Friday, September 28, 2012

Apple Sends Open Letter Apology For iOS 6 Maps

Owning up to any possible mistakes has never been the policy of Apple. They generally offer very little in the way of responsibility for any potential mistakes. However following the insurmountable number of complaints and issues with Apple's new mapping system Apple's CEO felt compelled to send out an open letter to his company's customers expressing that he is "extremely sorry" for inaccuracies in the new mapping software included in their latest mobile operating system.

To our customers,

At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.

We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.

There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.

While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.

Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.

Tim Cook
Apple’s CEO

With the latest version of iOS Apple broke ties with Google Maps, deciding instead to create their own application in house. Apple decided to create a new application from the "ground up," to include new features that they just could get from Google. The new features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, and vector-based maps, were advertised as some of the best new features in iOS 6. Unfortunately for Apple the Maps software has been plagued with issues like misplaced landmarks, wrong addresses, poor direction and a lack of features such as infrastructure and public transit.

Cook seemingly admits defeat telling customers to use Bing Maps, Google Maps, or even MapQuest in the interim until Apple can get its Maps application fixed.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Comcast Turns On Free Wi-Fi For California Xfinity Customers

Comcast Xfinity Internet customers in California now have a new perk as the company has announced it has begun rolling out free Wi-Fi via "a few thousand" Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the state. The new program will allow Comcast Xfinity Internet or Comcast Business Class Internet customers access to Wi-Fi on their mobile device in public areas throughout Northern and Central California and Santa Barbara County, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Fresno, Monterey, Santa Maria and Chico.

"Our customers are increasingly leveraging wireless devices, platforms and apps, and looking for ways to enjoy their entertainment and communications outside of their homes," Elaine Barden, regional vice president of marketing for Comcast California, said in a statement. "With Xfinity WiFi, we're providing them a fast wireless Internet experience while they're out shopping, eating or otherwise enjoying their time in Northern and Central California."

To access the Xfinity WiFi, users should look for "xfinitywifi" connect to the XFINITY WiFi network and launch your browser. The browser will redirect you to XFINTY WiFi sign-in page (if you don’t see the sign-in page, you may have to type a different address in your Web browser - such as - to be redirected to the XFINITY WiFi sign-in page). Sign in using your email address or username and password, then start browsing the Web! You can use either your primary or a secondary username and password to sign in to XFINITY WiFi.

A map of available hotspots as well as directions for using the services is posted on

Looking at the map of northern California it looks like Comcast has fairly good coverage in both Sacramento and the Bay Area. I noticed several hot spots located all the way to the suburbs. Comcast said it will continue to install additional hotspots in more areas throughout California throughout the year.

Apart from Sacramento and the Bay Area the new Comcast network is in the following markets: Aptos, Atwater, Buellton, Cameron Park, Carmel, Chico, Chowchilla, Colusa, Corcoran, Davis, Diamond Springs, Dinuba, El Dorado Hills, ElkGrove, Fairfield, Folsom, Fresno, Galt, Grass Valley, Hanford, Kerman, Lathrop, Lemoore, Lodi,Lompoc, Los Banos, Madera, Manteca, Marysville, Mendota, Merced, Modesto, Monterey, Murphys, Nevada City, Newman, Oakdale, Oroville, Parlier, Patterson, Placerville, Rancho Cordova, Reedley, Roseville, Sacramento, Salinas, San Andreas, Sanger, Santa Maria, Selma, Solvang, Sonora, Soquel, Stockton, Tracy, Tulare, Twain Harte, Vacaville, Vallejo, Visalia, Willows and Yuba City.

Valve Beta Testing Steam For Linux Next Month

Valve has some exciting news for Linux users, the company has been working hard on a Linux based Steam client which the feel is almost ready for public consumption.According to Valve's Linux Team blog development on the Steam client for Linux has been progressing well so well that they have announced a limited beta release will be available as soon as next month.

According to Valve's Linux Team blog posting the company is planning to start internal beta testing on the client next week and will launch a closed external beta test some time in October. The external beta test will include 1,000 users who will receive one Valve game and a test build of the client, which is supported for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and later. Valve did not announce which game will be included but it is likely that the unnamed title will be Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2) as Valve has already spent considerable effort porting that game to Linux.

Valve hasn't post details about signups as of yet but says once they are ready for the external beta test details will be posted on its Linux Team blog. Testers who want to take part should be experienced Linux users; the company suggests that newcomers to the platform should wait for a subsequent version which will include more options and an easier installation.

External Beta News | Valve

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Test The Latest Nokia Devices For Up To Two Weeks

Have you ever wished you could test out that new cellphone at home for a few days before you pull the trigger and make your purchase? Well with a little known program from Nokia you can.

Dubbed, Trial a Nokia, the loaner program will let anyone willing to accept the terms and conditions a chance to try out one of Nokia's latest device for two weeks. These terms and conditions are failry straight forward, for starters you must be 16 or older. You must return the device in the same condition as when it is received and you must be willing to return the device (postage paid by Nokia) at the end of the two weeks.

Current devices include the Nokia Lumina 700, Lumina 800, Lumina 900, Nokia Pureview 808, Nokia Purity headset and the Nokia Play 360 speaker. The Nokia 920 and perhaps even the Nokia 820 may soon be available.

Reading over the site it looks as though the goal of the program is to raise a little buzz about Nokia products. They want you to be unique in your request for a device and put your own stamp on how you'll be using it. According to the T&C they want to know what ways you'll be talking about it when you have it and perhaps even following your online conversations as part of the program.

Newest Samsung Galaxy S III Software Patches Remote Exploit Flaw

Samsung has confirmed reports that a remote reset exploit has been discovered that can remotely factory reset a user's smartphone through a USSD TEL code. This USSD TEL code could be triggered through malicious code in a website or WAP push SMS, wiping your phone without any prompts to intervene. The widely popular Samsung Galaxy S III, alongside a number of other TouchWiz devices, have been said to be vulnerable to the exploit. However, Samsung has acted quickly and has already created an update to solve the problem.

The company issued the following statement on the matter:
"We would like to assure our customers that the recent security issue concerning the Galaxy S III has already been resolved through a software update. We recommend all Galaxy S III customers download the latest software update, which can be done quickly and easily via the Over-The-Air (OTA) service." 
 It is always recommended to keep your phone and other gadgets up-to-date with the latest firmware, security updates ect. So if your Galaxy S3 phone is up-to-date, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. Unfortunately if you own one of Samsung's other device there may still be cause for concern as the company has made no mention about in their statement. So they could very well still be at risk from this latest vulnerability.

If you're uncertain as to whether or not your Samsung phone may be vulnerable to the USSD bug, you can check very quickly and easily with this USSD vulnerability test to see if you're protected or not.

Sophos Anti-Virus Still Reporting False Positives

Nearly a week after a bad update to Sophos' anti-virus software began causing the application to falsely report files as malicious the company confirmed that many users are still reporting issues.

Despite that fact that Sophos issued instructions last week as to how to remedy the situation the company has said it is still seeing a large amount of calls, emails and other communications from users asking for support.

"While Technical Support volumes have started to significantly subside and hold queues have started to drop, I understand that our hold queues still remain larger than normal, and in some instances, callers have been unable to connect with us," said Hagerman in an apology issued Friday. "We are doing everything possible to address the queue as fast as we can; I assure you that our Sophos team members are eager to speak with you to get your case resolved swiftly."

Sophos has provided customers with more information on fixing the problem which is the result of s bad A/V update that causes false positives for certain malware to occur on Windows-based computers. The bad update causes Sophos Anti-Virus for Windows to erroneously pop-up alerts for the Shh/Updater-B virus. These are false alerts and there is no malware on your computers.

