Monday, July 30, 2012

Facebook Stock Hit Hard Following Second Quarter Financial Report

It has been a rough ride for Facebook since the social media giant launched their IPO with disastrous results. The company's stock has been on a wild ride over the past few months almost consistently remaining in the red. The stock, which debuted at $38 per share when it went public, once reached as high as $45 per share before the tumble began. It is now down to just over $23, a slight nudge up from it's all time low at $22.28.

The most recently decline comes despite the fact that Facebook's revenue grew 32 percent in Q2, according to a report in The Washington Post. Facebook’s second-quarter results met Wall Street’s expectations, however it doesn't seem to be all wine and roses.

Profits have been showing signs of slowing, and Facebook's membership hasn't grown as quickly as investors would like, which is worrisome in terms of long-term growth potential. Investors were also concerned that revenue growth has slowed overall, at least compared to a few quarters ago when revenue more than doubled.

Facebook was initially valued at $104 billion when it went public two months ago. That means investors placed a higher value on its stock than established companies such as McDonald’s, Pepsi and even Amazon.With Facebook’s stock hitting a new low on Friday, the company lost as much as 39 percent of its value. It’s now around $66 billion.

Even though Facebook is closing in on 1 billion users the question still remains how is the site prepared to monetize those users and can they sustain the growth, or even keep a strong user base. On the earnings call with analysts, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said: "We are still in the early days of building our monetization engine."

That engine is revving up in mobile, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. He expects 5 billion people will own smartphones over the next four or five years, creating even more opportunity for "sharing and connecting" on Facebook. Zuckerberg says Facebook has already seen good results from mobile ads and the company has been making strides with acquisitions such as Instagram.

Still investors are growing impatient and the company will need to make great strides to keep their confidence.

Newegg Offering 11 Windows Security Suites For Free After MIR

For those of you looking to add a little more security to your life, or just wanting to get in on a pretty good deal, Newegg is offering you up 11 different security suites for free after mail in rebates. The best part, almost all are three user licenses so most of you can cover almost your entire PC collection!

Here's the rundown of your options:
All these deals include free shipping, so you're paying only the upfront price and taxes if you live in a taxed state. Then in 4-6weeks you'll be getting a full rebate (minus taxes of course) for that price. Note that the rebates vary from one company to the next; some will send you a check, some a prepaid debit card, and so on. Make sure to read all the fine print and make sure you make copies of any submitted materials. All the rebates come from pretty reliable sources so not much need to worry there!

This deal is part of Newegg's software weekly special and will likely end at the end of the week and it looks like most the software needs to be purchased by 8/2. So if you want to snag them you better get them now!

Learn The Facts About Smartphone Mishaps

Smartphone mishaps seem to happen at the most inopportune times. You drop that new iPhone just days after a purchase, or wash that new Samsung Galaxy III right before heading off on vacation.

Asurion Corp., the largest global provider of wireless handset insurance and wireless roadside assistance programs has conducted extensive research in the field and today we'd like to share some of their results. Trust me these numbers might be a bit shocking for some, not really for me since it seems like I replace a broken device every couple of months.

Stats and Facts

  • Asurion reports that 60,000,0000 people in North America will lose, damage or have their phone stolen this year. That is over 164,000 per day or 114 every minute or nearly 2 every second.
  • According to mobile device technology protection expert Asurion, 50 percent of loss, thef or damage claims occur within the first 6 months of activating a new phone. That number jumps to 80 percent within the first 12months.
  • People don’t often understand that if your mobile phone is lost, stolen or damaged, without insurance you’ll have to pay full retail price to replace that mobile device. In the case of an iPhone4S, that can cost more than $700.
  • Best and easiest way to have peace of mind and to protect your phone is to purchase insurance from your wireless carrier when buying your phone or within 30 days of activation.
  • According to a recent Asurion survey, 50 percent of parents said they have at least one child at home under 17 who uses a mobile phone for personal use, and nearly 30 percent of those required a replacement in the last year due to handset loss, theft, damage or malfunction.
  • Savvy parents and guardians are putting their desire to stay in touch with their children well above their own needs, with 36 percent purchasing cell phone insurance for their children's phones, as compared to 26 percent of those who have protection on their own phones, according to Asurion.
  • Understandably, people are eager to start using new mobile devices just as soon as they get them, but with more than 60 million phones lost, stolen or damaged each year, purchasing phone protection during the first 30 days of device use should be a priority. After that, the only chance to buy the carrier-supported insurance would be during an “open enrollment” period, and you never know when those might come along.

Protection Tips

  • Asurion offers these easy summer tips to help minimize the damage to children's phones this summer:
  • A good case or silicone protector can help protect the back and sides against scratches and provide some impact protection.
  • A transparent film screen protector can prevent the screen from scratching and can also help remove glare.
  • A growing number of waterproof cases are on the market designed to protect phones when submerged in water for a limited amount of time.
  • Purchase cell phone insurance to protect your investment and stay connected with children. Many wireless carriers now offer Asurion’s downloadable application that can remotely locate, lock or wipe a phone, along with the insurance coverage.

Apple's OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Exceeds 3M Downloads, Best Apple OS Release To Date

In just four short days since its release, Apples latest operating system OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion has already become the company's top operating system release ever. Topping more than 3 million downloads in that short four-day period.

Mountain Lion is the ninth major release of Apple's desktop operating system and has been available through the Mac App Store as an upgrade to Lion or Snow Leopard users for just $19.99 (US).

“Just a year after the incredibly successful introduction of Lion, customers have downloaded Mountain Lion over three million times in just four days, making it our most successful release ever,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing in a press release.

Mountain Lion features more than 200 new improvements and additions to the previous generation OS X Lion. Those include the all new Messages app, Notification Center, system-wide Sharing, Facebook integration*, Dictation, AirPlay Mirroring and Game Center. iCloud integration makes it easy to set up your Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Messages, Reminders and Notes, and keep everything, including iWork documents, up to date across all your devices. For more information or to download Mountain Lion visit

The release hasn't come without a few issues. Several reports trickled in over the weekend regarding concerns that some Mac users who are entitled to a free copy of Mountain Lion through Apple's Up-to-Date program were having issues either getting their downloads or receiving invalid redemption codes.

As part of the program, Apple is offering a free copy of its newly released operating system, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, to those who purchased a new Mac on or after June 11. But some users have been forced to wait several days for their redemption codes, while others have received non-working codes. Besides sitting through the long wait, some users reported that they received non-working codes. That problem seems to have occurred because Apple's form to request a free copy of Mountain Lion went live two days before OS X 10.8's release. As a result, some users were able to get their code ahead of the operating system's launch, only to later find out that the code didn't work.

All in all it looks like great news for Apple. How does this stack up against Microsoft and say Windows 7? Well that's hard to say as Microsoft rarely releases those numbers. However Windows 7 was proclaimed the fastest selling OS in history topping more than 90million in sales in the first 4 months. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Microsoft Surface: Are Tablets Becoming More Like Laptops, Or Laptops More Like Tablets?

The following is a guest post from Greg Buckskin, Greg is an internet technology and pop culture writer. You can follow more of Greg's writings or touch base with him on Twitter at @gregbuckskin.

We've been seeing plenty of reports on how the upcoming Microsoft Surface tablet is "bringing keyboards back," not to mention countless puns about the Surface's "keys to success". Hype often overwhelms memory among tech journalists. You can already find several tablets with keyboards, as well as laptops with touchscreens, and anyone who visited tech trade shows such as MWC and Computex will agree that we'll soon see many more of these.

Microsoft Surface

Is this simply a case of tablets and notebooks thinking that the grass is greener on the other side of the portable computing market? Are manufacturers desperate to bolt on popular features in order to make an awkward grab for the undecided market minority? Or is this an inevitable convergence of two previously distinct categories?

