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Apple Quietly Tracks iPhone Users Again - Opt Out Is Tricky

Apple's launch of the iPhone 5 in September came with a bunch of new commercials to promote the device. But Apple didn't shout quite so loud about an enhancement to its new mobile operating system, iOS 6, which also occurred in September: The company has started tracking users so that advertisers can target them again, through a new tracking technology called IFA or IDFA.

Previously, Apple had all but disabled tracking of iPhone users by advertisers when it stopped app developers from utilizing Apple mobile device data via UDID, the unique, permanent, non-deletable serial number that previously identified every Apple device.

For the last few months, iPhone users have enjoyed an unusual environment in which advertisers have been largely unable to track and target them in any meaningful way.

In iOS 6, however, tracking is most definitely back on, and it's more effective than ever, multiple mobile advertising executives familiar with IFA tell us. (Note that Apple doesn't mention IFA in its iOS 6 launch page).

Users can switch off that targeting, but it's tricky, as we discovered a couple of days ago. Although at least iOS 6 users are able to turn off tracking, which they weren't before.

Here's how it works.

IFA or IDFA stands for "identifier for advertisers." It's a random, anonymous number that is assigned to a user and their device. It is temporary and can be blocked, like a cookie.

When you look at an app, or browse the web, your presence generates a call for an ad. The publisher's site that you're looking at then passes the IFA to the ad server. The advertiser is then able to know that a specific iPhone user is looking at a specific publication and can serve an ad targeting that user. IFA becomes particularly useful, for instance, if an ad server notices that a particular IFA is looking at a lot of different car sites. Perhaps that user is interested in buying a new car. They'll likely start seeing a lot of car ads on their iPhone.

More importantly, IFA will allow advertisers to track the user all the way to "conversion" — which for most advertisers consists of an app download. Previously, advertisers had no idea whether their ads actually drove people to download apps or buy things. Now IFA will tell them.

The IFA does not identify you personally — it merely provides a bunch of aggregate audience data that advertisers can target with ads.

 

iphone 5 limit ad tracking

iPhone Screengrab

Tracking is on by default

The new iPhone operating system comes with three things that make tracking easier for advertisers and reduce the likelihood that you'll opt out.

  • iOS 6 comes in a default "tracking on" position. You have to affirmatively switch it off if you do not want advertisers to see what you're up to.
  • The tracking control in iPhone's settings is NOT contained where you might expect it, under the "Privacy" menu. Instead, it's found under "General," then "About," and then the "Advertising" section of the Settings menu.
  • The tracking control is titled "Limit Ad Tracking," and must be turned to ON, not OFF, in order to work. That's slightly confusing — "ON" means ads are off! — so a large number of people will likely get this wrong.

Those three factors combined mean that a huge proportion of iPhone users are unlikely to ever opt out of tracking.

"It's a really pretty elegant, simple solution," says Mobile Theory CEO Scott Swanson. "The biggest thing we're excited about is that it's on by default, so we expect most people will leave it on."

(His take on IFA's capabilities was confirmed by two other mobile ad execs at rival companies.)

Again, IFA doesn't identify you as a person to advertisers. What it does do, however, is provide advertisers with "a really meaningful inference of behavior," Swanson says. "We haven't had access to that information before."

Dish Network Said to Plan Nationwide Satellite Broadband

Dish Network Corp. is preparing to introduce a nationwide broadband-Internet service using a satellite from sister company EchoStar Corp. (SATS), according to three people familiar with thDish Network Said to Plan Nationwide Satellite Broadband Service e situation.

The EchoStar 17 satellite, launched into orbit July 5, can support download speeds of 15 megabits per second, although introductory nationwide packages will probably offer rates of 5 megabits so the system can take on more capacity, said one of the people, who declined to be named because the plans are private. Dish and EchoStar can handle about 2 million new Internet customers with the service, the person said.

Dish already offers satellite broadband through a partnership with Carlsbad, California-based ViaSat Inc., though that only covers certain parts of the U.S. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

The move is the result of technological advances for the U.S. satellite industry, which can now use higher-frequency bands to offer faster broadband to more people. The capacity for these kinds of services has climbed “by an order of magnitude,” said Deepak Dutt, vice president of investor relations at EchoStar, who declined to comment on the Dish deal.

Dish expects to formally offer the service in late September or early October, mainly to subscribers in rural areas who may not have access to cable broadband, two of the people said. Bob Toevs, a spokesman for Englewood, Colorado-based Dish, declined to comment.

2008 Split

EchoStar and Dish became separate companies in January 2008, with Charlie Ergen remaining the chairman of both. The details of how they will split revenue and how much the service will cost consumers are still being discussed, one of the people said.

Dish shares fell 0.1 percent to $31.01 at 10:53 a.m. New York time. The stock had climbed 9 percent this year through yesterday. EchoStar, up 36 percent this year, fell 0.6 percent to $28.24.

Dish already offers satellite broadband through a partnership with Carlsbad, California-based ViaSat Inc. (VSAT), though that only covers certain parts of the U.S., including areas east of the Mississippi River and the West Coast. It gives some customers speeds of as much as 12 megabits per second. The new offering will augment that product and give Dish nationwide coverage, the people said.

By packaging satellite broadband with its current video service, Dish can offer customers a bundled option. That means it will compete more directly with cable companies, as well as satellite rival DirecTV (DTV), AT&T Inc. (T)’s U-verse and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ)’s FiOS.

Future Expansion?

Dish may need to add more satellites to expand the service beyond 2 million people while maintaining the same speeds. The company, which has a total of about 14 million customers, hasn’t disclosed how many users are served by the ViaSat agreement.

Dish is waiting for Federal Communications Commission approval to use its wireless spectrum to offer mobile Internet and phone service, which the company could bundle with satellite TV and broadband. That would give users a so-called quad play.

The EchoStar service is meant for customers who can’t get the faster speeds provided by cable and phone companies in more urban areas. Comcast Corp. (CMCSA), the largest U.S. cable provider, offers as much as 305 megabits per second. Verizon FiOS, meanwhile, goes as high as 300 megabits.

Most home Internet users typically don’t notice a difference in speed beyond 25 to 50 megabits, according to Jonathan Atkin, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets in New York.

Dish Chief Executive Officer Joseph Clayton said in January that the market potential for satellite broadband service is “substantial, given the nearly 8 million to 10 million mostly rural American households that are unserved.”

Separately, Dish reached an agreement in principle with Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. (SBGI) on retransmission fees, keeping 70 broadcast stations on the air for its customers. The companies agreed today to extend their existing programming contract two weeks to allow both parties to sign off on a final agreement.

Dish had said earlier this week Sinclair was demanding more money for its stations than any other broadcast group in the country.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Sherman in New York at asherman6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net

'Privacy' Bill Threatens Massive Internet Censorship

A bill slithering through Congress gives companies new power to shut down Internet sites that offend them, all in the name of curtailing "piracy" of copyrighted material. 

But critics like CNET's Larry Downes call it "Hollywood's latest effort to turn back time."

Read More – Click Here!

10 Factors Holding Back 3D Printing

As promising as 3D printers seem, their usefulness is still questionable. High costs, safety concerns, patents, and design complexity are all contributing to legitimate skepticism.

 

3D printing fails

3D printers may not be as useful or as easy to use as they seem.
 Image: Fred Kahl/Flickr

( @ TechRepublic) Yes, 3D printing stands to completely transform the way we make, replace, and transport products and will disrupt nearly every major industry. However, the technology is still geared toward passionate, motivated makers and hobbyists—not the average citizen.

We've compiled a list of 10 reasons 3D printing hasn't quite caught on yet and what is holding the technology back.

1. Awaiting the breakthrough consumer model

Widespread consumer adoption will depend on 3D printers dropping in price. Currently, printers less than $1,000 use a DIY-style kit that requires assembly of the machine itself and they often don't replicate the CAD designs accurately. But, relatively cheap 3D printers do exist. At $299, the Printrbot Simple is an affordable option, though it is very basic and can't print high-quality products. Also well under $1,000 is RepRap's open-source line of printers, which have to be assembled separately. The Cubify Cube is about $1,300 and probably the best desktop option since it connects to wifi, but its plastic filament can't make anything too sturdy.

printerbot.jpg

The Printrbot Simple Kit cost $349 and comes with a disclaimer that the company is not responsible for your ability to put it together.
 Image: Printrbot

For the most part, anything bigger or better than these costs well into the thousands (or even tens of thousands) of dollars. The MakerBot Replicator 2 runs at about $2,200, which was also the roundabout figure for a top-of-the-line computer in the 1980s. Until reliable, convenient, sleek 3D printers hit the market, the revolutionary effects of the technology will be stymied.

2. Expense of SLS printers

Major patents on selective laser sintering (SLS) printers expired in January, so perhaps the prices of these machines—which run as high as $250,000 will decrease. When the patents on fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers expired, there was an explosion of open source FDM printers that led the technology to become a hobby. The best example was MakerBot, which launched as the most well-known FDM printer almost immediately after the FDM patent expired.

SLS printers offer the ability to print with more materials such as glass, metal, plastic, and ceramic, but with the high-powered lasers comes a higher manufacturing price. It may never be as cheap as an FDM machine, and therefore may take a longer time to catch on in the consumer market, if at all.

3. Patents and legal murkiness

This year, many patents on 3D printers will expire, possibly creating more competition, innovation, and lower prices. However, there are still quite a few overlapping patents out there, however, which causes a lot of murkiness. During the last decade, the Patent and Trademark Office has received more than 6,800 3D printing patent applications. Since 2007, almost 700 patents have been filed annually.

Another intellectual property issue comes with what the machines are printing. Right now, it's easy to log on to Shapeways and download a CAD file of just about anything. But soon, there will be lawsuits and competition between brands over knockoffs and copyright infringement.

4. The usefulness gap

keanu.jpg

One of the most popular 3D printed items on Shapeways is "Sad Keanu Reeves."
 Image: neuralfirings/Shapeways

Sure, plastic action figures, iPhone cases, and Star Wars-themed novelties are fun to design and print with a relatively affordable desktop 3D printer like the Cube, but they aren't exactly impactful on our everyday lives, nor are they convincing consumers the machines are a worthy investment.

"There's no compelling application in the present time because anything you can print on a 3D printer, besides from things that are truly customized, you can buy at a store," said Pete Basiliere, lead Gartner analyst for 3D printing. He said a compelling consumer application—something that can only be created at home on a 3D printer—will hit the scene by 2016.

5. Plastic filament isn't sturdy enough

For the foreseeable future, the cheapest and most accessible 3D printers will be FDM.  These are the desktop printers that use PLA and ABS plastic, which easily melt and fit small molds. However, the plastic isn't sturdy and not many household products with moving parts can be created from the material. Printers will need to use carbon composites or metals to become more useful to the average consumer, as well as manufacturers.

6. That 3D-printed gun

 

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A man successfully 3D printed and fired a plastic gun.
 Image: CNET

Before the majority of Americans could wrap their heads around how 3D printing works, a man named Cody Wilson designed, printed, and successfully fired a 3D printed gun. The STL file was available for free on his website the next day, and 100,000 people downloaded it before the U.S. Department of State ordered him to take it down. Since an all-plastic 3D gun probably won't catch on, other companies are working on using SLS technology to print a metal one. So, in December 2013, Congress voted to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms that could slip past metal detectors, though it didn't add any new restrictions on plastic guns. Philadelphia was the first city to ban 3D printed firearms. A Chicago lawmaker wants to make it illegal to use a 3D printer to make gun parts unless the user has a federal gun manufacturer's license.

Wilson's plastic 3D printed gun showcased these loopholes in the law and caused an uproar across the country about the potential dangers of 3D printing technology. Whether you agree with it or not, the ability to easily print and distribute weaponry will surely cause skepticism about this technology for some time.

7. 3D printers aren't that user-friendly

Setting up a 3D printer will need to be as easy as hooking up a traditional HP printer. The 3D printer needs to have fewer wires than a television and fewer buttons than a computer for it to become a household electronic, and right now, that's not the case. The printers use high-voltage power supplies and specialized equipment and parts. Some of the cheapest printers can't even connect to wifi and most have low resolution.

Because of the hype around the potential and the cute plastic toys that they produce, 3D printers have come across as easier and more useful than they actually are. The best products that have been created—think tools, musical instruments, car parts—are made using huge, high-end printers that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those sub-$1,000 machines that sit on a desk just aren't going to be as productive.

8. Complex design software

Downloadable files from Thingiverse and Shapeways are easy to get, but they are not moderated and therefore may not work on every type of printer. If you want to design your own file, you need a working knowledge of CAD design. Setting up the model and using the printer takes quite a bit of patience and time, which is another reason the technology has primarily been used by enthusiasts up to this point.

9. 3D printers are still slow

3D printers are great for mass customization, but are still too slow for manufacturing lots of objects. To change the manufacturing industry, the parts need to be printed in minutes, not hours. It currently takes anywhere from several hours to several days to print, depending on the size of the model and the quality of the printer. Receiving an order from Shapeways, the company that customizes and 3D prints a variety of products, can take up to two weeks, depending on the materials used.

10. Safety concerns

The FDM printers, which use plastic filament, are relatively safe to use—they are often made for desktops and contain both the mold and the residue—but they aren't foolproof, and they reach very high temperatures.

Powder-based printers are messy and potentially explosive depending on what is being made from them. They operate at extremely high temperatures and produce waste. It's not something a consumer would want in their home office. Indoor air quality and the emissions from 3D printers, particularly SLS printers, are also cause for concern.

Also see

10 ways to save money on tech

(Blake Snow CNN) -- From Airbnb to GasBuddy to shopkick, lots of apps and websites help consumers save money.

But how do we spend less on technology itself -- that digital drug we can't seem to get enough of? How can we save money on electronic gadgets and services ... so that we can buy more gadgets?

Here are 10 ways to stretch your tech budget this year:

1. Employ smart strips. Surge protectors have saved countless gadgets from being electrocuted over the years. But new ones like Take Charge's Power Saver Smart Strip are even better because they save money on your monthly power bill by killing standby power (aka vampire or phantom power) that most electronics consume even when turned off. In my case, after installing two smart strips (one in my office, the other on the entertainment center), I've saved at least $10 per month on my power bill since August -- more than enough to justify the $30 cost of each.

New technology to save money

2. Buy less computer (or data). Processing power, bandwidth and chipsets used to mean a lot when deciding on a computer or Internet provider. But most computers and data plans today are really fast. Even when they're not, software developers have made perceptible gains in making gadgets and data feel faster than they really are. So instead of paying for a top-of-the-line machine, blazingly fast speeds or unlimited data, consider a lower-powered but still functional alternative. You'd be surprised how many people are buying too much computer or data for their needs.

3. See gadgets as assets. This is what I call my perpetual technology fund. It works like this: Two or three times a year, I identify gadgets, handhelds, old phones, laptops and gaming devices I no longer use (follow the dust) and/or have no intention of using over the next 12 months. The ones with value that I choose not to give away, I'll resell on Craigslist, eBay, or similar classifieds like Gazelle.com. In some cases, you can expect several hundred dollars in "returns," which, of course, can then be used to subsidize your next tech purchase.

4. Cut cable TV (and buy your own cable modem). Like many tips on my list, this one, too, requires additional effort, but the savings can be immeasurable. First, stop renting a cable or internet modem if you haven't already. They cost less than $50 on average and quickly recoup the $5/month leasing fee. Next, see if you can find your favorite shows and programs on streaming websites such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. You may have to make a few sacrifices, but $100 a month in savings ain't a bad consolation prize.

5. Use freeware as often as you can. After paying hundreds of dollars for accounting software over the years, I recently switched to a free online service. It does everything my old software did at no additional cost. And there are a lot of other freemium software products to help you do what you need for less (or nothing). So get clicky with Google and see what's out there.