For many customers, the problem was temporary however for some users impacted by the Sophos’ Shh/Updater-B false positive update the software may also have impacted other non-Sophos applications, such as Adobe and JavaTM, and prevented them from updating. These non-Sophos applications are only likely to be impacted if your Sophos ‘on-access’ clean up policy was changed from the default setting to either 'Deny access and move to...' or ‘Delete’.

The latest version of the Sophos recovery tool here will automatically restore files where the policy was set to ‘Deny access and move to…’. However, if your policy setting was ‘Delete’, you will need to repair all affected applications. Later this week, we will release a tool to help you centrally identify applications that need to be repaired. We believe many customers will have manually remediated affected applications, but our advice is for all affected customers to run this tool when it is available to ensure that all applications are able to receive future updates.’

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Barnes And Noble Releases Two New Nook Tablets

U.S. bookstore chain Barnes and Noble has introduced two new Android tablets today with aggressive pricing and a nice set of features. With price tags ranging from $199 for a 7-inch Nook HD tablet with 8 gigabytes of memory, to $299 for a 9-inch Nook HD+ tablet, Barnes and Noble has undercut Apple's iPad prices by roughly half while still featuring a slightly better set of specs and feature set over its top rival Amazon and their newly introduced Kindle Fire lineup.

The new B&N Nook HD features a 7" screen with an impressive 243 pixels per inch and can handle 720p video, and the B&N Nook HD+ runs a 9" screen at 256ppi at a true 1920x1280 1080p resolution. In comparison the iPad 3 with its retina display features 264ppi, and the Kindle Fire HD comes in at 216ppi. Powering both of the tablets are current-gen Texas Instruments OMAP processors clocking in at 1.5GHz and 1.3GHz.

Barnes & Noble's new devices, available for pre-order on Wednesday, will ship in October and be in U.S. stores in November. The Nook HD will run $199 for the 8GB version and $229 for the 16GB. The NookHD+ will cost $269 for 16GB and $299 for 32GB. All the devices are expandable up to 72GB via an microSD card slot.

For more details read the full B&N Nook HD Press Release or visit the Barnes and Noble Nook page.

MySpace Getting An Overhaul, Will It Help?

The much maligned MySpace website is getting a face lift thanks to its new owners. A recently posted teaser video found at shows off some of the sites new features including what looks to be a new photo stream similar in nature to Pinterest, and a new media heavy format focusing on videos and music.

As you can see from the video below the new site is a major change up from the current layout and a major leap from the traditional design most of the original users were likely accustom to.

On the landing page is an email submission form for notification of when the new launch will begin along with the promise that MySpace will "stay true to our roots."
We’re hard at work building the new Myspace, entirely from scratch. But we’re staying true to our roots in one important way—empowering people to express themselves however they want. So whether you’re a musician, photographer, filmmaker, designer or just a dedicated fan, we’d love for you to be a part of our brand new community.

MySpace's new owners, which includes actor/recording star Justin Timberlake, are trying to revamp the service in hope of restoring the glory of the MySpace of 2008, when it was ranked the No. 1 social network world wide. The site which was originally bought by NewsCorp for $580 million in July 2005 was sold in June 2011 to Specific Media Group and Justin Timberlake who jointly purchased the company for approximately $35 million.

The new changes while significant are a bit out there for me. I for one don't care for the overly image heavy design and the overall look and feel. I've said it time and time again people like their social media sites clean and simple. That is one of the things that drew users away from MySpace and towards Facebook back in they day and that is what is now causing more users to turn their backs on Facebook now. This media laden overhaul certainly won't appeal to me or most of the geeks out there that I know.

iPhone 5 Sales Top 5Million In Opening Weekend, Major Success Or Minor Flop?

Apple is reporting that sales of the new iPhone 5 have topped the 5 million mark just three days after its launch on September 21 meaning over the course of the weekend the company sold an additional 3 million units over its impressive pre-order opening day sales of 2 million

“Demand for iPhone 5 has been incredible and we are working hard to get an iPhone 5 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “While we have sold out of our initial supply, stores continue to receive iPhone 5 shipments regularly and customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date. We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough iPhone 5s for everyone.”

These numbers are fairly impressive and the 5 million mark surpasses the previous record set by the iPhone 4S launch last year, which recorded first day launch sales of 1 million units and total weekend sales of over 4 million units. But one has to question how impressive are these numbers really?

In the past Apple has seen significant increases in the number of sales, and while a million extra units might seem like a lot its no where near the numbers that most people have been predicting. Wall Street analysts such as Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster were looking at 6 million to 10 million units in the first weekend. Munster had said:
We believe that the reported 2 million iPhone 5 pre-order unit number suggests that Apple could sell 6-10 million phones in the launch weekend. We believe Apple will issue a press release on Monday September 24th about launch weekend sales. The mid-point of our weekend sales total would suggest 100% y/y growth from the iPhone 4S launch. We note that iPhone 4S grew 135% y/y in its launch weekend compared to the iPhone 4.
Many analysts and tech writers are calling Apple’s announcement that it sold more than 5 million iPhone 5′s this past weekend a letdown and “disappointing.” So much so that it is being blamed for a selloff of Apple (AAPL) stock that sent share prices down a little more than 3 percent since Monday.

So where does that leave Apple now?

Apple first weekend sales numbers are impressive, however some of the 'magic' has seem to have left Apple. In Q2’12, Samsung sold 50.5 million smartphones, twice as many as Apple and the Android platform is doing nothing but growing. Factor in what looks to be an impressive array of Microsoft Windows 8 phones and we might see Apple's market share slip even a little further in the coming year.

Apple at one point was thought of as the innovation leader, today though Android is innovating faster than iPhone and with multiple devices with several options for hardware, form factors and price range they appear to be placing themselves in the position to take over dominance in the smartphone market.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

iFixit Opens Up The New iPhone 5

You only need to mention the name iFixit and most geeks will automatically know what comes next, teardown. Yeah that's right once again the geeks over at iFixit were standing inline down in Australia to be the first to get their geeky little hands on the latest greatest from Apple and of course as always they immediately began disassembling the device to show off all its 'magical' goodness.

iPhone 5 via iFixit
Unlike years past when we were all held up in suspense in regards to the possible innards of the previous generation Apple devices this year's teardown holds few if any surprises. Most of the details had already been leaked so you really won't see much in the way of magic here.

iFixit does note a few things that might catch your attention.

For starters they notice that the screen could be easier to change than with previous models since you open it up from the front. This means a home user might actually have a little more success with a DIY project than with years past. It was also worthy of noting that iFixit noticed that it seems inevitable that Apple was going to switch its charging source eventually as it appears there is no way they could have crammed a 30-pin dock connector into the new iPhone 5 assembly.

For more details, photos and the likes checkout the full iFixit iPhone 5 Teardown

Apple May Have Ditched Google Maps Too Soon

With the recent release of iOS 6, Apple dropped support for Google maps as the default navigation application instead replacing Google with their very own mapping app. This move however has not been a smooth transition as Apple's new Maps app is already facing criticism around the world over a slew of omissions, poor directions and other geographic errors.

For example, reports are already pouring in saying that Apple Maps is coming up with some strange ideas about how to get places. Directions have been reported as being totally inaccurate and possibly even dangerous at times.

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According to reports from the BBC News several locations in the U.K. have been moved or are missing from the app.

Stratford-upon-Avon and Solihull are both nowhere to be found. The town of Uckfield in East Sussex is in the wrong location. Certain schools are missing, while the app apparently placed a furniture museum in a river. Satellite images of different locations, including ones in Scotland, are covered by clouds.

Users in Asia have noticed similar discrepancies. According to Japanese blog site Japan Mobile Tech some users have complained of poor quality in the level of details, while others say the app doesn't show train station exits or it shows multiple instances of the same exit all in the wrong locations.

