Thursday, February 26, 2015

Apple Sends Out Invites to Spring Forward Event March 9th

In its traditional flair Apple has sent out press invites for a March 9th event, and while the invite doesn't give many clues to what the full agenda may be, the reference to Daylight Saving Time and 'Spring Forward' gives us the slightest hint of a connection to the upcoming release of the Apple Watch.

Apple does show a penchant for sticking closely to the devices teased in their invites. Yet one does wonder if the new Apple Watch is the main focus of the event, after all Apple has already given us an in-depth look at the Apple Watch creating several pages to showcase the new wearable. Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook used the company's earnings call to announce that the Apple Watch would go on sale in April, but revealed no other details beyond we already had access to.

If in fact Apple does highlight the Watch it would be inline with previous releases of other devices when the company has introduced a product building more hype, but then delayed the sales date by several weeks to accept per-orders, gauging interest and allowing them more time to market and assemble more units to be shipped to warehouses and stores.

On the other hand if the watch isn't the focus of the event then what could we expect, or what else might they have up their sleeve to introduce alongside the watch? At most of its events, it usually launches more than one new product or at the very least offers details on more than a few things. So we fully expect them to do the same this time. Here's a look at some of the possibilities:
A New Larger 12.9-inch 'iPad Plus' or 'iPad Pro' - Rumors have been circulating around the web that Apple is working on a new larger platform iPad. The new iPad is said to be geared towards challenging the new market segment currently occupied by the Microsoft Surface and convertible laptops. Rumor holds it as also being highly focused on enterprise level consumers falling directly in line with the latest Apple partnership with IBM.

A New MacBook Air with Retina Display -  It has been some time since Apple has updated the MacBook Air lineup. With more companies fighting for position in similar market space if we don't see a larger iPad we may in fact see an updated MacBook Air. Rumors suggest a larger screen, Retina Display and the traditional bump in hardware specifications to keep inline with updated CPUs and performance.

Updated Apple TV Box - Apple has been rumored to be in talks with content providers to develop its own content service similar to that of Sling TV. With the latest FCC regulations we could see a major increase in the streaming markets giving Apple plenty of incentive to want to further position themselves in the market with a next-generation Apple TV. The set-top box could feature updated hardware and software and will likely integrate content, gaming and HomeKit support.

Where Can I Watch The Apple Spring Forward Event?

As with many of their events Apple will provide their own live stream of the entire announcement. The event that starts at 10 AM PT and will be streamed via Apple’s dedicated live events site. As usual, Apple is limiting official access to its own hardware and software so in order to access the page you'll need a recent version of Safari running on OS X, or on iOS via an iPhone or iPad. You can also stream directly to your Apple TV, so long as it’s a second- or third-generation device with Apple TV OS version 6.2 or higher.

Google Wants You to Thank The FCC For Net Neutrality

Earlier today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fairly unprecedented steps that may make history by placing broadband under Title II regulation of the of the Communications Act. The move is seen by some as a way for the federal government to permanently safeguard net neutrality by to reclassifying internet service providers (like Comcast and AT&T) as "telecommunication services" which allows the FCC to create legally-binding rules for ISPs.

Today's 3-2 vote was the culmination of months of back-and-forth between net neutrality advocates — determined to keep the internet free and open — and ISPs, who have accused the federal government of unjustly overstepping its bounds.

One major proponent of today's ruling has been Google, oddly as that could seem to be. The search giant calls today's move a first step towards driving innovation in bigger, faster broadband by making it easier for users to be able to control their own Internet connections and for communities to make their own choices to suit their local needs for broadband.

It's been nearly five years since Google first entered the ISP market by offering to build a fiber-optic network in one U.S. city as an experiment — and as they've expanded Google Fiber they have often butted heads with existing ISPs. Who without regulation have been able to block competition from utilizing existing infrastructure to create their network.

