Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More Details About The Microsoft Surface

Microsoft made a big splash in the tablet market yesterday when the company announced the new Surface line of tablets. The tablets are Microsoft's first entry into the tablet market to date, and from the looks of it the company came out strong.

Microsoft Surface

Now that the aftermath of yesterday's "big event" has settled we have a few more details on the first set of tablets that were announced. Microsoft hinted Surface is the family name meaning there will likely be more devices

Microsoft Surface RT and Surface Pro

Ok so MS didn't officially name the two devices yesterday but Surface RT and Surface Pro sound good to me!

Two Surface-branded tablets were announced yesterday. One will be running Windows RT and an Nvidia Tegra ARM processor, the other will run Windows 8 Pro with an Intel Core i5 chip. There are some sharp differences between the two versions of Windows 8, app support being one of the biggest and likely the greatest users will focus on.

The Windows Surface RT will be more a tablet competitor than anything else. It will be running the new version of Windows RT, which is a slight more limited version of Microsoft's new OS. The Surface RT include touch-optimized desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. For new apps, the focus for Windows RT is development on the new Windows runtime, or WinRT which will mean much tighter restrictions as to what can and can't be ran.

There have already been some major concerns voiced by Mozilla and Google over the tight restrictions placed on apps and API access with the Windows RT infrastructure and as of now there has been limited application development. Something I'm sure Microsoft has been working on.

The Surface Pro will be running a full version of the new Windows 8 operating system. So we can think of this more as an Ultrabook, or laptop competitor than just a tablet competitor. Just like any Intel or AMD based laptop a user will have full x86 application support. Which means you can run just about any software that Windows runs now.

Surface vs iPad vs Everything Else

When it come to tablets everything these days is compared to the iPad and perhaps a handful of Android tablets like the ASUS Transformer. Lucky enough Microsoft gave us some hard facts related to specs and so far things look fairly impressive.

The Windows RT Surface will weigh 676 grams, be 9.3mm thick, have a 10.6" ClearType HD display, and be available in 32 GB and 64 GB models. It will have a microSD card reader built-in, along with a USB 2.0 port, micro HD video port, and 2x2 MMO antennae.

The Windows 8 Pro will have the same screen but weigh in at 903g, be 13.5mm thick, and initially offer 64 GB and 128 GB hard drives. The card reader will be a microSDXC, the port will be USB 3.0, video will be Mini DisplayPort video, and it'll have the same 2x2 MMO antennae.

A PDF posted by Microsoft notes that the resolution is "HD" for the Windows RT (ARM) model, and "Full HD" for the Windows 8 Pro model. Unfortunately, "HD" doesn't actually translate well, and actually means the device is likely to end up with a 1366x768 display at 10 inches for the Windows RT edition.

Compare that to the new iPad which weighs in at 652g, is 9.4mm thick, features a 9.7-inch 2048x1536 HD retina display and comes in configurations of 16GB, 32GB and 64GBs. The new Transformer Prime weighs in at 586g, is 8.3mm thick, features a 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 HD IPS screen and comes in configurations of 16GB, 32GB and 64GBs. It also adds a single micro HDMI port and Micro SD Card Reader.

The major gamer changer here however might be the built in kick stand, Touch Cover, a super-thin, flexible keyboard; and Type Cover, a slightly thicker, more laptop-style keyboard. All of these were impressive looking add-ons. While similar items are available for other models they didn't have the sleek sexy look that the Surface cases had.

Early Hands on Reviews

Sadly I wasn't at the even to get my geeky little hands on the new Surface tablets but several of our favorite geeks where. So here are some of the early reviews.
TechCrunch: “It’s a very ambitious effort that the company is making great pains to emphasize has been built by Microsoft from the inside out, from the hardware to the software.”
Engadget: “It’s impossible to weigh in on Surface when we only handled one of the two tablets, and when each hands-on opportunity amounted to a Supermarket Sweep-style tour of various demo areas. Still, even after some brief handling, we feel impressed, almost sobered by what Microsoft’s managed to produce after vowing to take the Windows 8 hardware-software package into its own hands.”
The Verge: “Here it is, Microsoft Surface, the all new, Microsoft-made tablet. We just had our hands on the sleek new device, and we must say — it does feel incredibly well designed.”
BGR: “But what I saw looked really intriguing, and Microsoft has at least in concept created a tablet computer that can also double as a PC. While this alone certainly won’t be enough to help Microsoft compete with the mighty Apple iPad, it does breathe some much-needed life into Microsoft’s mobile product line.”
Mashable: “Overall, this is a good try from Microsoft. Surface will be the PC-based touchscreen to beat, and other Windows tablet-makers have to be quaking in their boots right about now. But the company needs to answer a lot of questions, and let us kick the tires.”

Microsoft Surface Pricing and Availability

Microsoft has yet to provide details on pricing and availability but we have some rumors and speculation and a bit of advice for MS. Rumors suggest the entry level Surface RT (as I'm calling it) might be priced below $300, while the low end Surface Pro (again my name) will be north of $500 perhaps even in the $600 range.

To me this is where Microsoft is going to make their biggest mistake. I loved some of the features that the Surface had, and it looks like a great tablet. But it needs to be competitively priced. Sure they packed it will features, lots of storage space and a great CPU. However, that just isn't going to be enough to draw the 'tablet crowd' if the price is high. So my advice to Microsoft is to make sure they price these tablets accordingly. Keep the cost as competitive as possible!

Final Conclusion:
Microsoft certainly made waves in the tablet pool. Whether or not the Surface family will be a hit or a flop will certainly depend on a ton of factors. Mainly pricing and completely specifications. Let's keep in mind Microsoft only gave us the basics. One thing is for certain for Microsoft to continue to impress, they had better come in with a solid product. Otherwise their first official leap into the tablet pool might be a sinker.

They didn't allow video streaming from its Surface tablet event last night, but now MS has delivered the entire presentation online. You can view the full video here you can also view more details about the Microsoft surface at Microsoft.com/Surface.

Confirmed: Newest Flash Update Crashes In Firefox

If like me, you’ve been having trouble with Flash in Firefox, you’re not alone. Mozilla has confirmed that the latest update to Flash is causing problems with some Firefox users. Mozilla is telling users that the company is working with Adobe to fix the problem but as of yet there is no solid solution.

Some Firefox users on Windows Vista and Windows 7 are experiencing problems when viewing videos in Adobe Flash Player 11.3, released on June 8, 2012. Firefox and/or Flash Player may crash or not load videos using Flash Player, or videos may not display correctly. Adobe and Mozilla are working closely to diagnose and address these issues. In the meantime, Firefox users experiencing problems viewing videos in Flash Player should try the workarounds listed in this help article. We will post an update on this blog once that happens.

Last week Adobe released Flash Player 11.3, with support for secure sandboxing in Firefox. That is where all the problems started. At this time it's uncertain as to what the exact issue is but it appears to be related to the sandboxing feature. If you aren't aware of what sandboxing is its a built in security feature that is meant to mitigate attacks and keep damage limited so it won’t spill over into the rest of the browser or even the operating system.

For now Mozilla’s suggestion is to “uninstall Flash 11.3 and downgrade to Flash 11.2.”

Some readers might note that Mozilla is saying this is related to video. Personally I've had nothing but issues with just about any type of flash. For now I temporarily disabled Flash and plan on trying to re-install the older version to see if that helps.

How to Uninstall Flash 11.3

To uninstall Flash 11.3 on Windows, you will need to use the uninstaller provided by Adobe.
  1. Download the uninstaller program from Adobe - uninstall_flash_player.exe (671 KB)
  2. At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox button (File menu in Windows XP) and then click Exit.
  3. Run the uninstall Flash program that you download and follow the prompts.
  4. When you are finished, start Firefox again and continue with the next section - Install Flash 11.2
See the Adobe help article Uninstalling Flash Player on Windows for more details.

