Monday, May 14, 2012

Windows 8 Upgrade Promotion Details Leaked

With the past few Windows updates Microsoft has offered OEM customers and would be early adopters a deal which features low-cost, or free upgrades from the current operating system on their pre-built computers to the soon to be released next generation OS. This time around it looks like MS is going to change the details of that promotion and add a bit off a cost, but with a bit more reward.

Reports from Neowin and popular Windows blogger Paul Thurrott are indicating the confirmation of a Windows 8 Pro promotion at the cost of just $14.99 USD. The promotion will be for all Windows 7 systems running the Home Basic edition or higher and will give customers the right to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro edition. While the added fee is something new the addition of the ability to upgrade from any previous version of Windows 7 to the new Pro Edition of Windows 8 is something new and a bit of a benefit for most users.

In the past users were offered an equivalent edition upgrade Home to Home, Pro to Pro ect. According to the reports this promotion is for any edition, Home Premium and up, to get an upgrade to Pro. So it's kind of like an AnyTime Upgrade and an OS upgrade all wrapped in one.

According to the leaked marketing material and the sources cites anyone purchasing a pre-built Windows 7 system (Dell, HP ect) after June 2, when Microsoft’s promotional campaign begins, will be eligible for an upgrade from their current Windows 7 Operating system to Windows 8 Pro at that price. That price tag is also specific to the US; regional pricing variations will likely apply.

More details on the promotion will likely surface as we get closer to the June 2nd starting date so stay tuned and we'll update you ass needed.

Using Street View To Preview Your Summer Vacation

Taking a little summer vacation this year? Perhaps you are visiting one of your favorite amusement parks, zoos or other points of interest. Well thanks to Google's Street View partner program you might may be able to preview that summer vacation before you go.

Over the past few years Street View has added 360-degree panoramic views of several notable attractions around the US. For example, if you’re on the West Coast and want to visit the world famous San Diego Zoo, go to Google Maps and search for "San Diego Zoo." Here you'll find an interactive virtual tour that will allow you to drag Pegmen to some of your favorite spots inside the zoo. You can also virtually explore the zoos in Honolulu, Denver, Detroit and a few more key locations.

For those of us that love the excitement of rides Street View has imagery and virtual tours of some of the largest amusement parks across the country. You can visit Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, or preview imagery from Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Universal Studios Hollywood, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Great America, Busch Gardens, and Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii. You can zoom in and out on the map to get and overhead view of the entire park, then locate a ride, booth or attraction you want and simply zoom in on that location to see it up close and personal.

If you are a racing geek like me and like to watch all things fast you can checkout Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca or one of my favorites Infineon Raceway. You'll be able to experience a turn by turn tour of the entire race track, pit road and even the grandstands. For those that like things a little more mellow and relaxing checkout Balboa Park, the Chicago Botanic Garden, or Diamond Head park and trail. Here you can stroll along the path and take in the relaxing views just like you were right there in person.

For more ideas checkout the full list of popular U.S. locations from the comfort of your desktop or mobile device and to see more popular locations, check out the entire Street View Gallery.

"Welcome to Life" A Geeks View Of What Your Digital Afterlife Might Be

Ever thought about the digital afterlife, you know the one. The geeks dream of uploading your collective consciousness onto a server somewhere and keeping yourself alive through computer interface and online interaction. Well blogger Tom Scott created a video that has put things into perspective for us and now we are re-thinking what that afterlife might be!

In a video called “Welcome to Life,” Scott shows his view of what a digital afterlife might be like. Even more more specifically, he touches on the corporate side of things, with plans, digital advertising, terms of service and even copyright concerns. The video gives viewers a glimpse at what that first after death interaction might consist of.


Given the current state of the internet and the world we live in you have to admit this might not be far from the reality of what could happen. I mean should the technology every be created of course!

Video via Tom Scott

Friday, May 11, 2012

Enter The EVGA Ivy Bridge Sweepstakes

Those awesome folks over at Intel & EVGA are teaming up to bring you another great contest: The Ivy Bridge on the River Prize Pack! Including almost all the parts you'll need to build a screaming gaming machine.


Grand Prize:

(1) EVGA Z77 FTW Motherboard
(1) Intel Core i7 3770K CPU
(1) EVGA GTX 680 Video Card
(1) EVGA Superclock CPU Cooler

To enter just follow the instructions below:
  1. Read over the official rules on this page
  2. Read over the EVGA privacy policy
  3. Go to EVGA's Facebook and click on the EVGA Ivy Bridge Sweepstakes app
  4. Alternatively, go directly to the EVGA Ivy Bridge Sweepstakes app
  5. Click on Enter Sweepstakes
  6. "Like" both EVGA and Intel
  7. Fill out your information
  8. Share with your friends
The drawing will be open from May 10th to May 31st and the winners will be announced on this page on June 5th, so don’t forget to check back and see if you're a winner!Entering the random drawing for the system is very simple.

Facebook, Instagram Not A Done Deal Yet As FTC Launches Probe

Facebook made major headlines with its $1 billion acquisition of photo-sharing app Instagram. However that deal is hardly closed as it has been reportedly delayed until the Federal Trade Commission can give it the once-over.

According to reports by several news sources, the FTC is examining the deal on competition grounds, a move that could push the close of the deal into the third quarter or even perhaps block the deal if there is enough evidence to warrant such a move. The FTC has asked rivals Google and Twitter for their input on the deal, though it was not revealed what information it was seeking.

According to the Financial Times, who originally broke the news, at the heart of the FTC is investigation is the potential for any anti-competitive practices. The question would seemingly be would Facebook's Instagram acquisition give the company an undo leverage in a particular market. The information the FTC is seeking can be about the markets — here, social networks, photo sharing, and mobile — what the companies do, what their operations are, and whether they are competitors in certain markets and how their merger could impact competition.

While this might make for good headlines these are fairly routing practices for any acquisition over $68.2 million. Despite that fact it could potentially hurt Facebook for the time being. The social network cannot use Instagram until the investigation is closed and with the IPO reportedly on its way investor might see this as a major setback.