For example, in Austin, Texas, AT&T owns about 20% of the utility poles. Google has requested to use them, but AT&T wanted to charge more money than it would to other ISPs. If Google were classified as a telecom provider, AT&T would be legally obligated to provide access at a fair market (read: lower) rate. But until that happens, AT&T is unwilling to share.

Under this new ruling, Google believes we'll see more fairness and openness in the market and they are calling on everyone to 'take action' by thanking Chairman Wheeler and the FCC for supporting local choice and competition in broadband networks:

Google wants everyone to take to Twitter, Facebook and of course Google+ and post the following message: Thanks to @FCC and @TomWheelerFCC for supporting local choice and broadband competition

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Google Makes Changes to Pwnium Competition Offers Bigger Rewards Year Around

It is almost time for the CanSecWest security conference, which has played host to Google's Pwnium competition for the last few years. For those that don't know, Pwnium is the hacking competition that gives security researchers a chance to show off some of their latest exploits for the chance to win a share of a huge pile of cash that Google puts up for rewards each year (last year it was e million). This year Google has announced it will be making a few changes to the competition taking it to all new levels of extreme!

Starting today, Pwnium will change its scope significantly, from a single-day competition held once a year at CanSecWest to a year round, worldwide opportunity for security researchers to showcase their findings of the latest bugs and vulnerabilities.

Google says they are making these changes for several reasons. The biggest of course being delays in reporting of new finds. As it stands there is little incentive for researchers to come forward with vulnerabilities, because it literally doesn’t pay to do so. With the new, more lucrative rewards program Google hopes to eliminate those delays. Some other reasons for the changes given are:

  • Removing barriers to entry: At Pwnium competitions, a security researcher would need to have a bug chain in March, pre-register, have a physical presence at the competition location and hopefully get a good timeslot. Under the new scheme, security researchers can submit their bugs year-round through the Chrome Vulnerability Reward Program (VRP) whenever they find them.
  • Removing the incentive for bug hoarding: If a security researcher was to discover a Pwnium-quality bug chain today, it’s highly likely that they would wait until the contest to report it to get a cash reward. This is a bad scenario for all parties. It’s bad for us because the bug doesn’t get fixed immediately and our users are left at risk. It’s bad for them as they run the real risk of a bug collision. By allowing security researchers to submit bugs all year-round, collisions are significantly less likely and security researchers aren’t duplicating their efforts on the same bugs.
  • Our researchers want this: On top of all of these reasons, we asked our handful of participants if they wanted an option to report all year. They did, so we’re delivering.

Starting today, instead of going the traditional route and applying for Pwnium, researchers can now submit bug chains to the Chrome Vulnerability Reward Program for confirmation and possible payout. Here are a list of rules for submission:
  • Only the first report of a given issue that we were previously unaware of is eligible. In the event of a duplicate submission, the earliest filed bug report in the bug tracker is considered the first report.
  • Bugs disclosed publicly or to a third-party for purposes other than fixing the bug will typically not qualify for a reward. We encourage responsible disclosure, and believe responsible disclosure is a two-way street; it’s our duty to fix serious bugs within a reasonable time frame.
  • If you have a fuzzer running on ClusterFuzz as part of our Trusted Researcher program, you will not receive a reward if one of our fuzzers finds the same bug within 48 hours.
Google will be adding Pwnium-style bug chains on Chrome OS to the Chrome VRP. This will increase the top reward to $50,000, which will be on offer all year-round. There’s no limit on the number of bugs you can submit. Last year, the Pwnium gave out awards ranging from $110,000 to $150,000 for various pre-determined exploits. Google says the reason Pwnium rewards were so much larger is because of the constraints on the types of bugs that could be submitted.

For security teams and researchers interested Google invites you to checkout their FAQ for more information. Good luck and happy bug hunting!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Google Makes Kid Friendly YouTube App Official

Google has launched their very first Google product built from the ground up with little ones in mind, the YouTube Kids app!