Install Flash 11.2

  1. Download the archive of older versions of Flash from the Adobe site - Flash 11.2 (170MB)
  2. At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox button (File menu in Windows XP) and then click Exit.
  3. Open your downloads folder and look for the file named fp_11.2.202.233_archive.zip
  4. Double-click the fp_11.2.202.233_archive.zip file and browse though the folders. You will have to look for the Flash 11.2 installer. It is named flashplayer11_2r202_233_win_32bit.exe (If you are using the 64-bit version of Firefox, look for the installer named flashplayer11_2r202_233_win_64bit.exe)
  5. Drag the installer to your desktop, then double-click it to start the installation.
    Flash installer file - Win

  6. The last step of the Flash install program asks you to choose your update method. You should choose Notify me when updates are available to prevent Flash 11.3 from being re-installed automatically.
    Flash update options - Win

If all goes well you should see far fewer crashes when using Flash, or on Flash heavy website.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Microsoft's Major Announcement A New Tablet Dubbed 'Surface'

After a lot of anticipation, several rumors and speculation and hype that only Apple has been able to build Microsoft has finally made its major announcement today and it's going to be a new tablet concept dubbed Surface.

Steve Ballmer took main stage today at the highly anticipated event beginning his speech saying, "Windows is the heart and soul of Microsoft, Windows has exceeded our most optimistic predictions. It's in homes, schools, and governments around the world. With Windows 8 we've reimagined Windows to power a new generation of PCs. Windows is the heart and soul of Microsoft. It's proven to be the most flexible, general purpose software ever created. We designed Windows 8 for the world we know. People want access to information, and the ability to create content anywhere and anytime."

He continued, "Today we want to add another piece to the Windows 8 story. We wanted to give Windows 8 its own hardware innovation. It's something new, something different, it's a whole new family of computing devices from MS."

What is it, its the new Microsoft Surface. A Windows 8 tablet, deigned and built specifically for Microsoft and for Windows 8.

Surface will feature two designs, one for Windows RT and one for Windows 8 Pro. The RT version will feature a 9.3mm thin body weighing 675 grams. The Windows 8 Pro tablet will be slightly larger at 13.55mm and 903g. Both tablets feature magnesium VaporMg cases with a permanent scratch and wear resistant surface and an optically bonded 10.6-inch ClearType HD Corning Gorilla Glass 2.0 displays.

The Windows RT Surface will feature an ARM processor, microSD and USB 2.0 slots, Micro HD Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae and will come in either 32 GB or 64 GB capacities. The Windows 8 Pro will feature an Intel core i5 processor, microSDXC and USB 3.0 slots, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae and either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage.

Surface comes with an integrated kickstand and a 3mm thin, pressure sensitive cover that doubles as a fully functioning keyboard and trackpad. Your Touch Cover connects to your Surface with a single magnetic click, no docks, nothing to be broken. Touch Cover comes in five colors, Pink, Black, Greyish white, Red and Blue

Suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC. OEMs will have cost and feature parity on Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Fore more details visit Microsoft.com/Surface or view the full Microsoft press release
Microsoft Announces Surface: New Family of PCs for Windows

Apple Announces 2012 Back To School Promotion

Apple has officially joined Sony and Microsoft in the fight for back-to-school dollars. Today launching the company's annual back-to-school promotion with discounts for, students, parents and school faculty members when they purchase a Mac or iPad.

Unlike Sony and Microsoft, who are both offering deals for gaming consoles, Apple is offering qualifying customers buying a Mac with Education pricing a $100 iTunes card good for music, movies or apps - while those buying the iPad will get a $50 card.

Based on what Apple says on its website, the deal applies to MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, iMacs and both versions of the iPad -- there's no mention of the Mac mini and Mac Pro.

To qualify for the Back to School Card offer and to get special pricing on a Mac at the Apple Online Store for Education, you must be a college student, a student accepted to a college, a parent buying for a college student, or a faculty or staff member from any grade level. You must also buy before the September 21st cut off date.

For those with several students there is a maximum of four (4) cards per household may be obtained for the purchase of (2) qualifying Apple Computers and two (2) qualifying iPads. For more details visit the Apple Back to School 2012 landing page.

Sony launched their back to school promotion late last week offering customers a free PS3 or PS Vita with a Sony Vaio Purchase while Microsoft is offering customers a free Xbox 320 with qualifying PC purchase.

iPad Owners Might Soon See A Mozilla Browser But It Might Not Be Firefox

Mozilla might own one of the world's top three most popular web browsers with Firefox. However, the company has yet to break into the top smartphone and tablets markets controlled by Apple's iOS and iPad. Things might soon change however as Mozilla's Product Design Team is apparently working on a new WebKit based browser the company has dubbed "Junior".

Working to build things from the the ground up for iPad Mozilla has decided to take a new approach in their iOS browser, and so far looks like a pretty impressive, clutter free experience.

Mozilla's Alex Limi said "We wanted to make something entirely new. We wanted to look into how we could reinvent the browser for a new form factor," he said. He goes so far as to deem Safari for iPad "a miserable experience" all the while acknowledging that it remains the best option available in terms of tablet-based browsing.

iOS, largely due to Apple's walled garden, is a platform where Mozilla has yet to make an impact, he admits. "There are a lot of reasons we should be on iOS even though we can't bring our rendering engine there." Ultimately he says Junior was born out of necessity: as of now, Mozilla has "no vehicle on one of the biggest consumer platforms in the world."

Video linked courtesy The Verge

Junior is still very much a work in progress - so any of the design ideas we asee at this stage might not mean much. The team might still decide to change he functions and features related to what each of the buttons will do. The back and + button can both be expanded to reveal six functions, but they haven't reached a final decision on what those functions will be. Still, this new design looks like a cool approach to navigation, and it looks like it could be the perfect fit for tablets.

As of now there aren't many more details about Junior, heck Mozilla hasn't even decided if that will be the official name yet. So we don't know what the possible release date would be. Nor do we know exactly what platforms other than iOS and the iPad it might support.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Western Digital Joins The Networking Market Releases Five Wireless Routers

Western Digital is a name synonymous with the hard drive and storage market. So when you hear the company has released a new networking device your first thought is likely geared towards a new network attached hard drive or NAS server or possibly even a new media streaming device like the WD Live TV box. But today the company announced the release of its very first wireless home networking devices which includes five new routers in a new category called the My Net family.

western digital my net 750

Most companies would generally start of small with a couple entry level devices meant for the everyday mainstream consumer. Not Western Digital, they cam out of the box swinging. WD entered the market with five brand new Dual-Band Routers, all of which proclaim 600Mbs speeds or better.

Their new My Net Family Dual-Band Routers starts with the My Net N600, a true dual-band router that offers 300Mbps on both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands. The next step-up is the My Net N750, which boosts the speeds to 450Mbps on the 5GHz, and finally there's the top-tier My Net N900, which offers the 450Mbps data rate on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The top tiered, My Net N900, also comes with seven Gigabit LAN ports (as opposed to the four ports found in most wireless routers), and range amplifier antennas for extended range.  Both the My Net N750 and My Net N900 feature 2 USB ports for additional storage, printer and media share server use, while the My Net N600 features just a sigle port.

But wait I said they released five routers. Yes in-deed they did. They introduced two offerings dubbed the My Net N900 Central that I personally would love to test drive.

western digital my net 900 central

The My Net N900 Central is a router NAS,/Cloud Server all-in-one. It comes with either a 1TB or 2TB hard drive built-in. This router is built for HD streaming or wireless backup and remote access. The My Net N900 Central includes 4 LAN and 1 WLAN Gigabit Ethernet ports for up to 10/100/1000 Mbps wired speeds, 1 USB port for additional storage, printer and media share server use.