The Development of First Generation Mobile Phones

Within the last few decades, technology has grown exponentially. Today we are able to do so much more than previous generations even dreamed of doing. One particular area of technology that has seen significant growth is mobile phone technology. This area has evolved over the years and can be traced through the generations.

The 1980s featured the first generation of mobile phones. This generation is set apart from others by its usage of multiple cell sites. By using multiple cell sites, users were better able to maintain their signal. While on their phone, they could travel from one area to the next, all the while covered by different cells. During the switch between cell areas, the call could continue. During this generation, mobile phones became more portable. This was significant for the later generation of mobile phone development.

The first commercial cellular network was launched by the Japanese in 1979. Known as 1G, this network was able to cover the expansive Tokyo area, reaching 20 million people. In order to accommodate such a large area, the region was further divided up into 23 base stations. Five years later, the entire country was networked for mobile phone usage. This was the first nationwide 1G network in the world.

The second part of the world to create a 1G network was in Scandinavia. The countries of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark collaborated to create such a network in 1981. This particular network was unique in that it did allow users to roam internationally. The United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico also jumped on the bandwagon and created networks. In 1983, the U.S. went online with their 1G network. Here the first hand held mobile phone was operational with this network. In order to do this, the cell sites had to overlap to provide a stronger signal. Still, calls were often lost as this technology was still being developed.

Mobile phones have come a long way since the 1G networks. Data upload and download rates are much faster, and call quality is better than ever before. New mobile handsets have taken advantage of the available technology, and provide many services that would have seemed impossible when the first networks were created. If you want to find a new mobile phone, you can visit Dial-A-Phone.co.uk to see what handsets are available.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mozilla Complaints Target ARM-based Windows Why Not Apple?

Today's headlines have been full of posts regarding Mozilla's complaints about Microsoft’s plans to only allow Internet Explorer to run on at an elevated level in the "Classic" mode of Windows on ARM, better known as Windows RT. The complaint is that this will give IE and unfair advantage over other browsers that won't have access to many advanced APIs that are necessary for creating a browser with the same capabilities as the traditional desktop version of the application.

Microsoft has made its intentions clear, they would enable third-parties to build Metro-style apps, which would run on Windows RT however they will not run in the elevated Windows Classic mode. Both Mozilla and Google announced that they were building Metro-style versions of their browsers. For both companies the problem lies in the fact that Microsoft is only enabling IE 10 to run on the Windows RT desktop.

So what is the issue?

In a post on the issue, Asa Dotzler, the software engineer directing Mozilla’s development for Windows 8, said:
Here's what's going on. For Windows on X86, Microsoft is giving other browsers basically the same privileges it gives IE. It's not great that you don't get those privileges (certain API access) unless you're the default browser and I think that's deeply unfair (a post for later,) but at least we're able to build a competitive browser and ship it to Windows users on x86 chips.

But on ARM chips, Microsoft gives IE access special APIs absolutely necessary for building a modern browser that it won't give to other browsers so there's no way another browser can possibly compete with IE in terms of features or performance.

Dotzler elaborated more on the issue in a second blog post and even gave a bit great insight into the issues he feels Mozilla and Firefox will face. "It's not precisely "running a browser in Classic" that matters for Windows on ARM. It's that running a browser in Classic is the only way that Microsoft has allowed us to get access to the APIs that a browser needs to deliver modern capabilities and performance in Classic AND Metro," Dozler write.

Effectively there are separate levels of access for Windows RT. One for metro only style apps and one for classic mode system apps. Microsoft will only allow specific apps to be elevated to access all the features of classic mode. Leaving Mozilla, Google and other third party vendors the option to use metro. These apps have access to some cool new Metro features but they live in a Metro sandbox and cannot use any of the more powerful features available from the Classic environment.

newegg
Why is this important?

Mozilla isn't so much worried about the Windows RT and tablet environment. They are more concerned that ARM will be migrating to laptop, full blown tower PCs and all-in-one PCs in the future. To them this is not a tablet-only concern rather a concern that the Windows RT environment will be used as a standard Windows replacement on more devices. They feel that if the exclusion is made now they might loose out on the chance to be competitive in the ARM marketplace down the road.

I'm personally not convinced but this is the basis of their arguments.

So why not fire back at Apple for doing the same thing?

Personally I've asked for years why Google and Mozilla haven't fired these letters expressing Antitrust concerns over the walls of Apple garden. Apple does the very same thing they are charging Microsoft with in restricting browser and application access to iOS. Apple uses they same sandboxing under the same guise that Microsoft is. According to Microsoft Windows RT eliminates many of the programming tricks used by Win32 app developers, including “background processes, polling loops, timers, system hooks, startup programs, registry changes, kernel mode code, admin rights, unsigned drivers, add-ins, or a host of other common techniques.” These are typically responsible for unreliable, memory-hogging, performance-draining apps that Apple all to often blocks from the AppStore.

So why the double standard you may ask. Well Dotzler makes it clear for us, “Apple is not a convicted monopolist that has legally binding commitments to not block access to browser-related APIs like Microsoft.” Basically he is saying because Microsoft has prior commitments to the DOJ and responsibilities against anticompetitive behavior they are the easier target! A view that I feel is very hypocritical!

If you are going to fire off shots at Microsoft for antitrust concerns despite their lack of prescience in two major markets, two markets by the way where your browsers are already being blocked then why not fire the same shots at Apple which holds the lions share of those markets. Mozilla is charging that Windows on ARM may some day be a major market player, yet iOS is already one and they aren't concerned with sharing that market? What gives here?

Will we see anything come of this?

How far will Mozilla and Google push? Well as of right now that isn't clear. Whether Mozilla or Google wants to elevate its complaints into a formal antitrust complaint is uncertain. Given that ARM-based Windows devices have a market share of exactly 0% right now, with no guarantee that the new platform will succeed, it seems unlikely that even if they did there would be much made of it. The question then would come down to whether or not Windows on ARM is just Windows on another device or a new separation for Microsoft. Depending on the view of the OS the DOJ or even the European Union might be interested in the case. However given that both companies have full access to the enormous base of x86 and x64 PCs and full access to the rest of the Windows 8 line-up it would be doubtful we'd see anything in the way of a full blown lawsuit.

