Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Valve Wants To Change The Face Of Home Gaming

The popular gaming development company Valve, the brainchild behind Steam, has promised gamers three game changing announcements this week. We now have details of the first two, with the first being the new SteamOS and now the second being a new line of home gaming consoles known as Steam Machines.

Details as to what we can expect to see in the first round of Steam Machines is a bit sparse, but here’s what we know so far: The hardware beta, only includes Valve's version of the Steam Machine, there won't be options for different configurations from different manufactures at this time. All the machines will run the newly announced SteamOS.

The beta testing of the new devices will begin later this year with 300 lucky participants. To qualify for the early prototype, Steam users must complete Valve's "eligibility quest." That involves joining the Steam Universe community group; agreeing to the company's hardware beta terms and conditions; having or making at least 10 friends on Steam; creating a public Steam Community profile; and, lastly, playing a game with a gamepad using Steam's Big Picture mode.

Sign-ups have already opened and all of your steps must be done before October 25 to be eligible to receive a Steam Machine prototype and become eligible to participate in the hardware beta. Valve will choose the 300 participants, starting first with 30 individuals chosen based on past community contributions and beta participation while the rest will be random. 

As for Valve's third announcement, a new countdown kicked off just as today's expired, leaving another 48 hours before the final piece of news.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Google Explains Outages As "Dual Network Failure"

Google users may have experienced several delays with their email and possibly even other Google related services yesterday. While today things seem back to normal we now how a bit of an explanation as to what happened. Google has blamed the outage on "dual network failure", exactly what that might mean is as of yet completely unclear.

Google issued the official apology yesterday via the official Gmail Blog. The company explained that only 29% of messages were delayed by a couple of seconds, with only 1.5% of all messages being critically delayed by a couple of hours. The issue lasted for about 8 hours, starting at around 5:30 am PST. Additionally, the company went further in detail explaining what had happened, by issuing this statement:

On September 24th, many Gmail users received an unwelcome surprise: some of their messages were arriving slowly, and some of their attachments were unavailable. We’d like to start by apologizing—we realize that our users rely on Gmail to be always available and always fast, and for several hours we didn’t deliver. We have analyzed what happened, and we’ll tell you about it below. In addition, we’re taking several steps to prevent a recurrence.

The message delivery delays were triggered by a dual network failure. This is a very rare event in which two separate, redundant network paths both stop working at the same time. The two network failures were unrelated, but in combination they reduced Gmail’s capacity to deliver messages to users, and beginning at 5:54 a.m. PST messages started piling up. Google’s automated monitoring alerted the Gmail engineering team within minutes, and they began investigating immediately. Together with the networking team, the Gmail team restored some of the network capacity that was lost and worked to repurpose additional capacity, clearing much of accumulated message backlog by 1:00 p.m. PST and the remainder by shortly before 4:00 p.m. PST.

The impact on users’ Gmail experience varied widely. Most messages were unaffected—71% of messages had no delay, and of the remaining 29%, the average delivery delay was just 2.6 seconds. However, about 1.5% of messages were delayed more than two hours. Users who attempted to download large attachments on affected messages encountered errors. Throughout the event, Gmail remained otherwise available — users could log in, read messages which had been delivered, send mail, and access other features.

What’s next? Our top priority is ensuring that Gmail users get the experience they expect: fast, highly-available email, anytime they want it. We're taking steps to ensure that there is sufficient network capacity, including backup capacity for Gmail, even in the event of a rare dual network failure. We also plan to make changes to make Gmail message delivery more resilient to a network capacity shortfall in the unlikely event that one occurs in the future. Finally, we’re updating our internal practices so that we can more quickly and effectively respond to network issues. We’ll be working on all of these improvements and more over the next few weeks—even including this event, Gmail remains well above 99.9% available, and we intend to keep it that way!

For most users a Gmail outage is always a big deal, and a major concern. End users and companies alike are often affected and these delays can grind a company relying upon the service to a halt. Even though Gmail’s disruption was limited to a small portion of messages and service such as Google Docs and Google presentations – the company has confirmed there should be no loss of data, messages or otherwise and all services are now up and running smoothly.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Google Wallet Updated To Focus Less On NFC

Google has announced a newly updated version of Google Wallet is now available for 'all Android devices' running Android 2.3 or higher. The new app shows less focus on NFC dropping the previous requirements of an NFC chip with a secure element, something only Nexus devices and about 12 other, mostly Samsung phones had.

This new update makes the app compatible with the vast majority of Android handsets currently on the market and adds compatibility with several carrier devices that had all but been block. Carriers had been declaring all-out war on Google Wallet, with three of the big four (Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile) banning it outright from their phones in favor of ISIS, a competing solution that has yet to be released.