Remote access to My Net N900 Central is available on any computer through www.WD2go.com and with WD mobile apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch or Android smartphones and tablets. In addition to keeping content safe at home and always accessible while away from home, users can rely on My Net N900 Central for automatic wireless backup with the included WD SmartWare software for Windows, while Mac users can utilize all the features of Apple Time Machine backup software. Additionally, any WD external hard drive with SmartWare software can connect directly to a My Net router to wirelessly backup all PC computers in the home.

Collectively, all five of WD's My Net routers support FastTrack, UPnP and DLNA media streaming standards, Time Machine, and personal cloud storage. FasTrack technology detects Internet favorites like Netflix and YouTube and automatically prioritizes them for smooth HD streaming. FastTrack is basically a type of QoS (quality of service) that automatically detects and prioritizes Internet bandwidth based on types of traffic. By default FastTrack allows entertainment-related services -- such as media streaming, VoIP (voice over IP), and so on -- precedence over other services, such as Web surfing and downloading. FastTrack Plus, available in the N900 and N900 Central routers, offers support for more simultaneous data streams at a time than the standard FastTrack, available in the N600 and N750 routers.

Pricing starts at $79.99 for the My Net N600, $119.99 for the My Net N750 and $179.99 My Net N900. If you want to step-up to the My Net N900 Central with built in storage it's going to cost you. The 1TB My Net N900 Central runs $299.99 while the 2TB version will set you back $349.99. My Net N900, My Net N750, and the My Net N600 will be available immediately at select U.S. retailers and online at the wdstore.com. My Net N900 Central will be available next quarter.

Australian Tech Retailer Taxes Internet Explorer 7 Users

Any webmaster out there knows that developing websites with cross browser support can at times be messy. A site that looks and performs great on one browser might not performs so well on another. Well one internet guru is taking matters into his own hands by implementing what he believes to be “the world’s first ‘Internet Explorer 7 Tax.’”

Ruslan Kogan may not be a known entity in the U.S. (yes I had to look it up when I first read this story), is well know in the land down under. The Australian entrepreneur is a pioneer of online retail and happens to be the country’s wealthiest self-made person under the age of 30. Kogan founded Kogan.com, a manufacturer and direct retailer of consumer electronics that’s projected to hit over $100 million in sales this year. But, more importantly, the guy seems to hate the fact that his developers have to spend added time, and money developing his sites that already run seamlessly on Firefox, Chrome and Opera by building a friendly version of the site for Internet Explorer 7 users.

He hates it so much that he is willing to wage war against IE7 and charge his customers a 6.8% tax on any item purchased on his site.

In a posting on his official blog Kogan explains his reasoning

Today at Kogan we've implemented the world's first "Internet Explorer 7 Tax". The new 6.8% tax comes into effect today on all products purchased from Kogan.com by anyone still insistent on using the antique browser.

Norton Internet SecurityThe way we've been able to keep our prices so low is by using technology to make our business efficient and streamlined. One of the things stopping that is our web team having to spend a lot of time making our new website look normal on IE7. This is an extremely old browser, so from today, anyone buying from the site who uses IE7 will be lumped with a 6.8% surcharge - that's 0.1% for each month IE7 has been on the market:

As Internet citizens, we all have a responsibility to make the Internet a better place. By taking these measures, we are doing our bit. This will help us increase our efficiency, help keep prices for all smart shoppers down, and hopefully help eradicate the world of the pain in the rear that is IE7!

So, what are you waiting for? Time to upgrade your browser!

Now we may all laugh at this at first, but think about it. If it takes me an extra hour or two to develop a site for an older browser. That is cost out of my pocket. So why not pass some of the expense on. By means of telling you you need to upgrade, Kogan is actually doing you a favor. Once, by added security, and again by saving you the cost he is imposing.

Now obviously this is a bit of a PR stunt. Those Aussie's are well known for pulling off lavish stunts like this just to garner a bit of fame around the world. But it does have some merit. I'd just like to seem him take it a step further and add in a warning for users of any dated browser not just IE7. I mean IE7 isn't really that old, or that bad. It has been a bit of a P.I.T.A. to code for but at least its not IE6 or early editions of some of the other browsers with loads of security holes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: NETGEAR WN3000RP Universal WiFi Range Extender

Wireless networking is a must have these days. Not only do devices like our laptops and desktops need a good solid network connection but now days tablets like the iPad, or gaming units like the PS3 even require them.

No matter how good our wireless routers have gotten over the years the one Achilles heel that almost every device has is still weak reception at a long distance or slower performance at the edges of wireless coverage. Enter Wireless access points and range extenders. The small devices can be placed to connect just about anywhere within range of a router and provide a boost of performance where the connection drops off. One such unit is the Netgear WN3000RP Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender.


The Netgear WN3000RP is a plug and play device that is no bigger than the wall socket it needs for power. It has quick and easy setup and allows you to extended your network well beyond its current reach.

NETGEAR WN3000RP Specifications and Features

  • Wireless Security: WiFi Protected Access (WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK) and WEP
  • Wireless Standards: 802.11 B/G/N 2.4ghz only (does not support 5ghz 802.11A)
  • Plug-and-play: Sets up in minutes, no need to insert a CD or plug in Ethernet cables
  • Push ‘N’ Connect: Push ‘N’ Connect using Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) connects computers and/or routers to the Extender quickly and securely
  • System Requirements:
    • 802.11 B/G/N wireless router, gateway or access point
    • Microsoft Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000, Mac OS, UNIX, or Linux.
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0, Firefox 2.0 or Safari 1.4 or higher.
  • Advanced Features:
    • Extend internet access for wireless devices through out your home.
    • Repeats 2.4ghz WiFi signal from your wireless router and access point.
    • 2 x External Antenna 1 x 10/100M Ethernet Port


The setup on almost any network device now days is as simple and straight forward as you can get and the NETGEAR WN3000RP is no different. You have two options:

Option A Using WPS: If you have a Netgear router with WPS advanced wireless setup things can't be easier. Simply plug the Universal Extender into an outlet that is the outer edge of your network coverage, power the Extender on by using the on/off button on the right side of the Extender. Push the WPS button on your router, and then push the WPS button on the Extender. The automated WPS will simply setup your Extender to connect to your router with a WPA2 pre-shared key and start sharing the routers wireless connection.  

The Extender needs to be within acceptable range of your existing wireless router. If the Extender is not within range of your wireless router, the Extender will not be able to connect to your router and extend the connection further. 

Option B Manual Setup: If like me you use customer router settings, or use a none Netgear branded router (I still use my Linksys E4200v2) or for that fact there is some reason your router doesn't support the WPS automated wireless setup then you will need to connect directly to the NETGEAR WN3000RP Extender either via wired or wireless.

I prefer to connect via wire, it just makes things a bit simpler. All you need to do is plug the device in out on the "fringe" of your network where you want to leave it, plug a cable into the network port on your Extender and then to a laptop or computer.  Once you are connected, open up your web browser and try to connect to any website, you will then be automatically re-directed to the www.mywifiext.net web page. This is the setup page for the Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender. If you are prompted to enter a password by default the user name is admin and the password is password.

If you want to connect wirelessly simply open up your wireless connection manager on your laptop or other wireless capable device and connect to the network connected titled NETGEAR_EXT. Once you are connected, open up your web browser and try to connect to any website, you will then be automatically re-directed to the www.mywifiext.net web page. This is the setup page for the Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender. If you are prompted to enter a password by default the user name is admin and the password is password.

Follow through the steps on the setup web page on, click save and the device will reboot. Once your NETGEAR WN3000RP is rebooted go back to your wireless connection manager on your laptop and now search for your SSID (or network connection) that you normally use, but this time you will see a new one with the SSID of yours with "_EXT" added onto it. That is the SSID for your wireless Extender. Setup this new SSID and have your wireless device automatically connect to it. Once this is done you should be able to seamlessly roam between your default SSID and your new extended SSID hopefully giving you fuller coverage and better speeds.