Web sites, such as the Huffington Post, have already created lists of the worst or funniest mistakes found in the app. There's also this Tumblr that keeps growing with examples of "Amazing iOS 6 Maps."

This might not be a complete disaster for Apple but it certain is a black spot that might not be easily fixed. Apple licenses mapping data from vehicle navigation systems maker TomTom. TomTom said it stands behind the quality of its maps but didn't develop the app.

"During the process of turning mapping data into an app, every manufacturer does it their own way," said TomTom spokesperson Cem Cohen. "We are not part of that process. Apple uses exactly the same maps as our other customers."

While in theory it may be possible for Apple to update Maps with a software fix, the problems appear to be "pretty profound and pretty fundamental," said Marcus Thielking, co-founder of Skobbler, maker of the popular GPS Navigation 2 app. "The question is really how much expertise do they have in-house and what they sourced from third parties," Thielking said, adding that Apple requires people with a very specific skill set to fix this.

Apple has responded via a public statement issued to AllThingsD:

"Customers around the world are upgrading to iOS 6 with over 200 new features including Apple Maps, our first map service," said spokeswoman Trudy Miller. "We are excited to offer this service with innovative new features like Flyover, turn by turn navigation, and Siri integration. We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it. Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better."

Later in his piece, AllThingsD writer John Paczkowski says the developer team assigned to the Maps app is "under lockdown" working to fix the app.

Sadly users wanting to revert back to Google Maps simply can't. Apple dropped all support for Google maps as a stand alone application and there isn't as of yet an alternative. If you want to use Google Maps you'll be forced to do so through your browser. If you are looking for a better more accurate mapping application you'll probably be forced to look for a paid solution either from TomTom, Garmin or another third party vendor.

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Bad Update Causes Sophos Anti-Virus To Report False Positives

A recent signature update is has been wreaking havoc for Sophos anti-virus users. The faulty update is causing erroneous errors leading the anti-virus software to believe that there are malicious files on a users system when in fact there are none.

According to Sophos an update issued by SophosLabs for use with the company's Live Protection system is causing wide spread False Positives. Numerous executable files are falsely detected as Shh/Updater-B.

Symptoms may include:
  • Any virus detections of 'Shh'
  • Sophos Autoupdate not updating correctly
  • Other products update mechanisms not functioning correctly
  • The Sophos shield may disappear.
Symptoms on console may include:
  • Reports of Shh/Updater-B

On the company's customer forum, a thread regarding the problem is now up to 90+ pages at the time of writing, and includes a number of examples, including the update agents for Java, as well as Adobe Flash and Reader. Sophos' engine even suspects its own update service, with the update tools being marked as Shh/Updater-B.

One major concern for Sophos Anti-virus users is that the files falsely believed to be malicious are automatically put into quarantine – or, depending on your custom settings perhaps even immediately deleted. Sophos says that the bug has already been fixed, with users who have Live Detection activated noticing the change immediately. All other users will see an end to the problem once the program has downloaded the current version of the javab-jd.ide signature file from the Sophos server – assuming, of course, that the Sophos updater is still working.

If the automatic updater is not working on your machine or you are still experiencing difficulties you'll need to follow the instructions on the Sophos site to get things working again.

Select Battlefield PC Games For $10 Each, 9/20 Only

Here is a hot deal for all you PC gaming fans out there. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of EA's Battlefield series, the publisher is now selling select Battlefield PC games for $10 each through EA's Origin platform.

Here are direct links to the six titles available:

Some of these deals are obviously a little hotter than others. For instance Bad Company 2 alone is $10, and the Vietnam expansion is $10 yet the Bad Company 2 Digital Deluxe gives you both games for only $10. Battlefield 3 is another hot deal considering it retails for $39.99.

The sale ends today so if you plan on buying you better hurry!

iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S3 Hacked At Mobile Pwn2Own

TippingPoint DVLabs and the Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) the major sponsors for the infamous Pwn2Own hacking contest have created a new mobile only version of the Pwn2Own competition. The primary goal of the new contest is to demonstrate the current security level of the most prevalent mobile technologies in use today; including attacks on mobile web browsers, mobile operating system, Near Field Communication (NFC), Short Message Service (SMS), and the cellular baseband.

During this week's competition held alongside the 2012 EUSecWest conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands, hackers had the chance to try to exploit several of today's most popular phones running the latest operating systems on the market. Among the options were several Android based phones, an Apple iPhone 4S running iOS 5.1.1, a BlackBerry Bold 9900 and two phones running Windows Phone 7.5.

As of today only two phones had been exploited. The first being the iPhone 4S which was exploited via a bug in WebKit. According to ZDNet security researchers Joost Pol and Daan Keuper, of Certified Secure, exploited a WebKit vulnerability to launch a drive-by-download to hijack the address book, photos, videos, and browsing history from a fully patched iPhone 4S.

The attack works on iOS 5.1.1 and the developer release of iOS 6, as well as on the iPad, iPhone 4, and previous versions of the iPod Touch, Pol told ZDNet.

The second phone to fall victim to hackers was the Samsung Galaxy S3which was hacked via NFC, allowing the attackers to download all the data from the Android based smartphone. Researchers from security company MWR Labs were able to to beam an malicious file over a NFC (Near Field Communication) connection by holding two Galaxy S3s next to each other.

Using this technique, a file is loaded on the targeted S3. The file is then automatically opened and gets full permissions, meaning that the attacker has full control over the phone, explained Tyrone Erasmus, security researcher at MWR. The app runs in the background so the victim is unaware of the attack. The attacker can gain access to all SMS messages, pictures, emails, contact information and much more. The payload is very advanced, so attackers can "basically do anything on that phone," the researchers said.

The exploit is aimed at a document viewer application that comes as a default installed app on the Galaxy S2, S3 and some HTC phones, the researchers said. They wouldn't say which specific app is targeted because they did not want others to take advantage of the exploit. The vulnerability was tested on both the S2 and the S3, and worked on both phones, they said.

For their successful exploits both teams were rewarded $30,000 cash and other prizes, such as a BlackBerry Playbook tablet from sponsor Research in Motion.For more details on the Pwn2Own mobile contest you can follow either @thezdi on Twitter or search for the hash tag #pwn2own.For details on the phones used in the contest or contest rules checkout the TippingPoint Blog.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

HTC Showcases Two New Windows Phone 8 Devices

HTC has joined Nokia as two of the leaders pushing the charge for Microsoft's newest entry into the smartphone market Windows Phone 8. Today HTC alongside Microsoft unveiled the first Windows Phone 8 based devices to come from the Taiwanese phone manufacturer. The all new HTC Windows Phone 8X and HTC Windows Phone 8S.

HTC's first Windows based phones feature a nice list of of features and some rather impressive specs. The HTC Windows Phone 8X sports a 4.3-inch HD (1280x720) Super LCD display with Gorilla Glass 2, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, 802.11n Wi-Fi, NFC support, 4G LTE, and two features that set it apart: Beats Audio integration (with built-in amplifier), and a 2.1MP, f/2.0 aperture, 88-degree ultra-wide angle front-facing camera that can capture up to four people at once. It also has an 8MP rear-facing camera (f/2.0 aperture, 28mm lens) with a dedicated imaging chip, backside illumination, and physical shutter button.

HTC Windows Phone 8X

For those looking for a more mid-market phone with slightly less specs and likely a smaller price tag there is the HTC Windows Phone 8S. A slightly smaller phone at 4 inches. It has a 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 512MB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, microSD card slot, 5MP rear-facing, camera, and Beats Audio. Sorry guys no front facing camera on the 8S.

HTC Windows Phone 8S

The Windows Phone 8X and 8S by HTC will be available in several color options and should be in stores beginning in November. While there is no pricing set we do know they will be available through more than 150 carriers in 50+ countries. Here is the states: AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are all said to be carriers.

