAM. The Droid Charge sports an absolutely stunning 4.3 inch super AMOLED plus display, which is the most advanced display available on any smartphone. It also features an 8 mega-pixel camera that’s capable of shooting HD video. Its ability to take advantage of Verizon’s stunningly fast 4G LTE network coupled with the power of Android make this one a no brainer. The Droid Charge us available directly from Verizon for $299.

HP Confirms TouchPad Release Date And Pricing

HP has confirmed a July 1st release date for the company's first webOS based tablet the HP TouchPad.


Starting July 1st the HP TouchPad will be available from U.S. retailers, commercial resellers and direct from HP with the option of either 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage for $499.99 and $599.99, respectively. Preorders in North America and Europe will begin June 19.

HP also said today that it will be partnering with AT&T to introduce a connected version of HP TouchPad later this summer. No details yet, but stay tuned.

U.S. retailers and commercial resellers for HP TouchPad will include Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot, Walmart, Sam’s Club, OfficeMax, Amazon.com, Fry’s, Microcenter, other leading local and regional retailers, and HP’s online stores. Specific pricing and availability for HP TouchPad in Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom will be announced regionally. Details for Australia, Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore and Spain will be announced at a later date.

More information about HP TouchPad, including product features and specs, is available at www.hpwebos.com/us/products/pads/touchpad.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Major Data Breach At Citigroup User Account Data Has Leaked

According to reports from Reuters and the Financial Times there has been a major data breach at Citi Account Online, giving hackers access to all the sensitive data of hundreds of thousands of bank card customers.

The bank recently discovered unauthorized access at Citi Account Online through routine monitoring, a spokesperson told Reuters in an email. The information accessed includes the name of the customers, account numbers and contact information including email addresses. The bank said about 1 percent of its card customers were affected by the breach.

"We are contacting customers whose information was impacted. Citi has implemented enhanced procedures to prevent a recurrence of this type of event," the spokesperson said.

One decent revelation to come from Citi about the breach was that although account numbers may have been accessed other vital information such as birth dates, social security numbers, card expiration date and the card security codes (CVV) apparently weren't part of the breach.

Despite that information Citi cardholders should be on the look out for any fraudulent activity and they should beware of any possible phishing attempts that might look to gain access to anything further!

Corsair Recalls Force Series 3 SSDs

Popular PC hardware manufacture Corsair has issued a recall for the company's 120GB Force Series 3 Solid State Drives with product code CSSD-F120GB3-BK. The company is citing an issue that affects "a significant percentage" of these particular drives, and only the drives with the aforementioned product code.

In a forum posting Corsair said it analyzed issues associated with the stability of the recently released drive and wants users to stop using them immediately, even if their drives are not showing signs of an issue. To return your Force Series 3 120GB SSD to Corsair, contact Corsair to ARRANGE YOUR REPLACEMENT . Corsair will pay for shipping your drive back to them and will replace your drive free of charge. Estimated turnaround time is ten business days.

If you are returning your drive I highly suggest backing up any data, and I'd honestly consider formatting the drive, just to keep personal information out of anyone else's hands.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

How To Disable Facebooks Photo Recognition

Facebook has automatically implemented a new feature some users that uses facial recognition software to "help" your Facebook friends tag you in their photos. If you have this option enabled, any time one of your friends uploads a photo, Facebook will "suggest" you as a match based on the recommendations of the software.

While Facebook will only add you as a suggestion to your friends and will not recommend you as a match to someone not on your friends list, some people might find this new feature a bit intrusive and even a bit annoying. I know I for one would rather have the option to "approve" tags in some of my friends photos but sadly, Facebook won't give us an option to disable this. We are just stuck manually un-tagging ourselves from any unflattering photos.

They have however, given us a choice to enabled or disabled the facial recognition feature. Just note its enabled by default, why they did that and not opt-in only is beyond this blogger but hey at least they give you an opt out option.

If you want to opt-out of this feature, then follow the steps below:
  1. Access your privacy settings by clicking 'Account' in the top right corner of your Facebook page then from the drop down click 'Privacy Settings' (or click this direct link)
  2. Now click 'Customize settings' located below the setting tables in the center of the page.
  3. Scroll down until you see "Things others share" and look for "Suggest photos of me to friends."
  4. Now all you have to do is click 'Edit Settings' and disable the feature.
Unfortunately this won't turn off the suggestion feature for your own account it will just remove you from being suggested to others.

Tom's Hardware Wants To Back You On Manufacturer Issues And Returns

What geek hasn't had an issue dealing with an RMA? Or perhaps a support issue like needing updated drivers. Well Tom's Hardware is launching a new program geared towards backing their readers and hopefully helping you to resolve some of your issues.

Tom’s Hardware is introducing, Tom's Advocate, a new feature that lets you write in about your situation (hopefully with all of the relevant warranty information, photos, and contact information), and the company will contact one of the many manufacturing reps that have in their contact list on your behalf.

Tom's won't promise a response to every single email that comes in, nor will they guarantee a favorable resolution. But this could be a great way to get your voice heard and get a vendors attention after-all most companies want to do right by their customers and avoid any bad press along the way.

So if you have a grievance you think they can help with drop an email with as much info as you can provide to advocate[at]bestofmedia.com. The information you need are make and model numbers, retailer information, warranty details, and any other specifics you can provide. You might also want to include any background information you can give. And don't forget to give them all your contact info.

Tom's Advocate: Got A Manufacturer Grievance?

What Is iCloud And How Will You Use It?

Apple had a busy day yesterday with CEO Steve Jobs taking the stage at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference to introduce, iOS 5, the company's latest version of their mobile operating system found on the iPad, iPhone and iPods. Amongst several of the new features, which we'll cover later, was the much anticipated announcement of iCloud.Or as I see it Apple's go anywhere cloud based storage service.

What is iCloud?

To break it down to its simplest terms iCloud is Apple's new free cloud based service that works to allow you to seamlessly sync information from several different Apple based applications to almost any device connected to your iCloud account. You simply store your content in iCloud and it will automatically push the information and updates out to all your devices. When anything changes on one of your devices, all of your devices are updated almost instantly.

iCloud includes 5GB of free cloud storage for Mail, Document Storage and Backup. Purchased music, apps, books and Photo Stream do not count against the storage limit. Sp basically you get 5GB of free online document storage, I'm sure Apple will not let you store none-paid music, videos or anything that might be perceived as being a copyright concern.

How will you use iCloud?

For as much hype as it has receive iCloud is really not what the name implies. Its not some revolutionary new service that allows you to upload a ton of content to the cloud. Its not some ground breaking cloud computing project. Its really just a syncing feature much like Windows Live Mesh 2011 or an online storage system like Windows SkyDrive, DropBox or anything else.

What it does do is allow you to sync things like your contacts, calendar and mail across all your connected devices. If you update a contact on your iPad the same changes will take affect on your iPhone and vice versa. It also lets you share calendars with friends and family, and the ad-free push Mail account is hosted at me.com.

The biggest advantage iCloud adds is it make it easy to buy and sync music from iTunes, apps from the App Store and books from iBookstore. Once you make a purchase on say your iPhone it will automatically be delivered to your iPad or iPod. Meaning no extra downloads. Much like Amazon's new Cloud Player and Google's Music services it also adds music streaming via iTunes. Content can be saved on the iCloud servers and streamed to any device. No need to fill up your hard drive on your iPad or iPhone anymore.

iCloud will be available this fall concurrent with iOS 5. For more information see Apple's press release.