New App New Focus
 While Google really hasn't changed the way Wallet works. Paying for stuff at a terminal will still require you to have one of the select few phones with NFC and be using a carrier that hasn't banned it. What Google has done is add features that non-NFC equipped phones can use. You can now send money to an e-mail address, just like PayPal. There is also increased focus on the use of loyalty cards which can be scanned directly into the app. Several companies including Alaska Airlines, Belly, and Red Mango will allow you to join their program directly within the Google Wallet app. For these, and several upcoming merchants, you will be able to view your loyalty status, rewards point balance and in the coming days, Google Now will notify you when you have a saved loyalty program nearby.

Sending Money PayPal Style
Google recently announced the ability to send money in Gmail using Google Wallet. Now, with the Google Wallet app, you can easily and securely send money on the go much the same as you would with PayPal. As with PayPal it will be free to send money directly from your bank account or Google Wallet Balance, with what are promised to be low fees applied when using your linked credit or debit card.

Doing What Google Wallet Is Best At
One thing that hasn't changed much is the overall backbone of the new Google Wallet app. As mentioned you can still use NFC and a supported device (and carrier) to make payments. You can also see all your purchases made with Google Wallet in one place:
  • In-store purchases: If you have one of the 29 different NFC-enabled devices, you can continue to tap and pay at hundreds of thousands of US locations, while also enjoying the new Wallet features. We also have more NFC-enabled devices on the horizon as we continue to invest in NFC with our partners.
  • Online and mobile purchases: You can continue to speed through online shopping by using your Google Wallet account to pay on Google Play, select mobile websites or a growing set of Android apps.
You can download the new version of the Google Wallet app on the Google Play Store, which will begin rolling out this week in the US.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mobile Pwn2Own Offering $300K In Prizes Money

The second annual Mobile Pwn2Own contest will take place in Tokyo Japan on Nov. 13-14, TippingPoint announced on its company blog today. This year's event will offer participants up to $300,000 in prize money for those researchers who can successfully demonstrate attacks against mobile services and browsers.

This year’s Mobile Pwn2Own contest is offering the following prizes in the following categories: 
  • Short Distance/Physical Access ($50,000), either:
    • Bluetooth, or
    • Wi-Fi, or
    • Universal Serial Bus (USB), or
    • Near Field Communication (NFC)
  • Mobile Web Browser ($40,000)
  • Mobile Application/Operating System ($40,000)
  • Messaging Services ($70,000), either:
    • Short Message Service (SMS), or
    • Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), or
    • Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS)
  • Baseband ($100,000)
Contestants are allowed to select the target they wish to compromise during the pre-registration process.  The exact OS version, firmware and model numbers will be coordinated with the pre-registered contestants. The following targets are available for selection:
  • Nokia Lumia 1020 running Windows Phone
  • Microsoft Surface RT running Windows RT
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 running Android
  • Apple iPhone 5 running iOS
  • Apple iPad Mini running iOS
  • Google Nexus 4 running Android
  • Google Nexus 7 running Android
  • Google Nexus 10 running Android
  • BlackBerry Z10 running BlackBerry 10
 In addition Google’s Chrome Security Team, in conjunction with the Chrome on Android team, is sponsoring a top-up reward for the Mobile Web Browser category. If a contestant successfully compromises Chrome on Android, either on Google Nexus 4 or Samsung Galaxy S4, the prize amount will be bumped by $10k to make it a total of $50,000.  There may be additional winners in the Mobile Web Browser category if the contestant is specifically targeting Chrome on Android, either on the Google Nexus 4 or Samsung Galaxy S4.

For those looking to enter the full contest rules are listed here. For those geeks that want to stay updated on the contest ZDI will be tweeting regular updates and news on Mobile Pwn2Own up to and during the contest. You can follow them at @thezdi on Twitter or search for the hash tag #pwn2own.

Facebook Settlement Finally Reached, Your $15 Check May Be In The Mail Soon

Remember a few years back when Facebook was hit with a class-action lawsuit over "sponsored stories." At the time of the lawsuit you may have been emailed a form to be a participant entitling you to a part of the cash award. After more than two years of deliberation, a U.S. federal judge in California has finally granted final approval for Facebook’s $20 million settlement, entitling those of you that didn't trash those emails to a minor monetary settlement.

The suit filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Angel Fraley et al., asserted that Facebook improperly used photos and names found on user profiles in Sponsored Story ads, which are created by users “liking” companies’ pages or content. The plaintiffs also argued that Facebook violated a California law that forbids companies from using people’s likenesses or names in advertisements without their consent. Finally, the suit asserted that Facebook should have received parental consent to use the names and likeness of any user under the age of 18.

Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook will pay $20 million to compensate class members, approximately $11 million of that will be doled out to the attorney's . Leaving behind roughly $9 million to be divided amongst the approximately 614,000 Facebook users who appeared in Sponsored Stories without their consent, and filed the necessary paperwork to join the class action lawsuit by the May 2, 2013 deadline. In addition to the monetary payment Facebook also promised to give users more control over how their content is shared.

See the full order of final settlement below:

Fraley v. Facebook: Order Granting Final Approval (Document 359)

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Samsung Unveils New Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Gear and Updated Galaxy Note 10.1

At today's 2013 Unpacked event held during IFA in Berlin, Samsung "Unpacked" three new devices. The new larger, more powerful Galaxy Note 3, an updated Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition and the highly anticipated Galaxy Gear Smartwatch.