6. Avoid extended warranties. I know a lot of people get peace of mind when buying extended warranties on pricey TVs, smartphones and other gadgets. But the fact remains, according to numerous consumer reports, that extended warranties cost more money on average than what they might eventually save in the unlikely event your gadget breaks beyond its default warranty. This has certainly been the case with me. I've had stuff covered under warranty. Most of my tech survives without problem. And I've had a few devices out of warranty that I paid for. But overall, I've saved a lot more than I would have paying for extended warranties. My free accounting software says so!

7. Consider refurbished gadgets. Contrary to popular myth, refurbished electronics are often as good as new. For example, my friend just bought a beautiful MacBook for hundreds less than it would have cost new. It came in a new box. Smelled new. Featured those protective stickers that are always fun to pull off. And was really shiny. Even better, it's still under warranty.

8. Buy cheap digital cables. Most digital cables are created equal. I say most because I've had a cheapo digital cable go out on me. But I was only out a few dollars. And most of the knockoff digital cables I've bought -- including HDMI, iPhone cables, audio cables, etc. -- are still going strong after several years. Together, they've helped me pocket hundreds of dollars in savings (which I use to buy more tech).

9. Buy online. Before you roll your eyes and let out a big old "duh," remember that shopping online often requires additional patience before seeing significant savings. For example, if you need an item right away and opt for expedited (and costly) shipping, you might be better off to buy at retail. Free shipping can take more than a week in some cases. But there are good deals out there. And even if you don't end up buying online, you should research prices there first before stepping into a brick-and-mortar store.

10. Buy smart rechargeables. Rechargeable batteries have come a long way over the last decade. In fact, batteries such as Sanyo's Eneloops now pack more than enough juice to power all your electronics. These ain't your father's rechargeable batteries, so start buying and start saving.

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10/11/2011 Microsoft Patch Tuesday

Patch Tuesday is October 11, 2011. Microsoft will ship 8 security bulletins to address at least 23 documented vulnerabilities affecting the Internet Explorer browser, the Microsoft Windows operating system, .NET Framework and Silverlight, Microsoft Forefront UAG, and Microsoft Host Integration Server.

Two patches affecting IE, Windows and .Net Framework and Silverlight are rated “critical”, usually meaning that vulnerabilities can be exploited remotely to launch code execution attacks without user knowledge.

Six bulletins will are rated “important”.

Some of these patches will require a restart after the affected machine is updated.

So Tuesday Night, leave your computer on and be sure to restart it in the morning.

12 Ways To Stay Ahead of Security Threats

Pop-up windows are a common form of online advertising and often appear so quickly that users are caught offguard. However, some pop-ups, when clicked, trigger spyware that can cause serious damage to computers. That's why it's important to never click "agree" or "OK" to close a pop-up window, and only click on the red "X" in the corner or Alt + F4 to close it safely.

With the explosion of Web-based communications in the form of applications, blogs, podcasts, and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, new security threats that can cause serious damage to computers are emerging. As they access these Web-based services from both work and personal computers, many users are unaware that they may be exposing themselves and their organizations to risk.

In this increasingly social and interactive world, organizations must take the necessary steps to strengthen their defenses and protect their online property. While the Internet continues to offer exciting new ways to collaborate more interactively, it is also introducing highly targeted threats to the mix.

Recent data breaches -- such as the Zappos incident early this year, which involved the theft of personalized customer information -- are reminders that both individual users and organizations must have security measures in place to actively protect themselves from the latest cyberthreats.

Following are 12 simple steps to ensure that your personal information is protected online.

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15 Years Too Late FCC Adopts New Anti-Cramming Rules

For years, Congress and the FCC listened to complaints but did little. "Voluntary" industry guidelines were adopted but, as Joe Enoch reported in a 2006 ConsumerAffairs story, the charges -- and consumers' complaints about them -- mounted steadily. After more than a decade of inaction, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has enacted new rules to protect consumers from difficult-to-detect fraudulent charges on their landline phone bills. The new rules combat “cramming,” the illegal placement of unauthorized charges on a consumer’s monthly phone bill.  

Congress created the problem back in 1996 when it passed new telecommunications legislation and swallowed the promise that opening America's telecommunications system to competition would deliver untold benefits to consumers.

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2 Things Microsoft Windows 8.1 Didn't Fix

() Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) recently announced the release of Windows 8.1 in a test version -- Mr. Softy's attempt to answer the myriad complaints it received about Windows 8. While the new release fixed some of the biggest problems, there are at least two issues that remain problems with the release, and one issue that continues to plague the company. As Microsoft is competing with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) in the mobile and app worlds in ever-changing ways, the company's ability to be nimble is critical.

In the video below, Fool.com contributor Doug Ehrman discusses two big problems that remain broken in Windows 8.1, and how they leave Microsoft positioned moving forward.

It's incredible to think just how much of our digital and technological lives are almost entirely shaped and molded by just a handful of companies. Find out "Who Will Win the War Between the 5 Biggest Tech Stocks?" in The Motley Fool's latest free report, which details the knock-down, drag-out battle being waged by the five kings of tech. Click here to keep reading.

 

2 Year Investigation Clears Google of Search Results Bias

The US Federal Trade Commission Chairman

After FTC investigation, US regulators force internet giant to agree to change how it presents some search results but exonerated over bias.

(Charles Aurther The Guardian) The US federal trade commission chairman Jon Leibowitz speaks at a press conference on Google in Washington. Photograph: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Google has been forced by regulators in the US to agree to legally binding changes to the way it presents some search results and runs its search advertising following nearly two years of investigation. But the internet search engine was exonerated of bias to push down competitors in its search results, leaving it untroubled by any government threat.

The Federal Trade Commission attacked the behaviour of its Motorola Mobility (MMI) phone subsidiary, however, which used essential patents to try to block competition and extract huge payments. The watchdog said MMI had engaged in unfair conduct and that Google had continued to do so after buying the company in August 2012.

Announcing the FTC's conclusions, Jon Liebowitz, FTC's director, said: "We exhaustively investigated whether [Google] uses search bias" to push its own products higher and rivals' down the search results. But after nearly two years, he said, "the commission has voted to close this investigation. Although some evidence suggested it was trying to remove competition, the primary reason was to improve the user experience."

Rivals including Microsoft had said that Google promoted its own services, including videos, shopping and maps, over equally or better-qualified rivals, and pushed down results from competing "vertical search" companies.But the five FTC commissioners disagreed.

The long-awaited decision will infuriate Microsoft, which has complained separately that Google is acting as a monopoly by refusing to build a YouTube app for the Windows Phone software it makes – a move that it complains directly harms consumers by restricting choice. Microsoft could demand an investigation by the US department of justice – which 15 years ago prosecuted Microsoft itself on monopoly charges.

Google is still in talks with the European commission's antitrust arm over a similar investigation, which could enforce more far-reaching changes than the US regulator has. Google has a far bigger search share in Europe than it does in its home country. The EC has been investigating Google's position in search since November 2010.

The FTC, which is the US government organisation meant to protect consumers' interests, had looked ready at the end of December last year to wind up the investigation with a settlement – but delayed the decision after Liebowitz met the EC's antitrust chief, Joaquin Almunia.

Under the legally binding agreement with the US watchdog, Google will stop "scraping" content from other sites and presenting it as its own in results, and will allow sites and businesses to opt out of featuring in its "vertical" search results such as Google Local and Google Shopping without that resulting in their being pushed down in general search results. Allegations that Google had threatened to remove companies that opted out were "most troubling", Liebowitz said.

He said the investigation had seen nine million pages of documents from Google and other parties, and heard sworn testimony from Google executives.

David Drummond, Google's chief counsel, said in a statement: "the conclusion is clear: Google's services are good for users and good for competition" and added "we head into 2013 excited about our ability to innovate for the benefit of users everywhere.

But that was not enough for Microsoft. "Hopefully, Google will wake up to a New Year with a resolution to change its ways and start to conform with the antitrust laws," Microsoft's deputy general counsel Dave Heiner wrote in an angry posting on Microsoft's site. "If not, then 2013 hopefully will be the year when antitrust enforcers display the resolve that Google continues to lack."

Heiner pointed to Google's continued reluctance to build a dedicated YouTube app for Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile platform — something which it has done for Apple's iPhone after Apple banished YouTube as its default video player. "Google continues to block Microsoft from offering its customers proper access to YouTube. This is an important issue because consumers value YouTube access on their phone — YouTube apps on the Android and Apple platforms were two of the most downloaded mobile apps in 2012," Heiner said.

The FTC was hugely critical of Motorola Mobility's (MMI) use of so-called "standards-essential patents" (SEPs) to seek to block sales of smartphones, tablets, games consoles and computers. SEPs must be used to make a device conform to standards such as 3G or Wi-Fi networking — but MMI has sued Apple, Microsoft and others, and demanded swingeing licence fees beyond the perceived value of the patent itself, simply because it is essential to meet the standard.

"Years ago, Motorola promised to license those patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms," Liebowitz said. "Other companies took Motorola at its word. They invested billions. Motorola then changed the rules of the game — it sought injunctions and exclusion orders over those SEPs. Google inherited those and continued them."

Liebowtiz explained: "Google's unfair conduct threatened to block [US consumer] access to laptops, smartphones, tablets and gaming systems or raise their prices which would have been passed on to consumers — for example an iPad, BlackBerry smartphones are all under threat if this practice continued." Instead, Google would be obliged to license the patents on "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" terms. "We stopped that abuse," Liebowitz said.

Google will have to agree that the changes are legally binding rather than voluntary. That would allow the FTC to enforce the commitments and monitor them — and fine Google if it varied from them.

Fairsearch, a lobby group of companies including Microsoft and Oracle, as well as smaller travel and search companies, who complain Google is "abusing its search monopoly" said in a blogpost that it "remains convinced that US consumers and innovators deserve the same protections that the European Commission may adopt in Europe. Consumers will fail to reap the benefits of a truly competitive online marketplace if Google is allowed to pick and choose where it biases its search results."

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24 Charged in massive hacking sting

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. law enforcement officials on Tuesday said 24 suspected hackers had been arrested on four continents in a sting operation targeting online financial fraud involving stolen credit card and bank information.

The two-year investigation, in which FBI agents posed as hackers on Internet forums, prevented more than $205 million in losses on over 411,000 compromised consumer credit and debit cards, U.S. authorities in New York said.

Eleven people were arrested in the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office said. The thirteen others were arrested in countries spanning from Britain to Japan, the authorities said.

"Clever computer criminals operating behind the supposed veil of the Internet are still subject to the long arm of the law," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Two people were arrested in the New York area, the authorities said, and were expected to appear in Manhattan federal court later on Tuesday. A person familiar with the matter said earlier on Tuesday that three people have been arrested in the New York area.

One of the men, Mir Islam, known online as "JoshTheGod," was charged with trafficking in 50,000 stolen credit card numbers. Authorities said Islam had admitted to helping emerging hacker outfit UgNazi, which said it had launched a cyber attack against the microblogging platform Twitter last week.

A lawyer for Islam did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the charges.

Joshua Hicks, also known as "OxideDox," was charged with one count of access device fraud in a criminal complaint unsealed on Tuesday.

The 24 people arrested were all men and ranged from 18 to 25-years old. Some face up to 40-years or more in prison if convicted on conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges and access device fraud charges.

The FBI operation centered around a "carding forum" that it had secretly created in June 2010, and was in charge of running unbeknownst to its participants, authorities said.

The forum, called "Carder Profit," was essentially an online market for registered users to exchange stolen account numbers. It was shut down in May.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Wyndham Worldwide Corp and three subsidiaries, alleging that the hotel operator failed to secure customer data.

That failure resulted in the theft of hundreds of thousands of consumers payment card numbers, which were sent to an Internet address registered in Russia and $10.6 million in fraudulent charges, according to the complaint.

The cases are U.S. v Joshua Hicks and U.S. v. Mir Islam, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No 12-1639, 12-1701.

(Reporting By Basil Katz; Editing by Carol Bishopric)

 

3-D Printing Biggest Invention Since the Internet

Many experts believe so, with one company making 3-D printers somewhat affordable. Okay, it's Saturday night and you're preparing to have a dinner party. The guests will be arriving in a few hours, and you're racing around the house trying to pull both you and the dining room together.

The table is just about set, the last pot of food spews its last few bubbles before completion, and you're thankful because you have just the right amount of your best plates for each guest.

Then tragedy: One of the plates falls and breaks in half. Normally this would be a catastrophe, but you just purchased a new 3D printer, so you're able to calmly exhale.

You then print up a new dinner plate — identical to the original — place it on the table and finish getting ready for an evening of friends, conversation and food. And no, you don't have to wear special glasses to see it.

Next big thing

 

This way of self-manufacturing, and fixing things in your home is said to be the next global-changing-technology since the Internet or the television, some experts say.

“Personally, I believe it's the next big thing, says Abe Reichental, president and CEO of 3D Systems, one of biggest companies that make 3D printing machines.

“I think it could be as big as the steam engine was in its day, as big as the computer was in its day, as big as the Internet was in its day. And I believe this is the next disruptive technology that's going to change everything. It's going to change how we learn, it's going to change how we create, and it's going to change how we manufacture,” he says.

What it is

PhotoExactly what is this new technology?

Three dimensional printing isn't new, as it used to be called “Rapid Manufacturing” or “Additive Manufacturing” in the 1980s to duplicate specific parts for machinery and other objects.

But since the early thousands 3D printers have developed somewhat of a consumer following, as more companies are making them commercially available, which has also lowered the price.

3D Systems has made what it calls the BotMill 3D Printer, which ranges from $999 to nearly $14,000 depending on the specific model. The company says it's easy to assemble and use, and comes with everything needed, including the required plastic material to duplicate items you would normally buy or replace in a store.

3D printers are able to take any digital design, slice it into thin layers, and stack those layers of material to duplicate the original object. On a video demonstration Reichental printed a napkin holder in a little over two hours using The Cube printer. The Cube kind of resembles a futuristic sewing machine and it's relatively inexpensive at $1,300.

Reichental says duplicating products will completely change the way companies manufacture durable goods, as 3D printing is theoretically less expensive, much faster and environmentally less harmful.

Reichental believes the 3D printing business will go from being a half billion dollar industry to a $35 billion industry in the next decade, as companies are now testing the technology within crucially important areas like education and medicine.

Printed meat

PhotoAlthough companies have been using this inventive type of printing for quite some time, there are limits to how and where the printed objects can be used.

For example, a needed engine part for a commercial airplane isn't yet allowed to be duplicated, but maybe printing a test plane to try out the cloned parts will be a reality in the near future.

But for now, the next wave of 3D printing to grow in popularity is in the area of home products, jewelry items and other items you would typically buy in a store or order online, says Reichental.

But, just when you thought this type of printing would limit itself to households, machine parts and medicine, a company by the name of Modern Meadow is experimenting with printing actual meat of all things.

The company, which received a $350,000 donation by investor and entrepreneur Peter Thiel, began experimenting with 3D printed meat with hopes to shift the way it's commercially produced and distributed.

The co-founders of Modern Meadow, Andras and Gobor Forgacs, also developed the company Organovo, which tested 3D printing in prescription medicine, and human tissue.

“We currently produce organic tissues grown from cell samples, which can be used as a human analog for pharmaceutical drug discovery and development. The printing process can take as little as 12-24 hours. This can allow for more relevant results and less animal involvement than traditional research methods,” said Keith Murphy CEO of Organovo in an interview with Forbes.

The duo said their lab-created meat is still in its development stages, and early attempts to duplicate actual texture have been unsuccessful.

But over time, Modern Meadow believes it can manipulate taste and textures so companies will be able to produce meat differently, and keep up with the world's increasing meat consumption.

Some vegetarians have expressed interest in the development of this cloned meat, since it would obviously not require the killing of animals to create meals or leather products. Yet and still, 3D printing doesn't even stop there.