First, let's take a look at how laptops have been moving toward tablets:

1. Touch Me: laptops plainly desire the intuitive and expressive control of touchscreens. Whether it's the "bend-over-backwards" convertible approach that Lenovo has taken, or the more standard form-factor products such as Dell's Latitude and Precision series, manufacturers are eager to explore a dual solution. This flexibility of control makes touchscreen notebooks and netbooks a perfect fit with the inherent split-personality of Windows 8/Metro.

2. Going Ultra: the hottest trend in notebooks has been the ultra-sleek, ultra-portable, and frequently ultra-expensive Ultrabooks. These designs drop optical drives completely, replace demanding hard drives with solid-state alternatives, and (usually) encase everything in lightweight, heat-efficient, and undeniably sexy aluminum. As usual, Apple set the initial standard with its MacBook Air, but the PC response has been stellar, with several exquisite models from Asus, Samsung, HP, and others.

3. Mobile-at-Heart: lightweight and efficient can also mean lower cost by replacing desktop-emulating laptop innards with components more commonly found in tablets and smartphones. This trend includes both the thin-client cloud-based route that Google has taken with most of its Chromebooks, as well as the ultra-efficient SoC (system on a chip) laptops based on ARM or Atom processors. Even Apple is rumored to be getting in on the ARM game, one of the few recent examples of Cupertino following instead of leading.

Okay, so laptops want to be cool again. But how are tablets getting more like laptops?

1. When Touch Isn't Enough: the flip side of the touchscreen notebook is the keyboarded tablet. Before the Surface, both the Motorola Atrix and Asus Transformer series were well-received among professionals and reviewers (although not so much by consumers). These designs combine a charging dock with the familiar and practical hardware keyboard, a slam-dunk for those of us who aren't satisfied with the virtual kind. Again, Windows 8 is inspiring many manufacturers to produce tablets that explore a mix of tapping types.

2. Annexing the OS: Microsoft has been trying for some time to get a tablet that runs a full-featured operating system. Last-generation's Windows 7 tablets were a solid choice, if somewhat pricey, and not always fully integrated. But with Windows 8, the entire OS is designed with touchscreen tablets in mind. Consumers will be able to choose between Windows 8 RT for tablets running ARM-based mobile architecture, and the full x86 Windows 8 on tablets equipped to handle more notebook-tier performance.

3. BYOD: in olden days, professionals had laptops, consumers had tablets, and never the twain shall meet. Between Apple's runaway popularity and the cost-cutting focus of most post-recession companies, the Bring Your Own Device trend has become mainstream. Tablets are increasingly taking on more serious tasks (and more serious security safeguards), proving that they can do the same work as any laptop, and often for less money. Professionals have been bringing their iPads to work (and everywhere else) for some time now, but Windows 8 has a number of security and encryption features built in from the start.

Given the two market extremes of tablets and notebooks, there are three possible futures: replacement, convergence, or occupying increasingly distinct niches.

  • Total replacement is unlikely on either end. As things stand right now, there are tasks that can only be done with either the performance-based hardware of notebooks or an intuitive and ultra-portable touchscreen tablet.
  • So we're already at the point where there's a distinct niche for each type of device. However, recent developments and innovations indicate that this situation won't last indefinitely. As tablet flexibility and performance increases, laptop manufacturers have attempted to take on more of the features that consumers and professionals obviously desire most from tablets.
  • The most likely future is an ideal hybrid of both genetic strains, a "best of both worlds" product that can handle serious work, serious play, and serious mobility. To combat Apple's dominance of the tablet market, Android manufacturers have been paving the way with innovative hybrid designs over the last 18 months or so.

However, the winning hand may lead with software rather than hardware. Microsoft's Windows 8 has won both praise and criticism for its Gemini approach to the traditional operating system, an attempt to please both desktop diehards and tablet usurpers. The Surface seems like the ideal way to launch a similar hardware-based attack on both the mobile computing market. Perhaps Redmond is just hedging their bets, but the timing seems to be right for tablet/notebook convergence.

Smartphone Buying Basics

The smartphone community has a lot to be abuzz about these days. Samsung has just released one of the hottest phones on the market with the Galaxy S3, HTC has the new HTC One X and Motorola the DROID RAZR MAXX. Rumors are abound about the new iPhone 5 and of course there are the new Windows Phones like the Nokia Lumia 900. It is truly a great time to be a smartphone fan.

With all these great choices how exactly do you decide? To be honest it's a tough decision. Every one of the newer phones on the market right now has its own strong points and each has its flaws. Selecting your phone might seem like a tough decision but here are a few ideas for getting the best phone and the best mobile phone deals. When it all comes down to it though it depends on a few key factors.

Your Carrier:
This is obviously by far the biggest factor, as not all carriers carry the same phones and not all carriers are created equal. Now you might think an iPhone is an iPhone is an iPhone, but that just isn't true. Network speeds, coverages, costs, services ect are all different for every carrier.

When deciding on which carrier to get there are a few things to take into consideration. Your local coverage and extended coverage, network speeds, reliability and costs. Local coverage for the big three might be decent, however if you travel a lot you'll need to check to make sure the areas you frequent have just as good of coverage. This too factors into network speeds. Take the area I live in, Sacramento, throughout the heart of town we have 4G coverage for the most part. When I go a few miles out of town though I don't get as good of coverage. If I lived in an area with poor 4G coverage and I paid a premium for a 4G phone that would be a bit if a waste.

The phones your carrier are going to offer are also going to be a factor. Sprint, Verizon and AT&T may eventually carry the new iPhone 5, unfortunately right now we just don't know. If you want one of the latest Windows phones right now Verizon with the HTC Trophy or AT&T with either the Nokia Nokia Lumia 900, Samsung Focus S or HTC Titan II are probably going to be the best bets. I don't really suggest going with one carrier over the other just based on phone offerings but it might be a consideration you'll want to take into account.

If you are looking for an Android phone, then you are going to have your work cut out for you. All three of the big three offer great choices and almost all of the minor carriers now carry decent Android phones. To get the latest greatest though, you are likely going to need to decide between the big three.

Upfront Cost and Monthly Fees:
These are two factors plenty of people often overlook. Often time we want to get the latest greats phones out there and forget that those phones come with a pretty hefty premium. I might want that iPhone 5 when it comes out, but when it does I can likely get the iPhone 4S at a pretty sweet savings.

You also need to keep in mind the more feature packed a phone is the more data it uses and likely the more your monthly costs are going to be. Verizon and AT&T plans tend to cost the most, but those two carriers have the best voice and data coverage in the nation. Sprint and T-Mobile offer considerable savings, especially on unlimited voice, data, and texting plans, but don't have quite the same level of network coverage.

Now days you can even skip out on the contract game all together. Smaller carriers are starting to offer more and more smartphones options for prepaid phones. We're beginning to see prepaid smartphones appear everywhere, especially on smaller regional carriers like MetroPCS, U.S. Cellular, and Cricket Wireless. If you live in an appropriate coverage area and don't need a cutting edge device, the potential savings can be huge.

Your Needs:
You have to ask yourself what are your needs really going to be. When I got my first smartphone I thought I'd use almost every feature out there. But now I rarely use most of them. For instance I'm not a big picture taker, so I don't need a phone with a top rated camera. I don't watch a lot of videos, so having a high resolution larger screen isn't a must for me. So when you browse mobile phone deals look at your options take in to consideration exactly what you think you'll be using your phone for and buy one that best fits with those needs.

Compatibility and Use:
When selecting my phones I ask myself what apps, what compatibility ect am I going to need. The iPhone has by far the most apps out there with the Apple App Store, Android is a close second and Windows is still a work in progress but has tons of apps and features that make it useful.