NETGEAR WN3000RP Performance

We have a love hate relationship with testing networking devices in or around our office. Unfortunately the area that we have available to test our network performance is really limited. So much so that it's hard to quantify testing. We have no areas that we are out of range of our Linksys E4200v2, and really have no way to push the NETGEAR WN3000RP to the outer limits of our network. That said, we did notice with the NETGEAR WN3000RP connected to some of the furthest areas of the office we saw better overall performance. We noticed an increase in both signal strength and download speeds. So even if it wasn't adding distance to our network it still added performance.

In a portion of our testing we actually used our extender as a wi-fi adapter. We connected it directly to a desktop that needed a wireless network connection. This is one scenario that many people forget about, having the single RJ-45 port on the device lets you use it as a wireless adapter for just about anything that doesn't already have a wireless connection. With this setup we were pleasantly surprised with the range the WN3000RP achieved and the speeds. We were able to stream videos seamlessly, with few if any noticeable interruptions. We also noticed a fairly reasonable boost in signal strength over the current Wireless G pci device the computer had been using. This was most likely due to fully utilizing the Wireless N capabilities of our router.


There are lots of factors that effect your wireless network and its range. What channels your router uses, the placement of the wireless router, and even interference issues from everyday items like cordless phones, microwave ovens, ect. all come into play as to how the wireless signal propagates through your home. A good range extender can definitely come in handy for those trying to extend coverage beyond the four walls or for those trying to cover multiple floors.

For me the NETGEAR WN3000RP Universal WiFi Range Extender held up to everything Netgear said it would. While we didn't get to thoroughly test the performance everything else worked as expected. Setup was quick and easy, we were able to use the extender in less than a few minutes right out of the box. So if all you want is to extend the wireless footprint in your home the Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender just maybe what you need to accomplish that. It has a good price tag, has a small foot print so you hardly know its there, and just about any home user can set it up.

NETGEAR WN3000RP Pricing and Availability

The WN3000RP WiFi Range Extender is available at most major online retailers. MSRP is $69.99 however pricing online ranges from $66.28 on Amazon to $66.58 on Newegg. For those looking to purchase in store you can get the extender at most major retailers including Best-But and Staples for $69.99

iFixit Teardown Of The New MacBook Pro, Describes It As Un-Repairable

At this year's WWDC event Apple launched the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Not wanting to waste anytime playing with it the guys over at iFixit have already done what they do best. They tore it apart!

Image Courtesy iFixit

I don't know how the guys over at iFixit get their hands on devices so quickly, but we are certainly glad they do. Earlier this week theu got their hands on one of the new, ridiculously powerful, ridiculously expensive MacBook Pros with Retina Display, and of cours promptly posted a MacBook Pro with Retina Display Teardown.

The good news, iFixit seems to agree with Apple, who has already proclaimed that this is the "best computer Apple has ever made." The bad news, aside from how pretty and well-made everything is, it is seemingly "the least repairable laptop iFixit has ever taken apart."

Some lowlights: As with previous Apple devices Apple has again gone above and beyond in making it difficult for consumers to even crack open their devices. The MacBook Pro with Retina display is guarded by Apple's proprietary pentalobe screws, which iFixit is well equipped to handle but most consumers might not be.

After prying the case open the news just gets worse. Apple has saw to it that the RAM is soldered down. This means that you won't be able to add RAM, nor would you be able to service the RAM if it fails. So anyone looking to go cheap and add-on later might rethink that idea and max their systems out at 16GBs now. To make matters worse the proprietary SSD isn't upgradeable either (yet), as it is similar but not identical to the one in the Macbook Air. It is a separate daughtercard, that is an Apple only design that so far no one has been able to find or replace.

To add to a DIY'ers misery is the surprising fact that the lithium-polymer battery is glued rather than screwed into the case, which increases the chances that it'll break during disassembly. The battery also covers the trackpad cable, which tremendously increases the chance that the user will shear the cable in the battery removal process. So if your battery goes bad, you'll have to ship your MacBook Pro off rather than risk breaking something else.

Last on the list is the display assembly is completely fused, and there’s no glass protecting it. If anything ever fails inside the display, you will need to replace the entire extremely expensive assembly. That means really bad news for those of us that are always breaking things!

For more details on what iFixit found checkout the full MacBook Pro with Retina Display Teardown.

Sony's Back To School Deal A Free PS3 or PS Vita With Sony Vaio Purchase

Companies are looking to cash in on those back to school shoppers and hope to sweeten the deal a bit by offering discounts on their other devices. Not only gaining a PC or laptop customer but gainign a gamers. So many are now offered free gaming consoles or even free software. If you are a Sony fan, and a gamer, that is looking for a new laptop or Ultrabook to take to school with you this year you could walk away with a free gaming console.

Microsoft might best be known for back to school promotions with the company's Xbox promotion. But this year Sony is offering up a deal that might lure away some shoppers. Sony announced that students and faculty who purchase an eligible VAIO machine will get to choose between a free PlayStation 3 160GB, a PlayStation Vita Wi-Fi, a $200 discount on select PlayStation gear, or or 8% off a Vaio PC purchase.

Sony back to school promotion

Several Ultrabooks and laptops qualify for the offer as well as a few all-in-one machines. The cheapest deal we could find is the Vaio 13.3″ T Series Custom Ultrabook that includes a Core i5-3317U running at 1.7GHz, 4GB RAM, 320GB hard drive, Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU, and 13.3-inch display. All for just $749.89 including a free carry case worth $50. The prices escalate beyond that right up to the $2,999.99 for the Vaio Z Series featuring a 13.1" Full HD display, 3rd gen Intel Core i7-3612QM (2.10/3.10GHz) , 8GB RAM and a 512GB (256GB x2) SSD. But in all cases you have the option of an additional device for free or discount off another purchase.

You can get the PS3 and Vita with a coupon code (FREEPS3 or FREEVITA), but you'll have to call Sony for more options (1-877-647-7699). Alternatively, CAMPUS8 offers a flat 8% discount on your purchase. Either way if you’re interested in seeing what Sony’s VAIO PCs have to offer or to get more info on the current promotion, pop on over to Sony’s website for the details.

Crytek Banking Future On Free-To-Play Games

Popular video game developer Crytek will soon be moving to a free-to-play only business model. All upcoming Crytek projects will consist exclusively of AAA free-to-play games, company CEO Cevat Yerli told Videogamer. This will take effect after the company's current projects area released which includes the latest addition to the Crysys line Crysis 3.

Yerli said:
"As we were developing console games we knew, very clearly, that the future is online and free-to-play. Right now we are in the transitional phase of our company, transitioning from packaged goods games into an entirely free-to-play experience.

What this entails is that our future, all the new games that we're working on, as well new projects, new platforms and technologies, are designed around free-to-play and online, with the highest quality development.

If you look at what kind of games are done in the packaged goods market, with DLCs and premium services and whatnot, it's literally milking the customers to death."

Once Crytek has completed its current contracts with traditional boxed products, the game developer will only produce F2P titles - supported by its new social gaming platform, GFACE. Crytek Kiev's multiplayer FPS title Warface is said to be the company's first foray into the free-to-play sector. Warface is A military shooter set in the near future, the game claims to offer a cinematic experience with next-gen visuals, artificial intelligence, and physics. It is expected to be released in 2012.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Postcard Marketing A Low Tech Approach For A High Tech World

This is our third post in a series of ideas for marketing your websites or blogs. We've discussed business cards, custom stickers and now I'm going really old school with postcards.

Now you might think being a tech geek I'd be pushing high tech marketing ideas and usually I would. But some of these low tech approaches can really pay dividends. They offer a bit more personal touch than just your everyday mass e-mailing. They are far less intrusive than e-mail, have less competition and of course are a bit more hands on as your recipient can't just click to trash it.