In addition, it’s hard to argue that consumers are being damaged. In the 1990s, Microsoft was accused of having a chokehold on the Internet with its Windows monopoly. In 2012, with the proliferation of Internet-connected mobile devices, Apple’s strength in Mac sales, and iPad’s stranglehold on the tablet market, can anyone make a plausible case that consumers will lack choice?

Kindle Owners To Get Free Access To All 7 Harry Potter Books

Wands at the ready Kindle owners, today, Amazon announced that all seven of J.K. Rowling's blockbuster Harry Potter books are being added to the company's Kindle Owners' Lending Library for Kindle owners to borrow and read for free.


“We’re absolutely delighted to have reached this agreement with Pottermore. This is the kind of significant investment in the Kindle ecosystem that we’ll continue to make on behalf of Kindle owners,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “Over a year, borrowing the Harry Potter books, plus a handful of additional titles, can alone be worth more than the $79 cost of Prime or a Kindle. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library also has an innovative feature that’s of great benefit for popular titles like Harry Potter – unlimited supply of each title – you never get put on a waiting list.”


The new, and exclusive, deal allows Amazon Prime members the ability to "borrow" the e-books for free much the same would you would at a physical library.  You'll have the option of downloading any of the seven books one at a time each month and you'll have to check one e-book back in before downloading another, although the e-books don't have return due dates.

The Harry Potter eBooks will be available starting June 19th.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

AT&T and Verizon May Soon Offer Family Data Plans

Speaking at this year's CTIA Wireless trade show executives from AT&T have expressed company plans to offer a shared family data plan.

"The company has a firm hold on what type of plan it will offer and intends to offer one soon," said Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's mobile business. de la Vega says the company is working out the details of such plans stating “we’ll introduce them when we can.” But as of yet the company has no firm launch date.

AT&T is not alone in the venture to offer family a bit more bang for their data buck. Verizon is reportedly also planning to join the fray. Speaking at a at a Deutsche Bank conference earlier this year Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said the carrier will launch a family data plan by midyear (PDF).

Both companies are likely looking at family data plans as a way to boost sales of devices specifically non-traditional cellular devices like connected tablets. A shared data plan will allow consumers to share data by multiple devices which could help the average family save tons on their current plans. Most plans we see now are set on a per device basis and cost upwards of $30/mo. Adding in a lower cost alternative could help push sales of more phones but also add in a plethora of other devices.

Verizon's concept of a shared plan extends a bit further into the future well beyond phones, tablets and even laptops.

"Let's just take a household," Shammo said. "So you have a family; they have tablets; they have notebooks; they have their smartphones. Then you have to start thinking about then you have a washer and dryer, you have a refrigerator, and people are going to want to start to communicate with all of those devices. So when you think about connecting the devices to the network, it's more than just a smartphone and a tablet."

Certainly AT&T is also looking at the new plans to work in conjunction with their newly announced home automation project, AT&T Digital Life. I could definitely see them working on cellular enabled Appliance power controls, digital cameras and alarm systems.

Source: CNet News - AT&T Mobility CEO: Family data plan coming soon
Verizon to offer shared family data plan by midyear

Monday, May 07, 2012

Microsoft Confirms Subsidized $99 Xbox 360 Is It A Good Deal?

Rumors that Microsoft would soon begin selling their Xbox 360 for $99 have been laid to rest today as the company has confirmed the details of a subsidy plan that offers customers the chance to get the popular gaming console for $200 off its original retail price if they are wiling to pay $15 per month and commit to two years of online service.

Upfront the deal might sound really appealing to consumers but you should ask how much is it going to cost in the long run!

I've never been a big supported of subsidized plans. I've always found that you can typically get a better deal in the long term by paying the higher upfront cost and shopping around for whatever the service is you'll be contracted to use. On the face of it many deals sound great, however with a little shopping prowess you might be able to save yourself some money or the need to be locked into a contract.

So lets beak down the Xbox 360 deal

Initial rumors indicated that the deal might mean that customers signing up for a 2 year subscription to Xbox Live Gold Membership at $14.99 per month would "possibly get some additional streaming content from cable providers or sports package providers." As it turns out that is not going to be the case. The service is the exact same Xbox Live Gold plan that you can buy à la carte for $60/year (or less, if you shop for deals online). So this means customers who are looking to pay $200 less for the Xbox 360 and Kinect hardware are required to pay a total overall cost of $460. This would end up being $40 more than the avg user would pay for the same bundle with the same 2 years of Xbox Live Gold service if they paid the regular upfront cost.

Now the nice side is you won't have to pony up the $299 upfront cost for the hardware. But on the downside you will still be required to maintain that 2 year subscription no matter what or face the potential of up to $250 in early termination fees (ETF). If you pay the $299 upfront cost, you would still have the option of either not buying,canceling or not renewing your Xbox Live Gold plan and could save even more.

So while the deal might sound great for the short term, in the long term it might not be the best option.

Zuckerberg Promoting Facebook Prior To IPO

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the show on the road today to pitch the company's upcoming stock to potential investors.

Zuckerberg, met with hundreds of potential investors this afternoon at a Sheraton hotel in midtown Manhattan. The goal was to raise support and awareness of the company's pending initial public offering (IPO) which many reports believe to be coming as soon as May 18th. Today's stop is the first inline for the nine-day roadshow which is said to include stops in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore and possibly Los Angeles.

Last week Facebook launched the Facebook IPO Roadshow page featuring a 31min video of Zuckerberg discussing the company and giving potential investors a little insight into the past, present and future of the social networking giant.

Some reports have indicated that the Roadshow has disappointed some investors leaving them feeling shortchanged by a briefer-than-expected question-and-answer session and disappointed that they had been forced to watch a film about Facebook rather than using that time to converse with Zuckerberg, Sandberg, and Ebersman the Facebook management team.



Sunday, May 06, 2012

This Just In 'Avengers' Is A Hit, Breaks Records With $200M Debut

If like me you failed to see The Avengers over the weekend apparently you might be in the minority.

According to the film's distributor Disney and their weekend estimates "The Avengers" might well be the first movie ever to haul in $200 million in a single weekend. The number could still dip below $200 million by Monday when the actually numbers will be released, but Disney spent the weekend revising its forecasts upward.  Which means the movie could very well have done better than their estimates.