Read more: New Windows Phone 8 Devices Unveiled by HTC

Monday, September 17, 2012

Microsoft Announces Windows 8 Launch Event

While it has already been confirmed that Windows 8 will officially launch Oct 26th Microsoft has announced plans for a Windows 8 launch event to take place Oct. 25 in New York City. The invite simply states, “You’re invited to celebrate. Windows 8” with few other details.

Could this mean the company has other things in store for the announcement? It's entirely possible! What that might be could be anyone's guess. But speculation is that Microsoft will be showcasing the much anticipated Microsoft Surface tablet and perhaps even revealing the actual pricing of the new devices.

Since its official announcement Microsoft has been rather tight lipped about the upcoming tablet, providing very few details past what we already knew. In a recent interview with The Seattle Times, Ballmer hinted about pricing, putting the scale in line with what we have come to expect from iPad pricing. “I think most people would tell you that the iPad is not a superexpensive device…. (When) people offer cheaper, they do less. They look less good, they’re chintzier, they’re cheaper,” Balmer said, adding, ”If you look at the bulk of the PC market, it would run between, say, probably $300 to about $700 or $800. That’s the sweet spot.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Amazon Now Collecting Sales Tax For Most California Buyers

Californians can now expect to start paying sale tax on most of the items they buy from online shopping giant Starting Saturday Sept 15h at 12:01am, the world's biggest Internet retailer, began collecting sales taxes on all purchases made from California residents directly through Amazon.

The tax ranges from 7.25% to 9.75%, depending on your location in California and the rate imposed bu your specific county. For instance people within sections of Los Angeles county will pay the highest tax rate with 9.25 percent in Inglewood and 9.75 percent in Pico Rivera.

For some purchase this won't mean the end of the free tax ride. For now sales tax is only collected on Amazon purchases within California to products that were sold by Amazon itself. According to a minor loop-hole in the law, products listed as ”fulfilled by Amazon”, but shipped from a third party merchant aren’t included in this tax collection deal.

Representatives from the State Board of Equalization, which collects California sales taxes, told  CNET that California lawmakers are already working on way to track sellers that are trying to find way around the new law and that attempts to collect sales tax from third-party merchants that operate outside of California are under way.

Speaking out about the loophole, the State Board of Equalization representative said “You can assume we’ll have ways of finding out who’s holding stocks of goods in California. We have enforcement authority to obtain information in a variety of ways. We’ll be approaching them with respect to their tax obligations.” According to the chairman of the Board of Equalization, the agency will hire 35 new attorneys, auditors and tax collectors to support the new Internet sales tax initiative in addition to transitioning some of the current staff to investigate tax collection issues with Internet companies.

California is just the latest state to begin collecting taxes from Amazon purchases. Amazon already collects sales tax in Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. Unless they can block the initiatives they will also start collecting sales tax on purchases in New Jersey and Virginia during 2013. Indiana, Nevada and Tennessee start during 2014 and South Carolina starts during 2016.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

NVIDIA Introduces New GeForce GTX 660 and GeForce GTX 650 Series

nvidia logoNVIDIA today announced two new mainstream GPUs based a variant of the company's Kepler architecture. Which according to NVIDIA offers consumers some of the world's fastest and most efficient high performance computing (HPC) GPUs. NVIDIA promises it will deliver impressive gains in terms of power and performance for desktops and laptops alike.

NVIDIA has already launched several GPUs in the GeForce 600 Series which are all based on the Kepler designed chips. Today's announcement fills the gap between the budget friendly GT 600 series and the enthusiast level GTX 660 Ti and NVIDIA's high-end cards the GTX 670, GTX 680, GTX 690.

GeForce GTX 660 and GeForce GTX 650 Specifications

GTX 660 Ti GTX 660 GTX 650 GT 640
Stream Processors 1344 960 384 384
Texture Units 112 80 32 32
ROPs 24 24 16 16
Core Clock 915MHz 980MHz 1058MHz 900MHz
Shader Clock N/A N/A N/A N/A
Boost Clock 980MHz 1033MHz N/A N/A
Memory Clock 6.008GHz GDDR5 6.008GHz GDDR5 5GHz GDDR5 1.782GHz DDR3
Memory Bus Width 192-bit 192-bit 128-bit 128-bit
FP64 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32
TDP 150W 140W 64W 65W
GPU GK104 GK106 GK107 GK107
Transistor Count 3.5B 2.54B 1.3B 1.3B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm
Launch Price $299 $229 $109 $99

Looking at the early benchmarks and reviews its easy to see these cards perform about as well as to be expected. That is to say there aren't any major surprises one way or the other. They were built to fill a gap in NVIDIA's line-up and compete with some of the lower cost options from AMD and they seem to do that fairly well. This is by no means a bad thing, it simply means that this is just an everyday product launch.

GeForce GTX 660 and GeForce GTX 650 Benchmarks and Reviews:

Read More:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mark Zuckerberg Talks Facebook Search, Disappointing IPO And More

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat down with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington yesterday for his first public interview since the company’s largely disappointing IPO. Zuckerberg shared details on Facebook’s mobile strategy, the possibility of a Facebook search engine, the disappointment of the IPO and much more.

During this week's TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, TechCrunch's Micheal Arrington sat down for a one on with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. In front of a standing-room only packed convention hall Arrington fired off questions for the young CEO. The most glaring and obvious question: How does Zuckerberg feel about the IPO given that the company’s share price has fallen by nearly half in four months?

“Well, the performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing,” he said, before reiterating Facebook’s mission to make the world more “open and connected.” He added, “It’s not the first up and down that we ever had.” When asked if the stock performance has affected internal morale at the company Zuckerberg said “Well, you know it doesn’t help,” adding “maybe some people will leave. I actually think it’s a great time for people to join and also for people to stay and double down.”

In a bit of a forward looking statement he said that Facebook’s performance over the next three to five years will be the company’s ability to transition to and monetize its audience on mobile devices “A lot more people have phones than computers,” Zuckerberg said. “And mobile users are more likely to be daily active users."

He said that mobile users are more than twice as likely to use Facebook more than 6 or 7 times per week. Following the launch of the new iOS app, the number of stories consumed doubled, he added. Mobile users spend more time on Facebook, and per time they spend more money than those on desktop. And mobile ads, although they have to be integrated more deeply into the mobile experience, do better than the right-side ads on Facebook. The problem, of course, is getting there, he admitted. Zuckerberg also addressed the challenges of mobile development, admitting that Facebook’s 2-year long bet on HTML5 was one of its biggest mistakes.

Is Facebook working on their own search engine?

This has be another hot topic that industry insiders have been curious about. With the large user bases than Facebook now commands they might be the only company out there that can challenge Google for its search dominance. While Facebook's CEO didn't get specific about the timing he left little doubt about the direction in which the company was moving and even less doubt that they have something up their sleeves. "At some point we will do it," Zuckerberg said.

"We do a billion queries a day and we aren't even trying. Mostly trying to find people or brand pages or apps. There is a big opportunity in search, evolving to giving a set of answers to a specific question and Facebook is uniquely positioned to do that. For example, 'Which of my friends or friends of friends work in a company I might like to work at?'"

So where does this leave Facebook?

Immediately following Zuckerberg’s chat with TechCrunch the stock rose in after-hours trading, and then jumped again today when the market opened. The new high today is the highest the stock has traded at in almost a month. The stock closed at $20.93, still a 7.73% increase over yesterday’s close of $19.43.

This hardly marks a turn around from a stock that has lost almost half its value but it does appear to be a glimmer of hope for investors. Facebook hasn't been very forthcoming with their long term monetization goals or plans as to how to use some of their tools at their disposal. At least the talks began to shed some light on the future of the company.