The YouTube Kids app, available for free download on Android and iOS, is built with a fun friendly interface and contains family-friendly videos from children's favorites such as DreamWorks TV, Jim Henson TV, Mother Goose Club and Talking Tom and Friends. The app will also feature several additions that Google hopes will make it safer and easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore.

New app specific features will include a much more kid friendly user interface with larger images, bold icons and more, which should make it fast and simple for little thumbs to navigate. There will also be a voice search so that even if your little one can’t spell or type the name of their favorite videos, they can still speak the names or ask for videos related to things they’re curious about.

The YouTube Kids app will feature more family-focused content which Google has narrowed down and labeled as appropriate for kids. You can browse channels and playlists in four categories: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. Or search for videos of particular interest to your family, like how to build a model volcano, math tutorials, the amazing (and endless) world of trains—and everything in between.

For those even further concerned with the content available the app will feature several Parental controls with built in options into that help you control the experience for your kids:
  • Timer: Let the app be the bad guy with a built-in timer that lets you limit kids’ screen time. The app alerts your child when the session is over, so you don’t have to. (You’re welcome. ;) )
  • Sound settings: Sometimes you need a little peace and quiet! You have an option to turn off background music and sound effects, so your kids can keep watching while you catch a breather.
  • Search settings: If you’d rather limit your children to just the pre-selected videos available on the home screen, you can turn off search.
  • Product feedback: Our goal is to improve YouTube Kids all the time, so we’ve included a space for you to give us your feedback.
YouTube Kids is available for free starting today in the U.S. on Google Play and the App Store, and will soon be available on Kurio and nabi kids’ tablets.

Friday, February 20, 2015

What Is The Deal With Lenovo and Superfish and How Do I Remove It?

By now the chances are you've seen or heard the news that PC manufacture Lenovo has been  pre-installing software dubbed Superfish on its laptops. While the company has issued a statement proclaiming that the 'malware' is not as dubious has many have made it out to be. The level of access the software has and the behavior it exhibits should still be an area of concern for customers. Below we are offering a quick explanation of exactly what the software is and does as well as full details on removal...hopefully it helps anyone impacted!

What is Lenovo Superfish?

What Superfish is and isn't is a bit deceptive. The software itself is a legitimate tool created and developed by a legitimate tech company, also named Superfish. It is a Visual Search tool that is used as adware to allow companies such as Lenovo to insert their own custom advertising whenever a user of that PC does a Google search or visits other websites, which generates additional ad revenue for companies using the software.

Unlike most malware, and some adware, it isn't specifically intended to be malicious in nature. Though some would argue that hijacking your searches is a pretty malicious act. So why is it a big deal? Well that would be in how the software acts. Superfish also compromises all SSL connections on the impacted PC. In essence, Superfish uses a “man in the middle” approach, where Superfish is able to monitor and alter data going to and from websites without the knowledge of either the user using the system or the sites being visited. Something that I'm sure no one wants!

I own a Lenovo laptop am I infected by Superfish?

Here is a full list of the Lenovo consumer laptops that the company has confirmed it had pre-installed Superfish on, keep in mind they claim to have stopped installations as of January.
  • G Series: G410, G510, G710, G40-70, G50-70, G40-30, G50-30, G40-45, G50-45
  • U Series: U330P, U430P, U330Touch, U430Touch, U530Touch 
  • Y Series: Y430P, Y40-70, Y50-70
  • Z Series: Z40-75, Z50-75, Z40-70, Z50-70
  • S Series: S310, S410, S40-70, S415, S415Touch, S20-30, S20-30Touch
  • Flex Series: Flex2 14D, Flex2 15D, Flex2 14, Flex2 15, Flex2 14(BTM), Flex2 15(BTM), Flex 10
  • MIIX Series: MIIX2-8, MIIX2-10, MIIX2-11
  • YOGA Series: YOGA2Pro-13, YOGA2-13, YOGA2-11BTM, YOGA2-11HSW E Series: E10-30
For those that own one of the models listed above, or those that want to double check their Lenovo products there are several options for detection and removal. One of the easiest tools is the LastPass Superfish Detector and online tool that quickly scans your laptop. Another is to use Microsoft’s free Windows Defender product, which has just been updated (version 1.193.444.0) to detect and remove SuperFish.