Print your own pistol

PhotoRecently, a gun expert used the technology to print a copy of a .22-caliber pistol that managed to fire real bullets. The maker of the duplicated gun used a 3D printer to build the outside of the pistol, and combined it with metal parts on the inside, so it was capable of carrying and firing actual bullets.

The gun's owner, who goes by the username HaveBlue, fired over 200 rounds of ammunition with the cloned pistol, and said the gun held up just fine.

To make the weapon, HaveBlue used an older model 3D printer (the Stratasys), and was able to create the necessary shell of the gun in a small amount of time for about $30, not including the metal parts he added.

Another kind of 3D printer called The Contour Crafting is said to be able to print an entire house in about 20 hours.

Behrokh Khoshnevis, who is a professor at the University of Southern California, said the machine can print a complete house with electrical wiring, painted walls, the necessary plumbing and other things a livable house would require.

Khoshnevis says the new technology is a fast and low-cost way to prepare homes damaged by storms. It could also potentially assist with the continued issue of homelessness.

Whether 3D cloning will be as big as the Internet still remains to be seen, but it does feel like we are on the precipice of some sort of change as it pertains to consumers, manufacturing, and medicine.

How soon 3D printing will widely be used in our everyday lives remains to be seen. But according to some experts, it's coming much sooner than later.

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3D Printer Creates Usable Ears and Skin

Hod Lipson: 'People have been trying to expand the range of materials that can be fabricated using a 3D printer'

The next step in the 3D printing revolution may be body parts including cartilage, bone and even skin.

Three-dimensional printing is a technique for making solid objects with devices not unlike a computer printer, building up line by line, and then vertically layer by layer.

While the approach works with polymers and plastics, the raw ingredients of 3D printing have been recently branching out significantly.

The printers have been co-opted even to make foods, and do-it-yourself biology experiments dubbed "garage biotech" - and has most recently been employed to repair a casting of Rodin's sculpture The Thinker that was damaged in a botched robbery.

But at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC, the buzzword is bioprinting: using the same technique to artfully knock out new body parts.

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James Yoo, of the Institute of Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University, told the meeting of his group's aim to print skin directly onto burn victims.

Start Quote

If I have to guess, I'd say that in 20 years this technology will be mainstream, absolutely”

Hod Lipson Cornell University

"What motivated us to start this programme and development is the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.

"Up to 30% of all injuries and casualties that occur from the war involve the skin, and using bioprinting we thought that we could address some of the challenges they're facing with burn care."

Professor Yoo's group is developing a portable system that can be brought directly to burn victims.

"What's unique about this device is that it has a scanner system that can identify the extent and depth of the wound, because every wound is different," he said.

He added: "That scan gets converted into 3D digital images; that determines how many layers of cells then need to be deposited to restore the normal configuration of the injured tissue."

Hod Lipson, director of the Computational Synthesis Laboratory at Cornell University, brought a 3D printer to the conference, to demonstrate how his well-established project, named Fab@Home, is branching out into bioprinting - by creating an ear.

Ear today

The machine starts with a computer file with the 3D coordinates from a scan of a real ear.

For the demonstration, the real cells that the group would normally use have been replaced with silicone gel in order to bioprint the shape.

Bone repaired with bioprinting (Biofabrication journal/D Cohen)The technique has already been used to print repairs into real animal bones

The team has also published its results from bioprinting repairs in damaged animal bone.

But the method is still in its infancy, and several technical hurdles lie between the groups' current efforts and a future in which injured body parts are repaired digitally on-site or simply printed out fresh.

"Some tissues can be handled more easily than others," Professor Lipson said.

"We and our colleagues have started with cartilage; it's amorphous, it doesn't have a lot of internal structure and vascularisation - that's the entry level point to start with.

"That has been fairly successful in animal models, and that would be the first thing you'll see used in practice. From there we'll climb the complexity of tissue, going to bone, or perhaps liver."

Another concern is that bioprinted tissues aren't easy to connect to the real thing.

"One of the advantages of using the computerised printing is that you can create a tissue construct in a more accurate manner than when you're trying to build something manually," Professor Yoo said.

"But how can we create and connect those tissues produced outside the body? Whatever you put in the body has to be connected with the body's blood vessels, blood supply and oxygen. That's one of the challenges we'll face with larger tissues."

Whatever the challenges ahead, Professor Lipson told BBC News that he believed bioprinting will overcome them to become a standard technique.

"If I have to guess, I'd say that in 20 years this technology will be mainstream, absolutely," he said.

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3D Printing 10 Companies Using It and Making Money

GEtumblr-3D printers.jpgGE used MakerBot and 3D Systems printers to print custom gifts.

 Image: GE

() From the big whig corporations down to the smallest startups, there are plenty of companies utilizing 3D printers to create new products, improve old ones, and better their business processes. As the technology becomes more accepted in the enterprise, it will quickly become more mainstream.

 

We've compiled a list of 10 companies innovatively using 3D printers.

1. General Electric

General Electric made big investments in 3D printing in their quest to produce more than 85,000 fuel nozzles for the new Leap jet engines. The printers can make the nozzles in one metal piece and the finished product is stronger and lighter than the ones made in the traditional assembly line. However, the 3D printers currently on the market can't produce the nozzles fast enough. GE's business development leader, Greg Morris, joined the company last year when it acquired his 3D company, Morris Technologies, so the company wants to expand its 3D printing staff as well as the production of the nozzles and other equipment using 3D printers. They already have more than 300 3D printers and GE Aviation wants to produce 100,000 additive parts by 2020.

2. Boeing

The airline company was one of the early adopters of 3D printing technology, and has made more than 20,000 3D printed parts for 10 different military and commercial planes. The 787 Dreamliner has 30 3D printed parts, including air ducts and hinges, which is a record for the industry. Using Stratasys 3D printers, the company also printed an entire cabin. The company also supports additive manufacturing programs at the University of Sheffield and University of Nottingham in the UK, where there is research for aerospace and other manufacturing sectors using 3D printing technology.

3. Ford

 

SKV_0906.JPG

Ford made engine covers for the 2015 Ford Mustang with 3D printers.
 Image: Ford

 

The auto company has been using 3D printing technology since the 1980s and recently printed its 500,000th part with a 3D printer, which was an engine cover for the new Ford Mustang. According to Ford's website, traditional methods would take four months and $500,000, but with 3D printing, the same process takes four days and $3,000.

Ford also teamed with 3D Systems Sugar Lab around Valentine's Day this year to 3D print an edible 2015 Mustang model, made from chocolate and sugar. The company plans to work with 3D printers in the near future, using sand printing and direct metal printing.

4. Nike

Nike reported 13% growth for its latest quarter. CEO Mark Parker has previously stated that 3D printing technology has been a big boost for the company recently. Nike made 3D printed cleats for the 2014 Super Bowl. The Nike Vapor Laser Talon has a 3D printed plate and cleats made from selective laser sintering technology, and the Vapor Carbon Elite also has parts produced with a 3D printer. The Nike Vapor Laser Talon, which weighs 5.6 ounces, was designed for football players running the 40 yard dash on football turf. The company indicated that it has plans to extend its use of 3D printing in future products, but hasn't revealed details.

5. American Pearl

Can't decide on an engagement ring? With American Pearl jewelry company, customers can create a unique piece of jewelry by choosing specific metals, gems, or diamonds, ordering them online, and then 3D printing them. There are eight metal options to choose from, such as platinum or rose gold, as well as an array of diamonds and other gems like sapphires and emeralds. Then, American Pearl's CAD software makes a digital file of the custom jewelry, which is turned into a 3D printed thermoplastic wax mold via a Solidscape T-76 3D Printer. The metal is poured into the mold, the gems are added, and the piece ships within a few days. However, the service is quite expensive -- the company is making jewelry that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

6. DIY Rockets

Last year, DIY Rockets, a global space company that was created to lower the cost of space exploration using crowdsourcing, launched a competition for people to develop 3D printed rocket motors using Sunglass cloud-based design platform. The only rules were that the designs had to be open source and the participants had to present a business case. The winner for the best rocket engine, announced in July, was Team Stratodyne, which won a $5,000 prize. The design will be created with the help of Shapeways,, the world's biggest 3D printing marketplace.

7. Hasbro

Hasbro recently announced a partnership with 3D Systems, the company that first commercialized 3D printing, to develop and commercialize 3D printers later this year for children's toys and games. Hasbro has a range of children's franchises that may be featured for 3D printing, including My Little Pony, Playskool, and Sesame Street.

"We believe 3D printing offers endless potential to bring incredible new play experiences for kids, and we're excited to work with 3D Systems, a recognized industry leader in this space," Hasbro President and CEO Brian Goldner said in the press release about the announcement in February.

8. Hershey's

3d_chocolate_printer-620x413.jpg

Hershey's has partnered with 3D Systems to make a special 3D printer for making chocolate.
 Image: Technabob.com

3D Systems has also partnered with Hershey's to make a 3D printer for chocolate and other edible products. The 3D printing company said this partnership is a good way to show how the technology can be mainstream, though there is no word when the chocolate-making machine may be available. The ability to 3D print food is nothing new, as 3D systems has shown with its Sugar Lab, where the company prints icing and other sugary confections.

9. MakieLab

Design your own Makie doll with MakieLab, which 3D prints 10 inch flexible fashion dolls from thermoplastic. Customers can choose all of the features of the doll: face, eyes, jaw, smile, hair, and more. They are made in the London headquarters and shipped around the world. The company markets the product as environmentally friendly not only because of its custom printing that produces less waste, but also because the packaging is made from recyclable materials. MakieLab prints other games and toys, though the doll is still its most popular product.

10. Matter.io

A team of MIT and Cornell engineers created Matter.io, a company that is attempting to capitalize on the vast world of 3D printing designs on the web by making it easier to make, download, and share designs. The idea came from the founders' realization that CAD files, which are used with every 3D printer, are made for engineers to understand, rather than the average person. The Matter founders wanted to change that by making it easy to embed the files into websites so users can download and customize the designs before sending them off to Shapewayss to print or print them at home. The bottom line? Matter wants to make 3D printers easier to use so they will be more quickly accepted by the average consumer.

3D Printing IS WalMarts New Enemy

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/evanobrandon/() Retailers and consumers everywhere have been affected by the evolution of technology and the way it has made its mark on the marketplace. Without technology, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) would never be the retail powerhouse that it is today, and Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) would even probably sleep a little better at night.

But to be fair, despite the increased competition that technology poses, most retailers have benefitted from the evolution more than bled, but that all could soon be coming to an end.

According to Quartzthe old key to successful retail was having the best supply chain, which Wal-Mart did. The next necessity evolved to advanced analytics, which Wal-Mart identified and Amazon mastered. However, the next up-and-coming technique is one that both will soon be locked out of, and it involves 3D printing.

Many have heard of the term 3D printing, but few understand the widespread possibilities that such a tool facilitates. Additive manufacturing is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects of any shape from a digital model, and for consumers, that means that they will soon be able to order exactly what they want when they want it, and it probably won’t come from Amazon or Wal-Mart.

Quartz reports that 3D printing is expected to overtake centralized production, and it will likely make middle retailers’ business obsolete. Consumers will have no need to visit these stores or websites for the latest offerings because they can simply order exactly what they want themselves and avoid the marketing soap opera.

Quartz writes: “From a consumer perspective, this means more products to choose from at better prices, faster delivery, and with greater personalization. But from a retail perspective this is nothing short of revolutionary: the bottom is dropping out of the middle of retailers’ entire business — the part where they produce and provide consumers with products.”

 

The technology is still in its nascent stages, but it is certainly growing in popularity. Retailers like Wal-Mart are likely not in the dark for what may come in the future, because advances in robotics are already allowing 3D production houses to be more manageable and nimble — they are beginning to pop up closer to buyers, and consumers soon could order directly from the design platforms and avoid shipping and retail costs.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cubify3d/

Quartz highlights an example of one company that has already capitalized on this up-and-coming trend: Ponoko, a platform connecting 3D designs with shops to produce them. Consumers can order from its catalog and have their products locally manufactured and delivered. This practice is likely only to grow.

Social media is also expected to help spread the word about the newest arm of retail, and these companies expect communication platforms like Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) to provide all the advertising they need. Via 3D printing, goods can be infinitely represented and reproduced; once word gets out about a popular item, Facebook friends can almost instantly get their hands on the same product, and Ponoko is more than happy to help them do it.

Platforms like Thingiverse.com already allow consumers to browse an exorbitant array of 3D designs and possibilities, and the library is expected to grow with time. According to Quartz, with the platform, consumers can order almost any physical object and then modify and manufacture it to their specifications, all while having it delivered directly to their door while avoiding middlemen.

This is great news for consumers who have the opportunity to see a piece of furniture at a baby shower and immediately want it, or just need the chair that was in their latest hotel room. However, it doesn’t necessarily paint the same pretty picture for retailers like Wal-Mart, which have long succeeded at driving consumers into their stores and luring them in with new deals. Both Wal-Mart and Amazon have yet to show any signs of support to the new 3D printing and robotics industry, but before long, they may have no choice but to find a new niche.

3D Printing The Dark Side

darth vader.jpg( @ TechRepublic) The 3D printer is a double-edged sword. It stands to transform technology and society for the better, but we also can't ignore the potential negative consequences.As with any new technology, it's easy to get swept up in the benefits of 3D printing. It opens up a world of new possibilities for all industries, and stands to lessen transportation costs, environmental impacts, waste, and reliance on corporations by enabling the maker movement.

But 3D printers are still potentially hazardous, wasteful machines, and their societal, political, economic, and environmental impacts have not yet been studied extensively. To make sure you aren't thrown off guard by the conversations to come, we've compiled a list of 10 things you need to know about the dangers and potentially negative impacts of 3D printers.

1. 3D printers are energy hogs

When melting plastic with heat or lasers, 3D printers consume about 50 to 100 times more electrical energy than injection molding to make an item of the same weight, according to research by Loughborough University. In 2009, research at MIT's Environmentally Benign Manufacturing program showed that laser direct metal deposition (where metal powder is fused together) used hundreds of times the electricity as traditional casting or machining. Because of this, 3D printers are better for small batch runs. Industrial-sized 3D printers may not be the answer to lessening our use of coal power any time soon.

2. Unhealthy air emissions

3D printers may pose a health risk when used in the home, according to researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The emissions from desktop 3D printers are similar to burning a cigarette or cooking on a gas or electric stove. The 2013 study was the first to measure these airborne particle emissions from desktop 3D printers. While heating the plastic and printing small figures, the machines using PLA filament emitted 20 billion ultrafine particles per minute, and the ABS emitted up to 200 billion particles per minute. These particles can settle in the lungs or the bloodstream and pose health risk, especially for those with asthma.

3. Reliance on plastics

ABS_Plastics_SpoolComp-620x412.jpg

ABS plastic filament is the most common material used in 3D printers.
 Image: MakerBot

 One of the biggest environmental movements in recent history has been to reduce reliance on plastics, from grocery bags to water bottles to household objects that can be made from recycled materials instead. The most popular—and cheapest—3D printers use plastic filament. Though using raw materials reduces the amount of waste in general, the machines still leave unused or excess plastic in the print beds. PLA is biodegradable, but ABS filament is still the most commonly used type of plastic. The plastic byproduct ends up in landfills. If 3D printing is going to be industrialized, that byproduct or other recycled plastic needs to be reused.

 

4. IP and licensing deals

In January, 3D Systems acquired Gentle Giant Ltd., which owned the licensing rights to toy franchises such as The Hobbit, The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, Alien, and Star Wars. Gartner has said that companies may lose at least $100 billion in four years to licensing or IP owners. 3D printing will change the business market—and the black market for these items—and the legislation will have to rush to catch up. This potential digital piracy situation is comparable to the way the internet challenged the movie and music industries for copyrights, trademarks, and illegal downloads.