For the full interview head over to TechCrunch where you'll find all the videos and write-ups from the TechCrunch Disrupt chat. "The Best Sound Bites From Mark Zuckerberg’s First Interview Post-IPO [VIDEO]"

Inside The Numbers: iPhone 4S Vs iPhone 5 Vs The Competition

Now that Apple has finally made the iPhone 5 official we can see how well it stacks up against the iPhone 4S, (and maybe some of the competition) and see how well Apple's new phone compares to what's already on the market. Apple loyalist have sat through tons of rumors and speculation waiting for months for the newest iPhone to be released. Now that its here you might want to know what's changed and what's stayed the same, and what else might be on the market today that could offer a better device.

iPhone 4S Vs iPhone 5 what has stayed the same:

The iPhone 5 hasn't changed things a ton from the iPhone 4S. You'll still have the options of 16GB, 32GB and 64GBof storage space at the same price tags we saw at the launch of the iPhone 4, 199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, $399 for 64GB.

You still get an 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash, 1080p HD video, auto focus, face detection, f2.4 aperture, backside illumination, hybrid IR filter, five-element lens and dynamic low-light mode. You'll still get about 8hrs of talk time and about 10 hours of video playback. For service providers in the US iPhones will still be limited to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.(unlocked phones might show on other carriers later)

iPhone 4S Vs iPhone 5 what has changed:

There were really only a few changes, most of which were cosmetic in the form of a smaller casing and larger screen. The iPhone 5 has an all-new 7.6 mm anodized aluminum body that is 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than iPhone 4S. With the iPhone 5 you'll get a 4-inch Retina Display with a true 16:9 aspect ratio featuring 1136x640-pixel resolution versus the iPhone 4S and its 3.5-inch Retina Display with a 3:2 aspect ratio and 960x640-pixel resolution. You'll also get a front-facing 720p camera vs the standard VGA camera on the iPhone 4S.

For internals the dual-core 1GHz A5 processor with dual-core graphics that powered the iPhone 4S gets upgraded to a new A6 processor that Apple says is a smaller chip that offers up to twice the CPU and graphics performance. (As usual Apple is not really talking specs so we aren't sure how realistic that is!) The last major upgrade was the addition of 4G LTE giving the iPhone 5 support for the latest LTE technology and fastest connections possible.

Rounding up the changes are minor details like a new smaller dock connector and a new smaller nanoSIM. Both of which totally replace previous versions, meaning they will not be interchangeable. Apple will be releasing an adapter for the dock connector, but customers will need a new SIM card for their new phones.

iPhone 5 Vs the Competition, how it stacks up:

So how does the iPhone 5 rate against some of the best selling phones on the market today? The Samsung Galaxy S3 is currently one of the hottest devices out there so here is a quick side-by side. Both feature 16/32/64GB of on-board storage, the Galaxy S3 however is expandable via a microSD slot. Both feature 8-megapixel rear facing cameras the Galaxy S3 however features a larger front-facing camera with a full 1.9 megapixels Vs the iPhone 5 with a smaller .90 megapixels.

The Galaxy S3 features a slightly larger 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen with a larger 1280 x 720-pixel resolution. The S3 also features Near field communication (NFC). Overall the iPhone 5 is smaller and lighter measuring 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm and weighting 112g Vs the Galaxy S3 measuring 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm and weighting 133g.

In terms of price both devices were originally announced at about the same price tag. However, Amazon has recently been offering customers a sweet deal on a new Samsung Galaxy S III selling it for only $99.99. That is a $100 savings over the iPhone 5.

How does the iPhone stack up against some of the rest of the competition? Well here is a quick side-by-side comparison to the Nokia Lumina 920 and Motorola Droid RAZR HD.

My thoughts and conclusion

Apple has certainly been sitting on top of the smartphone market for years and they are undoubtedly poised to sale tons of devices with the new iPhone 5. In this case however it looks to me like Apple is still  the one playing catch-up. We are seeing more of the same from Apple with nothing more than a few minor updates. They are seeing the success that Android devices have with larger screens and other features and banking on their ability to incorporate those into the the new iPhone and have it continue to carry on their success.

What happened to Apple being market leader and bringing us something new and innovative?

Apple Makes The 4 Inch LTE Packing iPhone 5 Official

As expected during today's big Apple event, the company officially announced the new iPhone 5, which has adds several changes over previous models including a taller and narrower screen 4G LTE connectivity and the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 6.

“iPhone 5 is the most beautiful consumer device that we’ve ever created,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We’ve packed an amazing amount of innovation and advanced technology into a thin and light, jewel-like device with a stunning 4-inch Retina display, blazing fast A6 chip, ultrafast wireless, even longer battery life; and we think customers are going to love it.”

 The new iPhone 5 has a half-inch larger touchscreen display that retains the retina display pixel density of the iPhone 4S at 326ppi, but it now has a 4-inch 16:9 display at a 1136x640 resolution. There's a 4G LTE radio tucked inside; Apple upgraded the system-on-chip (SoC) to an A6 processor; and yes, it's officially called the iPhone 5 and not simply iPhone or 'new iPhone'.

 Aside from a larger design Apple upgraded the front-facing FaceTime camera to support 720p, and it now works over 3G with iOS 6. The rear-facing "iSight" camera, has an 8MP sensor with a five element lens, backside illumination, hybrid IR filter, f/2.4 aperture, dynamic low light mode, spacial noise reduction, and takes pictures 40 percent faster than before.

As rumored the new iPhone 5 will mark the death of the old traditional 30-pin connector Apple has used in all of its device and accessories since 2003. The new smaller connector dubbed "Lightning" will feature an 80 percent smaller 8-signal design that can be inserted in either orientation. For current Apple owners and for those accessories currently on the market Apple has also created a 30-pin-to-Lightning adapter, so that iPhone owners with tons of 30-pin accessories won't find their gadgets becoming immediately obsolete.

AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint will all support the iPhone 5 on 4G LTE, and the available colors at launch will be "black and slate" as well as white with a "bright silver" aluminum finish on the back. Apple retains the usual price structure for the new iPhone: 16GB for $199, 32GB for $299, and $399 for 64GB with a two-year contract. Pre-orders open September 14, and the phone ships September 21.

Read More: Apple Introduces iPhone 5

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

T-Mobile Invites AT&T Users With Unlocked iPhones

With the launch of the new iPhone 5 seemingly immanent, T-Mobile is extending an offer to current AT&T iPhone owners. Leave AT&T behind and come to us!

T-Mobile may be the only one of "Big 4" phone companies that doesn't sell the iPhone, but that hasn't kept users from leaving AT&T behind and taking their devices with them. In the past T-Mobile has been a bit reluctant to openly invite iPhone users as it faced concerns over bandwidth usage. Now it appears as though the mobile provider has changed their tune.

Starting Wednesday, when Apple is expected to reveal a new iPhone model, T-Mobile will start an advertising campaign targeting unlocked iPhone owners who are out of contract and can switch to T-Mobile.

"We expect that consumers will start trading in older devices," said Harry Thomas, T-Mobile's director of marketing. "For every person waiting in line for the next model, a lot of them have to find a secondary market for that older device."

AT&T iPhones have to be unlocked using codes that AT&T will supply after the customer's contract is up. AT&T has added a new page to make the process easy. Simply visit the AT&T Device Unlock page, fill in your information as well as the IMEI number from your iPhone and if you meet the requirements AT&T will send you the unlock code within 5 to 7 days.

Sorry Sprint and Verizon iPhone owners, your phones won't work on T-Mobiles network. There are some hacks that can be done to potentially get the iPhone 4S to work but that is a rather involved ordeal and not something most users will want to face.