I use my phone for work and it needs to be able to sync seamlessly with Google and Google apps, but if I was an Apple user I'd likely want an iPhone so syncing across my devices would be easier. If I was a heavy Microsoft user and used Windows Live a lot then the syncing features of a Windows phone might be best for me.

Size and Features:
There has been a movement of late to make phones, specifically screen sizes, larger. It has even been rumored that the new iPhone 5 will come with a larger 4.3" screen. Personally I don't care for a larger screen. I like a smaller phone that is more portable and bit a easier to carry around.

For me some of the features are a bit more important. I've been shopping around for some of the new waterproof phones and the more rugged models. I'm the outdoors type so having a phone that is a bit tougher is a more important feature to me than having one with a larger screen that might be easily broken.

So Which Smartphone Should I Get:
Well, that depends on the factors discussed above, and a lot of personal preference. Personally I really like the user interface that HTC has for their Android phones but some people don’t. Some people are going to be hard core Apple fans and are going to say go Apple.

No matter which phone you go with keep in mind that most carriers allow you up to 30 days to return it. So if you buy something you aren't happy with don't be afraid to return it and try something new.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Apple OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Releases Tomorrow What You Need To Know

During their Q3 2012 earnings report Apple confirmed that the latest edition of there OS X PC operating system will be released tomorrow. The hotly anticipated 10.8 version of OS X brings with it a host of new features, as we've covered in the past. It also brings slew of new questions and concerns, particularly whether or not your device will be supported.

Apple has already stated that OS X 10.8 won't support older Macs but up until now a big question remained: will your computer run the new operating system? Fortunately, Apple has provided users with a quick easy answer on their How to Upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion page. The page now offers step-by-step directions for preparing your Mac for the new operating system (such as making sure that Snow Leopard or Lion are installed), the actual upgrade process, and a list of machines that have the hardware chops capable of supporting the OS.

Mac Mall
Owners of machines that do not fit into the following category are unfortunately excluded from compatibility:
  • Mac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)
If your Mac is currently running OS X Lion, you can check to see the computer's Mountain Lion eligibility by clicking the Apple icon located in the upper-left portion of the screen, choosing About This Mac, and then clicking More Info to get system information.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Pricing

For users with compatible systems the upgrade will be $19.99 unless you've recently bought a new Mac -- in which case Apple has announced that Mac OS X 10.8 upgrades will be free for qualifying Macs purchased at authorized resellers on or after June 11. The upgrade will only be available via download on the Mac App Store.

How To Get OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

Apple has already confirmed that they were dropping support for any and all install media. This includes DVD, USB drives ect. Unlike with OX X 10.7 Lion which featured both the option to download the installer or buy (a heavily over priced) USB drive Mountain Lion will only be delivered as a downloadable install.

In order to upgrade you'll need to open the Mac App Store from your Dock to buy and download Mountain Lion. Then follow the onscreen instructions to install it. If you don’t have broadband access, you can visit any Apple Retail Store to get help with downloading.

What's New In OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

The new OS X update brings a handful of iOS features to the Mac, including the notes and reminders apps, Twitter integration, Apple's Game Center, and iMessage services. There's also a new security feature called Gatekeeper, designed to fend off malware by controlling what applications can and cannot be installed. In all Apple says there are more than 200 new features in the updated operating system. Here is a complete list from Apple.

Apple Scores Major Victory In Germany Against Samsung

A German appeals court has handed Apple a major victory over Samsung in the on-going patent wars. The court upheld previous rulings banning Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.7 and extend that ban to not only Germany but the rest of the European Union.

The Duesseldorf Higher Court ruled in favor of Apple stating that the popular Samsung tablet infringes on Apple's design rights and looks too much like the iPad. In an odd move the appeals court however, also ruled that the altered Galaxy Tab 10.1N, does not infringe on Apple's designs, and will be allowed to be sold in Germany.

Samsung said it was disappointed with the court's ruling on the Galaxy Tab 7.7, and would take all available measures to ensure the product is available in Europe. The company welcomed the ruling on the Galaxy Tab 10.1N and added that "should Apple continue to make legal claims based on such a generic design patent, design innovation and progress in the industry could be restricted."

So far Apple's battle with tablet and smartphone manufactures in the states hasn't fared as well. Several of their cases have been dismissed. The battle with Samsung however seems to be the one exception. The California court system granted Apple an injunction over Samsung which has now led
Apple to seek billions of dollars in damages when the lawsuit goes in front of a California jury next week.

"Samsung has reaped billions of dollars in profits and caused Apple to lose hundreds of millions of dollars through its violation of Apple's intellectual property," Apple's trial brief claims.

Combining Samsung's revenue from sales of all phones and tablet PCs that allegedly infringe on Apple's patents, $500 million in profits Apple assumes lost because of the Samsung handsets, and $25 million in royalty damages, Apple's lawyers will ask the jury to award "a combined total of $2.525 billion," the filing said.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Despite Warnings Most Consumers Still Fail To Update Their Software

A new study indicates that nearly 40 percent of all users fail to update the software on their computers when initially prompted to do so while approximately one quarter of those surveyed said despite the warnings and headlines prompting them to do so they still don’t clearly understand what software updates do.

The new survey that was co-sponsored by Microsoft's Skype division asked American, British and German consumers if and when they were more likely to install critical software updates. Shockingly even though they received notifications on their computers telling them to update their software, more than half said they needed to see a prompt between two and five times before downloading and installing an update. Even for those consumers who recognized the benefits of upgrading, one quarter didn’t know how to check if their installed software even needs updating.

When asked for their top reasons for either downloading or not downloading updates, consumers across geographies offered the following responses:

Top Reasons for Updating
1. Keeping computers safe from viruses/hackers
2. Ensures software is free of bugs and crashes less often
3. Having the latest and greatest software features
4. Upgrades are often free

Top Reasons for Not Updating
1. Worried about computer security, so I don’t download everything I’m prompted to
2. There is no real benefit to me
3. Upgrades take too long
4. Lack of understanding about what the update(s) will do

The results of the study shows that a lot of folks don't quickly update their software when prompted to do so or fail to do so completely. This prompted the creation of a global initiative dubbed International Technology Upgrade Week (ITUW) with Skype teaming with Adobe, Symantec and TomTom to encourage consumers to regularly download free software updates to their computers, smartphones, tablets and other portable devices, like GPS units.

You can follow the discussion about International Technology Upgrade Week on Twitter using #Update4Free or on the Skype Facebook page. For more information about the study checkout the posting on the Official Skype Blog

Microsoft Launches "Cool Is in Session" Facebook Sweepstakes

Earlier today today, Microsoft launched the "Cool Is In Session" giveaway, where one lucky person will walk away with a bunch of Microsoft related hardware and software including a brand new Dell Ultrabook, a Xbox 360 and a new Nokia Windows Phone.

To enter you must "like" the official Microsoft Facebook page, be at least 13y/o and a resident of the United States. Entries for the giveaway will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on August 24th and the lucky winnder will be revealed by September 5th.

One person will be picked and he or she will win the following products:
  • A Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook
  • A copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010
  • A Nokia Lumia 900 phone (AT&T service plan not included)
  • A Xbox 360 250 GB game console with Kinect add-on
  • A laptop bag
  • A Nokia Purity HD Stereo Headset by Monster
  • A wireless router
  • A Microsoft LifeCam Studio webcam
  • A 12 Month Xbox Live Gold subscription
  • Three Xbox 360 games (Star Wars Kinect, Dance Central 2 and Forza Motorsport 4)
  • A Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse.
The total value of the price package is $2,767

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How To Protect Your Digital Identity With A Real Hammer

The following is a guest post by Alex Lamman. Alex is a 25 years old software engineer, snowboarder and just a loving father from Germany. He is Internet security addict and helps to run Privacy PC – a website which guides you through security and privacy news, tips and antimalware software reviews.