5. Gun control loopholes

The first successful 3D printed gun is old news, but its ramifications are very important. Companies are popping up around the world, attempting to sell these guns and/or the CAD designs for them. Engineering firm Solid Concepts has even fired rounds out of the first 3D printed metal gun. Congress' Undetectable Firearms Act, which bans guns that can't be detected by metal detectors or x-ray scanners, was renewed for 10 years. It left a loophole in the law, however: 3D printed guns with a tiny piece of metal aren't banned by the Act. Legislators are attempting to close that loophole now, after Congress ignored the issue for quite some time, with special requirements for printed guns.

6. Responsibility of manufacturers

Weapons can be 3D printed. So can safety equipment such as helmets, wheels for bikes, and toys for small children. Of course there is the issue of intellectual property and trademark, but the larger issue involves responsibility. If a person shoots a gun and harms or kills someone, stabs someone with a 3D printed knife, or breaks their neck while riding on a bike with a 3D printed helmet, who is held accountable? The owner of the printer, the manufacturer of the printer, or the irresponsible person who thought it was a good idea to produce and use an untested product?

7. Bioprinting ethics and regulation

3d_ear.jpg

Cornell bioengineers and physicians created an artificial ear that looks and acts like a natural one.
 Lindsay France/University Photography

 The conversations about the ethics of bioprinting have already begun. Organovo is printing liver cells as well as eye tissue cells in a partnership with the National Eye Institute and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Scientists have also proposed mixing human stem cells with canine muscle cells to create enhanced organ tissue. Printing cartilage is still the most realistic type of bioprinting, and printing whole organs is still many years away, but 3D printing is growing in medicine quite rapidly. Conversations about the moral, ethical, and legal issues surrounding bioprinting have started, but they will inevitably cause a lot more controversy as it becomes more commonplace.

 

8. Possibility of 3D printed drugs

Assembling chemical compounds on a molecular level using a 3D printer is possible. A researcher at the University of Glasglow created a prototype of a 3D "Chemputer" that makes drugs and medicine. He wants to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry by allowing patients to print their own medicine with a chemical blueprint they get from the pharmacy. Of course, this is a very long way off, but it stands to enable DIY chemists to create anything from cocaine to ricin.

9. National security risks

A white paper released from the National Defense University highlighted national security risks from 3D printing technology. Since there will be significant legal and economic implications on the business sector and 3D printers offer the ability to produce a wide range of objects that cannot be controlled yet, the paper noted that there are definitely national security risks that need to be analyzed in the near future.

10. Safety of items that come into contact with food

 

plates.jpg

Kitchenware is popular to 3D print, but the safety of the materials used is questionable.
 Image: Silverbeam/Shapeways

You can print out a fork or spoon with your MakerBot, but if you use ABS plastic, it is not BPA-free. Luckily, new filaments that are safer to put in your mouth are being created for this specific reason, but they aren't widely available yet. Many 3D printers have spaces where bacteria can easily grow if they aren't cleaned properly, as well. In order to more safely-produced 3D printed food and kitchenware, there may be a need for an FDA-approved machine. People probably don't want to eat genetically-engineered pizza off of toxic plates.

47% of jobs could be replaced by automation

81463141 () Passengers serve themselves sat Los Angeles International Airport.

In the early days of artificial intelligence research, it was commonplace for the well-educated academics in the field to (mistakenly) think that being “intelligent” meant being good at things that other well-educated academic researchers struggled at, like playing chess. We now know, however, that it's far harder to get robots to do things that come naturally to us (like identify objects and pick them up) than it is to get them to prove logical theorems or find patterns in huge volumes of data—things we humans struggle at. This and other counter-intuitive trends in AI and research on the nature of human intelligence have discouraged researchers from trying to predict which jobs will be automated, but a provocative new study by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne at Oxford University tries to do just that, and their findings are alarming.

In “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?,” Frey and Osborne estimate that 47 percent of U.S. jobs are “at risk” of being automated in the next 20 years. This does not mean that they necessarily will be automated (despite the way the study has been portrayed in some media outlets)—rather, the authors argue, it is plausible over the next two decades that existing and foreseeable AI technologies could be used to cost-effectively automate those jobs out of existence. Machines may not (and probably won't) do the jobs the same way as people, however—just remember the last time you used an automated check-out system at a grocery store. There’s a difference between machines doing something cheaply and doing it well. Frey and Osborne took into account the possibility of such “task simplification” in their analysis.

Which jobs are most at risk? According to The Jetsons, we should expect robots to clean our houses and do other working-class occupations that educated elites have historically looked down upon as “unskilled.” But anyone who has done such a job, or has watched an episode of Undercover Boss and seen highly-paid CEOs fumble while trying to carry out the demanding minimum wage jobs usually performed by their underlings, knows that there is no such thing as unskilled labor anymore (if there ever was), especially if you are comparing humans and machines in the same breath. The gap between humans and current AI is vastly greater than the differences between humans.

Frey and Osborne focus on “engineering bottlenecks” in AI and robotics, and compare these stumbling points with the requirements of jobs in order to determine which are most and least likely to be vulnerable to automation. The biggest bottlenecks are perception and manipulation, creative intelligence, and social intelligence, all of which computers struggle mightily at (but Rosie the Robot excelled at, by the way). While the trend in recent decades has been towards a hollowing out of “middle-skill” jobs and an increase in low-paying service sector jobs and high-paying, highly educated jobs, Frey and Osborne expect that automation in the future will mainly substitute for “low-skill and low-wage” jobs.

So who, specifically, should be worried? They write:

Our model predicts that most workers in transportation and logistics occupations, together with the bulk of office and administrative support workers, and labour in production occupations, are at risk. These findings are consistent with recent technological developments documented in the literature. More surprisingly, we find that a substantial share of employment in service occupations, where most US job growth has occurred over the past decades (Autor and Dorn, 2013), are highly susceptible to computerisation.

This may turn out to be correct, though I'd note two reservations I have. First, the model uses (in part) the notoriously unreliable subjective estimates of AI researchers to assign values to whether tasks can be automated or not, and second, it uses lists of job requirements, that the authors acknowledge are not written to assess whether a job can be easily automated. Indeed, job ads don't list things that are universal (or nearly so) across humans, such as rudimentary social intelligence, language understanding, and commonsense. As AI researcher Ernest Davis points out, there has been “only very limited progress” in equipping robots with commonsense reasoning skills.

What do the authors predict will happen to those whose jobs are automated out of existence? “Our findings thus imply that as technology races ahead, low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation–i.e., tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills.” Besides Undercover Boss, one could also consult Mike Rose's excellent book The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker in order to lay to rest the notion that low wageworkers lack creative and social skills.

Still, Frey and Osborne are pointing toward a quite urgent and important issue: how we can best structure our education system and ensure ready access to retraining services so that everyone has a fair shot at thriving in the labor market of the future. And as Matthew Yglesias of Slate notes in his overview of Tyler Cowen's latest book on related issues, Average Is Over, various policy changes could enable more equitable social outcomes from the spread of intelligent machines we can expect this century.

However, let's keep in mind that technology does not proceed autonomously, detached from any human influence. It is our tax dollars that fund most of the basic research underlying automation technologies, humans are designing these systems, and consumers have at least some say in how well automated service technologies fare in the market. I can imagine, for example, that “made (or served) by humans” could be the “organic” or “fair trade” of the future. If we as a society collectively vote with our wallets for good customer service by real people, the future may just look different from the often gloomy predictions of science fiction. After all, if there's one thing humans will always be better at than machines, it's being human.

4K TV broadcast in Japan July 2014

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Japanese government is set to launch the world's first 4K TV broadcast in July 2014, roughly two years ahead of schedule, to help stir demand for ultra high-definition televisions, the Asahi newspaper reported on Sunday without citing sources.

The service will begin from communications satellites, followed by satellite broadcasting and ground digital broadcasting, the report said.

The 4K TVs, which boast four times the resolution of current high-definition TVs, are now on sale by Japanese makers including Sony Corp , Panasonic and Sharp Corp . Other manufacturers include South Korea's LG Electronics .

Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications had aimed to kick-start the 4K TV service in 2016. That has been brought forward to July 2014, when the final match of the 2014 football World Cup is set to take place in Brazil, the Asahi report said.

In Japan, the development of super high-definition 8K TVs is in progress, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications plans to launch the test 8K TV broadcast in 2016, two years ahead of schedule, it said.

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Paul Tait)

4K TV Explained In Detail - Click Here!

 

50 Aps and Tools You Should Know About

You may have dozens of apps on your phone and scores of websites bookmarked on your laptop, but that doesn't mean you have all the latest tech tools at your fingertips.

New mobile apps, services, social networks and other digital tools pop up so frequently that keeping up with them is a nearly impossible task. Just when you think you're up to date, something newer and hipper comes along.

But before you wave the white flag, let us help. Once again we have sorted through hundreds of new and emerging tech tools to bring you 50 of the most buzzworthy ones. (Last year's list can be found here.)

These apps and services can help you do everything from shooting better smartphone photos to cataloging your bottle-cap collection to finding the best pad Thai in your city. Not all of them are brand new, but we've probably listed some you haven't heard of. We hope you find them useful.

Which of your favorite new tech tools did we leave out? Let us know in the comments.

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500,000+ MACS Reportedly Infected With Trojan Virus

Who says MACS can't get viruses! Thanks to a well-documented flaw that Apple didn't patch for three months, a nasty piece of malware called Mac Flashback and BackDoor.Flashback.39 seems to have infected nearly 600,000 Macs worldwide! "Systems get infected with BackDoor.Flashback.39 after a user is redirected to a bogus site from a compromised resource or via a traffic distribution system,” the company said in a press release. “JavaScript code is used to load a Java-applet containing an exploit. Doctor Web's virus analysts discovered a large number of web-sites containing the code.”

Most of the infected machines are in the U.S. and Canada. While Apple users have long thought their machines were virtually invulnerable to virus and worm threats, the harsh truth is that most threats were aimed at Windows machines simply because there are so many more of them. With Apple taking a bigger market share, it becomes a more attractive target.

Russian software firm says the malware can give hackers control of users' computers

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5th Annual American Indian Business Expo Oct 6-7 2011

The American Indian Chamber of Commerce of the Carolinas Sponsors 5th Annual Business Expo
The 2011 Business Expo will be held on October 6th and 7th at The Trident Technical College Center located at 7000 Rivers Ave., Bldg 920, North Charleston, SC.

The Business Expo will bring together American Indian business owners, private industry, Federal government representatives and private citizens interested in learning more about Federal and private business opportunities. Break-out sessions with representatives from SPAWAR, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, The Charleston Defense Contractors Association (CDCA), Veterans Administration, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of South Carolina, General Services Administrations, Bosch, Michelin, KI, ISHIP, Barling Bay, LLC and the State Port Authority will provide attendees first hand interaction and insight into what makes for a winning proposal.

An awards luncheon will be held on Friday, October 7, 2011. The AICCC will recognize individuals and corporations who have supported the organization throughout the year. Individual tickets for members are $20 and $25 for non-members. No registration for the Expo is required

For information about sponsorships and individual luncheon tickets contact mahalla.ford@fowlerhospitality.com.

About the AICCC
The purpose of the AICCC is to promote commerce opportunities, business education, mentorship programs and public policy affecting American Indian Commerce and Development. The AICCC is recognized by the IRS as a 501 (c) (3) and 501 (c) (6) Nonprofit Corporation and is fully chartered by the state of South Carolina. To learn more about the organization visit, http://www.aicccarolinas.org/ or contact Teresa Gore, teresag@gtindustrial.net

Contact Information:

Mahalla Ford
843-266-8082
mahalla.ford@fowlerhospitality.com

Marsha Hassell,
843-725-6837
mhassell@barlingbay.com

ABC-TV sort of Goes live on the Internet

Photo(James Hood @ ConsumerAffairs) ABC is becoming the first over-the-air TV network to start live-streaming its programming on the Internet, but it's starting out with baby steps. 

The New York Times is reporting that ABC will quietly add a button to its iPhone and iPad apps this week that will let users around New York and Philadelphia begin live-streaming all ABC programming -- the first time any network has gone live on the web.

But wait, there's a catch: the live stream will only be available to paying customers of cable and satellite systems in the New York and Philadelphia markets. The six other cities where ABC owns TV stations will be added later this summer, the company said.

The network will have to negotiate with its more than 200 affiliates in other markets to clear the way for live-streaming outside the major cities where it owns stations.

The Times said ABC has already completed negotiations with Hearst Television, which owns stations in 13 markets, including Boston and Pittsburgh.

Could catch on

It may start a trend. Seven years ago, ABC became the first network to stream full episodes of its shows the day after they were broadcast and other networks quickly followed.

The broadcast and cable business is being broken open by pressure from consumers, lawmakers and regulators. The latest volley was fired last week by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who introduced a bill that would open up "a la carte" cable programming -- allowing subscribers to order only the channels they want to watch instead of being forced to pay for large tiers of channels they seldom or never watch.

The companies that produce shows for cable -- like AMC and HBO -- already distribute much of their programming via Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other Internet channels, putting additional pressure on over-the-air broadcasters to do the same. 

AMD Unveils FirePro S10000 Server Graphics Card

AMD has announced a new server-grade graphics card called the FirePro S10000 will. The graphics card is described as the industry’s most powerful server graphics card and is designed specifically for HPC workloads in graphics intensive applications. AMD says the video card can exceed 1 Tflops of double-precision floating-point performance.

 

AMD also says that the video card offers 5.19 Tflop of single-precision and 1.48 Tflop of double-precision floating-point calculations. The video card uses AMD’s next-generation Graphics Core Next Architecture. The powerful graphics card is aimed at use in a variety of fields including finance, oil exploration, aeronautics, automotive design and engineering, geophysics, life sciences, medicine, and defense.

The card offers dual GPUs and has high throughput and low latency transfers for quick computing of complex calculations that need high accuracy. The video card has 6GB of GDDR5 RAM and a 384-bit interface. Output options include four mini DisplayPort outputs.

The card also has one standard DVI output. Maximum resolution supported on the card’s DisplayPort 1.2 port is 4096 x 2160 with standard resolution on other outputs being 2560 x 1600. The video card consumes 375 W of power and needs to slots inside a computer. The retail price on the card is $3599.

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AOL Email Is Free - Make Sure Your Are Not Paying For It

 

AOL Logo

(Jennifer Abel @ ConsumerAffairs) Last August, when AOL released its then-current quarterly earnings report, the Internet world was astonished to learn that, despite AOL's efforts to transform itself into an advertising and media company, a huge chunk of the company's earnings still come from dialup subscribers – an average of $20.48 per user per month, as of mid-2014. (That said, the number of dialup subscribers has been steadily decreasing: AOL had 5.8 million subscribers in June 2009, compared to only 2.6 million four years later.)

Some of those AOL subscribers might actually need their dial-up subscriptions; there are still regions of the continental United States, especially lightly populated areas, where dialup is your only practical Internet option. According to the FCC, almost one-fifth of the American population lives in areas where broadband Internet is unavailable.

But that means over four-fifth of Americans do have access to broadband Internet, which is another way of saying 4 out of 5 Americans have no need to pay for an AOL dialup account.

This would indicate that the bulk of AOL's remaining dialup customers are paying for unused accounts they'd forgotten they had: years ago, when the Internet was still new and dialup the only way to get it, millions of customers set up automatic bill payments for their now-ancient AOL dialup subscriptions, upgraded later to a broadband connection … and forgot to unsubscribe to AOL. According to the earnings report from last August, the average AOL dialup subscription was 14 years old.

Still paying ...

Other customers continue to pay for AOL connections due to a different type of oversight: they have an AOL email account, most likely an older one from AOL's heyday, and didn't realize that AOL email accounts can be had for free — no paid AOL subscription is necessary.

(Indeed, as of Jan. 7, 2015, if you type “AOL email” into a search engine with or without quotation marks, the webpage listing for AOL is labeled “AOL Mail: Simple, Free, Fun.”)