T-Mobiles campaign will be titled "Unlocked & Unlimited." The pitch will center on its unlimited data plan, which it reintroduced last week. The carrier also plans to start carrying unlocked iPhones in its stores for demonstration purposes and even plans to launch a few of its own iPhone apps to improve the "T-Mobile iPhone" experience.

T-Mobile's Value plans range between $59.99 and $104.99 a month. The low-end plan includes unlimited voice and text message and 2 gigabytes of data before throttling. For $10 more, customers can get fully unlimited data. The high-end plan comes with 10 gigabytes of data. In Atlanta and New York, T-Mobile plans on giving away $100 gift cards to customers who sign their iPhones up for two-year contracts.

GoDaddy Apologizes For Outage Denies Hacking Claims

GoDaddy customers fell victim to a major outage yesterday that took down an untold number of websites (it had a minor affect on our site). Shortly after the service interruption at GoDaddy began, Twitter user @AnonymousOwn3r, who claimed to be the "security leader of anonymous," took responsibility for the outage in a video posted on YouTube.

Today GoDaddy officials have apologized for the outage and denied any and all claims that the outage was due to a hack or denial of service attack.

Get Noticed with a $7.99 .Com/.CO from Go Daddy!
"The service outage was not caused by external influences," wrote GoDaddy interim CEO Scott Wagner, in a short announcement issued Tuesday. "It was not a 'hack' and it was not a denial of service attack (DDoS). We have determined the service outage was due to a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables. Once the issues were identified, we took corrective actions to restore services for our customers and We have implemented measures to prevent this from occurring again."

Wagner continued by explaining that at no time was any customer data at risk, which means that now that the service is back up and running users should not have seen any data loss or see any other issues related to the down time. What exactly caused the outage, is still unclear, and Wagner didn't offer much in the way of specifics.

This outage which hit GoDaddy shortly after 10 a.m. PDT Monday took serveral hours to fully restore with most service being back up and running by 4 p.m. PDT. The downtime impacted not only users of GoDaddy's own Web hosting and email services, but also many Web sites with domain names registered through GoDaddy but hosted elsewhere, due to the fact that such websites were primarily located by consulting GoDaddy's Domain Name System (DNS) servers.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Amazon's Kindle Fire Tablets Will Be Ad-supported With No Non-Ad Options

Update: Amazon has reversed their decision to make all the new Kindle Fire Tablets add supported. According to emails received by several sources an Amazon spokesperson has confirmed that Amazon will let customers pay $15 to opt out of the ads. "With Kindle Fire HD there will be a special offers opt-out option for $15," an Amazon spokesperson told Ars. "We know from our Kindle reader line that customers love our special offers and very few people choose to opt out. We're happy to offer customers the choice."

Amazon made a big splash when it introduced their new line-up of Kindle Fire Tablets. However, one thing that many of us overlooked was a single line and a single paragraph on the bottom of Amazon's press release that stated that all of their new Kindle Fire tablets will be ad-supported.

Within yesterday's press release is a small paragraph at the bottom of the of the items descriptions:

Special Offers

The new Kindle Fire family comes with special offers that appear on the lock screen. Examples of special money-saving offers that customers will enjoy include a $5 credit in the Amazon MP3 Store and a $5 credit for select titles in the Amazon Instant Video Store. Customers will also receive special offers and screensavers from brands like AT&T, Discover and Intel, such as a special offer of a $10 Gift Card when a customer uses their Discover card to purchase a digital product on Amazon.

On the each of the devices product pages you'll find a single line that states "Includes special offers and sponsored screensavers. Learn more." Amazon explains that these offers will appear on the lock screen and lower left hand corner of the home screen but won't interrupt use of the device. Unlike previous generation of Kindle e-readers, customers won't have an option to chose between ad-supported and non-ad-supported models. For US customers there is no option to purchase Kindle Fires without "special offers" that display on the lock screen and the lower left corner of the home screen.

The ads are US-only, for some reason. "Kindle with Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers is only available in the US," a note on the Kindle Fire product page states. Fire tablets are also available in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK. So those outside the US might either get the choice, and an option for a cheaper tablet, or they might be paying a bit more. Amazon hasn't confirmed those plans yet.

Motorola Offering $100 Trade-In Credit For 2011 Smartphones That Won't Get Jelly Bean

Motorola appears to be committed to keeping customers up to date with the latest Android platform. So much so they are planning on putting their money where their mouth is. The company is offering customers who own a 2011 or later smartphone that won't be getting the Jelly Bean update a $100 back towards the purchase of a new Motorola smartphone.

"We want to give you the best of smartphone technology. That means not only pushing the boundaries on design, utility, and speed, but also providing the best mobile software out there. Today, that's Jelly Bean, the newest Android operating system. That's why we're upgrading Motorola smartphones first offered for sale in 2011¹ and later to Jelly Bean. If we don't upgrade your phone to Jelly Bean, we don't want you to miss out. Buy a select new Motorola smartphone, trade in your old phone, and we'll give you $100 back.² So you always enjoy the best from us."

Motorola's trade-in program is applies to United States sales of Android Motorola smartphones first offered in 2011 or later. The $100 trade-in provided will be in the form of a Gift Card, carrier credit or other cash equivalent at Motorola's sole discretion. Official program details will be posted on the trade-in site at a future date.

While Motorola hasn't officially posted the details for the trade-in plan here is the gist of how it will work. You buy one of the newly introduced Motorola smartphones; the Motorola DROID RAZR HD, Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX HD and the Motorola DROID RAZR M. Send in the phone you're trading in, and you'll get the $100 back in one of the forms previously mentioned.

For more details visit the Motorola Trade-In Site

Zynga Opens Doors To Third Party Games Adds New Developers

Zynga, the largest maker of social media games that connect with sites like Facebook, has for the first time ever opened their doors to third party games adding four partner games on The company also added a total of nine new developers to its publishing portfolio of 24 companies, bringing in a potential new source of revenue for the struggling company.

For the first time ever, games from third party developers will be available on Zynga's own destination for play, including: Sava Transmedia's Rubber Tacos, RocketPlay's Sports Casino, Majesco Entertainment Company's Mini Putt Park and 50 Cubes' Fashion Designer.

" brings people a new way to connect with friends and meet new people who love to play, and it gives our players an easy way to discover new games they might enjoy," said Rob Dyer, VP of partner publishing, Zynga. "We're thrilled to be working with our partners to bring the first set of third-party games to our network of players on and Facebook, and are excited to help our players discover new games by shining a light on some of the most talented game developers in the industry."

Zynga will take a cut of each transaction of sales from partners’ games in exchange for promotion to some of Zynga’s 306 million users. Amy Sezak, a spokeswoman for Zynga, declined to say how much the company takes. 

New Zynga partners announced today include: Antic Entertainment, Big Bite Games, CrayonPixel, Eruptive Games, JamRT, The Method, Playnery, RocketPlay and TikGames bringing their total to 24 partners across the company's entire web and mobile service that services 306 million monthly active users.

New Zynga Partner Games:

Sava Transmedia's Rubber Tacos is a bouncing puzzle game where players explore, flip and jump through more than 120 levels in an effort to help the Taco Family recover all of their peppers stolen by a crazy pinata. Players can also challenge their friends, as well as create and share their own levels. Rubber Tacos is now available on and Facebook:

RocketPlay's Sports Casino is a social sports-betting game in which players can enjoy authentic Las Vegas-style sportsbook experiences through in-game, real-time betting, while also competing with friends. Sports Casino is now available on and Facebook:

Majesco's Mini Putt Park gives players complete control over their very own mini-golf park, letting them build the course of their dreams and play against friends from around the world. Mini Putt Park is now available on and Facebook:

50 Cubes' Fashion Designer is a highly original fashion game where players can express their personal style, share original creations with friends and comb through a plethora of user generated designs. Fashion Designer is now available on and Facebook:

Other partner games said to be coming soon to include: Crayon Pixel's Atlas Raider, Eruptive's Citizen Grim, Fat Pebble's Clay Jam, JamRT's JamJam, MobScience's Legends: Rise of a Hero, Portalarium's Ultimate Collector, The Method's Yard Sale: Hidden Treasures, and Row Sham Bow and Danke Games's Knights of the Rose (developed by Perfect World).