Galaxy Note 3

For 2013 the Galaxy Note 3 has been upgraded with a new larger 5.7" Full HD Super AMOLED screen, large capacity 3,200mAh battery, a high performance 2.3 Ghz Quad-core CPU and 3GBs of ram all while dropping the size and weight at 8.3mm thick and just 168g. There is also an all new 13MP camera will feature 1080p recoding with some models featuring UHD 4k video capabilities. There is also an all new High CRI flash and Smart Stabilization. Powering the device will be Android 4.3.

The Note 3 will feature a new improved S-Pen with several enhancements including S-Finder to automatically search your device for keywords related to content, media, dates and location. A new Action Memo app which allows you to hand write a note and automatically execute a function, or convert handwritten information into formatted content.

Multitasking will be improved with a new multi-window feature that allows you to run multiple apps, or multiple instances of the same app in separate screens. A newly added feature dubbed Pen Window will allow you to draw, and open a new window box for your secondary apps.

The externals of the Note 3 receive a major update as well featuring a new leather bound back cover that will come in three stock color options: Jet Black, Classic White and Blush Pink. There will also be numerous case options featuring several new colors and designs.

The Note 3 will be available in 32GB or 64GB internal storage along with an additional microSD card slot, and will be launching in the U.S. later this year on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and U.S. Cellular

See more at: Samsung Tomorrow

Galaxy Gear

The new Galaxy Gear (companion device) Smartwatch will combine seamless integration with your Galaxy smartphone with features, and design of premium accessory. The device will feature several integrated apps alongside device syncing capabilities.

It notifies users of incoming messages, such as calls, texts, emails and alerts, delivers a preview of those messages and creates the opportunity for users to accept or discreetly ignore those messages. When an incoming message requires more than a quick glance, users can simply pick up their Samsung GALAXY devices and the Smart Relay feature will instantly reveal the full content on their device's screen.

The Galaxy Gear will feature a built-in speaker allowing users to conduct hands-free calls directly from the Gear and Bluetooth technology to maintain connections to their mobile device. Users can also draft messages, create new calendar entries, set alarms, and check the weather on the Galaxy Gear thanks to Samsung's S Voice.

In addition to smart device controls, the Galaxy Gear introduces several on-device features for stand alone use. There will be an integrated Memographer feature, a 1.9 Megapixel camera, capable of recording both photos and video. Extending the quick-record concept, Voice Memo lets users capture important thoughts or conversations from their wrists and save those voice recordings into texts on their compatible Samsung Galaxy devices.

The Galaxy Gear currently supports the Galaxy Note 3 with plans on updated support for the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3 and more devices at a later date. The watch will be available in six new colors: Jet Black, Mocha Gray, Wild Orange, Oatmeal Beige, Rose Gold, and Lime Green and is launching alongside the Note 3 later this year.

See more at: Samsung Tomorrow

Galaxy Note 10.1

The new Galaxy Note 10.1, 2014 Edition, will come equipped with a 10.1" WQXGA LCD touchscreen featuring a 2560×1600 resolution. It will be powered by a 2.3GHZ Quad-core processor and 3GB RAM and will run Android 4.3. The tablet will include an updated S Pen that improves responsiveness, delivers day-to-day efficiency enhancements and produces more creative input capabilities. The tablet also includes GALAXY Note 3's updated S Pen features such as Action Memo, Scrapbook, Screen Write and S Finder.

The GALAXY Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) will come in three connectivity options: WiFi Only, WiFi and 3G, WiFi and LTE, available in 16/32/64GB + Micro SD. Comes with two color options, Jet Black and Classic White, the GALAXY Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) will be offered globally and will be available starting from Q3, 2013.

See more at: Samsung Tomorrow

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Apple Promises To "Brighten Everyone's Day" With Sept. 10 iPhone Event Invites

Apple fans can officially mark their calenders for the next big Apple announcement as it has been confirmed today that the company has sent out the official press invites for a major announcement next Tuesday, September 10. While the invite doesn't provide specifics the tech world is expecting to see the next iPhone.

This year's tagline is relatively simple and a bit more elusive than years past which had at least hinted at a which devices we may see. The invite features a number of colored dots and simply states "This should brighten everyone's day." It is expected that Apple will be unveiling multiple devices on the day, including a lower-cost iPhone “5C” as it’s been dubbed in the press, as well a more expensive iPhone 5 successor, possibly called the iPhone 5S. The 5S is supposed to have an improved camera, as well as improved internals and a new gold color option, while the iPhone 5C will reportedly feature a plastic backing with internals essentially unchanged from the iPhone 5. Given the graphic depiction of multi-colored dots on the event invite speculation is that the new iPhone hardware will feature different color casings.

The event is taking place at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino Sept 10th and begins at 10 a.m. PST. Stay tuned for more details on how to watch as it is unclear at this point if Apple will be offering a live video stream of the event.