Do you buy and sell things on Craigslist just like anybody else? Digital devices can spill your secrets even if those devices have been wiped clean. Are you thinking of selling it, recycling it or giving it away? Maybe you should just destroy it. Here you will learn what to do and what not to do with your used gadgets.

Via Craigslist, members of McAfee security team acquired secondhand gadgets from owners who thought they were careful. They bought 30 devices. They bought laptops, desktops, netbooks, notebooks, iPads, iPhones, BlackBerry and Android mobile phones. They drove all over the Massachusetts buying devices in people’s living rooms, cafes and business offices. They were buying them for 20, 50, 100 dollars. All the devices were then taken to forensics experts who actually used software tools that are available on the Internet.

Experts found tremendous amounts of data. They found people’s entire digital lives. Experts found social security numbers, credit card numbers, family photos, family videos. They found court documents, child support documents, and a lot of porn and pirated videos, detailed Internet search history. They also found viruses, if someone had used those infected devices, his personal info could have been compromised.

They found enough data to steal identities by opening up new accounts, taking over existing accounts or even enough information to damage reputation. One of the hard drives that came from a business laptop had all kinds of business documents, employee records. This finding would be considered a data breach with the amount of information that was on it.

Of the 30 devices they bought, they were able to retrieve data on over half of them. In most cases people selling the device think they erased all data by following the manufacture’s instructions, but for someone who knows computers it is not hard to retrieve data.

Most people are moving to Windows 7 operating system and eventually to Windows 8, which means that there are a lot of Windows XP machines both desktops and laptops that are available online as secondhand on Craigslist and eBay. As much as half of them probably still have your information and viruses. There is a problem with XP operating system, when you go and reinstall the operating system, there are too many options, which essentially leave partitions on the drive that still have your data.

As to mobiles, both iPhone and BlackBerry did a good job of removing the information when the owner resets the device. If you go to your general and then options menus, you can reset the device back to factory. Actually BlackBerry is the best to delete the information. These manufactures’ procedures for cleaning your phone work very food, but if you are good enough you can hack into those too.

Android devices were the worst. People are buying new Android phones and the old ones still have their information on them and that is really a big problem. Even if someone did a factory reset on an Android, experts found massive amounts of information. On 3 out of the 4 Android devices, security guys found just about everything that was on the device even after a factory reset.

The problem with a lot of the digital devices that we have today is when you reset the operating system, when you reinstall or reformat it or reset to factory settings, it doesn’t often do the job which it says it does. You are leaving a lot of bread crumbs that can be all collected together, which allows the bad guy to basically steal your identity.

The forensics people who understand how to extract this data and even the non-professionals, even the guys just on the Web who learned how to use this software, they are going to find their way around and find your information with that software which costs just 50 dollars.

If you have a Windows XP machine or old Android and you want to sell it, you might need to reconsider that. You are going to get 50 – 70 dollars for it, but you may be selling your identity for that price too. It’s not worth risking your identity.

Instead of selling it, and if it is still good, give it to someone you trust like your kids or your spouse. Don’t donate your phones to charity. Maybe it’s better to consider recycling the actual device, but with XP machines, always keep the hard drive and destroy the hard drive. Take it and put it in a vice and drill holes through it, then smash it with a hammer and later put in a bucket of salty water for a year. You can be a securely thinking individual and organize a smash party at home or office.

If you are buying second hand devices you want to install antivirus, antispyware, antiphishing as well because usually old XP machines contain viruses. Equipment manufactures and software developers need to do a better job so that people could effectively delete data stored on their devices.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Windows 8 Officially Releasing Oct 26th

Speaking at Microsoft’s annual sales meeting Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows and Windows Live Division, announced at that customers will be able to get Windows 8 – whether in upgrade fashion or on a new PC – starting on October 26th. These details were later confirmed on the Windows Team Blog

Microsoft has made several major announcement about the upcoming operating system but this is the first time we've had definitive confirmation of a release date. There was no mention as to the possibility of a full version retail release. However, popular Windows Blogger Paul Thurrot has said he believes Windows 8 will come in upgrade form only and that there will be no retail full versions of Windows 8. How this would work for new PC builds is yet unknown and Paul's post was a bit confusing on the issue!

So far Microsoft has confirmed  the Windows 8 product lineup as well as a $15 upgrade promotion for new Windows 7 systems being sold. Earlier this month a new $39.99 upgrade promotion was added for all current Windows users wishing to upgrade to the new OS. Availability of that program should coincide with the October 26th  release date.

Sprint Now Offering Lenovo Ultrabook Bundle

Ultrabooks are definitely beginning to make their mark in the PC market and companies are looking to cash in on their popularity. So it shouldn't comes as a surprise that wireless broadband providers are looking to get in on the action. Sprint has became the first U.S. wireless provider to offer up an Ultrabook bundle that provides costumers with a little incentive to buy.

Sprint will be offering customers wanting to sign-up for a two-year Sprint Mobile Broadband service agreement a free MiFi 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot or Sierra Wireless Overdrive Pro hotspot at no additional charge with the purchase of a Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Ultrabook. The IdeaPad U310 will be available for $799.99 (plus tax), and will also include three months of free Mobile Broadband service with a two-year Sprint Mobile Broadband service agreement.

Currently there are four options available, two for each device and they are priced according to your service plan. Option 1 is Sprint's 3GB Connection Plan which includes 3GB of data for $34.99 /mo. Option 2 is Sprint's 6GB Connection Plan and includes 6GB of data for $49.99 /mo.

The all new Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Ultrabook will feature an Intel 3rd Gen Core i5 processor (most likely the Core i5-3317U Processor 1.70GHz 1600MHz 3MB), 4GBs of RAM a 13.3" HD Screen with 1366x768 resolution and Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

EVGA Giving Away $70k+ In Prizes To Celebrate 13th Anniversary

Popular hardware vendor EVGA is celebrating the company's 13th Anniversary in big fashion with a $70k+ sweepstakes that includes things like a scavenger hunt, video contest, wallpaper contest and gaming tournament. The company is giving away tons of prizes for participating in tons of games and just about everyone will have a chance to win something.

(1) EVGA’s 13th Anniversary Scavenger Hunt
Find 10 Gold Ribbons, answer 10 questions, and if you attain all 10 ‘checked’ Gold Ribbons then you’re eligible for the random drawing for the 007 Mission Experience Grand Prize. But that’s not all – we’ve also lined up SEVEN top-of-the-range, complete system prizes to give away, plus gaming PCs, cases, graphics cards, motherboards, tablets, memory kits, gaming headsets, and much, much more! For details, visit:

(2) EVGA’s 13th Anniversary YouTube Contest
Calling all budding filmmakers and animators. Create an EVGA and GeForce GTX themed spot for a chance to win an EVGA GeForce GTX 670, Acer 23” 3D-Ready Monitor, NVIDIA 3D Vision Kit and an Acer 10” Tegra Tablet. Plus, we have lots more Acer Tegra Tablets for runners up prizes. To find out more, visit:

(3) EVGA Anniversary Wallpaper Contest
Flex your design skills and create a wallpaper with an EVGA and GeForce GTX theme, then comment on your favourite entries at EVGA’s Flickr page You could win an Acer 23” 3D-Ready Monitor and NVIDIA 3D Vision kit. Plus, there are lots of fantastic runners up prizes. To sign up and find out more, visit:

(4) EVGA Gaming All Server Anniversary Event
Sign up and play Battlefield 3 on EVGA’s game servers at any time between 16 July and 31 July 2012 to qualify. This is not a competition or tournament, we just want our community to have a great time gaming with other members and to have a chance at winning some cool prizes from Intel®, Razer and EVGA. To find out more, visit and then start gaming at the official EVGA Gaming site, at:

(5) Thumbs Up Anniversary Event
Like EVGA and Intel on Facebook anytime from now until the end of July, and enter our Thumbs Up Anniversary Event for a chance to win even more great prizes from Intel® and EVGA. To find out more, visit: Then go to EVGA’s Facebook page: and click on the EVGA 13th Anniversary Event app.