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Amazon Shows Off New Kindle eReaders And Tablets

During today's press conference Amazon showcased several new Kindle eReaders and a new line-up of tablets poised to butt heads with Apple's iPad and the other Android tablets already on the market.

During it's press conference Amazon came out with guns blazing. For starters they introduced an updated version of the Kindle Touch, called the Kindle Paperwhite. The new Kindle uses a soft frontlight that can be turned on for reading in low light, and it also includes a higher resolution, 1024x768 capacitive touchscreen with "PaperWhite" E Ink technology that has higher contrast than the E Ink Pearl screens used in previous Kindles.

The 3G wireless version will sell for $179 a Wi-Fi-only version will go for $119. Both should be available in October just in time for holiday shoppers. For those budget minded consumers Amazon will still sale the fourth-generation Kindle that was introduced last year as an entry-level model, and it will be available for $69 starting on September 14.

Then there's the all new set of Kindle Fires. Last year's Kindle Fire gets and update with better hardware and a lower price, at $159. Adding to the new line-up there's a new 7-inch model called the Kindle Fire HD, with a better screen, better processor, double the storage (it's now 16GB or 32GB if you prefer) and a very competitive $199 price tag for the 16GB model and $249 for the 32GB model.

Perhaps the biggest announcement was the big boy, an 8.9-inch tablet also known as the Kindle Fire HD. This tablet is squarely aimed at the iPad with Amazon touting the quality of the screen, the responsiveness of the apps, and the inclusion of several of Amazon's own apps.

The Wi-Fi-only, 16GB model will cost $299 while the Kindle Fire HD 4G model will cost you $499 with 32GB of storage and $599 with 64GB of storage (currently way cheaper than the equivalent iPad). With the 4G model users will need a data plan, which Amazon teamed with AT&T to offer. Customers will get 250 megabytes per month on via AT&T for only $50 per year. This isn't much data for the high end user but it would suffice for very light usage. The average user wanting to download songs and music would have to pay for more data in which Amazon said users will be able to upgrade to more expensive 3- and 5-gigabyte data plans directly from AT&T via the devices. Users will also get 20GB of Amazon cloud storage (which normally costs $10 per year), and a $10 Amazon app store credit.

Kindle Fire Specs

Obviously being geeks we want to know what the details, so here goes.

The 8.9-inch Fire HD measures 9.4" x 6.4" x 0.35" and weighs just 20 ounces. The 8.9" display features a 10 point capacitive touch high definition color display with 1920x1200 resolution at 254 ppi, video playback up to 1080p, with IPS (in-plane switching) technology, advanced polarizing filter, and anti-glare technology.

Inside is a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 OMAP4470 processor, dual Dolby Digital stereo speakers, a dual-band WiFi chip, and two antennas for WiFi reception. Amazon claims the Fire's WiFi is 54 percent faster than on the Nexus 7, and 41 percent faster than on the iPad 3.

The 7-inch Fire features a 7" 10 point capacitive touch high definition color display; 1280x800 resolution, video playback at 720p, with IPS (in-plane switching) technology, advanced polarizing filter, and anti-glare technology. For internals it has a 1.2GHz dual-core OMAP 4460 processor, either 16 GB internal memory (approximately 12.6 GB available for user content) or 32 GB internal memory (approximately 26.9 GB available for user content).

The non-HD version differs in it has a 1.2GHz OMAP 4430 dual-core processor and 1024x600 resolution with a only 2-point multi-touch screen.

All Fire models except the non-HD 7-inch Fire will include front-facing cameras, a feature that was entirely lacking in the original Fire. USB 2.0 and HDMI out and Bluetooth. Amazon has not yet provided battery estimates for the 8.9-inch Fires, but the new 7-inch HD model is quoted at 11 hours of continuous use.

On the software side

Amazon made sure to integrate some of its customers favorite features into the new Kindles as well as adding in a few new touches. Right out of the box you'll get access to Amazon library of over 22 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, books, audiobooks, and popular apps and games such as Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, HBO GO, Hulu, Zillow, Pandora, and Angry Birds Space. There is also Integrated support for Exchange calendar, contacts,  email and free Skype video calls. Amazon even included free unlimited cloud storage for all your Amazon content.

One year ago, Amazon introduced X-Ray on the Kindle Touch. With the new Kindle line-up they are expanding the feature beyond books to include not just X-Ray for Books but X-Ray for Movies and X-Ray for Textbooks. X-Ray for Movies will allow you to look up any actor in the scene or movie, see what other movies they have been in, and view photos, biographies and more. The feature will be powered by IMDb (

Two more new additions include “Immersion Reading” and “Whispersync for Voice”.

Immersion reading allows Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD owners to synchronize Kindle text with the corresponding audiobook to create a more immersive and engaging experience, as well as deepen learning and comprehension. As customers read their books on Kindle Fire, text is highlighted while it is professionally narrated via the Audible audiobook.

The new Whispersync for Voice allows customers to synchronize their Kindle books with professionally-narrated audiobooks—customers can start reading a book on Kindle Fire and seamlessly switch to listening to the companion audiobook, picking up exactly where they left off. With Whispersync for Voice, customers can continue enjoying books during commutes or any other time their eyes are busy. When they get in the car, customers can effortlessly pick up the story right where they left off reading by listening to the professionally-narrated audiobook using Bluetooth on Kindle Fire HD or with any Audible app on their smartphone.

Read More:

Microsoft Directly Challenges Google With "Bing It On" Challenge

Microsoft has laid down the gauntlet and directly challenged Google users to a test to see how well their Bing search results fair against Google's. This completely non-scientific, very subjective online test, is designed to show off search results from both Bing and Google side-by-side and let users choose for themselves which results they think look better or are more relevant.

Here’s how it works – go to and conduct five search queries of your choice and compare the unbranded web search results from Bing and Google side by side. For each search result, you choose a winner or declare it a “draw.” After completing your five searched the test shows you which search engine you picked for each search and shows you an overall of which one you chose the most.

The point of the test is Microsoft's own citing of surveys which reportedly show people chose Bing nearly 2:1 in blind comparison tests.

An independent research company, Answers Research based in San Diego, CA, conducted a study using a representative online sample of nearly 1000 people, ages 18 and older from across the US. The participants were chosen from a random survey panel and were required to have used a major search engine in the past month. Participants were not aware that Microsoft was involved.

In the test, participants were shown the main web search results pane of both Bing and Google for 10 search queries of their choice. Bing and Google search results were shown side-by-side on one page for easy comparison – with all branding removed from both search engines. The test did not include ads or content in other parts of the page such as Bing’s Snapshot and Social Search panes and Google’s Knowledge Graph. For each search, the participant was asked which search engine provided the best results – “Left side search engine”, “Right side search engine”, or “Draw.” After each participant performed 10 searches, their votes were totaled to determine the winner (Bing, Google or Draw, in the case of a tie).

When the results were tallied, the outcome was clear – people chose Bing web search results over Google nearly 2:1 in the blind comparison tests. Specifically, of the nearly 1000 participants: 57.4% chose Bing more often, 30.2% chose Google more often; 12.4 % resulted in a draw.