How do I remove Superfish?

Lenovo has announced plans to release an automated tool that will remove the Superfish adware from affected PCs, however that tool has yet to be released. In the mean time the company has offered its own removal instructions,though many have stated that these don't cover everything. Ars Technica has posted a very thorough Superfish Removal Guide that should cover all the bases. Below are some of the basics!

If you’re affected by Superfish, you must first uninstall the program:
  1. Click the Windows Start button
  2. Search uninstall program
  3. Launch uninstall program
  4. Right-click on Superfish Inc VisualDiscovery and select Uninstall
  5. If prompted for administrator password, enter or provide confirmation
Then you must uninstall the certificates as well:
  1. Click the Windows Start button
  2. Type certmgr.msc into the Search box
  3. Click the certmgr.msc Program to launch it
  4. If prompted for administrator password, enter the password or provide confirmation
  5. Click on Trusted Root Certification Authorities
  6. Open Certificates
  7. Look for certificates mentioning Superfish Inc.
  8. Right-click on any Superfish Inc certificates and delete
  9. Restart your browser and return to this page to see you are safe

Following the removal steps above should get you up and running on a clean PC but that likely doesn't mean all of your questions have been answered. Lenovo and Adi Pinhas, the chief executive of Superfish, have been adamant in regards to any security risks that Superfish may or may not have posed. In a statement released earlier today Pinhas wrote, "Superfish is completely transparent in what our software does and at no time were consumers vulnerable—we stand by this today. Lenovo will be releasing a statement later today with all of the specifics that clarify that there has been no wrong doing on our end.”

So at the end of the day it all comes down to whether or not we trust Lenovo and Superfish's intentions. They have admitted the mistake and we could give them the benefit of the doubt but that doesn't mean we've seen the end of these types of situations. Companies are always looking to gain an edge in the market and monetize your user experience as much as possible!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Apple Offering Free Repair of 2011-13 MacBook Pros With Faulty GPUs

Beginning in 2011 owners of the Apple MacBook Pro have reported issues with their laptops experiencing a wide range of graphical errors. These issues reportedly stemmed from a possibly defective AMD GPU and ranged from distorted or scrambled video on the computer screen, no video on the screen (or external display) even though the computer is on and even unexpected restarts.

These complaints eventually lead to the filling of a class-action lawsuit, alleging Apple’s 2011 MacBook Pro might be suffering from GPU issues Apple failed to acknowledge. While the lawsuit still appears to be pending Apple has decided to take preemptive action and has just launched a MacBook Pro Repair Extension Program to provide out-of-warranty repairs for MacBook Pros and Retina MacBook Pros sold between February of 2011 and December of 2013.

An Apple spokesperson says "we've found that a small percentage of MacBook Pro models sold between February 2011 and December 2013 may exhibit video issues and we will repair those systems free of charge. We are contacting customers who paid for a repair through Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider to arrange a reimbursement."

Owners of MacBooks sold within the time frame can use the "Check your Coverage" tool on the Apple Support site to determine if your MacBook Pro model matches the list of affected products. If repair is need them you can either take you device to an Apple store or Apple Authorized Service Provider, or it can be mailed back to Apple for free repair.

For those that have already paid to have their MacBook repaired Apple says it is those contacting customers to arrange reimbursement.  If you have not been contacted, but paid for a repair that you think was due to this issue, Apple suggests you contact them directly.

The repair programs gets underway starting February 27th and will only cover affected MacBook Pro models until February 27, 2016 or three years from its original date of sale, whichever provides longer coverage for you.