This week we heard from a reader and former AOL subscriber named Daryl, who wrote us to say that he'd found our article from last August “that talks about AOL and how people unknowingly pay for the old AOL dial-up service when they have high speed cable internet service.  Well, that is my case, and I just found out over the holidays that I have been throwing almost $20 per month away for probably a decade (thousands of dollars).”

Indeed. A one-time payment of $20 isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but $20 every month adds up to $240 per year, or $1,200 every five years.

Once Daryl discovered this oversight, he cancelled his paid AOL account, after getting “several hours of runaround by their 'Consultants'.” Daryl knew all along that he didn't need or use his AOL account for actual Internet access, but, as he said:

“I always thought I was paying for use of AOL email service, my email name, email storage and contact list but now realize that email service is free.  I have never used the AOL Member Services that they now claim I was paying for.  I just thought those annoying Member Services emails they sent were advertisements for other offers you could sign up for.”

Nope. Most – not all, but most – of the people still paying for AOL subscriptions aren't actually “using” them.

If you ever used AOL dialup as your Internet connection, or if you have or had an AOL email account, double-check your recent credit card statements to see if there are any AOL payments still listed there.

If you discover that you are still paying a monthly AOL bill, here in 2015, should you cancel it?

That depends. If you have two or more Internet subscriptions – AOL in addition to Cox, Comcast, Time-Warner or any other broadband provider – chances are you don't need that AOL connection, or even use it anymore. In that case, cancel your AOL account so you can keep that money for yourself.

However, if AOL is the only online subscription you have, don't cancel it just yet — you do need a home Internet connection, after all — but should check to see if there isn't a better, faster Internet provider in your area. If there is, switch to it and then cancel your AOL account so you can keep that money for yourself.

What to do

That said, canceling an AOL account isn't always easy. The customer service "consultants" will do everything in their power to talk you into staying on.

The easiest and most reliable way to cancel is to send a letter -- yes, a real, old-fashioned ink-on-paper letter, preferably certified -- to:

AOL, Inc.
22000 Aol Way
Dulles, VA 20166

The letter should simply say something along these lines:

"Pursuant to our agreement, notice is hereby given of the immediate cancellation of my dial-up AOL service and authority to debit my credit card for this service is hereby revoked."

Be sure to include your full name, account number and AOL email address.

AOL Email Is Free - Make Sure Your Are Not Paying For It

 

AOL Logo

(Jennifer Abel @ ConsumerAffairs) Last August, when AOL released its then-current quarterly earnings report, the Internet world was astonished to learn that, despite AOL's efforts to transform itself into an advertising and media company, a huge chunk of the company's earnings still come from dialup subscribers – an average of $20.48 per user per month, as of mid-2014. (That said, the number of dialup subscribers has been steadily decreasing: AOL had 5.8 million subscribers in June 2009, compared to only 2.6 million four years later.)

Some of those AOL subscribers might actually need their dial-up subscriptions; there are still regions of the continental United States, especially lightly populated areas, where dialup is your only practical Internet option. According to the FCC, almost one-fifth of the American population lives in areas where broadband Internet is unavailable.

But that means over four-fifth of Americans do have access to broadband Internet, which is another way of saying 4 out of 5 Americans have no need to pay for an AOL dialup account.

This would indicate that the bulk of AOL's remaining dialup customers are paying for unused accounts they'd forgotten they had: years ago, when the Internet was still new and dialup the only way to get it, millions of customers set up automatic bill payments for their now-ancient AOL dialup subscriptions, upgraded later to a broadband connection … and forgot to unsubscribe to AOL. According to the earnings report from last August, the average AOL dialup subscription was 14 years old.

Still paying ...

Other customers continue to pay for AOL connections due to a different type of oversight: they have an AOL email account, most likely an older one from AOL's heyday, and didn't realize that AOL email accounts can be had for free — no paid AOL subscription is necessary.

(Indeed, as of Jan. 7, 2015, if you type “AOL email” into a search engine with or without quotation marks, the webpage listing for AOL is labeled “AOL Mail: Simple, Free, Fun.”)

This week we heard from a reader and former AOL subscriber named Daryl, who wrote us to say that he'd found our article from last August “that talks about AOL and how people unknowingly pay for the old AOL dial-up service when they have high speed cable internet service.  Well, that is my case, and I just found out over the holidays that I have been throwing almost $20 per month away for probably a decade (thousands of dollars).”

Indeed. A one-time payment of $20 isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but $20 every month adds up to $240 per year, or $1,200 every five years.

Once Daryl discovered this oversight, he cancelled his paid AOL account, after getting “several hours of runaround by their 'Consultants'.” Daryl knew all along that he didn't need or use his AOL account for actual Internet access, but, as he said:

“I always thought I was paying for use of AOL email service, my email name, email storage and contact list but now realize that email service is free.  I have never used the AOL Member Services that they now claim I was paying for.  I just thought those annoying Member Services emails they sent were advertisements for other offers you could sign up for.”

Nope. Most – not all, but most – of the people still paying for AOL subscriptions aren't actually “using” them.

If you ever used AOL dialup as your Internet connection, or if you have or had an AOL email account, double-check your recent credit card statements to see if there are any AOL payments still listed there.

If you discover that you are still paying a monthly AOL bill, here in 2015, should you cancel it?

That depends. If you have two or more Internet subscriptions – AOL in addition to Cox, Comcast, Time-Warner or any other broadband provider – chances are you don't need that AOL connection, or even use it anymore. In that case, cancel your AOL account so you can keep that money for yourself.

However, if AOL is the only online subscription you have, don't cancel it just yet — you do need a home Internet connection, after all — but should check to see if there isn't a better, faster Internet provider in your area. If there is, switch to it and then cancel your AOL account so you can keep that money for yourself.

What to do

That said, canceling an AOL account isn't always easy. The customer service "consultants" will do everything in their power to talk you into staying on.

The easiest and most reliable way to cancel is to send a letter -- yes, a real, old-fashioned ink-on-paper letter, preferably certified -- to:

AOL, Inc.
22000 Aol Way
Dulles, VA 20166

The letter should simply say something along these lines:

"Pursuant to our agreement, notice is hereby given of the immediate cancellation of my dial-up AOL service and authority to debit my credit card for this service is hereby revoked."

Be sure to include your full name, account number and AOL email address.

AOL Email Spoof - Change Your Password

PhotoEven if you're not an AOL user, you still might be affected by the recent AOL email spoofing — I say this as a non-AOL user who, in the past couple of days, has had a small avalanche of AOL-addressed spam littering my own email inbox.

If you have AOL email, there's definitely a chance your account has been spoofed — meaning, it's being used to send spammy emails to everyone in your address book. TechCrunch, which is owned by AOL, said on April 21 that “Sources close to the company believe the impact was less than 1 percent of all users and that they expect the issue to be quickly remedied.”

But for safety's sake, any AOL email users should change their passwords now, rather than wait to find out whether they were affected or not.

It's believed — so far — that customer data from other AOL accounts has not been compromised.

If you don't have AOL email, watch out for anything you get from an AOL address, especially emails with either no subject heading, or a vague and meaningless one. (My recently received AOL spoof emails had either blank subject headings, the word “Hi!” or the heading “FW:” followed by blank space.)

Ideally you should not even open such an email, but if you do, make sure you do not click on any links inside, nor open any attachments the email might have — doing so will almost certainly result in some very nasty malware infecting your computer.

AOL may be watching you too

(James Hood @ ConsumerAffairs) It's been kind of amazing to longtime Washington operatives to see the response to the news that the National Security Agency has been monitoring telephone and email traffic. You call that news? NSA and other agencies have been doing that for years in one way or another. Everybody knows about it. 

 

What nobody in taxpayerland seemed to remark on was how the most sensitive tasks imaginable had been outsourced to an independent contractor with a GED. This, after all, is the real secret of Washington -- the government itself doesn't do a whole lot, it just farms stuff out and then sits back and "manages." Or tries to.

But forget that for a minute. Here's something that will send you seeking a piece of gauze to tape over your computer's webcam: An advertising unit set up by AOL says it can monitor how you feel about the ads the Web constantly throws at you by watching your facial expressions.

Heh, and you thought that camera only worked when you asked it to.

Watching you watching us

Turns out AOL's "Be On" platform watches you watch the Web and measures your response to what you see by tracking your eye movements and other facial responses.

The platform is powered by Realeyes, a tech firm that says it has figured out how to control the cameras built into your laptop, desktop, tablet and smartphone to "read faces and measure human emotion." 

But don't worry. The company says that at the moment it is only spying on consumers who have opted in to tests being organized by a couple of market research firms.

Photo
Photo credit: Realeyes

But that, of course, is only the beginning. Be On CEO René Rechtman says AOL is already considering ways it could deploy the technology to track the emotional sentiment of its general users who want to opt into it, Online Media Dailyreported.

“It has always been very clear that content that has a strong emotional component has a much greater engagement and consumer response. We always knew that, but we didn’t have the science to execute it,” Rechtman said. “Now we have the technology and the science to measure how content affects people emotionally.”

Content, in this instance, is presumably ads. But then again, not necessarily. Perhaps the next step in the "happy talk" that infects TV news is to use Be On's technology to weed out stories that upset viewers, concentrating instead on stories about cute kittens and brave children who overcome adversity.

Politicians could make good use of it too. Although, come to think of it, if we knew they were watching us while we were watching them, there could be interesting consequences, not all of them necessarily tasteful.

AT&T Says Internet needs big pipes

(Jim Hood @ ConsumerAffairs) It wasn't too long ago that the big telephone companies were racing to compete with cable TV companies by stringing coaxial and figer optic cable while putting together programming packages of movies, sports, news and over-the-air broadcasts.

The future, everyone thought, was in delivering entertainment -- movies and TV -- to U.S. homes. Telephone company bureaucrats dreamed of sitting on the beach in Malibu, cutting deals with the stars to the background of the pounding surf and the Porsches buzzing up the Pacific Coast Highway.

Cablevision April 21, 2014, 7:35 p.m.Consumers rate Cablevision

But as it turned out, the Dilberts weren't exactly visionaries when it came to entertainment. They're pretty good at stringing cable, though, and it has suddenly dawned on everyone that the future of the telecom companies may be remarkably similar to their past -- running the networks that others use to move content.

The Cablevisions and Time Warners of the world have realized the same thing, which is why they're now racing to bulk up through mergers that will give them a bigger "footprint" for their high-speed Internet services.

Comcast, in particular, deserves credit for recognizing that it may, in the end, be little more than a pipe, though a very big and fast one. Consumers, after all, could survive very nicely if cable TV's programming packages morphed into streaming video and over-the-air broadcasters followed suit, but everybody needs Internet service, and the faster it is the better.  

Back in the game

AT&T Uverse April 21, 2014, 7:35 p.m.Consumers rate AT&T Uverse

Having awakened to the latest challenge of its long and somewhat sordid existence, AT&T is rushing to get back into or -- depending on your point of view -- stay in the game, today expanding its planned rollout of ultra-high-speed Internet service to as many as 100 cities and towns, including such major markets as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

AT&T says some locations will be seeing speeds as high as 1 gigabit per second by later this year. The upgrade is already underway in Austin, with Dallas and several North Carolina cities said to be next.

Then there's Google, which seems to be doing a lot of everything lately. It says it's studying "dozens" of cities that want a high-speed network like the one Google built in Kansas City, Kans. 

Streaming Video Age

You can thank Netflix and Amazon for a.) figuring out how to "do content" for the Streaming Video Age and b.) being big and mean enough to scare the daylights out of everybody else in the entertainment game. 

Then there's Aereo, the startling start-up that has been selling over-the-air television programming via the Internet for about $10 a month, making it easier for consumers to cut the cable without giving up sports broadcasts, local news and whatever else anybody still watches on traditional broadcast stations.

Aereo simply picks up the broadcast signals with tiny antennas -- one per subscriber -- and forwards them to the customer. What it doesn't do that cable does is pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the TV stations in licensing fees.

Showing your age

PhotoThe Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week in a suit brought against Aereo by the broadcasters. TV networks and local stations are scared stiff, saying their basic business model is threatened.

If Aereo wins, the stations say they may shut off their transmitters and turn themselves into cable channels.

Nice threat, guys, but you're showing your age. How about doing something useful -- like transforming yourself into streaming video? You wouldn't get those fat cable fees anymore but don't I recall that you started out in the advertising business and did pretty well at it? The days of obese oligopolies eating from two troughs are drawing to a close.

Don't believe it? Ask your black car driver how he's doing against Uber these days.

AT&T Sharple Increases Data Plan Price

AT&T is jacking up data plan rates by as much as 33% for smartphones and tablet computers. “Customers are using more data than ever before,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. “Our new plans are driven by this increasing demand in a highly competitive environment, and continue to deliver a great value to customers, especially as we continue our 4G LTE deployment.” Normally, when one produces and sell..

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AT&T T-Mobile Deal Demise Leaves Big Questions for Consumers

Demise of AT&T/T-Mobile Deal Leaves Questions for Consumers. T-Mobile Future hazt whilst AT&T hording spectrum. Media Access Project’s Senior Vice President and Policy Director Andrew Jay Schwartzman said: "While AT&T surely will say that it must quickly obtain additional spectrum, the filings in this case show that AT&T has been hoarding spectrum.  It should instead use its existing spectrum more efficiently and expedite deployment of more efficient LTE technology."

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AT&T Turns Up More 4g LTE Cities

AT&T turned up its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in 11 new markets over the holidays, bringing its total to 26 markets covering 74 million people at the end of 2011, the company said. Large cities like New York, San Francisco and LA, were included in the launch, as well as Austin, Chapel Hill, Oakland, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Diego and San Jose. The additions make AT&T 4G LTE available in a total of 26 markets to 74 million consumers.

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AT&T Verizon Squash Cramming Praise

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has commended two national telephone companies – AT&T and Verizon - for implementing measures to prevent cramming. Madigan hailed the actions as she pushes for complete bans on the practice in Illinois and nationwide.

“An outright ban on third-party billing is the only way to stop this scam and protect consumers,” Madigan said. “Thanks to efforts on the state and federal level, the major phone companies are moving in the right direction, but until an industry-wide ban is in effect, we will continue to pursue our legislation to put an end to this abusive billing practice that’s costing consumers untold millions.”

In her state legislature, Madigan is backing House Bill 5211, a statewide ban on all billing by a third-party company with only limited, commonsense exceptions for legitimate services. Last year, Madigan testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee and filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission calling for a similar, nationwide ban.

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AT&T Will Sharply Increase Data Plan Price Jan 22

AT&T Inc plans to sharply raise prices on data plans for smartphone and tablet customers from next week, calling the move a response to an explosion in wireless usage.From January 22, AT&T customers will pay $20 for a 300-megabyte monthly data plan, up from $15 for 200-mb currently. Users with higher requirements can also opt for $30 for 3 gigabytes -- versus $25 for 2 GB previously -- or $50 for 5 GB, up from $45 for 4 GB...

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AT&T customers surprised by 'unlimited data' limit

NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Trang likes to use his iPhone 4 as a GPS device, helping him get around in his job. Now and then, his younger cousins get ahold of it, and play some YouTube videos and games.

But in the past few weeks, there has been none of that, because AT&T Inc. put a virtual wheel clamp on his phone. Web pages wouldn't load and maps wouldn't render. Forget about YouTube videos — Trang's data speeds were reduced to dial-up levels.

"It basically makes my phone useless," said Trang, an Orange County, Calif. property manager.

The reason: AT&T considers Trang to be among the top 5 percent of the heaviest cellular data users in his area. Under a new policy, AT&T has started cutting their data speeds as part of an attempt to manage data usage on its network.

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AT&T promises 50 megabit Broadband after DirecTV merger

(Truman Lewis @ ConsumerAffairs) Rural dwellers have been largely left out of the broadband revolution that has swept the rest of the country but AT&T says that will change when its merger with DirecTV becomes final. It's promising broadband speeds of 50 megabits per second or better in rural areas. 