Disney has said the new Marvel Comics superhero movie had an amazing opening weekend with a gross of $80.5 million on Friday alone. If the numbers hold true the film will end the weekend smashing the domestic revenue record with a $200.3 million debut. Making it by in large the biggest opening ever, shooting past the previous record of $169.2 million for the debut of last year's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" finale.

In all the film has grossed a worldwide haul of nearly $641.8 million in barely a week and a half, more than all of its Marvel superhero forerunners "Iron Man," "Iron Man 2," "Thor" and "Captain America" combined during their entire runs.

 I don't know about you but from the reviews I've seen and read I'm ready to go take a peek!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Microsoft Talks Media Center, DVD Playback Support And More

The release of Windows 8 is fast approaching and Microsoft has given would be users a bit more insight into what will and won't be included in the final release. In a Windows 8 Blog posting posted earlier this week Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky confirmed earlier reports that the company will be dropping not only Windows Media Center (WMC) but any native DVD playback support as well.

Initial reports that the company would be dropping WMC as an include part of the Windows experience came last month when the company confirmed the Windows 8 product lineup. At that time details where a bit sketchy but it was made clear that while Windows Media Center will be available it was going to be an "economical media pack add-on" to at least the Windows 8 Pro version. What this meant was really unclear at the time.

Fast forward to this week's Windows 8 Blog posting and we now know that Microsoft has decided to make Windows Media Center available to all Windows 8 customers via the Add Features to Windows 8 control panel (formerly known as Windows Anytime Upgrade). This ensures that customers who are interested in Media Center have a convenient way to get it (pricing not know). Windows Media Player however, will be dropping DVD playback support. The application will continue to be available in all editions, but those wanting to play either DVD's and Blu-ray's will need purchase Windows Media Center with DVD playback functionality or find another suitable alternative from a third part vendor.

The new option will be known as the Windows 8 Media Center Pack for those with Windows 8 Pro and as the Windows 8 Pro Pack for those with Windows 8. Pricing will be announced closer to the launch date, Caldas said, but "will be in line with marginal costs."

This is just all way too confusing!
I've had more than a few people tell me this also sounds overly confusing, so here is the real breakdown. Microsoft has to pay royalties to Dolby and to the owners of the MPEG-2 decoder to enable DVD playback in Windows Media Player. They also pay royalties to support some of the other media decoder licensing and codecs used in their software. So in order to keep costs down (basically ensure a better profit margin) they are dropping support for those decoders.

You won't loose support for online items and Metro style apps will still use any of the decoders included in Windows which cover all key playback scenarios for mainstream content such as YouTube video, Netflix video, Amazon audio/video, H.264 web browsing/streaming, Hulu video, MP4 video, AVCHD video from camcorders, Ultraviolet video, and the HTML5 video tag. Metro style apps can also include additional decoders (such as FLAC, MKV, OGG, etc.) in their apps package for use within the apps.

This means all online style video will still be supported. Its the offline stuff that is going to be missing!

If this still sounds a bit confusing the official Windows 8 blog has posted an update that attempts to answer some of the questions raised by the decision to remove DVD playback from Windows 8's Media Player.



Wednesday, May 02, 2012

New Mac Malware Targets Microsoft Office

Microsoft is reporting that security researchers have discovered a new piece of malware that's targeting Macs running OS X Snow Leopard and an Microsoft Office.

"As we analyzed the malware, we found that the malware author managed to corrupt a local variable and used that corrupted variable to deploy 'stage 1' shellcode to a designated area. This corrupted variable is later used for a target address and is where the stage 1 shellcode is copied. The corrupted return address points to this target address as well," Jeong Wook Oh of the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, said in a blog post on the malware.

The vulnerability that the malware exploits is actually a three-year-old flaw that affects Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac, Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac and the Open XML File Format Converter for Mac. The flaw was patched by Microsoft in June 2009 however if user failed to apply the patch their system can become infect. Microsoft's researcher found that the exploit in this specific piece of malware doesn't work on versions of OS X newer that Snow Leopard because the particular address it uses to write to isn't writable in OS X Lion. So users of the newer releases of Apple operating system should be safe. To be on the safe side however Microsoft is recommending that users using Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac, Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac or Open XML File Format Converter for Mac, be sure to update using the latest product updates.

"Exploiting Mac OS X is not much different from other operating systems," Oh wrote. "Even though Mac OS X has introduced many mitigation technologies to reduce risk, your protection against security vulnerabilities has a direct correlation with updating installed applications."

For this specific vulnerability, you can visit the Microsoft Security Bulletin MS09-027 page and download the update.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Facebook's "Life Saving Tool" Organ Donor Status

Late last week Facebook made an intriguing announcement stating that the social media giant was going to be introducing a new "life saving tool." Fast forward to today and we find out exact what that tool is. The site is now offering users the option to show off their organ donor status.

Earlier today, Facebook announced that users may declare that they are registered organ donors by adding an "organ donor status" to their Timelines. While declaring your donor status on the site isn't legally binding, Facebook hopes it will inspire people to join the cause. Facebook's latest feature is an attempt to save lives by raising "broader awareness about organ donation," says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in today's press release. Zuckerberg "believes that by simply telling people that you're an organ donor, the power of sharing and connection can play an important role."

According to a John Hopkins press release inspiration behind Facebook's organ donation push comes from COO Sheryl Sandberg and Dr. Andrew M. Cameron, a transplant surgeon at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Zuckerberg attended Harvard with Sandberg and together came up with the idea after meeting at a college reunion last spring. Early today Zuckerberg told the ABC new program Good Morning America his girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, who is studying to be a pediatrician, was also an inspiration. 

It seems like a bit of an odd decision to add such a feature, however the power of the social web can not be denied. If by simply adding in the feature they raise awareness that would be reason enough many users. If successful, Facebook's organ donor push has the potential to help save the lives of the more than 114,000 people in the U.S. currently waiting for new kidneys, lungs, hearts, and other organs.