If you run a small business, website or forum that asks users to sign-up with a mailing address these little cards can produce a surge of traffic to your web site or a flood of high-quality sales leads. For businesses you can print postcards with tons of information on sales or special promotions or even coupons. For websites you can add in smaller things like incentives such as free gifts or drawings for checking out your site or responding with emails.

Your postcards don't even have to be marketing material, you can have postcards printed up as birthday cards to send out to forum members or customers on your mailing list. In the tech age sometimes it's the thought that counts and these personal touches have bigger meaning than just that random birthday email!

USPS has the following tips for an effective postcard marketing campaign

  • Make sure they’re eye-catching: Your postcard doesn’t have to be art, but it helps if it’s attractive. Adding a high quality photo or other image will help
  • Keep it simple: It’s a postcard, not a novel. Pretend every word is costing you $500. A jumble of information won’t do it. Simple, bold headlines like “Fall Fashions Are In!” or “50% Off Cookware” work best - then explain where, when and a few other details
  • Timing is everything: Messages such as “Your Service Contract Expires June 1” work great - if you have a timely message of some kind for your customers, use it
  • There are two-sides to that card: Be sure to use both sides of your postcard, but not every inch. Use one side like a poster and the other for a few details. Or put an ad on one side and a personal message on the other
  • Double duty: A postcard can double as a coupon, gift certificate or event ticket. Ask people to present the card to claim an offer. It’s an easy way to measure effectiveness

The bottom line is marketing methods don’t have to be high-tech or expensive in order to be effective. For many types of startup ventures, a simple and cost-effective direct mail postcard marketing campaign might prove just the ticket for kick-starting company sales or website visits.

LinkedIn Password Breach What You Need To Know

LinkedIn has confirmed that hackers have gained access to some of the social network's passwords. While all these passwords were protected by SHA-1 encryption, hackers have been able to crack that encryption and have now been posting the exact passwords and logins of some of the 6million or so users that were affected.

"We can confirm that some of the passwords that were compromised correspond to LinkedIn accounts," LinkedIn director Vincente Silveira wrote in a blog post. "We are continuing to investigate this situation."

By now affected members should have received an email with instructions on how to reset their passwords; as their current passwords will not work. They will also receive an email with more information on what happened. The catch is that now, we are seeing an influx of spam and other malicious emails trying to trick seemingly unaffected users into clicking malicious links so that phishers can steal their passwords. So users need to be vigilant, that those official looking LinkedIn emails may not be the real thing.

You should go directly to the LinkedIn home page to change any login information and verify that the page is secure with an HTTPS url. Do not BLINDLY click links in any emails you receive!

Was my LinkedIn account breached?

The company did not confirm how many passwords were involved, though it reportedly affected about 6 million (some reports suggest 8 million passwords could have been compromised) of LinkedIn's 161 million users. In previously reports it was said that a user in a Russian forum uploaded as many as 6,458,020 hashed LinkedIn passwords and that those passwords have since been deciphered. LinkedIn has not yet confirmed that usernames and/or emails were part of the breach but it is safe to assume that there is a very good likely hood that they were. So whether you, received an email from LinkedIn or not you should change your password just in case.

Password management firm LastPass created a password checker tool for LinkedIn, and one for eHarmony. LastPass will run your password against the database of leaked passwords, and see if they can find a match. It will alert you even if your password has not yet been cracked. If it shows your password as being on the list then you'll need to take the steps to change your LinkedIn password but even if it doesn't I strongly suggest you do so no matter what.

What has been leaked?

As of right now LinkedIn is not confirming any other details of the breach. So it isn't certain if user information, emails or anything else was leaked. The database that was breached likely only contained usernames and passwords, making it unlikely that the hackers obtained any personal information about the affected LinkedIn users. Honestly though, until LinkedIn completes their investigation into the breach we just don't know.

LinkedIn Spam and Phishing

The New York Times is reporting that criminals are already using the lifted LinkedIn accounts to send emails to others. The emails ask people to click on a link to "confirm" their email address, when in fact the links take users to scam websites.LinkedIn denied these claims and said it had not received "verified reports of unauthorized access" to its users' accounts. So far there is no true connection to the data breach since these are similar emails to on-going phishing scams.

"Because similar e-mails have been circulating for some time, it is hard to say if this is an example of a coordinated scam designed to leverage the security breach made public [Wednesday], or simply a coincidence (like getting a phishing e-mail asking you to reset your Bank of America online banking password two days after you opened an account there)," Cameron Camp, a security researcher at Eset, wrote in a company blog.

Aware that clicking on links in e-mails is a bad security practice, LinkedIn is using a two-step process. Users affected by the breach first receive an e-mail without any links in it. It informs the member that they must reset their password and provides them with steps for doing so. After completing those steps and requesting password assistance, the member will receive a second e-mail with a password reset link.

"It is worth noting that the affected members who update their passwords and members whose passwords have not been compromised benefit from the enhanced security we just recently put in place, which includes hashing and salting of our current password databases," LinkedIn’s director, Vicente Silveira, wrote in a company blog.

More than just LinkedIn has been affected!

Popular dating website eHarmony and the British-based music site Lastfm.com have also confirmed data breaches stating that some of their user accounts were also compromised and urged members to change their passwords. It's currently unclear how the breaches are related and few details have been offered about the attack itself, with the companies saying they are continuing to investigate the situation.

Last.fm users can switch their passwords by logging in and accessing the "Settings" page, or by reporting their password as lost. In the site's announcement, Last.fm re-emphasized these are the only means for password changes: "We will never e-mail you a direct link to update your settings or ask for your password."

iPhone 4 Hits The Prepaid Market

The Apple iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s have hit the prepaid market in a big way with Cricket and Virgin Mobile offering customers a chance at buying Apple's marquee device without the need for a contract from the big three.

But is anyone buying and should they? Yes and Yes!

Later this month cell phone users not wanting to be tied to a long term contract but still wanting to get their hands on one of the hottest phones on the market will have the chance. Cricket, owned by Leap Wireless, and Virgin Mobile, will both be offering the iPhone 4 and 4s as a pre-paid no contract device.

These devices won't come cheap though! Cricket is charging $500 and $400 for the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4, respectively. While Virgin Mobile is offering the two models for $649 and $549. This is a significantly higher upfront cost for the phone, which can be had right now at one of the big three for as low as $99, but the overall cost might mean big savings in the long run.

Virgin Mobile, will be offering users willing to pay the higher upfront fees, the option of using their cheapest plan priced at $30 a month. With this plant the total cost over two years would be $1,369. At Leap, it's $1,868.99 for their cheapest plan (its plan offers unlimited calling). In comparison, AT&T and Verizon's closest comparable plans would cost $2,359.75 over the life of the service contract (they both offer slightly more minutes than Virgin). That means iPhone customers could save anywhere between $800 and a $1000 over the course of two years. Not to shabby hey!

For users wanting a bit more talk time than the low end Virgin plan the Virgin’s $40 a month plan is a real winner. You don’t get Cricket’s unlimited minutes, you'll get 1200 minuets to be exact. Which is till more than the big carriers, and you’ll pay almost $200 less over the course of 24 months than you would on Cricket. One downside is that customers only get 2.5GB of data before Virgin throttles, or slows down, the wireless connection.

So if you can stomach the large upfront cost, there are some excellent benefits down the line.

Cricket will be offering pre-sales will beginning online June 15 and selling prepaid iPhones beginning on June 22. Virgin Mobile will begin selling their iPhones on June 29th.

Nasdaq Refunding $40million Over Facebook IPO

Nasdaq will offer $40 million in refunds due to technical problems that plagued users on the first day of the Facebook IPO. An issue that has caused much uproar and at least one lawsuit. Nasdaq CEO Robert Greifeld explained to CNBC that the company will be offering cash and credit refunds totaling $40 million as compensation for the problems, with $14 million in cash going to investment companies that bought or sold shares (or tried to, unsuccessfully) during the troubled period.

Greifeld told CNBC that the company has been “embarrassed” by what happened, adding “certainly, we apologize to the industry.” Well, part of the industry, at least; Greifeld went on to say that, “as an exchange, we have registered broker-dealers as our customers. The registered broker-dealers have the retail and institutional investors. So as we look to our accommodation policy, we’re not privy to what happened at the retail level. So we obviously can only focus on what we see, and that’s our transaction with our member customers.”

Which is to say: Sorry, individual investors – None of this $40 million is for you. Greifiled and Nasdaq are in essence saying they have no direct responsibility to individual investors

On the first day of Facebook trading, technical glitches left the market makers — who facilitate trades for brokers and are crucial to the smooth operation of stock trading — in the dark for hours as to which trades had gone through. As a result, trading was delayed until 11:30 am on the morning of the IPO. Confirmations of those initial trades of 70 million shares didn’t post until 1:50 pm, Greifeld explained.

Some investors also say they did not receive proper prices or trade sizes as a result of the technical problems with the IPO which has prompted Phillip Goldberg, a Maryland investor, to file a lawsuit against the exchange company.

The proposal, already approved by the exchange's directors, still needs the stamp of approval from the Securities & Exchange Commission. However several companies including the NYSE and investment company Knight Capital have already hinted at the likelihood of challenging the plan as being severely inadequate.

While the $40 million amount is far more than usual for a situation like this: Nasdaq has traditionally imposed a $3 million cap for reimbursing customers who lost money because of technical problems. The amount is barely a fraction of the overall value that was reportedly lost by investment firms. Knight Capital alone has estimated that it lost as much as $35 million because of Nasdaq's glitches. Other trading firms argue they are owed -- closer to $100 million.

Related Articles:

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Ultrabooks and Convertible Tablets All The Rage At Computex 2012

The Computex 2012 conference in Taiwan featured tons of the latest gadgets from some of the biggest names in the industry. Just about everyone showcased new gadgets all ripe and ready to get geeks salivating. Amongst the most talked about devices this year were convertible tablets and ultrabooks.

Each year, major players in the IT world visit Computex to launch their new products. Since a large portion of the businesses in the world have research and deployment centers or production facilities in Taiwan, this exhibition attracts observers, analysts, and journalists of computer and information industries from all over the world to discover and report the latest technologies, developments, and trends. Almost every year you will see the latest trends from major developers and this year is no different, just about everywhere you look you see the major manufactures releasing similar products.

This year's two top trends seem to be convertible tablets, that is to say tablets with attachable or detachable keyboards or slide or flip type models. We also see the addition of several new "ultrabooks" even a few convertible models with removable keyboards and even dual screens .

Ultrabooks are here to stay!

When Intel announced the ultrabook concept at Computex in 2011 it was unclear if they would take off. The ultra-slim, ultra portable notebooks bore a higher than usual price tag which immediately placed them into their own niche category. If this year's Computex is any indication the "ultrabook" has broken through and is here to stay! At this year's Computex almost every major PC vendor introduced a new ultrabook and Intel says that there are now more than 35 ultrabook systems available or soon to be, with more than 110 designs expected in the next year.

Intel Corporation Senior Vice President Tom Kilroy officially introduced the next wave of ultrabook systems during a keynote address. One of the new features Intel is pushing for the new devices is touch-enabled technology. Intel believes that touch capability is a key component to the ultrabook experience and will be increasingly important across a wide range of devices. Kilroy said touch will also help fuel even more innovation and new experiences, particularly for ultrabook convertibles.

Kilroy outlined a slew of new features OEMs must include in any Ivy Bridge-based PC they want to market as an ultrabook. Intel’s Anti-Theft and Identity Protection technology, for instance, must be delivered out of the box, along with the company’s enterprise-focused vPro PC management system. All next-generation ultrabooks must also come equipped with USB 3.0 capabilities and Intel’s Thunderbolt input/output technology for faster content transfer and loading. Specifications surrounding battery life and thickness remain intact; all ultrabooks must be less than 21 millimeters or 0.8 inches thick and deliver at least five hours of battery life.

While the ultrabook name is meant purely as an Intel marketing strategy and branding several companies are also introducing, super thin, super lightweight AMD based units, which can't officially bear the title "ultrabook" but are going to be considered by most as ultrabooks none the same.

Convertible tablets make a major splash

The second major player of Computex were the convertible tablets or hybrid laptops. Several vendors, including ASUS, Smasung and Lenovo showcased tablets with detachable keyboards or convertible laptops that let you flip the laptop screen over when you’re done typing so that you can use them as a tablet. While these aren't new, we saw several new offerings from companies that weren't previously represented in this category.

ASUS made a big splash with the all new ASUS Taichi. A true dual screen notebook featuring two independent screens, either 11.6" or 13.3", one on each side of its lid. The displays can show different content and can be used by two different users at the same time. The company also introduced the Tablet 600, a device in the company's "transformer" range that can change from tablet to laptop by featuring a detachable keyboard and the ASUS Transformer Book a convertible ultrabook — allowing users to instantly switch between a ultrabook and a tablet by simply detaching the screen.

Lenovo, decided to throw their hat into the hybrid laptop arena with their IdeaPad Yoga PC, which the company showed off for the first time at CES 2012. The product is a hybrid of an Ultrabook-based notebook with a tablet. The screen is designed to swivel so that you can use it as a regular notebook with a physical keyboard and then flip the screen around so you can use it as a rather large touch screen tablet.

Samsung unveiled several new devices including two tablets with attachable keyboards that are scheduled to arrive in markets in October. The two tablets, called the Samsung Series 5 Hybrid PC and the Samsung Series 7 Hybrid PC, both run Windows 8 and feature 11.6 inch touchscreens. Along with the tablets, Samsung showed off a convertible laptop device with a touchscreen. The Samsung Notebook Series 5 Ultra Convertible is built with a 360-degree hinge, allowing the notebook to flip into a tablet.

It's unsure if these "convertible" models will see any success. Some models, notably the Dell Inspiron Duo, (which we thought had potential) have been major flops. The one exception to that rule is ASUS' widely popular Transformer and Transformer Prime. While not specifically convertible tablets they do offer an attachable keyboard that has been seen as a popular add-on to the devices.

Press Releases:

Monday, June 04, 2012

Asus Teams With BlueStacks For Android App Support

According to AllThingsD ASUS has recently inked a deal with BlueStacks, the creator of a popular Android emulator, to include Android app support on all of the companies soon to be released Windows 8 PCs.

ASUS will be pre-loading all of their upcoming Windows 8 PCs with the BlueStacks App player which features a software emulator that allows Android applications to run on Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista and XP OSes. Users will have a 6 month trial of the software which provides full support for Google Android and 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, Words With Friends and Draw Something.

At the end of the 6 month trial customers must pay a subscription fee (amount yet to be disclosed) to continue unfettered app access. If they don't pay, BlueStacks will still work but with far fewer apps available -- about 50 or so of the top apps. Not to leave anyone out ASUS has said legacy computers already in the marketplace will get BlueStacks as soon as the app player is available in asus@vibe. The first ASUS computers to ship with BlueStacks integrated are expected to be running Windows 7, shipping in September, and Windows 8, when it becomes available sometime during the third quarter this year.

If the BlueStacks name sound familiar it should. I recently took the beta version of the BlueStacks App Player for a test run. While I was impressed with how well it ran Android apps under Windows I wasn't totally sold on the application. Hopefully the ASUS release will alleviate some of the areas of concern I had which were mainly cosmetics and could have been largely due to the "beta tag" placed on the software.

Bloggers Use Custom Stickers For More Exposure

Custom stickers can be a cheap easy way to build product awareness, gain branding and as a great overall marketing tool for just about anyone. Custom stickers can be made into different promotional items and create the visibility you want for your business or blog. They are easy to share, can offer great product placement and if used properly can help your blog or website gain some well needed attention all on the cheap.