I took the test and should note that I chose Google every single time. I'm not certain if it was because I may have known the difference between the two and could have been slightly bias or if it was that I truly like Google more. Google has been my default search engine for years and while I haven't gotten on-board with all the changes they've made over the years for the most part I think it still does a better job than most.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Ubisoft Officially Drops Always-On PC DRM From Newer Titles

In an interview on RPS today, game developer Ubisoft officially confirmed it has dropped the company's controversial “always-on” Digital rights management (DRM) copyright scheme officially removing it from all upcoming titles.

Ubisoft’s worldwide director for online games, Stephanie Perotti, explained that always-on has actually been gone for quite a while.

“We have listened to feedback, and since June last year our policy for all of PC games is that we only require a one-time online activation when you first install the game, and from then you are free to play the game offline.”

The Ubisoft Always-On DRM program attempted to prevent piracy by requiring players to have an active internet connection at all times while playing a game. This meant playing without an internet connection was impossible, even if the game had no online functionality. Even more annoyingly, if your connection dropped at any stage then the game would instantly stop, meaning you lost whatever progress was unsaved.

Changing it's previous position Ubisift has now removed the internet connection requirement for gaming only requiring a connections for a one-time online activation, and then to access any online services. Clarifying the new position, Perotti summarizes it, using Assassin’s Creed III as an example:

“Whenever you want to reach any online service, multiplayer, you will have to be connected, and obviously for online games you will also need to be online to play. But if you want to enjoy Assassin’s Creed III single player, you will be able to do that without being connected. And you will be able to activate the game on as many machines as you want.”

Gamers have a long history of fighting DRM and copy protections. In many cases developers use DRM technologies to limit the number of systems the game can be installed on by requiring authentication with an online server. In yet more case publishers use DRM protection schemes to stop gamers from copying disks. The inability to copy a disk means a greater likelihood that a user will damage their original disk and have to purchase a new replacement.

Apple, FBI Deny Claims That Hackers Stole Apple UDID's

The web was a buzz yesterday as hacking group AntiSec claimed to have stolen more than 12 million UDIDs (Unique Device IDs) for Apple iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices while hacking an FBI agent's laptop. These claims have since been denied by both the FBI and Apple with both stating that the FBI never had the information and that Apple had never released it.

AntiSec, a group of hacktivists, released a file of over one million Apple UDIDs on Tuesday. Claiming that this is only a small part of a total haul of over 12 million records of both UDIDs and personal information taken from an FBI agent's laptop. The group announced the release on its @anonymousirc Twitter account.

Details of the information dump were placed on Pastebin where AntiSec says a number of the records in the original data contained zip codes, full names, addresses and cell numbers, while others contained none. However, they decided to trim the information down to the Apple Device's unique device identifier (UDID), APNS (Apple Push Notification Service) tokens for accessing the notification service, the device's name (e.g. "John Doe's iPhone") and device type (e.g. "iPad").

The group had released a million UDIDs, push notification tokens, device names and types as evidence that they had the information.

This prompted responses by both the FBI and Apple, who are claiming that Apple never released the data and that the FBI was never in possession of such information. The FBI  tweeted: "We never had info in question" and said that the story was "TOTALLY FALSE". In a further statement, the agency said:
The FBI is aware of published reports alleging that an FBI laptop was compromised and private data regarding Apple UDIDs was exposed. At this time, there is no evidence indicating that an FBI laptop was compromised or that the FBI either sought or obtained this data.
In a statement rleased this morning, Apple said it did not furnish a list of Unique Device Identifiers (UDIDs) to the FBI or anyone else, and that the feature was soon to be removed.

"The FBI has not requested this information from Apple, nor have we provided it to the FBI or any organization," Apple said in a statement provided to AllThingsD. "Additionally, with iOS 6 we introduced a new set of APIs meant to replace the use of the UDID and will soon be banning the use of UDID."

The, now more active, @AnonymousIRC twitter account used by AntiSec responded to the FBI's statement: "So because you don't know of any data breach it never happened?"

At this time it still remains unclear how the FBI would have obtained the UDID's, what they were being used for or even if they ever had them at all. AntiSec suspects that the FBI uses the list of devices for monitoring and tracking users. But it is still uncertain how the FBI came into possession of this UDID list to begin with.

Nokia Unveils Two New Windows Phone 8 Smartphones

Nokia partnered with Microsoft to unveil two new Windows Phone 8 based devices the new mid-high end Lumia 820 and the new high end Lumia 920.

After months of speculation by smartphone phone fanatics Nokia today finally took the wraps off the company's newest flagship smartphones, the Nokia Lumia 820 and Lumina 920. The two new phones are is Nokia's much anticipated Windows Phone 8 devices, the ones that are supposed to mark a turning point for Nokia and help the company right the ship so to speak.

For those that have been following Nokia's trek into Windows Phone devices the design might look alot like the previous generation phones. Aesthetically, the Lumia 920 looks like a sleeker, more stylish Lumia 900 but with a gloss polycarbonate shell that Nokia says is even stronger and sturdier.As for the internals the Lumina 920 also receives a major upgrade.

Where the older Lumina 900 featured a 1.4GHz single-core Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, 4.3-inch AMOLED display with an 800x480 resolution, 8MP rear-facing camera, 720p video recording, 1MP front-facing camera, no NFC support, and an 1,830 mAh battery The new Lumina 920 features a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage (along with 7GB of free SkyDrive cloud storage from Microsoft), and 4.5-inch HD (1280x768) IPS display. It has an 8.7MP rear-facing camera, 1080p video recording, 1280x960 front-facing camera, HSPA+ or 4G LTE connectivity, NFC support, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.1, and 2,000 mAh battery.

The Nokia Lumia 820 is basically a 920 without the PureView camera. It has the same polycarbonate shell, HD+ display, NFC, built-in apps, and wireless charging. But it also gets a changeable back cover, which will allow users to switch the colors of their smartphones.

Nokia Lumia 920
The Lumia 920 (above) features a 4.5” PureMotion HD+ display (the world’s brightest, fastest, and most sensitive touchscreen) as well as an integrated Qi battery so users can charge wirelessly. The Lumia 820 (below) features a 4.3” OLED Wide Video Graphics Array (WVGA) display, a 1.5 GHz Dual Core Snapdragon processor, and comes in an array of colors.
Nokia Lumia 820

Nokia Lumia 820 specs

  • Display: 4.3 inch screen
  • Storage: 1 GB RAM, 8 GB memory
  • Camera: 8 MP with Carl Zeiss optics and dual LED flash; front-facing camera (VGA)
    • Smart Shoot combines shots for the perfect portrait
    • Nokia City Lens reveals local landmarks, restaurants, and more
  • Processor: 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual core processor
  • Battery: Removable battery BP-5T (1650 mAh)
  • Wireless charging support with separate wireless charging covers
  • Network: GSM, LTE, WCDMA
  • SkyDrive and Nokia Mix Radio
  • Available colors: Black, Red, White, Yellow, Grey, Purple, Blue
  • Nokia Lumina 820 Product Page

Nokia Lumia 920 specs

  • Display: 4.5 inch screen
  • Storage: 1 GB RAM, 32 GB memory
  • Camera: 8.7 MP with Optical Image Stabilization and Carl Zeiss optics; short-pulse, high-power LED flash
    • PureView and optical image stabilization for best low light pictures
    • Smart Shoot combines shots for the perfect portrait
    • Nokia City Lens reveals local landmarks, restaurants, and more
  • Processor: 1.5 GHz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor
  • Battery: Integrated BP-4GW battery (2000 mAh) Wireless charging support
  • Network: GSM, LTE, WCDMA
  • PureMotion HD+, Nokia’s brightest, fastest and most sensitive touchscreen
  • Nokia Mix Radio and Skydrive
  • Available colors: Black, Red, Yellow, White Grey
  • Nokia Lumina 920 Product Page

Pricing, and availability have not been released yet with  Microsoft and Nokia promising these details will be announced in the fourth quarter of this year.

For more details see the official announcements: