Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Apple iPhone 5 Rumor Mill

With the iPhone 5, the latest in the series of phenomenally successful iPhone series of mobile handsets from Apple, now widely believed to be in production, rumors are continuing to spread amongst those desperate to find out what features the newest iPhone model will offer users. It is believed that several prototypes for the iPhone are currently circulating within the company, but also that all of these various prototypes include features that mark them out as separate from the 4 and 4S models of the iPhone – including display of 4 inches and more and basic forms that are longer and wider than those of these models.

When it comes to the shape of the iPhone 5, while it is set to be larger in general than previous iPhones, but is still set to be a rectangle, rather than the teardrop form that many rumors had led consumers to expect. However in addition to the bigger 4 inch display expected (compared with 3.5 inches on previous iPhones), which will enable Apple to compete with phones produced by rivals such as Samsung in providing users with an experience which is more immersive, the iPhone 5 is set to offer a range of improved features including a better level of display resolution thanks to better density of pixels. This should make the experience of watching films more enjoyable and also improve the quality of photographs and films produced using the phone itself.

It is also widely believed that Apple plans to incorporate the LTE high speed network that was included as part of the most recent iPad. This was the first iDevice produced by Apple to have this feature and, given that the company originally wished it to be incorporated into the iPhone 4S before accepting that it would have meant too many compromises with the basic design of the phone, it seems virtually certain that they will wish the iPhone 5 to have this feature.

iPhone 5 release date?

When will we see the iPhone 5? Well that depends on who you choose to believe. According to some reports employees at Foxconn have said the next iPhone will launch in June. Other Foxconn employees have reportedly said the iPhone 5 will launch in September or October. Several analysts have suggested it'll arrive in August or September. When it comes down to it only Apple knows.

Maryland Bans Employers From Asking For Passwords Will More States Follow?

The Maryland legislature has passed legislation officially banning employers from asking for their employees' for their online passwords and/or usernames.

Earlier this month the Maryland state legislature passed bills - SB 433 and HB 964:
"Prohibiting an employer from requesting or requiring that an employee or applicant disclose any user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account or service through specified electronic communications devices; prohibiting an employer from taking, or threatening to take, specified disciplinary actions for an employee's refusal to disclose specified password and related information; prohibiting an employee from downloading specified information or data; etc."

If signed by the governor, the bill would be become the first social media privacy protection law in the U.S..

The bills come as reports have cropped up of employers asking current and prospective employees to hand over passwords or access to their social media accounts. Several lawmakers have since joined the fret condemning the practice as objectionable and raising concerns over privacy. For its part Facebook has expressed concern  and pledged to work with policymakers to address it, as well as engage in legal action where necessary.

The question now is will other states follow suit or will we eventually see similar federal legislation?

Two U.S. senators, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, have said they will ask the Justice Department and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to look into the matter and have proposed the creation of federal legislation.

Recently Congress made a failed attempt at adding in an amendment o a larger FCC reform package that would have similarly banned current or prospective employers from requiring workers to hand over personal passwords as a condition of keeping or getting a new job.

Clearly we are seeing some progression as lawmakers in New Jersey, Illinois and California are all said to be working on state level bills. With California Democratic state Sen. Leeland Yee filling the most progressive of all bills. Yee filed a bill to block employers from not only requesting social media user names and passwords from employees or job applicants, but also bar bosses from asking for a sit-down with employees or applicants to review their social media pages or asking that the pages be printed out for review by managers.

Monday, April 09, 2012

New App Makes Detecting Mac Flashback Malware Easier

A new application has arrived that aims at helping Mac owners detect and possibly remove the now highly publicized Flashback Mac malware.

We first learned of the new tool thanks to Ars Technica. The new tool is the brain child of Juan Leon, a software engineer at Garmin International, the Kansas-based company best known for its GPS devices. The tool automates the steps given by security firm F-Secure and previously described in our post "How To Remove The Mac Flashback Infection."

F-Secure's procedure required entering multiple commands in Terminal, the Mac OS X command line utility. The new tool makes it as easy as a single click. When Flashback Checker has finished running the commands it displays "No signs of infection were found" or provides additional information if it does detect changes the malware has made to the infected Mac.

Click the following link to grab Flashback Checker

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Having GPS Issues With Your Transformer Prime? ASUS Offers Free GPS Kit

Owners of the very popular ASUS Transformer Prime tablet that have been experiencing issues with GPS on their device will be relieved to hear that the company will soon be offering a fix.

ASUS has confirmed that despite their attempts at an OTA software fix the Transformer Prime's satellite blindness remains. In a more direct approach at fixing the tablet's GPS reception woes ASUS will be issuing a hardware based fix in the form of a free dongle that "may help improve signal reception and optimize the user experience."

New ASUS Transformer Prime owners registering their tablets on ASUS' member site are now being greeted with an application for a GPS Extension Kit. Owners who had previously registered their device might not have been greeted with the same page, nonetheless they will be eligible for the free dongle. Several reports over the weekend indicated that the company will officially announce its plans on April 16th, at which time ASUS will provide all Prime owners with the official link for users to register for their free dongle.

According to a series of emails posted by an XDA forums user (the forum post appears to have been deleted), the kit is due to ship in mid-April, and will "be a flush fit on the bottom of the unit if held in landscape, matching the color of your Prime Chassis."

Friday, April 06, 2012

How To Remove The Mac Flashback Infection

If you are a Mac user then by now you should have heard the news that security experts believe that nearly half of all Macs have been infected by a new piece of malware called Mac Flashback trojan. If you haven't then you should take special care when reading this post and make sure you follow all the steps carefully!

The Mac Flashback trojan is the latest variant of a piece of malware that originally posed as a Flash Player installer. Instead of downloading and adding in the latest version of Flash the installer instead infected a user computer with a trojan capable of stealing an unsuspecting user personal information. This new variant, Trojan-Downloader:OSX/Flashback.I and Trojan-Downloader:OSX/Flashback.K, targeted an unpatched Java vulnerability within Mac OS X. That was at the time of discovery unpatched by Apple.

Apple has since distributed two Java updates that should remedy the vulnerability useless. It is highly recommended that user with Java installed on their Mac install these updates immediately but users should still check to make sure their machine aren't currently infected.

How to check your system for Mac Flashback infection

These Terminal commands will give you an easy way to find out whether or not you have a possible Flashback infection. First, launch Terminal from /Applications/Utilities on your Mac. Then individually type or paste these three lines into the Terminal:
defaults read ~/.MacOSX/environment DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES
defaults read /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/Info LSEnvironment
defaults read /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/Info LSEnvironment
If the Terminal returns back to you lines that look like this:
The domain/default pair of (/Users/jacqui/.MacOSX/environment, DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES) does not exist
The domain/default pair of (/Applications/Safari.app/Contents/Info, LSEnvironment) does not exist
The domain/default pair of (/Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/Info, LSEnvironment) does not exist
Then you're home free and you're not (yet) infected by Flashback.You can feel safe again and comfortably install the latest patches for Java, disable Java completely or live life on the edge and do nothing.

How to get rid of Mac Flashback

If the above shows anything but the intended results then life gets a bit more complicated. You'll need to remove the infection and apply the patches as needed. These removal instructions are from security research firm F-Secure's removal page.
  1. Run the following command in Terminal: defaults read /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/Info LSEnvironment
  2. Take note of the value, DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES
  3. Proceed to step 8 if you got the following error message: "The domain/default pair of (/Applications/Safari.app/Contents/Info, LSEnvironment) does not exist"
  4. Otherwise, run the following command in Terminal: grep -a -o '__ldpath__[ -~]*' %path_obtained_in_step2%
  5. Take note of the value after "__ldpath__"
  6. Run the following commands in Terminal (first make sure there is only one entry, from step 2): sudo defaults delete /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/InfoLSEnvironment
    sudo chmod 644 /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/Info.plist
  7. Delete the files obtained in steps 2 and 5
  8. Run the following command in Terminal: defaults read ~/.MacOSX/environment DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES
  9. Take note of the result. Your system is already clean of this variant if you got an error message similar to the following: "The domain/default pair of (/Users/joe/.MacOSX/environment, DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES) does not exist"
  10. Otherwise, run the following command in Terminal: grep -a -o '__ldpath__[ -~]*' %path_obtained_in_step9%
  11. Take note of the value after "__ldpath__"
  12. Run the following commands in Terminal: defaults delete ~/.MacOSX/environment DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES
    launchctl unsetenv DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES
  13. Finally, delete the files obtained in steps 9 and 11.
  14. Run the following command in Terminal: ls -lA ~/Library/LaunchAgents/
  15. Take note of the filename. Proceed only when you have one file. Otherwise contact our customer care.
  16. Run the following command in Terminal: defaults read ~/Library/LaunchAgents/%filename_obtained_in_step15% ProgramArguments
  17. Take note of the path. If the filename does not start with a ".", then you might not be infected with this variant.
  18. Delete the files obtained in steps 15 and 17.
In addition to these steps, F-Secure recommends checking for another variant of Flashback, Flashback.K. The instructions can be found on another page on F-Secure's website.

How do I update Java on my Mac?

Now that you are presumably infection free the next step is to update Java on your Mac. Apple has pushed the Java updates to the Software Update channel so you would simply run the standard Mac OSX software update and you should see the patches. You can also manually download the update for Lion and Snow Leopard, respectively, from Apple's support site.

Conclusion - what you need to do now

If you've followed the above advice and performed these steps to update your system then you're inoculated against the current known version of the Flashback malware, but that doesn't mean the variant won't change again sometime in the future to exploit a different vulnerability on your Mac. This means you need to STAY VIGILANT!

Almost all malware needs user interaction to infect your machine but that doesn't mean there isn't a nasty piece of software out there that doesn't. You need to keep your software up to date. Don't just apply operating system patches, apply those third party application updates as well. You should also be open to the idea that your Mac is not as secure as you once thought it was. You might want to grab some security software. You might also want to pay closer attention to your system and how you use it. Don't blindly install files from strange sources, don't click to open those odd emails and definitely don't blindly click to install anything you are sure of or blindly enter your admin password for anything ever!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Bravo Announces “Silicon Valley” A New Geek Related Reality TV Show

Here at Geek News we love all things geek, so you know we are excited when we see a new show geared at anything tech related. The television network Bravo recently confirmed a new show with the working title of "Silicon Valley" which might just be the next must watch TV show for us geeks!

According to Bravo Network's blog posting the new reality show will follow "young professionals on the path to becoming Silicon Valley’s next great success stories." Few details have been released as to what we can really expect.

Bravo has confirmed , Randi Zuckerberg the infamous sister of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, will be the series’ Executive Producer.

Zuckerberg, in a statement, says that the show is not all about television drama. "I'm a strong believer in innovation and entrepreneurship and hope that through this series other people will be inspired to build the next breakout companies and technologies." No word yet on when the show will debut or who other casts members could be.

It's unclear when the show will actually premier but you can bet we'll be watching when it does.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Paramount Pictures Inks Movie Licensing Deal With Google

Google and Paramount Pictures have announced a new partnership that will bring hundreds of Paramount's movies to Google Play and YouTube. According to today's blog post over the next few weeks Paramount Pictures will make available for rent  nearly 500 new movie titles to YouTube and Google Play users in the U.S. and Canada.

Some of the titles users will now be able to rent include Captain America, Hugo, and The Adventures of Tin Tin, Coming to America and The Godfather. Many of these movies are already available, and the rest will be added over the coming months. Most titles will be available for 48 hours once you begin watching, and HD versions of new releases will cost $4.99. Older releases will cost $3.99 for the HD version, and $2.99 for standard definition.

With the addition of Paramount's licensing agreement Google now offers for rent more than 9,000 movies from several studios including Sony Pictures, Universal, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers, along with more than 10 indie studios, including Lionsgate Films, Magnolia, Starz, and The Weinstein Company. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Amazon Instant Now Offering Video Streaming On The Sony PlayStation 3

Thanks to Amazon, Sony PlayStation 3 owners now have another option for streaming videos to their devices, the new Amazon Instant Video app for the Sony PS3 gaming console.

Amazon.com. and Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEA) have announced the launch of the new Amazon Instant Video app for the Sony PS3 gaming console. Making the PS3 system the first and only video game console system to offer Amazon Instant Video. The new app will give PS3 owners access to Amazon's library of 120,000 streaming TV shows and movies available for purchase or rental. For PS3 owners who happen to be Amazon Prime members you will now have the option of watching your free Prime Instant Videos on your PS3 system as well.

Customers can access Amazon Instant Video on their PlayStation 3 system by installing the Amazon Instant Video app directly from the TV/Video Services category on the XMB (XrossMediaBar). The Amazon Instant Video app can also be found in the PlayStation Store, under the Media & Apps category.

The Amazon Instant Video app is custom designed to harness the powerful entertainment capabilities of the PlayStation 3 system and provide customers with the best Amazon Instant Video experience to date including:
  • Instant streaming of nearly 25,000 high-definition movies and TV shows that start and resume in just seconds.
  • New smart lists such as Recently Watched, Next Episode and Personal Recommendations. These lists appear on the home screen of the PS3 system app and update dynamically based on what customers watch and buy. They make it easy for customers to find the next thing they want to watch - start watching an episode where they left off, watch the next episode in a series and introduce them to new TV shows and movies that they will love.
  • Whispersync lets customers seamlessly switch from one device to another. Start streaming a movie on Kindle Fire, then pick up right where you left off on your PS3 system - avoid the frustration of having to find your spot.
  • Your Video Library gives customers access to purchases from Amazon Instant Video on the PlayStation 3 system or any of the hundreds of other devices enabled for Amazon Instant Video. For a list of compatible devices click here
For more information on how to get started visit, www.amazon.com/instantvideo/ps3.

Review: netTalk Duo WiFi

Trends are suggesting that now more than ever people are opting to cut the cords from their traditional telephone services in favor of mobile phones or VoIP devices. By way of its well advertised TV commercials, magicJack is likely one of the best-known USB VoIP devices on the market today. However there are several alternatives including one we previously reviewed, the netTalk Duo.

Looking to step-up its game a little further neTalk recently introduced the new netTalk Duo WiFi. Similar to the netTALK DUO the new netTALK DUO WiFi allows a user to use a traditional handset to make telephone calls (even international calls) through their current internet connection. Much like the DUO the new DUO WiFi allows a user to establish a connection without the need of a computer as it has the option to connect directly to your router via RJ-45 network connections and now thanks to the addition of WiFi support you can connect directly to any existing WiFi network wirelessly.

  • Complete Plug and play compatibly via Ethernet port
  • WiFi enabled (not sure if its Wireless N compatible or not) Works anywhere in the world with a Wi-Fi connection
  • 1 x RJ-11 port (telephone), 1 x RJ-45 Ethernet port, 1 x Mini USB to PC or Power port
  • Free calling to the US & Canada or DUO to DUO
  • No computer needed / No contracts / No monthly bills
  • Low cost international calling rates
  • First year of service is included. $29.95 each additional year
  • Live US-based technical support and personalized customer service
  • Free 411 directory assistance, Enhanced 911, visual voice-mail, call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding, conference and video calling, conference bridge, and fax friendly

Standard netTalk Duo WiFi Setup

neTtalk has recently officially released the Duo Wifi and improved some of the setup as well as the setup guide. Here are a few links our readers might need:

Just like our review of the netTALK DUO setup via wired Ethernet port really is just as simple as plug and play. You shouldn't need to open any ports on your firewall or make any changes at all. Plug the adapter into one of the open ports on your router, wait a few minutes for the blinking orange light to turn green and your device should be ready to go. All you need to do then is log onto the NetTalk site and register the device and you'll be ready to make phone calls.

If you choose to connect the adapter to your PC you'll need to do download the USB drivers. Once downloaded and installed you connect the device and again wait for it to sync and the lights to turn green. Once you register your device you should be up and running and you should be ready to go.

Wireless setup for the netTalk Duo WiFi

For wireless setup you will need a PC in order to make the needed changes and select the appropriate wireless network!

Update 4/04/2012: Following our initial review we received a bit of tech support that helped us get the ball rolling. For starters I should note that the instruction we were given were "pre-release" and are still being revised, so they weren't entirely accurate.

NetTalk has since sent us the latest netTalk Duo WiFi FAQ's (PDF) which gave us more accurate instructions. They have also updated the installer for the WiFi management tool to include the USB drivers. With these new drivers we were able to get almost everything working correctly. We still can't use WPA2 encryption but we did get WPA working.

Since the Duo WiFi still isn't widely available and netTalk is still working on the kinks we will continue to update our post and work on getting everything running smoothly. So please check back often as we'll have more details to follow!

Wireless setup for us wasn't working well. I'm not sure if it was the security settings on our Linksys E4200, the Duo WiFi or a combination of both but we ran into nothing but issues. To make things worse the early draft of the setup instructions we were given gave us some information I'm not sure was accurate. For starters the rough draft of the instructions we received detailed setting up the adapter via USB. When we tried this we could not get the device to sync to the netTalk servers at all! Either the Duo WiFi management tool doesn't have the needed drivers or there was a step missing in the rough draft that we couldn't find.

We tried downloading and installing the older drivers and not even that worked. So we went ahead and followed the instructions given one the Duo WiFi Management page. This involved connecting directly to the router and running the WiFi tools, which still wasn't working well. The netTALK DUO WiFi did not automatically detect any networks in the area (even though there are several), so we had to go through the manual setup process. Even though I entered all the correct information, SSID and password, upon attempting to reconnect via wireless the adapter wouldn't connect. It wasn't until I turned security off on our router that we were able to get it to sync up correctly.

I tried a few different settings on the router and a few on the DUO WiFi and still we couldn't get things to work right. This might be a case of user error, a setting we are simply overlooking or something else. At this point we really aren't certain.

netTALK DUO WiFi call quality and features

The netTALK service hasn't changed much, if any at all since our previous review so I'm not going to spend much time here. The call quality even on the few international calls I've made was quite good. There was no echoing or background noise, nothing noticeable that would make you think you were on anything but a standard land line. With the netTalk service I've never experienced issues with dropped or missed calls and with the netTalk Duo WiFi I never noticed issues with dropping connectivity.

For features nothing has changed except for the addition of WiFi of course! So you can expect all your basic services like: Caller ID, call waiting, 411 directory assistance, Enhanced 911 and voice-mail. The device is also fax friendly for those that still need that option.

netTALK offers the following calling plans for the netTALK DUO and netTALK DUO WiFi (prices do not include tax):
  • Basic Call Plan: Free calling to US and Canada; one full year included FREE with netTALK DUO and netTALK DUO WiFi and just $29.95 for each additional year
  • North America Add-On: Unlimited calling to the US, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico as low as $5.99 per month
  • International Add-On: Calling to 60 countries, including China, India, Brazil, UK, France, and more for as low as $9.99 per month

The netTALK DUO WiFi will be priced at $64.95 and will be available in 1,600-plus Target stores across the country starting in early April.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Major Data Breach Of Visa, MasterCard Payment Processing Company Confirmed

Update 3:30PM PST: Global Payments Inc, the third party payment vendor that was affected by the breach, has issued a statement confirming the breach and setting the access date of early March 2012.

Both Visa and MasterCard are acknowledging a "massive" security breach has occurred at a credit card processor used by both companies that has put an unknown number of accounts at risk.

KrebsonSecurity originally reported the "massive" security breach which was originally estimated at 10 million accounts. The then unknown a credit card processor is now being identified as Global Payments of Atlanta. The Wall Street Journal, is now reporting the breach may only impact about 50,000 cardholders. While substantial, that would be far less than the possible 10 million speculated by KrebsonSecurity.

Update: It is now estimated that between one million and three million cardholders could be affected. No numbers have officially been released.

According to the Journal MasterCard and Visa have both confirmed the potential breach at the third party vendor. However, both have stated that the impact is limited to their site alone and the company's own databases were not affected.

"MasterCard's own systems have not been compromised in any manner," a company spokesman said in a statement. The company will "continue to both monitor this event and take steps to safeguard account information."

Visa said in a statement that it is aware of a possible compromise involving a "third-party entity" affecting card account information from all major card brands.

"There has been no breach of Visa systems, including its core processing network VisaNet," the company said. Visa said it has provided banks with affected account numbers "so they can take steps to protect consumers through independent fraud monitoring and, if needed, reissuing cards."

Despite the fact that the estimated window for the breach was Jan. 21 and Feb. 25, the information was not widely made public until today. Both Visa and MasterCard have stated they have alerted payment card issuers regarding certain accounts that are potentially at risk

Cardholders concerned about their accounts should contact the banks that issued them their cards.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Google Announces New YouTube Vlogger Program

Google and YouTtube are asking; Do You Have What it Takes to be the ‘Next’ great YouTube Vlogger?

Recently YouTube asked YouTube creators what they thought should be the next major promotion for the Next Creator program? After checking the feedback and tallying the results they came up with the "Next Vlogger" program.

What is it you may ask? Well its the chance for 16 vLoggers to be featured on YouTube and Google+ Hangouts conducting educational workshops for Google. Each vLogger will receive $5,000 worth of video equipment and more than $10,000 worth of promotion and ads on and off YouTube. Participants will also receive training and mentoring from top industry experts to help aid you on your quest to take over the vLogging world.

Now through April 18, applications will be open for you chance to be one of the sixteen vLoggers to take part in the three month program. To apply you'll need a YouTube account, with a video uploaded to your YouTube channel that you think best represents your vlogging style and you will be required to complete two short essays: one essay about why you want to participate in this Program and a second essay about what your plans are for developing your Channel. Each Essay must be in English and two hundred (200) words or less in length. If your Essay is longer than 200 words, only the first 200 words will be considered.

The vLogger program is open to YouTube creators from Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. You'll need to apply first!

For more detail see the Next YouTube Vlogger page.

Register Now For Your iPhone 4 Antennagate Settlements

The official website for the iPhone 4 "antennagate" class action settlement is now live and accepting registrations for customers wanting to get their $15 share of the settlement.

To be eligible for the cash payment, you must have: (a) experienced antenna or reception issues; (b) been unable to return your iPhone 4 without incurring any costs; (c) been unwilling to use a case or free bumper for your iPhone 4; and (d) completed certain troubleshooting steps or are unable to complete the troubleshooting steps because you no longer own your iPhone.

The settlement will provide a $15 cash payment if you are a United States resident who are or were the original owner of an iPhone 4, and who experienced antenna or reception issues, and satisfy other requirements explained on this website.

Since July 2010, Apple has offered a free bumper to iPhone 4 owners who have experienced antenna or reception issues. Class Members can continue to request a free bumper as described at http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4389.

For more details see the iPhone 4 Settlement Website.

Google Opens Campus London A New Place For London Based Start-ups

Google wants to want to empower the next generation of London based start-ups. The company today announced the opening of Campus London , a seven story co-working facility in the east London neighborhood known as Tech City.

Campus London is a collaboration between Google and partners Central Working, Tech Hub, Seedcamp and Springboard. The site will provide start-ups with workspace, free high speed internet and a support program which will include mentoring programs, speaker series, networking events and more. The campus is open to all members of startup community not just those in the the sector: entrepreneurs, investors, developers, designers, lawyers, accountants, etc. are all invited.

"Our goal with Campus is to catalyze the start-up ecosystem and build Britain's single largest community of start-ups under one roof," wrote Eze Vidra, Head of Campus London in his blog post announcing the opening.

According to Google on day one, Campus is already at 90% capacity, with more than 100 people on site and an additional 4,500 who have signed up online to visit. Take a photo tour of Campus here, and if you’d like to learn more visit www.campuslondon.com.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Apple, Sony Sued Over iTunes, Playstation Network Systems

Inventor Benjamin Grobler alongside intellectual property attorneys from the office of The Lanier Law Firm have filed lawsuits against Apple and Sony alleging infringement of Grobler's patents relating to the way systems such as the iTunes and Playstation Network work.

The lawsuits filed on March 27, 2012, alleges that Apple and Sony are infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,799,084 which describes a system in which digital data is distributed to an electronic devices called a "data depot" for storage and management. The IP also calls for a remote database that maintains ownership and user records. According to the lawsuit, Apple and Sony have infringed the patent by making and offering infringing data vending systems such as iTunes and the Playstation Network, and that the companies are inducing their customers' infringement by using these systems.

According to the patent date it was filed on January 31, 2001, three weeks after Apple first launched iTunes and ten months before the introduction of the iPod.

The cases are Benjamin Grobler v. Apple Inc., No. CV-12-1534, and Benjamin Grobler v. Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC, No. CV-12-1526. Both are pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Full detail of the filling can be found here.

This geek's opinion:

The details of this post were in part grabbed from this press release which was put out by The Lanier Law Firm. Sorry to say it but when you read the full release it looks like nothing more than blatant advertisement for their firm. While the case might have merits (I'm not sure it does) I'm thinking this is nothing more than another patent troll trying to use the broken patent system for personal gain and a law firm jumping on the band wagon to garner some attention.

Now all that said, I have to ask: What is it with Apple and a their lack of patents in some areas and over usage of patents in others? This report came out a bit on the late side so I haven't seen a response from Apple. Nor have I seen any other reports discussing Apple possibly having prior patents to these types of systems. But I have to wonder.

Apple In Trouble Over New iPad's 4G Advertising

It appears as though the marketing team over at Apple may have gotten a little rambunctious with the advertising of the New iPad is several foreign countries. Reports are surfacing about complaints that marketing is misleading consumers into believing the new third generation iPad is 4G compatible, even in countries currently without 4G capabilities.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has taken legal action to ensure Apple makes consumers aware its third-generation iPad cannot connect to a 4G mobile data network in Australia due to technical incompatibility. The ACCC alleges that Apple's recent promotion of the new "iPad with WiFi + 4G" is misleading because it represents to Australian consumers that the product "iPad with WiFi + 4G" can, with a SIM card, connect to a 4G mobile data network in Australia, when this is not the case.

According to reports by Reuters Apple will offer refunds to Australian buyers of new iPad. Apple promoted its third-generation tablet as the iPad with Wifi+4G, but Australia has only one 4G network, operated by Telstra Corp, which operates on a different frequency to the 4G on Apple's new iPad.

Further reports indicate that both Sweden and the UK may also enter the legal battle. Both countries have stated that they have received numerous consumer complaints about the iPad, which is being widely advertised as a 4G tablet despite not working on the 4G LTE networks in either country.

"One may rightfully ask if the marketing of the new iPad is misleading," said Marek Andersson of the Swedish Consumer Agency, which is considering launching an investigation over whether the ads run afoul of consumer protection laws.

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), meanwhile, has told Pocket-lint that it is currently assessing complaints from consumers to "establish whether or not there is a problem under the [Advertising] Code." ASA could impose a marketing ban on the iPad 3’s claims that it supports 4G in the UK.

While Apple has offered a refund to Australian customers there has been no word on whether or not consumers in other none 4G supporting countries will also be issued refunds.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Run Android Apps On Your Windows PCs With Bluestacks Emulator

We are always looking for new ways to test out the latest Android software and games and today we found an interesting new application that will allow us to do that from the comfort of our desktop. Today, BlueStacks software released a beta copy of the company's App Player, which includes access to thousands of Android apps from any Windows desktop.

The Bluestacks App Player is a software emulator that allows Android applications to run on Windows 7, Vista and XP OSes (Windows 8 support is coming). Upon installing the App Player users can install and run just about any of the 450,000+ Android applications found in the Android Market (aka Google Play). This includes just about all your favorite games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Words With Friends and Draw Something.

The App Player features a popular download section, quick search functionality, and accelerometer support (thanks to the keyboard arrow keys). We didn't test any paid Android apps, but free apps simply downloaded and were available immediately in the My Apps launcher.

BlueStacks says its patent-pending "Layercake" technology, which allows apps that use hardware graphics acceleration to run on x86-based PCs will allow you to run any and all of the available Android apps on your PCs, and although we weren't able to test every single one — the apps we tried worked fairly well without too many issues.

The areas we noticed issues with were mainly a lack of sharp looking graphics. We noticed images didn't scale as nicely as we hoped and text in some of the apps looked blurry. In some of the games scenes looked a little fuzzy, while on others there was some occasional lag. This was especially noticeable in Angry Birds.

Major complaints with the software itself included the app launcher toolbar which was perched rather precariously on top of our home screen, and placed itself over any of our Windows screens. Additionally the software is set to run automatically at start-up and seemed to use a lot of resources with several entries in the task manager. The settings for the actual application were rather limited and I didn't see any options to change either of those!

We've discussed running Android and Android apps on a PC via Google's own SDK, and while that provided us some access it was nothing compared to BlueStacks' interface and ease of use. The software is in beta so some of the minor complaints we had may be fixed by the release date, something Bluestacks hasn't hinted to. We also noticed the software says "free while in beta" so I assume they are working on a paid version.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

HP Merges PC And Printer Groups, What It Means To You

There have been a lot of headlines today regarding HP's confirmation of reports that the company plans to restructure their Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) (printing division) merging it into the Personal Systems Group (PSG) (pc division) and creating the new combined entity to be officially called the Printing and Personal Systems Group. From these reports several questions have spawned with many consumers concerned about what it might mean to them.

In short the blending of the two divisions will have almost no impact on consumers!

This move is a corporate restructuring and cost saving move only. Something that internal for HP is meant to unify and streamline certain key business functions such as go-to-market strategy, branding, supply chain and customer support.

"This will lead to a better customer experience and drive innovation across personal computing and printing," the company explained on Wednesday. "This realignment is expected to provide opportunities for cost savings and accelerate HP’s ability to pursue profitable growth and reinvest in the business."

What all this means is that at the consumer level not much will change. You'll still have support for your HP printer, ink and other supplies will still be available and you'll still see printers on sale. This isn't the same as the proposed spin-off of the PC business we saw last year. In fact its the exact opposite with HP becoming more committed to both divisions.

One area we may see some changes in is the further advancement of combination all-in-one printing units. HP has already suggested units based on WebOS and they already have devices with full functionality or detachable tablets like the HP Photosmart eStation. The combined efforts of the two teams might mean further integration of PC features right on your printer!

Intel Ultrabook Temptations What Would You Do For An Ultrabook?

Even if a crowd of people were watching would you break the law in order to get your hands on the latest geek gadgets? How about use your powers of persuasion in order to talk several strangers into helping you out? Exactly how far would you go to get your hands on one of the hottest gadgets our there?

That’s exactly the question Intel Corporation asks in Ultrabook Temptations, a series of six light-hearted experiments filmed in four cities across three countries and recently posted to YouTube.

“People are drawn to Ultrabooks. When you see one, you just want one,” said
Claudine Pache, digital marketing manager for Intel Australia and New Zealand. “We created the ‘Ultrabook Temptations’ to see just how far people would go to get their hands on one.”

The six spontaneously filmed experiments were “temptations” for consumers, encouraging them to go a little beyond their everyday comfort zone to get their hands on a new Ultrabook. For example in one ”daring temptation” an Ultrabook is installed in a display case near a busy area with the simple instruction to “Smash Glass to Win Ultrabook” and a small hammer. Film crews were rolling as several passers-by looked on.

Would commuters prove daring enough to smash the glass in public and claim the prize? As the video above shows the answer is a resounding yes!

All six of the Ultrabook Temptations series videos can be seen at www.intel.com/ultrabooktemptations

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Poor Android Smartphone Or Tablet Battery Life? Blame Those Free Apps

Are you experiencing poor battery life on your new Android based smartphone or tablet? According to a  new report conducted by Purdue University and touted by Microsoft suggests that this may be due to in-app advertising.

Using a new specially-developed energy profiling tool called EProf the research team at Purdue University monitored the power use of Android and Windows Phone devices. For the Android tests the team tested power consumption while using five popular Android applications - Angry Birds, Free Chess, the Android browser, MapQuest and the New York Times app all running on an HTC Passion (Nexus One) running Android 2.3. The results were quite eye-opening.

PcToolsThe researchers found that up to 70 percent of the power used by free apps was caused by downloading advertisements and tracking users. The team claims that this excessive battery consumption is due to poorly-coded ad modules which leave connections open for up to ten seconds after downloading information.

Poorly coded Ads aren’t the only thing with negative impacts on your battery life. Both the Android browser and the New York Times app consumed around 15 percent of battery power on user tracking alone. The EProf tool also discovered bugs in apps such as Facebook’s Android app that also cause the battery to be drained more rapidly than necessary by not allowing the CPU to enter sleep mode even after the app has been terminated.

In the case of the very popular game Angry Birds, just a fifth of the power used was caused by actually playing the game, with almost half accounted for by location services used for location based targeted advertisements.

My thoughts: No real surprises here

I can't say I'm all that surprised. Years on the internet should tell anyone that advertisements and games tend to suck up more power even on your PC. Bad coding has been an issue in the computing world forever. The one thing I am a bit surprised about however, is that the team decided to only presented its conclusion on the Android OS and apps, and not their finding on Windows Mobile OS.

Given that the study was at least partially funded or conducted in collaboration with Microsoft it comes across a bit more like Android bashing than quantitative research.

EA Shutting Down Servers For Several Less Popular Older Games

Electronic Arts (EA) has announced, beginning April 13th the company will shut down online servers for more than a dozen of the its less popular and older online console titles.

"The decisions to retire older EA games are never easy," EA said in their announcement. "But as games get replaced with newer titles, the number of players still enjoying the older games dwindles to a level – fewer than 1 percent of all peak online players across all EA titles – where it's no longer feasible to continue the behind-the-scenes work involved with keeping these games up and running."

The games affected by the April 13th shutdown include:
  • BOOM BLOX Bash Party for Wii
  • Burnout Revenge for Xbox 360
  • EA Create for PC, PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360
  • EA Sports Active 2.0 for PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360
  • EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp for Wii
  • FIFA 10 for PlayStation Portable and Wii
  • The Godfather II for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
  • MMA for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
  • Need for Speed ProStreet for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
  • The Saboteur (loss of The Midnight Club access) for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
  • Spare Parts for PlayStation 3 Xbox 360

Additional gaming titles that will be shuttered March 31st include:
  • BATTLEFIELD 3: Aftershock for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
  • Fantasi Safari for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
  • Ghost Harvest for iPhone

If you have further questions about your account or the shut down of these services, please visit http://support.ea.com.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Apple's New iPad Tops 3 Million Sold Claims Record First Weekend Sales

Apple has announced it has sold three million of the company's new third generation iPads, since its launch on Friday, March 16.

“The new iPad is a blockbuster with three million sold―the strongest iPad launch yet,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Customers are loving the incredible new features of iPad, including the stunning Retina display, and we can't wait to get it into the hands of even more customers around the world this Friday.”

Its really unclear how quantify what Apple is calling "record weekend," since Apple general doesn't discuss opening weekend sales numbers and didn't provide similar reports last year when they launched the iPad 2. The only time Apple has boasted about early tablet sales was in April 2010, when it said it had sold 300,000 first-generation iPads on the first day of availability.

Apple's claims were reiterated by AT&T whom also reported record sales figures and activations. AT&T didn't provide specific numbers on its iPad sales, but did say the new iPad set single-day records for sales and activations and that it saw "robust demand for the new iPad."

Reviews of the new iPad have been greatly mixed with most consumers loving the new features but many stating they wish Apple had done more to refresh the device line. The new iPad features a new 2048X1536 Retina display, which has been called nothing less than extraordinary. A dual core 1Ghx Apple A5X chip and 5 megapixel iSight camera.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

iFixit Does An iPad 3 Teardown

Is it "The New iPad?" "iPad HD?" "iPad 3?" Does anyone really care?

The wonderfully geeky crew over at iFixit flew to the land down under to get there hands on the new iPad 3 when March 16 rolled past the International Date Line just so they could tear it apart and show the rest of the world what kind of magic Apple has hidden inside.

Courtesy iFixit

iFixit's teardown team flew to the Telstra store in Melbourne Australia to be the first ones in line to buy the third generation iPad and of course being the geeks they are they rushed over to the shop at Macfixit Australia and immediately began disassembling the device.

So what kind of magic did Apple hide under the hood? Well to be honest nothing all that amazing!

As expected they found a slightly thicker 42.5Whr battery. The already confirmed 1GB of RAM, coming in the shape of two sticks of 512MB Elpida LP DDR. A 1Ghz Dual-core Apple A5X processor which features a package on package (PoP) system-on-a-chips (SoCs) design that also packs a quad-core graphics processor. There is also a 5MP camera and of course that Samsung 9.7 inch LED LCD with 2048×1536 pixel Retina display.

All in all the specs are fairly reasonable for an upgraded version of the iPad. For full details as well as a picture guide of the teardown be sure to head over to iFixit to get a closer look.

New iPad Goes On-sale Tomorrow What You Need To Know

Apple's new third-generation iPad will officially hit store shelves tomorrow, March 16, here's a bit of what you need to know before reaching for your wallet and shelling out that hard earned cash.

When and where can I get my iPad?

Apple will be opening the doors to their retail stores at 8 a.m. local time. There may or may not be long lines, some areas are prone to higher traffic so plan ahead. Another option would be to head to AT&T or Verizon locations, assuming you're interested in one of the LTE-enabled iPad models. Verizon In Store Sales begin 8:00 AM local time with Online Sales beginning at 3:01 AM EST.

The third option would be opting to try to find it available and in-stock at the select Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Sam's Club and Radio Shack stores that will be carrying it. I'd check with your stores tonight to see if they will have them.

Reports are indicating that Walmart will begin selling a limited quantity of the new iPad at 12:01 AM. Supplies and selection will be limited and will vary by store.

How much id the new iPad going to cost me?

Depending on the option you choose and the amount of storage you need you'll spend anywhere from $499 to $829. Here are your options:
  • 16GB Wi-Fi-only for $499
  • 32GB Wi-Fi-only for $599
  • 64GB Wi-Fi-only for $699
  • 16GB Wi-Fi + 4G for $629
  • 32GB Wi-Fi + 4G for $729
  • 64GB Wi-Fi + 4G for $829

With Apple's new retina display images and image files, as well as applications are going to be growing in size. For this reason I strongly suggest buying something other than the 16GB model. You may find yourself running out of space very quickly!