For more information on the sweepstakes, visit EVGA’s 13th Anniversary Event homepage:

iPhone Users May Have To Pay Extra For FaceTime Calls

According to reports by MacRumors, a new error message in the latest beta release of iOS 6 could confirm that AT&T among others might start charging iPhone users for FaceTime phone calls. The message, which generally only pops-up when users have to pay for extra features on AT&T leads developers to believe that the service provide is working on a new pay-per use service charge associated with the new calling feature.

When users try using the new FaceTime calling app a pop-up message appears telling iPhone users on AT&T that they must first contact the wireless provider before they can use the feature. This type of message only shows up when you have to pay for something.

FaceTime video calling itself isn't a new feature. However with the release of iOS 6 a new FaceTime-over-cellular feature arrives. This allows you to make the same FaceTime video calls you do now via Wi-Fi over your cellular providers standard network. However the service is said to be a bit of a bandwidth hog and we know anything that uses more data is a chance for cell companies to squeeze a few more dollars out of their customers.

AT&T has not confirmed that it will charge for FaceTime calls on its network. In a statement released to the press, AT&T said: “We’re working closely with Apple on the new developer build of iOS 6 and we’ll share more information with our customers as it becomes available.” Interpret that as you will.

At this time developers have noted that neither Verizon nor Sprint, the other two wireless carriers that offer the iPhone, have yet instituted the same message into iOS 6. That’s not to say that they won’t, just that it isn't there as of now.

Microsoft Unveils Office 2013 Customer Preview

During a live press event yesterday in San Francisco Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage to introduce the company's latest office productivity suite, Office 13. The new Office suite has been reworked adding in several new features, cloud integration and a new touch friendly interface that will make it more compatible with Windows 8 and touch-screen tablets.

For those of you eager to get your hands on the new software you won't have to wait. Microsoft has posted a Customer Preview of Office 2013 for download here. Office 13 has dumped support for most of Microsoft's older operating systems so you'll need to be running Windows 7 or the Release Preview of Windows 8 in order to install it. You will notice the Customer Preview runs a preview of Office 365 Home Premium Preview. In the end, you're still able to use the newly announced features, but have to go through Office 365 to do so.

Office 2013 New Features:

The latest update to the Microsoft Office Suite brings several new features. Some you'll notice right off, some you might not. Some of them I really like, some I really not sure about!

Office 13 Gets A New Look: Right off you'll notice a slight different user interface. It is markedly different like the change from previous version but it is a tad different. The ribbon look remains, though the text and the icons inside it are a bit larger and are spaced farther apart. This change should make it easier for navigation on touchscreen displays.

Office goes to the Cloud: You'll see more cloud integration as Office 13 saves documents to SkyDrive by default, so your content is always available across your tablet, PC and phone. Your documents are also available offline and sync when you reconnect. This alos allows for roaming profiles. So once you are signed in to Office, your personalized settings, including your most recently used files, templates and even your custom dictionary, roam with you across virtually all of your devices. Office even remembers where you last left off and brings you right back to that spot in a single click.

Office on Demand: With a subscription, you can access Office even when you are away from your PC by streaming full-featured applications to an Internet-connected Windows-based PC. New subscription services. The new Office is also available as a cloud-based subscription service. As subscribers, consumers automatically get future upgrades in addition to exciting cloud services including Skype world minutes and extra SkyDrive storage. Subscribers receive multiple installs for everyone in the family and across their devices.

Touch Integration: Office 13 adds much better support for touch based devices. The software has better support and responds to touch much better than previous version. You can use it on a tablet or touchscreen device as naturally with your fingers as you would a keyboard and mouse. Swipe your finger across the screen or pinch and zoom to read your documents and presentations. Author new content and access features with the touch of a finger. You can even use a new feature called Inking. This allows you to use a stylus to create content, take notes and access features. You can handwrite email responses and convert them automatically to text. Use your stylus as a laser pointer when presenting or a a paint brush to color your content and erase your mistakes.

New Windows 8 applications: OneNote and Lync represent the first new Windows 8 style applications for Office. These applications are designed to deliver touch-first experiences on a tablet. A new radial menu in OneNote makes it easy to access features with your finger. Included in Windows RT. Office Home and Student 2013 RT, which contains new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications, will be included on ARM-based Windows 8 devices, including Microsoft Surface.

Office 13 Gets Social: The new Office comes with Skype. When you subscribe, you get 60 minutes of Skype world minutes every month. Integrate Skype contacts into Lync and call or instant message anyone on Skype. There is also Yammer integration. Yammer delivers a secure, private social network for businesses. You can sign up for free and begin using social networking instantly. Yammer offers integration with SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics.

For more details on the new features in Office 13 read the full Microsoft press release. You can download the Office 2013 Preview now or for the more traditional installer you can download the Office 2013 MSI (you'll need to register for the download) and for more details checkout the Office Customer Preview FAQ. Microsoft has also created the Office Next Blog, which will likely highlight details of the upcoming release as well as features and how-to's for getting the most out of your software.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Steam Summer Sale Starts Today

It's that time of year again gamers, the Steam summer sale kicks off today and last until July 23rd.

The Summer sale is usually one of Steam's biggest events and so far this year the deals look pretty good. Today the site is offering discounts on major games, such as the PC version of Portal 2 for $4 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 for $29. There are also deals on a packages and gaming series -- promising to save buyers hundreds of dollars. Titles include some of your favorites from big players such as Valve, id software, Sega, Bethesda, Rockstar, Ubisoft, and more.

Every day through July 23, Steam will offer 24-hour discounts on a batch of new PC games, so gamers looking for specific deals might want to wait and see what comes down the road. But some of these deals might be too good to pass on!

For all the details on the available deals checkout

Yahoo Passwords Leaked Other Sites May Be At Risk

Yahoo Inc has confirmed that more than 400,000 user names and passwords to access websites including its own, have been stolen and posted online. Security researchers who have looked at the data say that it appears that the passwords came from the company's VoIP service, Yahoo Voice. However the full extent of the breach is as of yet unknown.

In a statement published by TechCrunch, Yahoo representatives confirmed a breach that hit the site's Contributor Network (previously Associated Content) on Wednesday. The stolen data was contained in an "older file," and only about 5 percent of the exposed credentials were still valid on Yahoo.

"We are fixing the vulnerability that led to the disclosure of this data, changing the passwords of the affected Yahoo! users and notifying the companies whose users accounts may have been compromised," the statement continued. "We apologize to affected users. We encourage users to change their passwords on a regular basis and also familiarize themselves with our online safety tips at"

The concern, however, is that despite all the recent warnings issued over creating better, stronger passwords, many of the passwords listed weren't all that secure to begin with. More than 1,600 of the passwords are "123456" and another 780 are "password".  This raises flags not only on the Yahoo site but could potentially open users to security risks on other sites as well. Many people tend to re-use passwords on multiple sites, meaning that if their password has been stolen on one site it might be used on another and therefore should be considered at risk on other sites as well.