If you are looking to add your organ donor status as soon as possible, here's what you have to do, according to Facebook's Help Center:
1. Click Life Event at the top of your timeline
2. Select Health & Wellness
3. Select Organ Donor
4. Select your audience and click Save

For more details about becoming and organ donor checkout OrganDonor.Gov and for those in California DonateLifeCalifornia.Org.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Apple Responds To Tax Dodging Questions

Over the weekend The New York Times released an article reporting that Apple is legally evading billions of dollars in taxes worldwide through various completely legal methods. The article seemingly raised some red flags for a few, who feel while its legal, its unethical for multibillion dollar companies to dodge what they see as a responsibility to the people. Today, Apple looks to settle those claims, citing it has been playing by the rules all along and pays an "enormous" amount of taxes.

Apple’s response on its tax practices (via The New York Times)
Over the past several years, we have created an incredible number of jobs in the United States. The vast majority of our global work force remains in the U.S., with more than 47,000 full-time employees in all 50 states. By focusing on innovation, we’ve created entirely new products and industries, and more than 500,000 jobs for U.S. workers — from the people who create components for our products to the people who deliver them to our customers. Apple’s international growth is creating jobs domestically since we oversee most of our operations from California. We manufacture parts in the U.S. and export them around the world, and U.S. developers create apps that we sell in over 100 countries. As a result, Apple has been among the top creators of American jobs in the past few years.

Apple also pays an enormous amount of taxes which help our local, state and federal governments. In the first half of fiscal year 2012 our U.S. operations have generated almost $5 billion in federal and state income taxes, including income taxes withheld on employee stock gains, making us among the top payers of U.S. income tax.

We have contributed to many charitable causes but have never sought publicity for doing so. Our focus has been on doing the right thing, not getting credit for it. In 2011, we dramatically expanded the number of deserving organizations we support by initiating a matching gift program for our employees.

Apple has conducted all of its business with the highest of ethical standards, complying with applicable laws and accounting rules. We are incredibly proud of all of Apple’s contributions.


Where it all started!
Apple isn't the first multibillion dollar company to come under fire for using legal loop-holes in local tax laws to effectively avoid paying what many would see as their fair share in taxes. They are just the latest, and likely most highly visible and profitable. GE, Microsoft and several others are just as guilty. So what makes Apple different? Nothing really, other than the fact that they are sitting on billions in cash while the economies in the states and countries they are avoiding taxes on are struggling.

According to The New York Times article Apple has effectively managed to dodge billions of dollars in taxes in several countries all around the world. Last year, the tech giant reportedly paid $3.3 billion in taxes around the globe on its 2011 profits of $34.2 billion at a tax rate of 9.8 percent. Approximately 70 percent, or $24 billion, of the total $34.2 billion in pretax profits was earned outside of the country while 30 percent was earned in the United States.

MacMall Best Sellers
In one instance alone, Apple who's headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. saved millions of dollars by putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away. The office, maned by a skeleton crew, is used to collect and invest the company’s profits, allowing Apple sit sidestep California's state income tax of 8.84% to pay virtually zero taxes in Nevada on some of those gains.

This is just one way Apple is saving millions in the US. Setting up the subsidiary called Braeburn Capital as well as setting up other companies in states without taxes on the selling of digital content allows Apple to further shave their tax costs. As it has in Nevada, Apple has also created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world.

Earlier this month, it was discovered that Apple made $9.5 billion in Britain last year, but only paid $15.8 million in taxes. This figure was attributed to the fact that British tax code rules exempt companies based in Ireland from paying British taxes. It was discovered at the time that Apple had setup a similarly small office in Ireland to funnel their profits through.

Just because its legal doesn't make it right!
Almost every major corporation tries to minimize its taxes, it would be bad business if they didn't and of course these moves are perfectly legal. Apple, for one makes an easy target. What with their billions in the bank and recent questions regarding working conditions and pay in some of their component manufactures plants.

The question for me doesn't become one of legality but of morals and ethics. Apple has always lauded their corporate headquarters and their support for Silicon Valley yet they want to avoid supporting the very state that they cut their teeth in? They want to proclaim the creation of jobs yet by their own numbers they only directly employee 77,000 people.

Apple's mantra for years and years was support us because we are the little guy fighting the power of the big corporations and "big brother". Now they have once again shown us how far they've veered off that path.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Avast Releases Free Antimalware Security Software For Mac OS X

Popular security vendor Avast has announced the release of its popular antimalware and security software for Mac OS X, the best part, its free!

On the heels of the widespread infection from the highly publicized Flashback Trojan many Mac users have begun looking for antimalware and security software for their Macs. Until now there has been a relatively small market for such software leaving users with very few alternatives and even fewer free options. Looking to branch out in the market Avast has released the new avast! Free Antivirus for Mac.
The new avast! Free Antivirus for Mac is a full-fledged security app; shielding users from incoming malware, sending and receiving infected files, and scanning computers for threats. It is completely free for all users – home consumers and businesses.
avast! Free Antivirus for Mac is based on the new avast! 7 antivirus engine avast! that is already used by over 150 million active Windows users. The new app provides Mac users with a full fledged security suite offering multiple levels of protection. You'll see direct email scanning and direct system scans. There is also built web based protections using WebRep, an anti-phishing/web reputation plugin that combines user-submitted comments with Virus Lab detection and blocking of phishing sites.

 If you want to check it out you can download it at avast.com. If you try it out lest us know what you think in the comments section below.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Apple Announces WWDC Dates, Sales Out In Two Hours

Earlier today Apple announced the dates for its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), June 11-15 in San Francisco, however would be attendees that didn't act fast have already missed out as Apple has confirmed the event sold out in just under two hours.

“We have a great WWDC planned this year and can’t wait to share the latest news about iOS and OS X Mountain Lion with developers,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “The iOS platform has created an entirely new industry with fantastic opportunities for developers across the country and around the world.”