AT&T has technology “ready to go” by late 2015 to deliver high-speed wireless Internet service that’s faster than LTE, because it is delivered via a dedicated swath of spectrum, said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T's mobility division, according to a report in Variety.

de la Vega said AT&T's technology will permit it to deliver both TV and broadband via a single dish at the customer's home. Presently, satellite TV and Internet require separate dishes and satellite Internet is regarded as agonizingly slow by most consumers.

AT&T's $67 billion takeover of DirecTV is being reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission and other regulators. Unlike the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger it has not aroused too much opposition from traditional foes of big media mergers.

AT&T should thank its customers for a $350 million raise

Why? Well, because it can. After all, its customers are under contract so it’s not as though they can get mad and go somewhere else. And besides that, it’s an easier way to boost revenue than going out and finding new customers.

After all, AT&T has about 70 million wireless customers and most of them can afford an extra 61 cents per line per month, so why shouldn’t that money go into AT&T’s pocket. What are the consumers going to do with it anyway?

Next year will be even better for the telecom giant, which has never been shy about adding fees, charges and surcharges to everything it reaches out and touches. When applied to its 70 million customers for all of 2014, the new fee will add up to about $518 million next year.

It’s not even $1 billion but when you’re AT&T, every little bit helps.

The others do it ...

AT&T Wireless May 24, 2013, 8:42 p.m.
Consumers rate AT&T Wireless

In its defense, AT&T says other carriers have fees too. Verizon Wireless, for example, charges an administrative fee of 90 cents per line and a “regulatory recovery charge” of 16 cents. AT&T has one of those too, of course. It charges about 50 cents per line. Maybe it has more regulations to comply with than Verizon?

AT&T is very particular about its image, of course, so it doesn’t take kindly to people making snarky comments about its fees, fees and more fees. An AT&T spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the administrative fee is necessary to cover “certain expenses, such as interconnection and cell-site rents and maintenance.”

Oh well, that explains it then.

AT&T should thank its customers for a $350 million raise

Why? Well, because it can. After all, its customers are under contract so it’s not as though they can get mad and go somewhere else. And besides that, it’s an easier way to boost revenue than going out and finding new customers.

After all, AT&T has about 70 million wireless customers and most of them can afford an extra 61 cents per line per month, so why shouldn’t that money go into AT&T’s pocket. What are the consumers going to do with it anyway?

Next year will be even better for the telecom giant, which has never been shy about adding fees, charges and surcharges to everything it reaches out and touches. When applied to its 70 million customers for all of 2014, the new fee will add up to about $518 million next year.

It’s not even $1 billion but when you’re AT&T, every little bit helps.

The others do it ...

AT&T Wireless May 24, 2013, 8:42 p.m.
Consumers rate AT&T Wireless

In its defense, AT&T says other carriers have fees too. Verizon Wireless, for example, charges an administrative fee of 90 cents per line and a “regulatory recovery charge” of 16 cents. AT&T has one of those too, of course. It charges about 50 cents per line. Maybe it has more regulations to comply with than Verizon?

AT&T is very particular about its image, of course, so it doesn’t take kindly to people making snarky comments about its fees, fees and more fees. An AT&T spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the administrative fee is necessary to cover “certain expenses, such as interconnection and cell-site rents and maintenance.”

Oh well, that explains it then.

AT&T should thank its customers for a $350 million raise

Why? Well, because it can. After all, its customers are under contract so it’s not as though they can get mad and go somewhere else. And besides that, it’s an easier way to boost revenue than going out and finding new customers.

After all, AT&T has about 70 million wireless customers and most of them can afford an extra 61 cents per line per month, so why shouldn’t that money go into AT&T’s pocket. What are the consumers going to do with it anyway?

Next year will be even better for the telecom giant, which has never been shy about adding fees, charges and surcharges to everything it reaches out and touches. When applied to its 70 million customers for all of 2014, the new fee will add up to about $518 million next year.

It’s not even $1 billion but when you’re AT&T, every little bit helps.

The others do it ...

AT&T Wireless May 24, 2013, 8:42 p.m.
Consumers rate AT&T Wireless

In its defense, AT&T says other carriers have fees too. Verizon Wireless, for example, charges an administrative fee of 90 cents per line and a “regulatory recovery charge” of 16 cents. AT&T has one of those too, of course. It charges about 50 cents per line. Maybe it has more regulations to comply with than Verizon?

AT&T is very particular about its image, of course, so it doesn’t take kindly to people making snarky comments about its fees, fees and more fees. An AT&T spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the administrative fee is necessary to cover “certain expenses, such as interconnection and cell-site rents and maintenance.”

Oh well, that explains it then.

AT&T wants to bill you for everything

( @CNNMoneyTech) AT&T would like everything you own to connect to its network, and it wants all those connected possessions to show up on your monthly wireless bill.It's not as audacious as it sounds. Smartphones and tablets are hardly the only wirelessly connected gizmos anymore. Everything from medicine to door locks to dog collars are connected to wireless networks nowadays. Even cars have essentially become smartphones on wheels.

AT&T (T, Fortune 500) says this new "Internet of Everything" presents a path for the company to become far more ingrained in its customers lives. And with its new Mobile Share plans that give you one data bucket for all your connected gizmos, AT&T expects to profit. Customers will have to pay AT&T for all the new gadgets they'll be connecting and all the new services the company will be providing.

"We're sitting on the greatest growth opportunity in history," said Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, in an interview with CNNMoney. "With Mobile Share, we don't care so much anymore about what you're doing on the network ... but all those things like cars and home security are where the monetization opportunity is."

Related story: Why 4G may lead to bigger smartphone bills

At the Mobile World Congress wireless technology conference on Monday, AT&T announced a perfect example of this evolving strategy: a partnership with General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) to provide 4G service for the car company's OnStar service.

It was hardly just an announcement about directions and automatic accident reporting. AT&T will be selling a service that can make your Chevy into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. The telecom giant will also soon start selling a U-Verse service that streams TV to the back seat of equipped GM cars.

GM said it believes more than 50% of its cars will have wireless capabilities by 2015.

"Everyone is going to be impacted by this sooner rather than later," said de la Vega.

Connected cars are just the tip of the iceberg. Last year, AT&T unveiled a home security service that allows users to control their home's lights, alarm systems, locks and doors from a tablet or smartphone. A year earlier, the company showed off pill bottles that send text messages to remind people to take their medications.

"At AT&T, our goal is to wirelessly enable everything," said Glenn Lurie, AT&T's vice president of partnerships, at a press conference on Monday.

These new services may be useful, but they're also changing our behavior on the mobile Internet. Consumers are downloading more and more data as a greater number of things become connected and mobile broadband speeds become blazing fast with the nationwide rollouts of 4G networks.

In its latest annual Visual Networking Index, Cisco (CSCO, Fortune 500) predicted that the average American will use 6.2 GB of data on their mobile devices each month by 2017. To put that into context, Americans used just 752 MB on average last year.

If data plans stay the same five years down the road, the average user's smartphone bill could grow by $40 a month.

Not to worry, AT&T says. There are as many smart people thinking about how to solve the wireless data overload issue as there are people working up new ways to connect to the network.

"Don't give up on technology innovators," said de la Vega. "As we've seen major technology shifts in the past five years, from 2G to 3G to 4G, the the cost per megabyte has always come down. We have to make these services affordable for customers, or else it will be impossible to use them." To top of page

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ATM Machines Under Attack

Photo(Truman Lewis @ ConsumerAffairs) If you're not keeping a careful eye on your checking account transactions, now's the time to start. Banking regulators say hackers are finding new wants to make nearly unlimited withdrawals from ATMs before banks detect the fraud.

 

“This recent wave of cyber attacks reinforces how important it is to monitor your accounts for unauthorized activity because it’s not a matter of if but when your financial accounts will be targeted by a criminal,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

Regulators and law enforcement agencies are urging consumers to pay attention and be on the lookout for unauthorized withdrawals following the ATM warnings and the recent series of massive data breaches at major U.S. companies including Target and Neiman Marcus.

Large withdrawals

Late last week, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) reported the increase in cyber-attacks, disclosing that criminals have hacked bank websites and made large withdrawals from consumers’ accounts well before banks’ fraud alert systems recognize that anything is wrong. 

The FFIEC said hackers have learned how to delete or alter pre-programmed algorithms set up by banks to alert them of ATM withdrawals that are out of the ordinary.

The scam often starts via “phishing” attacks targeting bank employees. The scammers send phony but official-looking emails that include links to initiate a malware attack on the banks’ systems, allowing them to obtain employee login information that then enables them to access the banks’ ATM control panels.

After the hackers alter the algorithms managing the ATM controls, they create fraudulent ATM cards with account information stolen from separate attacks, either using malware or scanning programs at retail sales registers or ATMs, according to the FFIEC.

Multiple withdrawals

Hackers attempt to make several withdrawals from the same account at multiple ATMs simultaneously so that the daily withdrawal limit is not detected until the money has already been withdrawn, and the hackers often schedule the withdrawals for holidays and weekends, according to the FFIEC, when extra sums are loaded into ATMs and banks’ monitoring is less active.

In explaining the scope of the scams, the FFIEC cited a recent ATM attack that netted over $40 million in fraudulent withdrawals using only 12 debit card accounts.

Madigan offered the following tips to help detect and report unauthorized charges:

  • Monitor bank and credit card accounts daily online and billing statements every month. Contest unauthorized charges immediately over the phone and in writing.
  • Set up an alert on your account to receive notification when your credit or debit card is used over and above a certain dollar figure. Many banks offer this feature as a “transaction alert.”
  • Beware of callers who claim to be with your card issuing bank. These calls may be a scam. You should contact your bank first at the toll-free number on the back of your card before disclosing any personal information.

ATT&T T-Mobile Safu Will Hurt Future Marketing Effort

Here's a look at AT&T's arguments for the T-Mobile deal and how they don't look so hot if there's no deal. AT&T’s case for its $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile revolved around wireless spectrum, and improved network and more coverage for the U.S. But now that the Department of Justice wants to scuttle the deal, those arguments will haunt AT&T if the T-Mobile acquisition ultimately falls apart. Read More!

Action Against UN Internet Proposals Encouraged by Google

(Michael Endler  InformationWeek) Google fears that upcoming conference could give governments too much control over Internet governance, launches an online campaign to keep everyone in the loop.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will be holding its World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai next month -- and Google contends that Internet censorship might be on the agenda. The Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant has launched an online campaign to express its fear that the conference could freeze both tech companies and billions of users out of the Web governance process. The result, Google asserts, could allow governments and select companies to restrict how citizens access and use the Web.

The ITU is a United Nations agency tasked with promoting communication and information technologies. Its meeting will involve possible revisions to the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty. Untouched since 1988, the document emphasizes the technological challenges of its day, such as the handling of phone traffic. Times have changed, and some countries have reportedly advocated that the ITU purview expand to include ISPs and the Internet-based exchange of information in general.

If a new treaty with such provisions is passed, it could dramatically realign the current power structure around Internet standards and operations. Currently, non-profit entities such as ICANN handle these duties. By proxy, this gives the United States influence over the Internet's trajectory; ICANN, for example, ultimately reports to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Google isn't the only party concerned about an ITU takeover. BYTE editorial director Larry Seltzer wrote in May that the current governance bodies are "more open and transparent than the ITU, which only allows participation by governments." He noted that an ITU-governed Internet could mean greater UN control over cybersecurity, data privacy and the IP addressing system. He also said "foreign government-owned Internet providers [could] charge extra for international traffic and allow more price controls."

Many of these points are emphasized in the "Take Action" website Google set up to promote its message. The site essentially establishes a timeline to explain the company's fears. One bullet point focuses on the past, reminding visitors that many governments are actively censoring Web results and enacting laws that threaten online expression. Another looks to the near future, warning that "some of these governments are trying to use a closed-door meeting in December to regulate the Internet." Looking further ahead, the site predicts that regulatory shifts could allow governments to cut off Internet access. Google also foresees that users of YouTube, Facebook, Skype and similar services might have to pay tolls before transferring information across borders.

The site eschews specific information, presenting the company's view via images, videos, and short, sound bite-friendly statements. Even so, its concerns are more than speculation. Dr. Hamadoun Toure, the ITU's secretary general, stated, for example, that infrastructure costs will demand private participation and new pricing considerations -- an argument that sparked concerns about Web tolls. Other fears have been traced to treaty revision proposals submitted to the ITU. Few of these documents have been made public, but Wcitleaks.org, a site run by researchers at George Mason University, leaked Russia's call for member states to be given equal rights to manage the Internet. If such a call were fulfilled, individual countries could be much freer to restrict online free speech and censor Internet services, among other things.

Even so, some have doubted whether the UN really poses a threat. For one thing, changes require a consensus among ITU members, which is unlikely on this topic. For another, Congress has had its eye on the issue of Internet regulation for months; if the ITU wants to reallocate power, it will have to do so in the face of formidable political opposition.

Regardless of the actual risk, Google's opposition can be seen as a positive if it encourages people to take a more active role in the evolution of cyber laws. In this way, the company's effort evokes the SOPA and PIPA controversies. Many of the players and specific implications are different, but the push for participation from the online collective is the same. To this end, Google's "Take Action" site includes a petition through which users can support the idea that, "The billions of people around the globe who use the Internet should have a voice."

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Adobe Apple Microsoft and Mozilla all released updates

Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla all released updates on Tuesday to fix critical security flaws in their products. Adobe issued a patch that corrects four vulnerabilities in Shockwave Player, while Microsoft pushed updates to address four Windows flaws. Apple slipped out an update that mends at least 17 security holes in its version of Java, and Mozilla issued yet another major Firefox release, Firefox 8.

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Adobe debuts its first open source ever type family

Adobe has announced Source Sans Pro, a new and free open source type family, which is the first of its kind from the software provider.

The Source Sans Pro family currently includes six weights, from ExtraLight to Black, in upright and italic styles. Adobe is also offering language support for Latin script (including Western and Eastern European languages), Vietnamese, the pinyin Romanization of Chinese, and Navajo.

The Creative Suite maker also cites that this font family is the first from Adobe to support both the Indian rupee and Turkish lira currency symbols. Adobe also has plans to add Cyrillic and Greek support as well as producing a monowidth version of the Source Sans design.

Adobe asserts that this marks another milestone for the company in developing and producing high-quality type tools. After fielding frequent requests for a typeface tailored to an open source environment, this new typeface is touted to be tailored to Adobe users’ specific needs while making another important contribution to the open source community.

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Aereo May Be A Viable Cable TV Replacement

A mere day after a federal judge denied a temporary injunction television broadcasters were seeking against Aereo, the company's billionaire CEO, Barry Diller, said that Aereo has plans to expand to several U.S. cities in the coming months.

What's all the hubbub about? Aereo keeps a multitude of dime-sized HD antennas -- one for each customer -- in its New York data center, which capture the free television signals being transmitted over the air by local broadcast stations. Aereo then streams a feed of the live stations over the Internet to its subscribers, who pay $12 per month to receive the local TV programming via web browser or Aereo's mobile apps and supported devices. DVR-style recording and playback is also supported.

Aereo says it's the way TV will be watched in the future; CBS, Fox, Univision, PBS and others say it's copyright infringement and are suing to sideline the company. Aereo claims it doesn't need to pay fees to retransmit the stations' signals due to its unique antenna array.

After Blue Screen of Death reports, Microsoft says to uninstall recent patch

After Blue Screen of Death reports, Microsoft says to uninstall recent patch

Company quietly revises a security bulletin and opens an investigation.

On Friday, Microsoft recommended uninstalling a recent security update following reports that it caused Blue Screens of Death.

ComputerWorld reports that the patch—MS 14-045—was first announced on August 12 before it received further attention on Friday. The patch intended to fix three issues including one in the Windows kernel. But soon after it was initially released, a Microsoft support forum thread sprung up with tales of "Stop 0x50 errors," aka blue screens. (ComputerWorld notes the thread has surpassed 50,000 views within the week.)

Microsoft's updated information page for the patch includes an official, relatively detail-free explanation:

Why was this bulletin revised on August 15, 2014?
Microsoft revised this bulletin to address known issues associated with installation of security update 2982791. Microsoft is investigating behavior associated with the installation of this update, and will update this bulletin when more information becomes available. Microsoft recommends that customers uninstall this update. As an added precaution, Microsoft has removed the download links to the 2982791 security update. For instructions on how to uninstall this update, see Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 2982791.

Following the link to the uninstall information, Microsoft identifies the 0x50 error and re-emphasizes that investigations are ongoing. In their view, the issue could also be the result of three prior updates:

Known issue 3
Microsoft is investigating behavior in which systems may crash with a 0x50 Stop error message (bugcheck) after any of the following updates are installed:

2982791 MS14-045: Description of the security update for kernel-mode drivers: August 12, 2014
2970228 Update to support the new currency symbol for the Russian ruble in Windows
2975719 August 2014 update rollup for Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2
2975331 August 2014 update rollup for Windows RT, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2012

This condition may be persistent and may prevent the system from starting correctly.

As of Saturday, ComputerWorld reports that Windows Live Update was still pushing out the outdated patch. The site also notes that not every PC installing MS 14-045 eventually faced a blue screen.

Over at InfoWorld, the site offers potential fixes for afflicted users after writer Woody Leonhard faced this issue himself. ComputerWorld writes that "some customers were able to regain control of their PCs by using System Restore to return the machine to a previous date, but only after they'd booted the computer using original install media." Microsoft's recommendations include fixes like booting to Safe Mode, but the forum thread disputes how effective that method is.

So far, Microsoft Security Response Center hasn't acknowledged the situation on the group's Twitter account (its last post is about Bill Gates completing the ALS Ice Water Challenge).

Amazon Blamed By Netflix For Xmas Outage

Reuters/Reuters - A sign is shown at the headquarters of Netflix in Los Gatos, California September 20, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An outage at one of Amazon's web service centers hit users of Netflix Inc.'s streaming video service on Christmas Eve and was not fully resolved until Christmas day, a spokesman for the movie rental company said on Tuesday.

The outage impacted Netflix subscribers across Canada, Latin America and the United States, and affected various devices that enable users to stream movies and television shows from home, Netflix spokesman Joris Evers said. Such devices range from gaming consoles such as Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 to Blu-ray players.

Evers said that the issue was the result of an outage at an Amazon Web Services' cloud computing center in Virginia, and started at about 12:30 p.m. PST (2030 GMT) on Monday and was fully restored Tuesday morning, although streaming was available for most users late on Monday.

"We are investigating exactly what happened and how it could have been prevented," Evers said.

"We are happy that people opening gifts of Netflix or Netflix capable devices can watch TV shows and movies and apologize for any inconvenience caused last night," he added.

An outage at Amazon Web Services, or AWS, knocked out such sites as Reddit and Foursquare in April of last year.

Amazon Web Services was not immediately available for comment. Evers, the Netflix spokesman, declined to comment on the company's contracts with Amazon.

(Reporting by Sam Forgione; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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Amazon Glitch Affects Netflix Instagram Vine...

Instagram logo(bbcnews) Instagram, and many other web firms, rely on Amazon's cloud service

Software problems at one of Amazon's data centres has knocked out several high profile web services.

Users of Instagram, Netflix, Vine, Airbnb and several other services reported problems getting through to the services for several hours late on Sunday.

All of them rely on servers that are part of Amazon's cloud-based network.

The problems were traced to a data centre in northern Virginia that was struggling to keep up with demand.

Also caught up in the network problems were cloud software firm Heroku and web automation service IFTTT.

Instagram was the first to acknowledge that access to its services was intermittent via Twitter and other services put out warning messages soon after.

The problems for Americans began about 16:00 Eastern time (21:00 GMT) and continued for several hours. During this time access to the web services was intermittent with many people reporting that login pages were hard to reach or pages were taking a long time to update.

On the status page for its web services, Amazon said it was investigating a series of problems at the Virginia data centre. The problems hit databases, software that spreads queries across servers as well as the code controlling the core computers underlying the whole service.

After the problems were resolved, Amazon said the glitch was caused by the "partial failure of a networking device" but added no further details.

The short-lived problems come less than a week after Amazon's North American web stores went offline for about 30 minutes.

Amazon Prime Pantry delivers groceries 45 Pounds for $5.99

Photo(Truman Lewis @ ConsumerAffairs) The day wouldn't be complete without Amazon expanding into some new market segment. Today it's home delivery of groceries.

Amazon is announcing something called Prime Pantry, which will let Amazon Prime customers order as many groceries and household items as can be stuffed into a 45-pound box. Unlike other Prime services, there will be a delivery charge -- a flat $5.99, regardless of how full the box is.

PhotoHow do you know when the box is full? A little icon shows you how full your box is as you add items. 

But, you say, you can already order all kinds of grocery and household items from Amazon. Yes, you can, and many of them qualify for free two-day shipping for Prime members.

But many other items aren't currently offered under Prime -- like soda, bottled water or canned foods, simply because they're too heavy to ship for nothing.

It's not quite clear whether Amazon has added a raft of new products or if it is simply offering a more economical way to ship bulkier items. But unless you're heavily into body-building, there's nothing wrong with letting someone else lug cartons of soft drinks, bottled water and laundry detergent from the curb to your front door.  

On the negative side, we tried to put together a test order but the selection was so limited that we couldn't find 45 pounds worth of anything we wanted. In the sorely lacking department: iced tea in big bottles, coffee beans that aren't Starbucks, big bottles of decent olive oil, snack bars from somebody other than Kashi and so on.

Maybe the selection will improve with time but for now it's very white bread, so to speak.

 

Amazon Promises to Fix Kindle Fire Problems

Hot-selling tablet has some glitches that Amazon says it can fix quickly

"In less than two weeks, we're rolling out an over-the-air update to Kindle Fire," an Amazon spokesman told The New York Times, in a story published Sunday. Amazon wasn't specific about the update but said it would improve overall performance and navigation and would also add a feature that will let users delete their browsing histories, a concern that has been raised by privacy advocates

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Amazon planning a $50 tablet for the holidays

 

Photo

File photo

Amazon's Fire tablet didn't exactly set the world on fire and some of its other gadgets haven't done so well either. So this time around, instead of relying on tech wizardry the giant retailer is hoping a low price will move the merchandise.

 

The company is planning to release a $50 tablet with a 6-inch screen in time for this year's holiday shopping season, the Wall Street Journal reports today. That would be half the price of Amazon's current Fire HD and a lot less than the price of comparable products from Apple, Samsung, et al.

The device won't have all the bells and whistles of more expensive tablets and will be intended mostly for such simple tasks as streaming video and, of course, shopping on Amazon. For $50, it's basically disposable, which should make it a good gift for children and others who aren't always too careful with delicate tech toys.

Competing with Apple is an exercise that's fraught with peril, however. Later this week, Apple is expected to release new iPad and iPhone versions, possibly including some lower-priced models that could once again douse Amazon's flames. 

In addition, there are already plenty of low-end tablets selling for around $50, making it difficult for Amazon to find a niche a can dominate, many tech watchers speculate

Amazonis testing delivery packages using drones

(Reuters and Bloomberg News) Amazon.com Inc. is testing delivery packages using drones, CEO Jeff Bezos said Sunday on the CBS television program "60 Minutes."

Bezos said the drones, unmanned vehicles that fly through the air, could deliver packages that weigh up to five pounds. That represents roughly 86 percent of packages that Amazon delivers, he said.

The drones, which would pick up items from Amazon's distribution centers and fly them to customer's homes, probably won't be put into use for four or five years, Bezos said.

"It will work, and it will happen, and it's gonna be a lot of fun," he said in the "60 Minutes" interview.

Amazon may start using the drones, which can deliver packages within 30 minutes, in four to five years pending Federal Aviation Administration approval, Bezos said.

Amazon, based in Seattle, has been ramping up ways to get products to consumers more quickly, as it seeks to keep shoppers coming back to buy from its Web store instead of going to brick- and-mortar retailers. Some of Amazon's most lucrative customers are members of its $79-a-year Prime program, which promises fast delivery.

To cater to these customers, Amazon last month said it was teaming up with the U.S. Postal Service to begin Sunday delivery.

Separately, Amazon said in a statement that it will offer two limited-time deals on its Kindle Fire tablets as part of its Cyber Monday promotions. The company said it will offer $50 off its 16-gigabyte Kindle Fire HD and its 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX.

Americans Pay Premium Price For LTE Cellular Service

(Kevin O'Brien NY Times) BERLIN — Does LTE, the superfast wireless service based on Long Term Evolution technology, cost too much in the United States? A recent study by the research arm of the GSM Association, a group based in London that represents mobile operators, suggests that may be the case.

The LTE network run by Verizon Wireless, the U.S. market leader, went live in 2010, shortly after Sweden turned on the world’s first LTE networks in December 2009.

Through June, there were 27 million LTE subscribers in the world, about half of them in the United States, according to TeleGeography, a market research firm based in Washington. South Korea is the second-largest market, with 7.5 million users, and Japan, with 3.5 million, is the third, according to the company.

LTE services are available in 21 European countries and used by 1.5 million people, TeleGeography says. Germany has the most users there.

A comparison by Wireless Intelligence, a unit of the GSM Association, suggests that being in the biggest LTE market has not brought low prices to U.S. consumers.

According to the study, Verizon Wireless, which is a joint venture of Verizon and Vodafone, charges $7.50 for each gigabyte of data downloaded over its LTE network. That is three times the European average of $2.50 and more than 10 times what consumers pay in Sweden, where a gigabyte costs as little as 63 cents.

Brenda Raney, a spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless, which is based in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, said the Verizon Wireless LTE plan cited in the study also included unlimited voice minutes, unlimited text, picture and video messages shared among 10 different data-capable devices and a mobile hotspot on the smartphone. Having a data-only plan, Ms. Raney said, would reduce the per-gigabyte charge at Verizon Wireless to $5.50 — still be more than twice the European average.

Calum Dewar, the Wireless Intelligence analyst who made the comparison, said there were several reasons for higher LTE prices in the United States.

First, U.S. operators like Verizon sell LTE as part of a larger mobile package, whereas European operators increasingly sell it as a stand-alone service at a lower price. U.S. operators are phasing out unlimited data plans, which is causing the price of data to increase above their levels in Europe, where a similar shift began two years ago. And you can buy LTE on a pay-as-you-go basis, often from virtual network discounters.

But another big reason for the trans-Atlantic discrepancy in LTE costs, Mr. Dewar said, is a difference in the levels of competition. Europe has the greatest number of operators selling LTE: 38 of 88 operators worldwide. Even small markets like Austria, Finland and Portugal have three LTE operators.

Until July, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility were the only U.S. operators selling LTE nationally, Mr. Dewar said. And Verizon Wireless, which began selling LTE service in December 2010, has largely had the U.S. LTE market to itself in setting prices. In June, Verizon Wireless had 11.6 million LTE customers, and AT&T Mobility, the next biggest U.S. seller of LTE, had 750,000, according to TeleGeography.

The LTE comparison mirrors the trend for other types of mobile services, like 3G, which also tends to cost more in the United States.

U.S. consumers who bought mobile service through contracts spent $115 a month for 3G service, according to a survey conducted in May and June of 6,000 consumers in 12 countries by Ernst & Young, an accounting firm. In the Netherlands, the average was $51; in Britain, $59.

J. Scott Marcus, a senior Internet technology adviser at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from 2001 to 2005, said European telephone behavior had developed in an environment of high prices, while U.S. habits had been shaped by low prices for landline and, initially, mobile service.

As a result, Europeans tend to be more restrained in calling and mobile surfing than Americans, said Mr. Marcus, who is an analyst at WIK-Consult, a research firm in Bad Honnef, Germany, owned by the German Economics Ministry.

The higher prices are slowing the adoption of smartphone services, according to Jonathan Dharmapalan, Ernst & Young’s global telecommunications leader.

“The No. 1 reason for customers’ discontinuing their use of a smartphone service or not taking the option is the fear of overspending,” Mr. Dharmapalan said.

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America’s Most Profitable Products and WHY

(Douglas A. McIntyre, Brian Zajac and Michael B. Sauter @ 24/7 Wall St) Successful companies frequently rely heavily on just one product for the majority of their sales and profit. That’s true for some of the most iconic brands, including Coke, Marlboro and the Apple iPhone. Because each product represents such an outsized share of their respective company’s revenue, the products’ tremendous margins are the foundation of the company’s profit.

These products are the most profitable for several reasons. Nearly all of them are the market leader in their sector and are mass produced at an unprecedented scale. As a result, the companies can apply significant pressure up and down their supply chain, ensuring they can manufacture the product at the lowest cost, and sell it to customers at the highest possible price. Apple sold 37.4 million iPhones in its most recently reported quarter. Very few smartphone or consumer electronics devices can match that volume, which gives Apple notable leverage in negotiations for components and with carriers.

The most profitable products tend to rely on the power of their brand, which can command a premium price and sell extraordinary numbers of units. In fact, some of these products, including the iPhone, Coke and Marlboro, are part of the world’s most valuable brands as measured by brand consultancies like Interbrand and BrandZ. All three companies are the market leader, despite the presence of competing products that sell for much less.

Another important factor that contributes to product profitability is good management. A company that spends too much on research and development, marketing, or management can smother a product’s margins. Of course, controlling expenses is a balancing act. A product that is not well marketed is a product that will probably not do well for long.

Product profitability is among the most difficult financial measurement to analyze from the financial information released by many of America’s public companies. It is also among the most difficult to find information on. Public companies tend to guard data on product profits, and rightly so. This information is the equivalent of a trade secret that corporations do not want their competitors to have, even if the figures can be estimated.

Based on data provided by Capital IQ, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the S&P 500 companies that produce consumer products. We only considered corporations that have a single product save as the company’s flagship brand, or where the product represented the largest single contributor of revenue. To account for the opaque nature of product profitability, 24/7 Wall St. only considered products of publicly traded companies that disclosed significant details about their operations. And we used operating margin as the primary measure of profitability.
 
We excluded companies with an operating margin of less than 15%, as well as companies that did not break out revenue by division or product. In order to estimate product operating margin, in the cases when the product’s margin or revenue was not provided, we used the company or division’s operating margin as a proxy. (Operating margin measures a company's profit as a percent of revenue after deducting certain expenses. Companies with margins of less than 15% are less likely to have a product with a high product margin.)
 
If it was clear that the brand power of the product and high volume of sales allows the company to sell the product at a premium, we awarded the product a higher operating profit. Market share valued listed are worldwide, unless otherwise noted. We treated company products of the same type and brand as one. For example, for our purposes, Coca-Cola includes Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and Cherry Coke.

1. iPhone
REUTERS/Tony Gentile> Operating margin: 40%
> Revenue: $80.5 billion
> Market share: 20.9%
> Industry: Computer hardware

The iPhone is by far the most successful product Apple sells. Of the company’s $156.5 billion in worldwide sales in 2012, $80.5 billion came from the iPhone alone. Apple sold more than 125 million units last year, a 73% increase from 2011. In contrast, Apple sold 58.3 million iPads that year, generating just $32.4 billion in gross revenue. Each iPhone is far more profitable than each iPad, the company’s second best-selling product. According to documents released as a result of the patent lawsuit between Apple and Samsung, Apple’s gross margins on the iPhone were between 49% and 58% from April 2010 to April 2012, nearly double that of the iPad. This is partly because of larger revenue due to carriers that subsidize the iPhone heavily — an average of $425 per unit according to a recent Stifel Nicholaus analysis. Because of this fact, we calculate the iPhone’s profit margin is 40% — even higher than the entire company’s 35.3% margin.