"Since all the accounts are in plain-text, anyone with an account present in the leak which also has the same password on other sites (e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc), should assume that someone has accessed their account," said Anders Nilsson of Eset

Update: According to security firm Rapid7, the breakdown data stolen from the Yahoo breach included log-ins and credentials from not only Yahoo but Google Gmail, Microsoft Hotmail, and AOL, Comcast and MSN accounts. The break down as follows in terms of various service provider accounts:
1. 137,559
2. 106,873
3. 55,148
4. 25,521
5. 8,536
6. 6,395
7. 5,193
8. 4,313
9. 3,029
10. 2,847

Monday, July 09, 2012

Review: Akitio Cloud Hybrid Combo NAS + DAS Personal Cloud Network Storage Enclosure

Cloud based storage seems to be all the rage these days, with more and more companies like Apple and Google introducing new services like iCloud and Google drive. For home users though that want the option of the cloud without the limitation of a service there are several other options.

Today we are testing out the new Akitio Cloud Hybrid. This is a network attached storage drive (NAS), which connects directly to your home network allowing you to use your current internet connection to build your own personal cloud server.

The Akitio Cloud Hybrid Combo is a stand alone device with it's own 300MHz CPU and 32MB DDR 400MHz. This allows for built in functionality to give users the ability to manage and view their files right in the web browser of any PC or laptop or thanks to a mobile app via devices such as the iPhone or iPad. User simply login through the Akitio web portal at or the mobile app and you'll have immediate access to your files, no matter where you are.

For the home user there is a USB 3.0 direct attached storage device (DAS) for super-speed file transfers and built-in UPnP-AV media server to stream media to some of your favorite gaming consoles and other networked devices.

Akitio Cloud Hybrid Specification

Package contents
  • Cloud Hybrid enclosure with vertical stand (HDD not included)
  • USB 3.0 cable
  • Ethernet cable
  • Power adapter
  • User manual
  • Utility CD
  • 1 x RJ45 connector (10/100/1000) with two LEDs for link and activity
  • 1 x USB 3.0 device port 
  • 1 x Internal SATA-I, SATA-II or SATA-III hard drive Capacity 80GB - 3TB (supports large volumes in excess of 2TB)

System requirements
  • LAN: Windows XP/Vista/7 Mac OS 10.2 or above
  • USB 3.0: Windows XP/Vista/7 Mac OS 10.4 or above (backwards compatible to 2.0)
  • Your hardware device must have the correct corresponding port (e.g. Ethernet, USB 3.0 or PCI card)


  • Hybrid interface with USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet connection
  • Built-in UPnP-AV media server for digital media players
  • High speed data access over Samba (read speed above 60MB/s)
  • File browser for WebDAV access
  • iTunes music server
  • BitTorrent client
  • Web portal for remote login
  • Free App for iOS and Android based mobile devices (Mobile App for Cloud Hybrid )

UPnP-AV Media Server

Stream content within your local network to any available UPnP-AV and DLNA compatible devices. Data can also be uploaded to the network drive and shared from multiple workstations via SMB, WebDAV or FTP connection just like on any traditional NAS system.

Supported UPnP Clients
  • Xbox 360 (JPG, MP3, WMV, XviD)
  • PlayStation 3 (JPG, MP3, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, XviD)
  • iTunes (MP3)
  • DLNA certified UPnP clients
  • Windows 7 (Windows Media Player)

Akitio Cloud Hybrid Setup and Installation

The first step in setting up your device is removing the case and installing the hard drive. This step couldn't be simpler! There are three screws on the bottom of the case that need to be removed. Then you can slide the case open and drop in the hard drive. The drive literally slides right into place and is mounted with the 4 supplied mounting screws.

From here you begin your initial setup. When you first setup the drive you need to format it from a direct network connection. Akitio says this is because formatting it from a USB connection won't allow the drive to be seen once it is connected to the network and running in NAS mode. To do this connect the enclosure to one of the ports on your router, power it on and let it initialize. You'll need to copy down the MAC address on the back of the enclosure as you'll need that to log in through the Akitio web portal at Once on the web portal you'll be prompted to enter your MAC address and the default username and passwords which are both admin.

Now you just navigate to the settings page, hit the maintain link and click format. It should only take a few seconds for a blank drive to ready to go. Once the drive is formatted you can either keep your device connected to the network, or you can now use it as a USB device. You'll just need to remove the connection and restart your system. Only one interface at the time can be used (either LAN or USB connection).

Using The Web Portal

If I have any complaints about the Akitio Cloud Hybrid so far it's not with the enclosure itself but rather the interface on the web portal. The layout seems generic and lacks a certain user friendliness. Navigation seems simple enough it just lacks a polished refined look.

My Akitio Web Portal

When formatting the drive I noticed by default a "guest folder" was created out of almost the entire drive. At first I didn't see an option to create a second partition or any secondary folders, it wasn't until later that I found the settings for that. I also noticed the included manual doesn't specifically tell you that the username and password are automatically generated. The online E-manual tells you that the username is guest and the password is blank. I just happened to take a stab in the dark to find that out the hard way!

Adding Files and Folders

There are a few different ways to add files to your Akitio Cloud Hybrid. You can either use it as a USB drive and upload them directly, map it as a network drive from within Windows (or MAC OSX) and add them across the network, use FTP and an FTP client or you can upload them across the internet through the Akitio web portal. For the best and possibly fastest results using it as a USB drive or transferring the files across your network and using it as a NAS are best.

Which is fastest is going to depend a lot on your available connections. My choices were either a wired 1 Gigabit network connection or USB 2.0. Surprisingly the USB 2.0 connection turned out to be the faster of the two moving data at about 25-30MBps opposed to 18-20MBps over my network.

Adding folders and directories is done through the share management page on the web portal. This is also where you can change the default password for the guest account or add additional accounts.

Streaming Content

One of the great features of the Akitio Cloud Hybrid is it's ability to be used as a media server whether it be streaming videos across your own network, via the web or through one of the smartphone applications. There is even a client to act as an iTunes server, or you you'd like you can use it as a Torrent client with its own BitTorrent client.

I uploaded several videos and music files for testing, however I didn't get to test the iPhone or Android apps nor did I test the iTunes client (sorry guys I hate iTunes). Streaming across my network was almost seamless, I saw no interruptions at all. Where I was really surprised was the quality of streaming across the internet. I was able to connect a few different devices at one time and still stream to each without any hiccups.

Pricing and Availability

The Akitio Cloud Hybrid retails for approximately $99.99 on a variety of websites including Amazon.

My final thoughts and opinion

I run a pretty solid network setup and share all my devices among my connected PCs so streaming content and sharing files from each isn't a novelty for me. I already own the Linksys E4200V.2 which allows me to connect my external drive so that too is nothing new. What I really liked was the cloud capabilities of the Akitio Cloud Hybrid. Having the ability to connect to my drive from any internet device at anytime was cool. I know there are services out there that allow you to do this and some routers are now adding in the same functions, but having an always on NAS storage device was really nice.

I also like the fact that if I had an Android device or an iPhone I could turn my Akitio Cloud Hybrid into a large media server without having to load all my music or videos onto my phone or tablet. Add to that the fact that I could setup a few different log-ins and create folders for a few different users and I could essentially turn my device into a file repository for friends and family to use as well.

Now all that said, the unit I tested was not without its issues. I had it coupled with a 500GB Hitachi 7200PRM drive and noticed the enclosure got fairly warm. I also noticed that even when not in use the drive was always spinning. I don't know that that would be a major issue but in my opinion it could lead to early hard drive failure.For that reason I found myself turning it off when I wasn't testing it.

The only other complaint I'd say I had was an overall lack of documentation included with the enclosure and on the interface on the web portal. The manual that came in the box is a four fold quick installation guide sheet that only had the basic installation information. For detailed information about settings or usage you have to go to the online e-manual or the Akitio FAQs.

Windows 8 Officially Being Released In October

Microsoft has confirmed the company is all but done with development of Windows 8 and the company is ready to ship the new operating system's “Release to Manufacturer” (RTM) build to OEM partners in August. For consumers the operating will officially launch by the end of October.