Each model will be available in your choice of white or black. You will be able to choose either AT&T or Verizon as your carrier if you select one of the LTE-enabled models. You'll also need to sign up for data service with either company and rates vary from $14.99 to $50 per month on AT&T and $20 to $80 on Verizon. No long-term contract is required with either option as there is no subsidized pricing.

The early reviews for the new iPad

I usually take early reviews with a grain of salt and I don't like to put a lot of stock in Apple's hand picked "reviewers" but the early reviews can be nice to read just to get the idea of what you are looking at. Here are just a few:

Should I buy it, keep my old iPad or what?

If you read Geek News very often you know I'm not a big Apple fan, nor am I a big early adopter. I can usually wait on new tech to hit, get some decent reviews and then make a well informed decision. The third-generation iPad looks impressive in some areas and really lacking in others. If I were an owner of an iPad 2 or one of the latest Android tablets I probably couldn't see the justification to buy the new iPad. If however I were the owner of the original iPad an older Android or I was buying my first tablet I could see the iPad at the top of my list of choices.

The problem for me is as Michelle Maisto of eWeek said, "this new version lacks a specific “wow” factor that's been common to Apple products." There isn't anything there that really pushes me over the top in comparison to anything else I can get at a cheaper price. You can find some screaming deals on the iPad 2 or even better in my opinion some great deals on some of the new Anrdoid tablets.

I'm sure the third-generation iPad is going to be a major hit, aren't all Apple products these days? For me however, I'll be relaxing at home tomorrow watching my March-madness while any Apple-madness ensues.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Amazon Adds Top Discovery Communications Programs To Prime Instant Video Service

Amazon and Discovery Communications, the parent company to many of our favorite television channels, today announced a licensing agreement that will allow Amazon Prime members access to streaming videos of the company's prior seasons of hit series and specials.

Videos from some of our favorite shows on the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, Science and Military Channel as well as content from the company’s 25-year programming library will now be available as a free video stream or download to Amazon Prime subscribers. Among the programs included in the agreement are Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch and geek favorite Mythbusters. TLC viewers will get Say Yes To The Dress and Cake Boss while Animal Planet will add Whale Wars. In all Amazon's Prime Instant Videos has added 3,000 new titles from Discovery Communications, bringing the total number of videos available to subscribers to 17,000

“Discovery Communications is committed to delighting audiences on all platforms supported by the right business model, and we are pleased to work with Amazon to help satisfy our existing viewers’ curiosity and introduce new audiences to our engaging content,” said Rebecca Glashow, Senior Vice President, Digital Distribution and Partnerships, Discovery Communications. “This library offering will be a wonderful complement to our current array of multi-channel video services and most importantly, a win for viewers.”

Prime Instant Video is a subset of the company’s video streaming, rental, and download service that allows U.S. subscribers, who pay $79 a year for two-day shipping and other goodies, to stream videos as often they’d like.

Fore more details read the full Amazon press release.

Checkout The Dell Treasure Hunt And Win A New Dell XPS 15z Laptop

Dell is offering web guru's the chance to treasure hunt their way to a new a new, fully loaded Dell XPS 15Z laptop or a $499 coupon – if you can follow the clues and find the right page!

To kick off the adventure and find the first clue visit the Dell Laptops page and click on the treasure hunt banner. Follow the clues found along the way and if you are the first to find the winning web page on dell.com the new Dell XPS 15Z laptop is yours!

Also, by linking to the Treasure Hunt on your Twitter or blog with the hashtag #delltreasure, you’ll be entered into a sweepstakes to win a $499 coupon towards any Dell purchase of $499.99 or more – just for sharing the news with your friends and family!

Here’s how to play:
  • 7 clues for how to find the winning landing page will be placed throughout the Home segment of dell.com. The first two clues are live and the last five will be released each day over five days with the last one appearing on 3/18/12.
  • The first person we find Tweeting or blogging the location of the correct treasure page will win an XPS 15z. All others who tweet or blog about the correct treasure page will be entered into the sweepstakes for one of ten $499 coupons.
  • You will simultaneously be entered for the sweepstakes if you tweet or post a blog about the Treasure Hunt itself.
  • All tweets or blog posts related to the contest or sweepstakes must include the hashtag #delltreasure. And you also must follow @DellHomeUS Twitter account so that we can direct message you to let you know you won. Otherwise, you will stay lost and not win.
Official promotion rules can be found here: http://www.dell.com/treasure-hunt-rules

Here is the first clue:
  • This laptop delivers the power you need inside the thinnest 15” PC on the planet.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Firefox And Chrome To Get Windows Metro Style Apps

By the time Windows 8 arrives later this year most of your favorite browsers will be ready with a Metro style version built specifically around the new operating and its new user interface.

Earlier this week Mozilla confirmed that developers have stared development on the Firefox for Metro project with plans to unveil a concept version of it next quarter, and push out alpha and beta versions in the second half of 2012. Following suite Google is also reportedly working on a version of Chrome that runs on the Metro UI of Windows 8.

An unnamed Google representative discussed the company's plans with Mashable. The official said Chrome for Windows 8 will be based off the existing desktop browser, as opposed to the Android version of Chrome. Google will improve touch support on the desktop side, but will also build a Metro version for the tablet-friendly side of Windows 8.

Windows 8 is currently in a prerelease Consumer Preview state with no know official release date. Neither Mozila or Google have set official release dates for either browser and there is currently little information available on potential features the software may carry.