The WWDC is one of Apple's main events featuring topics ranging from new products to workshops meant to aid developers. Apple says that this year's WWDC will focus on both iOS and the upcoming update to OS X Mountain Lion. The event is also slated to have more than 100 technical sessions led by Apple engineers, along with the annual Apple Design Awards. More than 1,000 Apple engineers will be on hand, offering code-level assistance and other advice on developing for the Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Activities at Apple’s WWDC 2012 include:

  • more than 100 technical sessions presented by Apple engineers on a wide range of technology-specific topics for developing, deploying and integrating the latest iOS and OS X technologies;
  • 100 hands-on labs staffed by more than 1,000 Apple engineers providing developers with code-level assistance, insight into optimal development techniques and guidance on how they can make the most of iOS and OS X technologies in their apps;
  • the opportunity to connect with thousands of fellow iOS and OS X developers from around the world—last year more than 60 countries were represented;
  • engaging and inspirational lunchtime sessions with leading minds and influencers from the worlds of technology, science and entertainment; and
  • Apple Design Awards which recognize iPhone, iPad and Mac apps that demonstrate technical excellence, innovation and outstanding design.

Given Apple success and the popularity of the platform the quick sell-out is hardly a shock: A year ago, the $1599 WWDC tickets sold out in under 12 hours. With Apple's recent successes the event is even hotter than before.

As with previous years ticket purchasers needed to be members of the iOS Developer Program, iOS Developer Enterprise Program, or Mac Developer Program. The fact that they sold out so quickly shows just how many developers are out there working on Apple related projects at this time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Google Drive vs. The Competition Which It Right For You?

With the launch of Google Drive users may find themselves asking if its worth it to change from their current cloud based storage service or new users might find themselves asking which is the best option for them. So to help you decide we've done a quick break down on some of the top services to show you have each stacks up.

Here are some of the highlights:
  • Total Disk Space: SkyDrive currently offers the most free storage at 7GB, and users who signed up before April 22 and install the new app will 25GBs free for a limited time.
  • Monthly Cost: For users that want more than just the free offering cost is important and Google Drive undercuts all of its competitors on monthly pricing, but Microsoft's Skydrive--which doesn't offer monthly pricing-- is cheaper on an annual basis.
  • File Size Limits: If you upload large files this is an important factor. Google Drive limits files to 10GBs which is more than most users would need and more generous than other services.
Google Drive, iCloud, DropBox, SkyDrive So Many Choices

Google Drive is the new kid to the block, joining Microsoft's SkyDrive, Apple's new iCloud and stand alone services like DropBox. There are of course several other options out there, these however are just some of the most popular. So which one will be best suited for you and your needs. To answer that question we've looked at a few things we want most from our cloud storage service. Compatibility, price and features.

Maximum Compatibility
In terms of overall compatibility Dropbox is by far one of the best options. The company was one of the earliest players in the cloud storage game which gives them a major competitive edge. Dropbox has the advantage of being compatible with almost every platform and is already available in several apps and services.

Downsides: The first major downside is that you start with only 2GB free, less than any other service we cover today. You can add more by referring friends to the service or paying, but it's still a poor way to start out. Second is the file size limit. Dropbox Files uploaded through the website (by pressing the upload button) have a 300 MB cap. In other words, each file you upload through the website must be 300 MB or less. This could hamper many users.

Best Free Options
For most home users we are going to go with the free options. For the most part this will give us the most bang for the buck (it is free after all). If raw space is all you want Microsoft SkyDrive with it's 7GB free and the backing of Microsoft make it the overall best option. If you are already a user you can upgrade to the additional space and get 25GBs free making it even more attractive. Of course, raw space isn't everything SkyDrive offers. You'll have the option of sharing an entire computer, Microsoft Office integration and of course Hotmail integration.

Downsides: Microsoft SkyDrive sounds like its might be the best bang for your buck but it does have some draw backs. For starters if you are a new user you are limited to 7GB free maximum. Currently there is no Android app, and other mobile apps look lackluster. We don't see nearly the same integration we see in DropBox.

Best Bang For The Buck: Our vote here has to go to Google Drive. You get more overall free space, more integration into things we use now like Google Docs and you have browser-based viewing and editing of several different file types. Another plus is you can share huge files, which means you can add some large presentations, video clips Mp3's ect.

Getting the Most For Your Money
Users wanting to step up from a free service and still get the best, or most out of their dollar have to ask themselves two questions. One how much space am I going to need and two realistically how am I going to use the service. For the absolute best pricing SkyDrive offers the best deal. You have the option of 20GBs for $10/yr or 100GB of space for $50/yr. Both options are a fair bit less than it would run you on Google Drive and considerably less than you'd pay for DropBox. Google does offer an additional 25GBs of Gmail storage with any purchase but who really uses that?

Downsides: Again, the best price for the raw space might not be the best option. If you are hosting files for a business and need a service that supports multiple devices Google Drive is going to be the better overall price of the three but DropBox might be the best overall for functionality.

So What About iCloud?
You may have noticed we've barely mentioned Apple's cloud based service and that is for good reason. Apple's service is strictly for Apple customers with iDevices. So we really can't make a competitive comparison to other services that are open to all customers. If you are a current Apple user and you need a cloud service it's a great deal. Your music and media are available anywhere on any of your iDevices or linked iTunes account and neither count toward the 5GB of space Apple gives you for free. The service is nicely integrated with OS X and iOS devices, as well, so it's kind of a no-brainer if you like Apple's other i-programs you should be using iCloud.

Conclusion
So, which service is the one to choose? To be honest there’s no one-size fits all solution here. For the most part I suggest trying them all and finding the one that best fits your needs. Something we might like about one service is something others might hate. For instance they all have varying interfaces that you might not find easy to use while we love.

Google Drive Officially Launched

Google has officially taken the wraps off Google Drive, the company's new cloud based storage bin of sorts where you can create, share, collaborate, or just store your files, including videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs and more.