Speaking at Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference in Toronto, Windows Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Officer Tami Reller, made the official announcement. The exact release date is yet unknown, with Beller only saying "late October", however this is the first official confirmation of a possible released date the company has given since announcing Windows 8.

Microsoft has already confirmed the Windows 8 product lineup as well as a $15 upgrade promotion for new Windows 7 systems. Earlier this month a new $39.99 upgrade promotion was added for all current Windows users wishing to upgrade to the new OS. Availability of that program should coincide with the October release.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Patent Wars: You Win Some You Lose Some

It has been a busy few weeks in the patent wars with Apple and several major competitors, with both sides claiming minor to major victories over the other.

In their attempts to out right kill off its competitors in court, Apple has been busy filling patent infringement claims and fighting those claims in court. In some of those cases the tech giant has scored a few major victories winning at least temporary injunctions against infringing products. However, while those victories are major win in the short term, they might be minor in the overall scope of things. The battles Apple is losing are now becoming far more numerous than the ones it is winning and more and more judges are speaking out against their claims and the patent system as a whole.

Major Loses For Apple

One major lose Apple was recently handed came when US District Court Judge Richard A. Posner dismissed the company's case against Motorola Mobility, a Google subsidiary, in its entirety. It was Motorola who originally initiated this suit asserting that Apple had failed to pay royalties and was illegally using products licensed under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) standards patents. Apple, counter sued alleging that Motorola's smartphones and OS infringe on Apple's intellectual property.

Judge Posner spoke out against the cases and the patent system as a whole. He felt that both parties were "gaming the system" which he felt might not even be needed in the first place.

In yet another lose in a second unrelated lawsuit, Apple suffered a defeat when the U.S. International Trade Commission refused to enact a second "emergency" ban on several of HTC's smartphones -- including the One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE. Those models were recently released from a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol seizure after Google updated Android to work around Apple's U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647, which claims the invention of "data tapping" -- converting phone numbers and other items to hyperlinks that bring up menus.

Apple immediately filed an appeal which has since been stricken down with the U.S. ITC writing [source], "The commission finds that Apple has not demonstrated the propriety of temporary emergency action here. The commission will not direct Customs to detain all subject HTC products because the commission does not have the information necessary to determine whether the respondents are currently violating the commission’s limited exclusion order."

In their third major lose Apple saw some of its key patents completely invalidated by the High Court in London. A UK judge ruled that HTC had not infringed four technologies that Apple had claimed as its own stating those patents never should have been granted in the first place. He said Apple's slide-to-unlock feature was an "obvious" development in the light of a similar function on an earlier Swedish handset. The other two patents related to the use of a multilingual keyboards and multi-touch.

Apple's Victories

It's not all bad new for Apple, they have scored a few victories in the past few weeks. Most notably was an all out ban of Samsung's Galaxy tablets and the older Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone (which has since been lifted [source]).

Apple sued Samsung last year, accusing the South Korean electronics maker of "slavishly" copying the iPhone and iPad, a case which it won. Samsung denies the claim and counter-sued. The case has been an ongoing battle between the two with U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ruling in favor of Apple giving them an injunction against several of Samsung's key devices. Part of that ruling has since been lifted as a U.S. appeals court overruled the freeze on sales of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphones but upheld the decision to temporarily halt sales of its Galaxy 10.1 tablet computer.

More Battles To Come

Apple might be facing battles on even more fronts as two companies have recently filed lawsuits claiming they are infringing on patented technology.

Noise Free Wireless, a small Silicon Valley company is suing Apple, alleging the computer maker infringed its patent covering noise-reduction technology for cell phones.At the heart of the case is U.S. patent 7,742,790, which was filed by Noise Free in May 2007 and awarded to the company in June 2010. It covers a method for reducing or cancelling environmental noise, such as wind, from a voice transmission on a cell phone.

Noise Free Wireless alleges that Apple used their proprietary system for noise reduction to create their own patents and systems after the company had several meetings with Apple. The case is number 12-03483, filed on July 3rd.

A Shanghai-based company filed a lawsuit in China alleging that Apple has infringed on a patent involving its own personal assistant software that is similar to Siri.

The company, Shanghai Zhi Zhen Internet Technology, is the developer of software called "Xiao i Robot" that communicates through voice, and can answer users' questions while also holding simple conversations. In 2004, the company applied for a patent in China covering the technology, and was later granted it in 2006.


In this dog eat dog world it's likely that we'll continue to see more and more patent battles. Companies can't afford to not protect their intellectual property and until the patent system as a whole is fixed to not allow basic frivolous patents through we'll see more and more patents issued. One recent patent comes to mind, Apple's patenting of the "wedge" shape for a laptop. Their are numerous laptops on the market now, and several models that pre-date anything Apple released. Yet the USPTO overlooked that fact and gave Apple the patent.

It's my opinion that the patent would never be validated in court should Apple try to sue anyone. However, the fact remains the patent should never have been issued in the first place.

Walking Dead Fans: A New Game Is In The Works Just For You

Activision has announced that it is working on a new first person shooter game based on AMC's The Walking Dead TV show, not to be confused with the already released game of the same title based on Robert Kirkman's comic The Walking Dead.

Are you a little confused? You should be!

Both the The Walking Dead - TV Series and the current The Walking Dead video game are based on based on Robert Kirkman's comic The Walking Dead. While the current video game is more closely related to the comic version the upcoming Activision project is something completely new and will be based directly of the hit AMC show and take more of its ques from there rather than directly from the comics.

In its current form The Walking Dead is an episodic adventure video game with action and role-playing elements, where as the new release will be a first person shooter. According to the reports from IGN, the game is being developed by Terminal Reality, the studio that brought us the Ghostbusters video game and the Star Wars Kinect game.

It will follow Daryl Dixon and his brother Merle, with you controlling the former as the duo travel through Georgia. It will be a “haunting, unforgiving quest to make their way to the supposed safety of Atlanta” that gives you the option of taking on the zombies or avoiding them entirely. They’ll meet people along the way, though anyone who’s familiar with The Walking Dead knows you really shouldn’t trust anyone, so it’ll be up to you how you’ll interact with the survivors you come across and whether or not you’ll allow them to come with you on your journey. You’ll have to manage your ever dwindling supplies of food and ammunition as well.

The game is aiming for a release next year on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

For more details and a brief trailer you can head on over on the game’s official website. We’ll have more information on it as it comes out.

AT&T Launching Stolen Phone Service

Starting next week AT& will finally launch the company's stolen phone database. A new service that will let customers whose phones and tablets are stolen have their devices blocked from use on the AT&T network by the thieves.

Under pressure by the Federal Communications Commission and police departments around the country, AT&T and all three of the other three major U.S. carriers, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile, agreed to create a national database of stolen cellphones and tablets. The database is intended to allow customers to report their device as stolen, to one company and allow blocking of those devices on any of the other networks. Verizon and Sprint already offer a blocking service, but GSM-based carriers whose phones use SIM card slots do not. The FCC wants its database to work across all LTE smartphones on all carriers no later than Nov. 30, 2013.

When a customer reports a stolen or lost cellphone, they can list their phone in the corresponding database. That information will (or should be) shared with the other major carriers preventing anyone presenting the phone for activation from putting service on the phone.

How this is going to work in relation to SIM carded phones is as of yet unclear. We are assuming they are going to setup a program to block the cell phone's IMEI (International Mobile Equipment) or ESN (Electronic Serial Number) from being accepted.

This new will let customers keep their accounts active instead of canceling them and having to shutdown their accounts for a brief period. If customers get their phones back, they'll be able to call AT&T again to reactivate service.

Yahoo And Facebook Set Aside Their Differences To Form New Partnership

Yahoo today announced that it is dropping its patent lawsuit against Facebook and engaging with the social network in a new partnership.