Source: Apple, Apple Coverage Checker

Comcast Adds More Networks to Double TV Everywhere Streaming Lineup

Service providers are looking to stay ahead of the curve as more and more users are looking for more options to stream their favorite TV shows, movies and other content to their mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and look to cut the Cable TV cords entirely and stream content to their home computers and set-top boxes.

This move has been great news to cord cutters and streamers alike as it has lead to a proliferation of streaming options for non-cable subscribers including standalone services from many major network providers and many cable channels like AMC, ESPN and even HBO and Showtime.

Hoping to keep up with the trends Comcast has been working hard to keep their own streaming catalog growing quickly.

In a recent press release, the cable company says it has doubled its number of live, streaming channels to more than 70 in just over a year, including recent additions like AMC, BBC America, and Showtime. Additionally the company says customers now have access to approximately 21,000 on demand choices to stream on mobile devices, as well as nearly 466,000 available online.

The company reports the usage of it's Xfinity TV Go app is seeing “tremendous growth” with more than 30 percent of its subscribers taking advantage of the streaming video options—a 20 percent gain year-over-year. Moreover, the average viewer consumed more than 7 hours per month on Xfinity TV Go, up nearly 40 percent from the same time last year. Available for Android and Apple devices, the Xfinity TV Go app has been downloaded more than 11 million times.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New World Video Game Hall of Fame Opening, Gamers Nominate Your Favorites Now

The Strong—home of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG)— today has announced the opening of the new World Video Game Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame, which will be a new addition to The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, will recognize individual electronic games—arcade, console, computer, handheld, mobile—that have maintained long-term popularity and influenced the industry or pop culture.

Inductees to first class of the World Video Game Hall of Fame will be announced at The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, June 2015 and will be on permanent view in the museum’s eGameRevolution exhibit.

Nomination are now open and anyone may nominate a game to the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Strong has set aside a select set of criteria each game should match, listed below. Nominations for the inaugural class will be accepted through March 31, 2015.
  • Icon-status: the game is widely recognized and remembered.
  • Longevity: the game is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over time.
  • Geographical reach: the game meets the above criteria across international boundaries.
  • Influence: The game has exerted significant influence on the design and development of other games, on other forms of entertainment, or on popular culture and society in general. A game may be inducted on the basis of this criterion without necessarily having met all of the first three.
So geeks, gamers and anyone else interested, if your favorite game matches the criteria listed then visit the hall of fame nomination page to list your favorite games. Finalists will be determined by an internal advisory committee; a separate selection committee of journalists, scholars, and those familiar with video games will choose the eventual winners.

Which games do you think should make the cut? I know I for one could probably compile a long list! Post your favorites in a comment below.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

FAA Proposal Seeks to Impose Regulations On Commercial Use of Drones

Amazon Delivery Drone

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today proposed a framework of new regulations for the use of drones in commercial situations. These long-awaited rules for unmanned aircraft have been highly speculated with many fearing they might bring strict requirements such as the need for a pilot's license for all users including recreational enthusiasts.

Today's regulations proposal provides a balance of what the FAA considers "routine use of certain small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in today’s aviation system" with what they are calling the flexibility to accommodate future technological innovations.

“We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.”

Among the proposed rules are that drones used for commercial purposes must weigh less than 55 pounds (25 kg), only be flown under 500 feet during daylight hours, at all times be flown within sight of the pilot/operator, and not have a maximum airspeed over 100 mph (87 knots). Drone pilots are required to be 17 years or older, and must be tested every two years on airspace rules in order to receive an operator certificate, a process that is said to cost less than $300.

The new rules won't govern the use of recreational drones or model airplanes. Use of those devices doesn't require FAA approval, but the agency last year provided a framework for using those devices, including only flying them within an operator's line-of-sight.

Unfortunately for companies like Amazon, that are looking to create large networks of delivery drones, the line of sight stipulation could eliminate any possibilities of their network getting off the ground. The proposed rules would require an operator to maintain visual line of sight of a small UAS. The rule would allow, but not require, an operator to work with a visual observer who would maintain constant visual contact with the aircraft. The operator would still need to be able to see the UAS with unaided vision (except for glasses).