With Google Drive, you can:
  • Create and collaborate. Google Docs is built right into Google Drive, so you can work with others in real time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Once you choose to share content with others, you can add and reply to comments on anything (PDF, image, video file, etc.) and receive notifications when other people comment on shared items.
  • Store everything safely and access it anywhere (especially while on the go). All your stuff is just... there. You can access your stuff from anywhere—on the web, in your home, at the office, while running errands and from all of your devices. You can install Drive on your Mac or PC and can download the Drive app to your Android phone or tablet. We’re also working hard on a Drive app for your iOS devices. And regardless of platform, blind users can access Drive with a screen reader.
  • Search everything. Search by keyword and filter by file type, owner and more. Drive can even recognize text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. Let’s say you upload a scanned image of an old newspaper clipping. You can search for a word from the text of the actual article. We also use image recognition so that if you drag and drop photos from your Grand Canyon trip into Drive, you can later search for [grand canyon] and photos of its gorges should pop up. This technology is still in its early stages, and we expect it to get better over time.
To get users started Google is offering 5GB of storage for free. This should be enough to store plenty of high-res photos or tons of PDFs. If you need more storage you can choose to upgrade to 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month or even 1TB for $49.99/month. When you upgrade to a paid account, your Gmail account storage will also expand to 25GB.

According to Google "This is just the beginning for Google Drive; there’s a lot more to come."

  For more info checkout the official Google Drive site at drive.google.com/start

Friday, April 20, 2012

Checkout The Diablo III Beta For Free This Weekend

Don't have plans this weekend? Well now you do. Blizzard has announced that they are releasing Diablo 3 this weekend as an open beta for all you gamers to test out.

From Friday, April 20 at 12:01 p.m. PDT (noon), until Monday, April 23 at 10:00 a.m. PDT you'll be able to log in, team up with friends, and play each of the five heroic classes to level 13 as you fight to save the world from the impending demonic invasion.

To participate in the Diablo III open beta weekend, you will need a valid Battle.net account and a BattleTag, both of which are freebies as well. You can begin downloading the Diablo III client right now!If you don't have a Battle.net account just visit http://www.battle.net to set one up then visit this page to setup your BattleTag.

Diablo III Open Beta Weekend - Diablo III

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Still Using Older Version Of Mac OSX And MobileMe? Apple Is Offering Free Upgrades

If you are an Apple Mac OSX and MobileMe user that for some reason hasn't made the move and upgraded to Snow Leopard yet you are in luck. Apple is offering you a chance to do so for free.

Later this year Apple will be shutting down MobileMe, their subscription-based set of online services, in favor of their newly announced cloud offering iCloud. Since iCloud is only supported in Mac OSX Snow Leopard and the soon to be released Mountain Lion Apple is offering all current MobileMe subscribers a free hard copy of Snow Leopard.

FAQs about the MobileMe transition to iCloud

The move appears to be a good faith offering in the hopes that Apple will keep their loyal fans and move them along the upgrade path. Most likely hoping they will upgrade all the way to Mountain Lion once it has been officially released.

You can request a free Snow Leopard DVD at me.com.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Twitter Vows Not To Aggressively Enter The Patent Wars

On Tuesday Twitter introduced the Innovator’s Patent Agreement an initiative proclaiming the company won't use Intellectual Property (IP) obtained from it's employees to entire into the patent wars that many tech giants are waging today.

In brief the Innovator’s Patent Agreement, (draft of which was released on GitHub), will allow inventors working with Twitter, or on Twitter projects to retain control of their inventions and their IP rights. It even applies retroactively to patents the company has already filed and still gives designers and engineers ultimate power even after they leave Twitter. With the IPA Twitter asserts it will not use the patents from employees’ inventions, or those previously acquired in offensive litigation without their permission and would only use those IP patents for defensive purposes.

Does It Really Mean Twitter Is Staying Out Of The Patent Wars?

At present it seems as though almost every major tech company is fighting a legal battle over IP and patents. Apple us suing just about everyone, Facebook and Yahoo are battling it out, Microsoft is always fighting a fight somewhere and Google, well they are just the new whipping post on the block.

From the post Twitter may seemingly be saying we are staying out of the patent battles. But are they? Lets take a closer look at the break down of what's behind the Innovator’s Patent Agreement.

First off, what does “Defensive” really mean?

Well at first glance one would say Twitter would only use their IP collection if another company aggressively sues them. That may be, however in this case (and most others) what is defensive and what is in the IPA is incredibly broad and allows for Twitter to interpret almost anything as a defensive use.

The draft agreement defines defensive purposes as follows:

Company, on behalf of itself and its successors, transferees, and assignees (collectively “Assignee”), agrees not to assert any claims of any Patents which may be granted on any of the above applications unless asserted for a Defensive Purpose. An assertion of claims of the Patents shall be considered for a “Defensive Purpose” if the claims are asserted:

(a) against an Entity that has filed, maintained, threatened, or voluntarily participated in an intellectual property lawsuit against Assignee or any of Assignee’s users, affiliates, customers, suppliers, or distributors;

(b) against an Entity that has filed, maintained, or voluntarily participated in a patent infringement lawsuit against another in the past ten years, so long as the Entity has not instituted the patent infringement lawsuit defensively in response to a patent litigation threat against the Entity; or

(c) otherwise to deter a patent litigation threat against Assignee or Assignee’s users, affiliates, customers, suppliers, or distributors.

Note paragraph "C". "To deter a patent litigation threat," this can be openly interpreted to mean they could offensively sue a company they think may be proposing action against them. That hardly seems defensive!

Secondly, "We will not use the patents from employees' inventions in offensive litigation without their permission."

The draft agreement states that:


If Assignee needs to assert any of the Patent claims against any entity for other than a Defensive Purpose, Assignees must obtain prior written permission from all of the Inventors without additional consideration or threat. An “Entity” includes any related entities, where the entities are related by either ownership, control, financial interest, or common purpose.

Clearly this leaves the door open for active offensive maneuvering. Twitter is simply stating they, with the blessing of the IP holder, can sue any company they feel is infringing upon their intellectual property just that they must seek approval of the IP holder before doing so.

This hardly put them in the position of sitting on the side lines, after all what inventor isn't going to want to protect their invention and their IP. Especially with the monetary concerns involved these day.

So while we applaud Twitter for what they are doing, and actually hope they are trying to set a tone that others may follow. I feel as though in the end this may be nothing more than empty gesture.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Free ASUS Transformer Prime GPS Dongle Now Available

As we reported last week ASUS has begun offering up a free external GPS dongle to Transformer Prime owners experiencing poor internal GPS performance.

ASUS's online ordering page for the GPS dongle is now live giving all customers that have purchased one of the popular Android based tablets a chance to order their dongle. The offer is valid from now until July 31st.