The deal ends litigation between the two parties over several patents that lie at the heart of either's companies. Yahoo sued Facebook in March claiming infringement of ten patents, and saying "Facebook's entire social network model … is based on Yahoo!'s patented social networking technology." Facebook quickly fought back with a counterclaim accusing Yahoo of infringing ten patents of its own, most of which Facebook had just acquired from other companies and sources.

Here's the official release:
SUNNYVALE AND MENLO PARK, CALIF. - JULY 6, 2012 - Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) today announced that they have entered into definitive agreements that launch a new advertising partnership, extend and expand distribution arrangements, and settle all pending patent claims between the companies.

Under the agreements, which include a patent portfolio cross-license, the parties will work together to bring consumers and advertisers premium media experiences promoted and distributed across both Yahoo! and Facebook. Yahoo! and Facebook will also work together to bring Yahoo!'s large media event coverage to Facebook users by collaborating on social integrations on the Yahoo! site.

"We are excited to develop a deeper partnership with Facebook, and I'm grateful to Sheryl and her team for working hard together with our team to develop this dynamic agreement. We are looking forward to building on the success we have already seen to provide innovative new products and experiences for both consumers and sponsors," said Ross Levinsohn, interim CEO of Yahoo!. "Combining the premium content and reach of Yahoo! as the world's leading digital media company with Facebook provides branded advertisers with unmatched opportunity."

"I'm pleased that we were able to resolve this in a positive manner and look forward to partnering closely with Ross and the leadership at Yahoo!," said Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. "Yahoo!'s new leaders are driven by a renewed focus on innovation and providing great products to users. Together, we can provide users with engaging social experiences while creating value for marketers."

Since the launch of the original multi-year partnership between Yahoo! and Facebook that allows users to discover and connect news and information on Yahoo! sites and share them with their Facebook friends, Yahoo! has integrated the feature called "Social Bar" on more than 100 of its properties globally, and more than 90 million users have implemented it. As a result, Yahoo! has the largest active user base among all news sites that have integrated with Facebook's Open Graph platform, making Social Bar the world's leading social news application.

Going forward, Yahoo! and Facebook have agreed to work more closely and collaborate together on multiple tent-pole and anchor events annually over the next several years to provide unparalleled experiences for consumers and world-class sponsorship opportunities for advertisers.

In brief we shouldn't expect a conglomeration of the the two sites. Rather the agreement will mean you'll see more Facebook integration into Yahoo' services, more advertising sharing and possibly some collaboration down the road on new projects.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Is Blizzard Banning Diablo 3 Players For Running Linux?

According to reports on the Diablo III Forums players running Linux and using Wine, the open source application that allows Windows programs to run under Linux, are being banned as "cheaters".

Several users on the Diablo III forums have received confirmation emails noting that their accounts have been removed and banned from service for using what Blizzard is called a cheat. According to the posts Blizzard has decided to ban anyone trying to run the game using Wine, even though it in no way gives Linux users an advantage.

Blizzard is classing the practice of running Linux and Wine as "gaining an unfair advantage by running unapproved third party software."
A third party program is any file or program that is used in addition to the game to gain an unfair advantage. These programs may increase movement speed or teleport heroes from one place to another beyond what is allowed by game design. It also includes any programs that obtain information from the game that is not normally available to the regular player or that transmit or modify any of the game files.

According to the post several tickets have been opened with the Blizzard support team with responses ranging from a generic description of what unapproved third party software is, to confirmation that Linux just isn’t supported and therefore cannot be used to run the game. Blizzard is adamant in it's decision and so far has not decided to reverse any of these bans after looking at the issue.

Blizzard has responded with the following:
We've extensively tested for false positive situations, including replicating system setups for those who have posted claiming they were banned unfairly. We've not found any situations that could produce a false positive, have found that the circumstances for which they were banned were clear and accurate, and we are extremely confident in our findings.
Playing the game on Linux, although not officially supported, will not get you banned – cheating will.
So, it would appear as though there are several discrepancies here. The forums are riddled with users complaining they are being banned, yet Blizzard claims otherwise. For more information on the banning and Blizzards response see the following threads

Monday, July 02, 2012

Facebook Email Fiasco Gets Worse And Worse

When Facebook changed the primary e-mail address of the sites 900+ million users I'm sure it didn't expect the uproar it caused. Apparently the site wasn't prepared for the secondary side effect either.

According to several reports a 'bug' has caused users to lose unknown amounts of e-mail, and those with address books synced to mobile devices unknowingly had all their synced contacted overwritten.

Facebook's first official response yesterday, sounded a bit like Apple's response to Antennagate blaming the user for not using their phones correctly. The social media giant contented that with the new changes everyone was just confused about how to look in their Facebook inboxes. It was originally explained that by default, messages from friends or friends of friends go into your Inbox. Everything else goes to your Other folder which users weren't checking.

 Now however they have changed their tune a bit and released a rather confusing explanation. 

Both CNet and The Verge have issued reports from Facebook that, while confusing, hope to clarify the situation. Facebook is now saying that the contact sync is a bug that it intends to fix. According to Facebook, when the API is working correctly, it pushes the primary e-mail address to contacts; for some devices, the API is pushing the last e-mail address associated with a users account out to their friends.
Contact synchronization on devices is performed through an API. For most devices, we've [Facebook] verified that the API is working correctly and pulling the primary email address associated with the users' Facebook account.

However, for people on certain devices, a bug meant that the device was pulling the last email address added to the account rather than the primary email address, resulting in addresses being pulled.

We are in the process of fixing this issue and it will be resolved soon. After that, those specific devices should pull the correct addresses.

So here is the confusing part. Even if Facebook fixes the API to only push the primary e-mail this won't fix anything. What it will do is mean that unless you have personally, manually changed your primary address back to whichever one originally wanted then the only "visible" email address on your profile will still be just your address. To get your primary email address back to the one you specifically want you'll need to follow our guide, "How to change your primary Facebook email address."

This entire fiasco wreaks of privacy invasion. As I stated before, what Facebook has done is essentially hijacked every users emails and forced them through their own server. This not only gives Facebook a chance to add in their own advertising, but adds a secondary way of tracking user data. Hopefully someone will make a call to action here and we'll see a privacy watch group taking a long hard look at what is going on here.

Windows 8 Pro Upgrade To Cost $39.99 For All Current Windows Users

According to today post on the Windows Team Blog all current users of Windows XP and above will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99.

If your PC is running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 you will qualify to download an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $39.99. As and added bonus for those of you that want Windows Media Center you'll be able to add it for free through the “add features” option within Windows 8 Pro after your upgrade.

When you use to purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro, the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant makes upgrading simple by walking you through the upgrade process step-by-step from purchase to download and then of course installation. The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant will check to make sure your PC is ready for Windows 8. It will provide a detailed compatibility report that lets you know of anything you may have to address before or after the upgrade and outlines actions to take.

After your download finishes, you can choose to proceed with the upgrade (“Install now”) or install later either from your desktop or by creating your own media. If you choose to create your own media, you will be able to create your own bootable USB or .ISO file which can be burned onto a DVD for upgrade and backup purposes. If you prefer, you also have the option of purchasing a backup DVD for $15 plus shipping and handling.

If you aren't too big on digital downloads then Microsoft is going to make available a physical DVD, however the cost of the upgrade rises to $69.99. Which honestly doesn't make sense given the cost of the back-up DVD and considering how easy it is to create your own hard copies!

To note, this is a promotional price that will run until January 31, 2013. If you want to get the cheap upgrade price, you best act quickly and Microsoft has not said what the cost will be after January 31, 2013. Microsoft has not given word as to when Windows 8 will officially be available but they did hint that they are moving "closer to general availability."