Cheap Product Placement!
Where else can you get very targeted product placement for so cheap. It use to be that you had to order everything in bulk and only major businesses could afford to design and print their own decals and stickers. Nowadays several sites offer a variety of packages for custom sticker printing. In same case you have the option of smaller orders with as few as 25 stickers or going bulk with several thousand. This allows for smaller companies and sites the opportunity to have personalized stickers printed for fairly cheap.

Targeted Audiences
Geeks I'm sure you remember the days when case stickers were all the rage? Alongside our hardware we got freebies from manufactures to showcase what we had installed in our otherwise plain jane looking computer cases. We'd take these cases with us to gaming sessions and our friends would want to checkout what we were packing. Custom stickers can work to showcase your business to a very specific audience.

When was the last time you watched a car race and didn't see a ton of stickers on a car? Well for us Geeks we have several untapped resources for showing off our product support, or promoting our sites. Think about how much unused real estate there is on the back of your own cellphones, tablets or notebooks. Bloggers, by adding in a few well placed stickers we can use our own devices to showcase our own sites. Think of it, a few Geek News stickers placed on a new notebook or tablet at one of the many conferences could potentially net us several hundred new readers. These are generally people in the tech world that carry major influence. If those readers love our blog as much as we do they can drive hundreds more readers. All that exposure for pennies on the dollar thanks to some well designed custom stickers.

Convenient and Versatile
One of the most pivotal aspects of personalized stickers or decals is that they are convenient and versatile. For a few cents you can send them to just about anyone in the world and they can be placed on just about any surface. Stickers have a way of offering more “bang” for the marketing “buck” than traditional forms of advertising, as custom stickers have the potential to wind up on all kinds of common, everyday surfaces, such as car bumpers, laptops, water-bottles, telephone poles, and more. You can print decals and stickers, send them off to friends and family or even just readers and they can instantly become walking talking advertisements for you.

Recently I discussed the need for business cards in the digital age, in that post I said one of the major benefits to having business cards is that you have visual representation of who you are. With stickers or decals you can attract some of that same attention and even go a bit further. A well designed logo for a sticker might not only be visually stunning and attention grabbing but you may even end up with one of those rate images and/or phrases with the potential to go viral.

Hopefully this gives some of our readers and fellow bloggers some ideas on way to make the most of their marketing dollars and maximize their returns. Sometimes we have to think outside the box and return to some of the good old ideas that worked well in the past.

EA Makes Portion of Star Wars: The Old Republic Free To Play

Electronic Arts' Star Wars: The Old Republic has hardly turned out to be the blockbuster the company had hoped for. In order to bolster subscribers willing to spend a monthly fee to play the online title the company has taken an ambitious approach announcing that in July major portion of the game will be open for all players to play free.

Rent Video Games Online with GameFly.com!EA has struggled to get "Star Wars: The Old Republic" off the ground since its December launch. Just last month the company announced it had lost 400,000 subscribers in its fiscal fourth quarter. Moving to a partially free to play plan might be the jumpstart the game needs. The announcement follows similar decisions made by other developers of the so-called massively multiplayer online game genre, or MMO, which lets millions of gamers play the game together.

From July, EA will offer 15 "levels" for free, meaning gamers will be able to join and play the beginning phases of the game without paying.

In addition to offering free to play content, EA and Star Wars: The Old Republic producer Bioware, have said they will be adding new content such as PvP warzones to the game, more challenging group and high-level content a new version of Nightmare difficulty, new companion characters, playable species, and more.

The free-to-play announcement was one of many at EA's press conference. FIFA 13, Dead Space 3, and new versions of SimCity, Madden Football, and Need for Speed were demoed, while an agreement with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to produce fighting games and a premium service for Battlefield 3 players were unveiled.

New Facebook Lawsuit Accuses Zuckerberg Of Insider Trading

A new class action lawsuit has been filed in the Facebook IPO fiasco, this time taking things a step further than the previous lawsuits by directly suing Mark Zuckerberg, claiming that the Facebook founder used insider knowledge to unload more than a $1 billion worth of massively overvalued stock.

According to the reports by TMZ.com, the lawsuit alleges that Zuckerberg and Facebook's management knew that the site couldn't draw in enough advertising revenues to support the stock's $38 IPO share price, and that Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, and Goldman Sachs all warned them about it. Using that inside information, it is alleged that Zuckerberg moved to quickly unload shares, in a dirty billion-dollar move.

FB closed at $27.72 a share and was down 27 percent since going public this past Friday and hit record lows again today before rebounding slightly. The stock price has fallen in all but three sessions since shares began trading, and it reached a new intraday low at $26.44, 30.4 percent lower than the IPO price.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Business Cards In The Digital Age

You have to ask yourself are business cards still a viable networking option in this digital age we live in. Almost everyone carries a smartphone with instant access to emails, phone numbers and even your website. So is it worth it to spend the money for graphics, printing and the hassle of carrying them around. Surprisingly this Geek is going to say yes, and the reasons why might surprise you a bit.

Personal Touch and Feel
With this digital lifestyle we all lead you might be surprised how, when properly executed and maximized, business cards can still be used as very effective tools for advertising your websites and services. Business cards add a bit more of a personal touch, a face if you will, for you and your company, one that just giving out your electronic information doesn't achieve.

Think of it this way, how many times have you added a contacts information only to forget who that person was, or what their company represented in the first place? With a properly executed business card you give your contacts a snapshot of who you are. Something they can look back on that will jog their memory of just why they wanted to reach out to you in the first place.

Low Cost and High Quality
The cost for business card printing has gone down, all while the quality of the cards and the graphics has gone up. Gone are those days when you had to pay a lot to get a decent looking card with just some basic information that just barely worked to inform your market that you exist. Nowadays, you can get high quality designs for relatively cheap. There are even websites that give them for free, although we suggest paying for your cards so you can add that personal look and feel.

Additionally if you have a nice business class printer you can quickly and easily print high quality cards in your own office. The quality of printers these days is exceptional allowing for many businesses to do their business card printing in office. You won’t have all the features available as you would if you paid for professional business card printing, but you also don’t have some of the requirements.

Always on Advertising
A business card is an “always on” advertisement. Unlike electronic contacts where they go into your phone or on your computer most people tend to keep business cards in a case on their desktop or another similarly easy to spot location. This means that while your contact information might be in their phone, it won’t be in their minds. Nor will it achieve placement that others might see it.

I often get business cards from people that I run into during my daily activities or at events and forget that I’ve had them and while looking through other items just happen to spot their card and have some work for them. This would rarely happen with an electronic contact. I’ve also had cards sitting on my desk when clients, friends or relatives pay a visit and have had them inquire about the card or company. This is something that just doesn’t happen with digital information.

It’s all in the Details
Every good businessman or marketer knows the details are key to the sale. Having the ability to hand a new contact a nice high quality card that looks presentable and attention-grabbing could mean the difference between grabbing a deal and ending up in the unknown folder. How often do you meet a new contact and give them all of your pertinent information at once? Rarely right!

With a good well designed card you can list almost anything and everything that that person needs to know about you and your company. Things like your blog and URL. Your e-mail address, phone numbers, cell phone number, fax number and even the physical address of the business. You can, and should, list the services you offer. If you are a painter you can have one of your own personal paintings scanned and printed on the business card. If you are a writer you might write some witticism. The possibilities are endless. Try that with a passing digital contact exchange.

Let’s face it almost every known businessman out there still uses business cards. So clearly having business cards printed just makes a bit of sense. I mean if it works for Donald Trump, Bill Gates and President Obama it should work for you!

Microsoft Confirms $15 Windows 8 Upgrade Promotion

As speculated on a few weeks ago, Microsoft has confirmed the rumors regarding the Windows 8 Upgrade Promotion.