Therefore Amazon and other companies would have to deploy large numbers of spotters in order to keep a visual check on any drones in flight.  According to the proposal the FAA is asking for public comments on whether these rules should permit operations beyond line of sight, and if so, what the appropriate limits should be.

Today's rules are simply a reference to options the FAA is exploring and are not yet set as full regulations. At this time the FAA is encouraging the public to speak up and comment on the proposed regulation. Anyone can do so for the next 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, which can be found at

For more details on all of the proposed regulations be sure to checkout the FAA's full press release along with their additional links which provide more details on current regulation standings.  

Monday, February 09, 2015

Microsoft Offering 100GB of Free OneDrive Storage For 2yrs For Using Bing Rewards

100GB Free OneDrive Storage

With the cloud storage race heating up over the past few years companies are looking for more ways to entice new users. Microsoft's latest attempt comes in the form of a very enticing offer for Bing Rewards users.

The company is offering all new (and perhaps current) users 100 GBs of free storage for up to 2yrs with almost no strings attached! This double headed promotion undoubtedly is targeting not only new OneDrive users but search users as well considering it not only showcases OneDrive but also ties in the Bing Rewards program. The plus side, if you call it that, is that you don’t have to conduct a single Bing search to claim the offer nor will you ever need to use Bing again.

Through February 28, anyone with a Microsoft account or that is willing to sign-up for one can claim their free 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage without conducting a single search or redeeming any of their rewards points (if they are current users).

Users looking to cash in on the offer simply need an active Microsoft account which only takes a few steps to sign-up for. They'll then need to join Bing Rewards, sign up for a few promotion emails and they are all set. Microsoft will automatically credit the new accounts with their free storage.  Accepting the offer does give OneDrive the right to send you promotional emails, though you may cancel them at any time so you'll likely want to do that immediately!

The offer does state the promotion is for a 'New Bing Membership'. However, current Bing Rewards members can visit their Bing Rewards dashboard and look for the “Free storage” header next to a OneDrive logo to try to get in on the action. We have tried it for our account but the storage has yet to show!

For those wanting to check it out, click here to see the full details of the promotion.

Starting This Week All Carriers Must Unlock Your iPhone or Android Device

Cellphone unlocking has gone through many trials and tribulations over the past few years. Originally, carriers used the option of SIM locks to keep tight reigns on customers by locking their phones to only work on their networks. This left customers with few options and resulted in many turning to cellphone unlocking sites and the use of various hacks.

Fortunately times have changed! Last summer, President Obama signed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act into law. The law repealed previous rulings that had originally made it illegal for consumers to unlock their cell phones on their own. With the passage of the new law customers were given the choice, but until now, carriers haven’t been required to sell unlocked phones or honor unlock requests (although most did anyway).

According to reports from Android Police, as of February 11th, that will all be changing. CTIA-The Wireless Association which represents the international wireless telecommunications industry is laying out a set of phone unlocking (covering both SIM and network unlocking) principles that AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular have agreed to abide by. You can view more details on CTIA's changes right here.

There are a few stipulations to having your device unlocked and each carrier has a slightly different processes and policies. First and foremost in order to have a carrier unlock your phone, you’ll need to be either paid off in full or have completed your contract term. So no you can't just go out and buy a new phone on the cheap with a two year contract and expect to be able to swindle the phone company.

Second, you may be required to pay a nominal fee. This would usually only apply if you are not a current customer. However, the report from Android Police states carriers may charge a "reasonable" fee. Third, the phone must meet all eligibility requirements which also includes not be 'blacklisted' as being stolen or having a bad IMEI. 

If you want to see the full unlocking policy for each carrier, you can check the links below:
For more information about how to unlock your device as well as a few more details we haven't covered, be sure to check out Android Police’s very thorough post on the subject. If you have any questions please feel free to comment below and we'll help you out as much as possible!