To our valued customers:

Thank you for purchasing the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime, and helping to make it the most popular Android based tablet since its launch in December 2011. We greatly appreciate feedback about our products from you, and we take this feedback very seriously. The response to the Transformer Prime generally has been overwhelmingly positive, but we understand that, in certain situations, the GPS functionality has not met some users’ expectations.

Free Dongle!
Although the Transformer Prime is not a professional GPS device, as part of our unwavering commitment to customers we are offering all Transformer Prime owners a free external GPS extension kit, called a dongle, which may help improve signal reception and optimize the user experience. We are pleased to announce this offer as part of our commitment to customer service, but it does not replace, alter or amend any existing warranties you may have. For more detailed information about this offer, please click on the link below. We also encourage you to contact your local ASUS customer support hotline directly if you are experiencing GPS related problems.

ASUS prides itself on delivering an unrivalled user experience, and we offer our sincere apologies for any inconvenience that our customers may have encountered.


Singing up for your free dongle looks relatively easy. You'll either need to have already joined the ASUS Membership program or signup to join. After successfully singing up and activating the ASUS Member account you'll need to proceed with Product Registration which requires you to entire your Transformer Prime (TF201's) Serial number, approx. purchase date and some personal information like name, address ect (for shipping).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Microsoft Announces Windows 8 Product Lineup

Microsoft has announced the new product SKU's and lineup for the latest addition of the Windows operating system.

For consumers Windows 8 will feature three different version: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT for for ARM based processors. As with previous versions customers will have the option of either 32 bit or 64 bit, although we suspect most user will want the 64 bit version.

Additionally Microsoft will release an enterprise edition, Windows 8 Enterprise (of course), for volume license customers; and finally, some number of local-language-only versions for China and other selected emerging markets.

In his blog post containing the announcement Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc explains the major differences between the three main consumer editions:
  • Windows 8 is positioned as the replacement for Windows 7 Basic and Home Premium. 
  • Windows 8 Pro is viewed as the replacement for Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate. 
  • Windows RT will be exclusively available as a pre-install on ARM hardware, with no direct retail availability.

Windows 8 will be the mainstream consumer edition meant for the everyday user. The Pro version will add a number of features that most consumers don’t necessarily need however some of us power users might like. These include encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity. Either version will upgrade from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic or Home Premium however to upgrade to the pro version you'll need have previously installed Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate.
You can find a full feature comparison on the Windows blog.

Microsoft has not yet shared any details about a possible release date or the pricing of these editions.

Gaming News: EA Confirms Crysis 3 Coming Spring 2013

Following last week's leak of advertisements on a Origin.com product page EA has confirmed a 2013 release for the third installment of the company's sci-fi shooter series Crysis.

Crysis 3 will be set in a futuristic version of New York City in 2047. The returning character Prophet has discovered New York sealed inside a dome by the nefarious Cell Corporation. Under New York's Liberty Dome, the city has become an "urban rainforest teeming with overgrown trees, dense swamplands and raging rivers," according to EA, and is split into seven distinct and treacherous environments known as the Seven Wonders.

In addition to the new setting the game will feature a new weapon in the form of a lethal composite bow, an enhanced nanosuit, and alien weaponry to hunt both human and alien enemies. The game also features the return of "Adaptive Warfare" with more open levels to let you choose your path and approach.

Crysis 3 Hunter Edition will be released for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC and is immediately available for pre-orders for $60. The pre-order includes a bonus XP boost up to level five, a unique bow skin, and three exclusive dog tags. Select retailers will also offer pre-order bonuses in the shape of early multiplayer unlocks. The Stalker Pack makes the semi-auto Jackal shotgun available earlier; the Overkill Pack gives early access to the Typhoon assault weapon; and the Predator Pack unlocks the Feline submachine gun.

For more details checkout EA's official Crysis 3 site.

Western Digital Announces New 1TB VelociRaptor

Western Digital has announced it the company is now shipping a new larger WD VelociRaptor 10,000 RPM hard drive. The new drive will feature a 1 TB capacity, or almost double that of the WD VelociRaptors on the market.

"WD is committed to providing customers with the best performing and most reliable SATA hard drives and our WD VelociRaptor family of drives underscores that promise," said Darwin Kauffman, vice president and general manager of WD's enterprise storage. "With ever-increasing demand for greater capacity, the new 1 TB WD VelociRaptor drive delivers the ultimate combination of speed and storage for the power user."

The WD VelociRaptor 2.5-inch hard drive comes in the IcePack(TM) enclosure, a 3.5-inch mounting frame with built-in heat sink - a factory customization that fits the drive into a standard 3.5-inch system bay and keeps the powerful drive extra cool when installed in a high-performance desktop or workstation system.

Western Digital VelociRaptor Features:

  • Super speed - SATA 6 Gb/s interface and 64 MB cache optimize the 10,000 RPM WD VelociRaptor.
  • Higher capacity - WD VelociRaptor SATA hard drives employ Advanced Format Technology to achieve capacities up to 1 TB.
  • Rock-solid reliability - Designed and manufactured to workstation standards to deliver stellar reliability in high workload environments.
  • Ultra-cool operation - Consumes less idle power and uses similar active power as the previous generation WD VelociRaptor while offering greater capacity and performance.
  • Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward (RAFF(TM)) - Optimizes operation and performance when the drives are used in vibration-prone, multi-drive chassis.
  • NoTouch(TM) ramp load technology - The recording head never touches the disk media ensuring significantly less wear to the recording head and media as well as better drive protection when in transit.
  • Environmentally conscious - In addition to being RoHS-compliant, this generation of WD VelociRaptor is also a halogen-free design.

Western Digital VelociRaptor Reviews:



Price and Availability
WD VelociRaptor hard drives are available now at select distributors, resellers and e-tailers, and come with a five-year limited warranty. Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the WD VelociRaptor 1 TB (model #: WD1000DHTZ) is $319.99 USD, the 500 GB version (model #: WD5000HHTZ) is $209.99 USD and the 250 GB version (model #: WD2500HHTZ) is $159.99 USD. More information about WD VelociRaptor hard drives including terms of the limited warranty may be found on the company website at http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=20.