Starting this weekend consumers purchasing a qualifying new Windows 7 PC will be given the option to purchase a downloadable upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $14.99. The new Windows 7 PCs must feature preinstalled copies of Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate and include a matching and valid OEM Certificate of Authenticity in order to be eligible.

Per Microsoft’s Press Release today:
”Microsoft Corp. today announced the availability of the Windows Upgrade Offer for consumers purchasing a qualifying new Windows 7 PC. The Windows Upgrade Offer provides consumers who buy an eligible Windows 7 PC the option to purchase a downloadable upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of just $14.99 (U.S.) during the time of the promotion, which will be redeemable when Windows 8 is generally available. The Windows Upgrade Offer is just the first of many consumer offers that will roll out in conjunction with the general availability of Windows 8.”

“We’ve seen a great interest in Windows 8, especially given the availability of the Windows 8 Release Preview this week, and yet we know many consumers want a new PC now,” said Tami Reller, chief marketing officer and chief financial officer of Windows at Microsoft. “The Windows Upgrade Offer gives people the flexibility to purchase the new Windows 7 PC they need today, with the knowledge they can easily get Windows 8 when it’s available.”

“This program begins tomorrow in 131 markets including the U.S. and Canada and is available for consumers buying new Windows 7 PCs that are preinstalled with Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate and include a matching and valid OEM Certificate of Authenticity. The Windows 7 PC must be purchased new during the eligibility period June 2, 2012–Jan. 31, 2013, and redeemed before the program expiration at the end of February 2013. Consumers who register for the Windows Upgrade Offer will be able to download Windows 8 starting the day it is made available generally. The upgrade can be installed on any eligible and compatible Windows PC and comes with 90 days of support from Microsoft.”

The Windows 8 Upgrade Promotion will be valid June 2, 2012 through January 31, 2013, for complete details visit http://windowsupgradeoffer.com.

Microsoft blog post: The Windows 8 Release Preview & Windows Upgrade Offer - #windows8
Dell: Windows 8 Upgrade program is here!
HP: Buy a Windows 7 PC, Get Windows 8 Pro for $14.99

Google Accuses Microsoft, Nokia Of Conspiring Against Android

Google has filed a complaint with the European Commission (EU), accusing Nokia and Microsoft of patent abuse against the Android platform. At the heart of the complaint is the accusation that both companies are using "patent trolls" or third party companies to bring lawsuits that stifle competition.

"Nokia and Microsoft are colluding to raise the costs of mobile devices for consumers, creating patent trolls that side-step promises both companies have made," a Google spokesman said in a statement. "They should be held accountable, and we hope our complaint spurs others to look into these practices."

The complaint isn't an actual lawsuit, but rather informational reports, sent to regulators in the EU that Google hopes will make them aware of actions that they believe are anti-competitive. Google submitted the documents to preempt Microsoft and Nokia from using proxies to wage patent wars against companies that might otherwise use Android.

According to reports by CNet Google's main concern is over patents being sold to third party "patent firms" which make money licensing patents and collecting royalties from other companies (ie patent tolls).

Nokia just sold 2,000 wireless patents and patent applications to a company called Mosaid. A Canadian patent firm that, makes its money by licensing patents and collecting royalties, sometimes via lawsuit. Google worries that the essential patents now held by Mosaid will be used as a tool to fight against Android, rather than being shared on reasonable terms.

Microsoft's response so far is: 

"Google is complaining about patents when it won't respond to growing concerns by regulators, elected officials and judges about its abuse of standard-essential patents, and it is complaining about antitrust in the smartphone industry when it controls more than 95 percent of mobile search and advertising," Microsoft said in a statement. "This seems like a desperate tactic on their part."

CNet says Mosaid is not the only company on Google's radar. Nokia sold 450 patents and patent applications to Sisvel in January. And Rockstar, a consortium that includes Microsoft and Apple, won 6,000 patents and patent applications from Nortel, the bankrupt Canadian telecom equipment maker, and received permission from regulators in March to close the deal.

Honest Opinions From Geek News

Personally I really think these patent wars are going to come to a head and there will be a breaking point. At some point either the companies involved have to come to an agreement or the regulating bodies have to force a compromise. Right now the market is lively and consumers are hungry, we have choices and we are content. If one company wins out and achieves a blockade over another then we might not be and we might see a need for some serious action.

I've said this before, though I'm sure I'll say it again, I don't recall patents being the hot topic they are today. I'm not sure if there was less actionable infringement or just less press? Either way, it would seem as we are keeping an eye open on the goings on with the patent wars more than ever. The worst part is in the end it is the consumer, the everyday Geek that looses out!

Further Reading:
Google alleges Microsoft, Nokia are abusing mobile patents in complaint filed in Europe
Google accuses Microsoft, Nokia of patent 'trolling'
Google Files Complaint in Europe Against Microsoft, Nokia

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Slacker Radio Now Available on Roku ‎

Slacker, Inc. today announced the launch of Slacker Radio on Roku, the leading streaming platform in the U.S. Slacker Radio listeners in the U.S. and Canada can now enjoy the personal radio service on Roku’s popular streaming players.

The Slacker Radio lineup includes more than 200 expert-curated music stations, personalized ESPN Radio and ABC News stations, comedy programming, custom artist-hosted showcase stations and leading music festival stations. With a music catalog that is more than 10 times larger than the leading radio competitor, Slacker Radio offers more personalized content than any other radio service.

“We want to give our listeners access to Slacker wherever they happen to be, and launching on the Roku platform is a big step forward for us in the connected home,” said Jonathan Sasse, senior vice president of marketing at Slacker. “We are excited to deliver Slacker Radio as a free service for Roku owners, effective immediately.”

“Slacker Radio brings an impressive selection of Internet radio programming to Roku and we expect it to quickly become a customer favorite,” said Ed Lee, vice president of business development at Roku. “Customers can find and add the Slacker Radio channel from the Roku Channel Store starting today.”

Delivering entertainment to millions of customers, Roku streaming players are affordable, are easy to use, and feature more than 500 channels of entertainment.

In addition to Roku, Slacker Radio is available for listening on the web, on all major smartphones including iPhone, Android and BlackBerry, the iPad, Ford vehicles with SYNC AppLink and more. To get the free Slacker mobile application, simply direct your mobile web browser to http://www.Slacker.com.

Windows 8 Release Preview Now Live

As posted yesterday it was leaked that Microsoft was planning on releasing the final build of Windows 8 to would be testers. Earlier today the Windows 8 Release Preview site went live and the full download is now available.

Windows 8 Release Preview Setup will check to see if your PC can run Windows 8 Release Preview and select the right download. Setup also features a compatibility report and upgrade assistance. Make sure your devices are connected to your PC and turned on before you run Setup. Built-in tools for creating an ISO or bootable flash drive are available for some previous versions of Windows (excluding Windows XP and earlier). You can find system requirements and additional information in the FAQ and in the links on this page.

Note before you download: Windows 8 Release Preview is prerelease software that may be substantially modified before it’s commercially released. Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided here. Some product features and functionality may require additional hardware or software.

If you would prefer not to use Windows 8 Release Preview Setup, you can download Windows 8 Release Preview in ISO format instead.

64-bit (x64)  Download (3.3 GB)  Sha 1 hash — 0xD76AD96773615E8C504F63564AF749469CFCCD57

32-bit (x86) Download (2.5 GB)  Sha 1 hash — 0x8BED436F0959E7120A44BF7C29FF0AA962BDEFC9


I strongly suggest that anyone that plans on downloading and testing the release preview backs up their system before hand and/or does not test it on a crucial system. There have been no reports of issues but this is still software that is in the testing phase and it might not work with all your applications and recovering from the update might be a tremendously tedious process.

For more details about the release preview checkout this post on the Windows 8 blog "Delivering the Windows 8 Release Preview"