2. Marlboro
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma> Operating margin: 30%
> Revenue: $19.0 billion
> Market share: 42.6%
> Industry: Tobacco

Marlboro cigarettes are sold by Altria Group, Inc. in the U.S., and by Philip Morris International — which Altria spun off roughly five years ago — outside the U.S. Marlboro branded cigarettes have made both companies extremely profitable. Altria’s sales of smokeable products totalled roughly $22.8 billion in its most recent full year, 90% of total company revenues, of which 85% of units sold were Marlboros. Altria’s smokeable products unit has an operating profit of 28%. Because Marlboro is one the company’s strongest and best-selling brand, it is 24/7’s estimate that costs to produce the cigarette are lower and average price charged is higher than the company’s discount cigarette lines. As a result, we estimate the cigarette has an operating margin of at least 30%. BrandZ calculates that Marlboro is the world’s seventh most valuable brand at $73.6 billion.

[More from 24/7 Wall St.: Countries with the highest unemployment]

3. Monster
REUTERS/Sam Mircovich> Operating margin: 26.7%
> Revenue: $1.9 billion
> Market share: 37.2%
> Industry: Soft drinks

Monster Beverage Corporation had net sales of roughly $2.1 billion in fiscal 2012, with an operating income of $551 million. According to market research company Symphony IRI, in the 52 weeks ending February 24, Monster-branded energy drinks accounted for 37.2% of the market, just behind main competitor Red Bull. In that time, the company sold approximately 1.2 billion cans of its Monster-branded products, including almost 776 million cans of its original Monster beverage. Because Monster-branded drinks accounted for 92.3% of total company revenue, we have treated the company’s 26.7% operating margin as a proxy for the energy beverage. Monster, like many energy drink vendors, has faced controversy in recent months after the Food and Drug Administration released reports of several deaths that may have been associated with the product.

4. Coca-Cola
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque> Operating margin: 25%
> Revenue: $14.3 billion
> Market share: 41.9%
> Industry: Soft drinks

Coca-Cola and Diet Coke were the two most popular sodas in the world as of 2011, with Diet Coke recently surpassing Pepsi to become the second-most popular drink in the U.S. Overall, trademark Coca-Cola products accounted for approximately 48% of all case sales of finished finished products, the company sold in fiscal 2012. Given that the company’s finished products unit, which includes the Coca-Cola brand, accounted for 62% of total revenue for the company, Coca-Cola trademark drinks accounted for roughly 30% of the company’s total revenue. Overall, the Coca-Cola Company reported 2012 sales of $48 billion and an operating profit of 22.4%. We estimate that the tremendous sales of the company’s flagship brand pushes its operating margin to 25%. BrandZ reports that Coke is the world’s sixth most valuable brand at $74.3 billion.

5. Enfamil
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan> Operating margin: 24%
> Revenue: $2.3 billion
> Market share: 15.1%
> Industry: Packaged foods and meats

The Mead Johnson Nutrition Company primarily sells infant formula and nutritional products for children, with infant formula making up 59% of the company’s total sales in 2012. The vast majority of Mead’s infant formula sales are from Enfamil, one of the best-selling infant formula brands in the U.S. The product also has several versions designed for babies with different types of feeding problems, intolerances and nutritional needs. There is also no major category in the infant formula industry in which the brand doesn’t have a presence. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Mead Johnson had the second largest market share in infant formula as of mid-2012, with 15.1% of the market. The company was also the market leader in the rapidly growing Chinese formula market as of last year. The company’s operating margin in FY 2012 was 22.3%.We estimate its top brand has a margin of at least 24% as a result of higher retail prices earned by its strong brand and lower costs to produce due to production economies.

6. Folgers
AP Photo> Operating margin: 23.6%
> Revenue: $2.3 billion
> Market share: 11.8% (U.S.)
> Industry: Packaged foods and meats

Folgers is owned by the J.M. Smucker Company, which reported sales of $5.5 billion in 2012. Of those sales, $2.3 billion came from coffee. (p.28) The company’s U.S. retail coffee unit, of which Folger’s is the top-selling brand, reported an operating margin of 23.6%, which is down from 27.8% in 2011 and 28.5% in 2010. We estimate that Folgers has an operating margin of at least that. The brand is the market leader for instant coffee in the U.S., commanding an 11.8% market share as of 2012. However, this is down from 13.2% in 2011. J.M. Smucker cut the price of coffee by 6% in 2012, which will affect the bottom line for both its Folgers brand and Dunkin’ Donuts-licensed coffee. One of the reasons the company’s profitability is so impressive is that it exists in a highly competitive market with brands like Maxwell House and Starbucks.

7. Garmin nüvi
ConsumerReports.org> Operating margin: 15%
> Revenue: $1.2 billion
> Market share: Greater than 50%
> Industry: Consumer electronics

Garmin is a navigation device company, focusing on GPS technology. By far, the most profitable of the company’s five divisions on a dollar basis, despite the fact that other divisions of the company have better margins, is the automotive/mobile group. This division makes and sells Garmin’s GPS units. This segment accounted for 55% of the company’s sales in 2012 — $221 million in operating profit on $1.5 billion in revenue. By comparison, none of the other four segments accounted for more than 15% of sales. Much of the segment’s success was due to Garmin’s nüvi product line, which accounted for 43% of the company’s total revenue in 2012. Garmin is by far the largest participant in the GPS market, with over a 50% market share, according to Consumer Reports.
active-technologies.com

America’s Most Profitable Products and WHY

(Douglas A. McIntyre, Brian Zajac and Michael B. Sauter @ 24/7 Wall St) Successful companies frequently rely heavily on just one product for the majority of their sales and profit. That’s true for some of the most iconic brands, including Coke, Marlboro and the Apple iPhone. Because each product represents such an outsized share of their respective company’s revenue, the products’ tremendous margins are the foundation of the company’s profit.

These products are the most profitable for several reasons. Nearly all of them are the market leader in their sector and are mass produced at an unprecedented scale. As a result, the companies can apply significant pressure up and down their supply chain, ensuring they can manufacture the product at the lowest cost, and sell it to customers at the highest possible price. Apple sold 37.4 million iPhones in its most recently reported quarter. Very few smartphone or consumer electronics devices can match that volume, which gives Apple notable leverage in negotiations for components and with carriers.

The most profitable products tend to rely on the power of their brand, which can command a premium price and sell extraordinary numbers of units. In fact, some of these products, including the iPhone, Coke and Marlboro, are part of the world’s most valuable brands as measured by brand consultancies like Interbrand and BrandZ. All three companies are the market leader, despite the presence of competing products that sell for much less.

Another important factor that contributes to product profitability is good management. A company that spends too much on research and development, marketing, or management can smother a product’s margins. Of course, controlling expenses is a balancing act. A product that is not well marketed is a product that will probably not do well for long.

Product profitability is among the most difficult financial measurement to analyze from the financial information released by many of America’s public companies. It is also among the most difficult to find information on. Public companies tend to guard data on product profits, and rightly so. This information is the equivalent of a trade secret that corporations do not want their competitors to have, even if the figures can be estimated.

Based on data provided by Capital IQ, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the S&P 500 companies that produce consumer products. We only considered corporations that have a single product save as the company’s flagship brand, or where the product represented the largest single contributor of revenue. To account for the opaque nature of product profitability, 24/7 Wall St. only considered products of publicly traded companies that disclosed significant details about their operations. And we used operating margin as the primary measure of profitability.
 
We excluded companies with an operating margin of less than 15%, as well as companies that did not break out revenue by division or product. In order to estimate product operating margin, in the cases when the product’s margin or revenue was not provided, we used the company or division’s operating margin as a proxy. (Operating margin measures a company's profit as a percent of revenue after deducting certain expenses. Companies with margins of less than 15% are less likely to have a product with a high product margin.)
 
If it was clear that the brand power of the product and high volume of sales allows the company to sell the product at a premium, we awarded the product a higher operating profit. Market share valued listed are worldwide, unless otherwise noted. We treated company products of the same type and brand as one. For example, for our purposes, Coca-Cola includes Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and Cherry Coke.

1. iPhone
REUTERS/Tony Gentile> Operating margin: 40%
> Revenue: $80.5 billion
> Market share: 20.9%
> Industry: Computer hardware

The iPhone is by far the most successful product Apple sells. Of the company’s $156.5 billion in worldwide sales in 2012, $80.5 billion came from the iPhone alone. Apple sold more than 125 million units last year, a 73% increase from 2011. In contrast, Apple sold 58.3 million iPads that year, generating just $32.4 billion in gross revenue. Each iPhone is far more profitable than each iPad, the company’s second best-selling product. According to documents released as a result of the patent lawsuit between Apple and Samsung, Apple’s gross margins on the iPhone were between 49% and 58% from April 2010 to April 2012, nearly double that of the iPad. This is partly because of larger revenue due to carriers that subsidize the iPhone heavily — an average of $425 per unit according to a recent Stifel Nicholaus analysis. Because of this fact, we calculate the iPhone’s profit margin is 40% — even higher than the entire company’s 35.3% margin.

2. Marlboro
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma> Operating margin: 30%
> Revenue: $19.0 billion
> Market share: 42.6%
> Industry: Tobacco

Marlboro cigarettes are sold by Altria Group, Inc. in the U.S., and by Philip Morris International — which Altria spun off roughly five years ago — outside the U.S. Marlboro branded cigarettes have made both companies extremely profitable. Altria’s sales of smokeable products totalled roughly $22.8 billion in its most recent full year, 90% of total company revenues, of which 85% of units sold were Marlboros. Altria’s smokeable products unit has an operating profit of 28%. Because Marlboro is one the company’s strongest and best-selling brand, it is 24/7’s estimate that costs to produce the cigarette are lower and average price charged is higher than the company’s discount cigarette lines. As a result, we estimate the cigarette has an operating margin of at least 30%. BrandZ calculates that Marlboro is the world’s seventh most valuable brand at $73.6 billion.

[More from 24/7 Wall St.: Countries with the highest unemployment]

3. Monster
REUTERS/Sam Mircovich> Operating margin: 26.7%
> Revenue: $1.9 billion
> Market share: 37.2%
> Industry: Soft drinks

Monster Beverage Corporation had net sales of roughly $2.1 billion in fiscal 2012, with an operating income of $551 million. According to market research company Symphony IRI, in the 52 weeks ending February 24, Monster-branded energy drinks accounted for 37.2% of the market, just behind main competitor Red Bull. In that time, the company sold approximately 1.2 billion cans of its Monster-branded products, including almost 776 million cans of its original Monster beverage. Because Monster-branded drinks accounted for 92.3% of total company revenue, we have treated the company’s 26.7% operating margin as a proxy for the energy beverage. Monster, like many energy drink vendors, has faced controversy in recent months after the Food and Drug Administration released reports of several deaths that may have been associated with the product.

4. Coca-Cola
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque> Operating margin: 25%
> Revenue: $14.3 billion
> Market share: 41.9%
> Industry: Soft drinks

Coca-Cola and Diet Coke were the two most popular sodas in the world as of 2011, with Diet Coke recently surpassing Pepsi to become the second-most popular drink in the U.S. Overall, trademark Coca-Cola products accounted for approximately 48% of all case sales of finished finished products, the company sold in fiscal 2012. Given that the company’s finished products unit, which includes the Coca-Cola brand, accounted for 62% of total revenue for the company, Coca-Cola trademark drinks accounted for roughly 30% of the company’s total revenue. Overall, the Coca-Cola Company reported 2012 sales of $48 billion and an operating profit of 22.4%. We estimate that the tremendous sales of the company’s flagship brand pushes its operating margin to 25%. BrandZ reports that Coke is the world’s sixth most valuable brand at $74.3 billion.

5. Enfamil
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan> Operating margin: 24%
> Revenue: $2.3 billion
> Market share: 15.1%
> Industry: Packaged foods and meats

The Mead Johnson Nutrition Company primarily sells infant formula and nutritional products for children, with infant formula making up 59% of the company’s total sales in 2012. The vast majority of Mead’s infant formula sales are from Enfamil, one of the best-selling infant formula brands in the U.S. The product also has several versions designed for babies with different types of feeding problems, intolerances and nutritional needs. There is also no major category in the infant formula industry in which the brand doesn’t have a presence. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Mead Johnson had the second largest market share in infant formula as of mid-2012, with 15.1% of the market. The company was also the market leader in the rapidly growing Chinese formula market as of last year. The company’s operating margin in FY 2012 was 22.3%.We estimate its top brand has a margin of at least 24% as a result of higher retail prices earned by its strong brand and lower costs to produce due to production economies.

6. Folgers
AP Photo> Operating margin: 23.6%
> Revenue: $2.3 billion
> Market share: 11.8% (U.S.)
> Industry: Packaged foods and meats

Folgers is owned by the J.M. Smucker Company, which reported sales of $5.5 billion in 2012. Of those sales, $2.3 billion came from coffee. (p.28) The company’s U.S. retail coffee unit, of which Folger’s is the top-selling brand, reported an operating margin of 23.6%, which is down from 27.8% in 2011 and 28.5% in 2010. We estimate that Folgers has an operating margin of at least that. The brand is the market leader for instant coffee in the U.S., commanding an 11.8% market share as of 2012. However, this is down from 13.2% in 2011. J.M. Smucker cut the price of coffee by 6% in 2012, which will affect the bottom line for both its Folgers brand and Dunkin’ Donuts-licensed coffee. One of the reasons the company’s profitability is so impressive is that it exists in a highly competitive market with brands like Maxwell House and Starbucks.

7. Garmin nüvi
ConsumerReports.org> Operating margin: 15%
> Revenue: $1.2 billion
> Market share: Greater than 50%
> Industry: Consumer electronics

Garmin is a navigation device company, focusing on GPS technology. By far, the most profitable of the company’s five divisions on a dollar basis, despite the fact that other divisions of the company have better margins, is the automotive/mobile group. This division makes and sells Garmin’s GPS units. This segment accounted for 55% of the company’s sales in 2012 — $221 million in operating profit on $1.5 billion in revenue. By comparison, none of the other four segments accounted for more than 15% of sales. Much of the segment’s success was due to Garmin’s nüvi product line, which accounted for 43% of the company’s total revenue in 2012. Garmin is by far the largest participant in the GPS market, with over a 50% market share, according to Consumer Reports.
active-technologies.com

Android Gadget Makes It A Desktop or Laptop PC

Many people carry two or more gadgets with them, all with Internet access and the ability to run apps. But when you have your songs on one machine, your ebooks on another, and your games back at home on your PC or Mac, it means that you're disconnected from part of your computing essentials wherever you go.

One way to get around this is to use Web apps you can get to from anywhere, like WordPress and Evernote. Another is to use one gadget that replaces some or all of the others. Here's a look at the ways to do this, including a couple of new ones. (Be sure to try before you buy!!!)

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Android Gaining On Apple

(Mark Huffman Consumer Affairs) When Apple reported it's third quarter earnings Thursday, one stat stuck out. The high-flying tech company sold fewer than expected iPads during the period.

Not surprising, says a report from Strategy Analytics, which follows the technology sector. Android tablet sales surged in the last quarter, allowing it to capture 41 percent of the tablet market to Apple's 57 percent. A year ago, Apple was thought to control two-thirds of the market.

“Global tablet shipments reached 24.7 million units in Q3 2012, rising a sluggish 43 percent from 17.2 million in Q3 2011,” Peter King, director at Strategy Analytics, said. “Demand for tablets slowed due to ongoing economic uncertainty and consumers holding off purchases in anticipation of multiple new models, like the iPad Mini, during the upcoming Q4 holiday season.”

Apple disappoints

Strategy Analytics says Apple shipped a disappointing 14.0 million iPads worldwide and captured 57 percent share in the third quarter of 2012, dipping from 64 percent a year ago.

“Apple’s slowdown allowed the Android community to make gains and Android’s global share of the tablet market now stands at a record 41 percent,” King said.

Android's move up, meanwhile, has been dramatic. A year ago only 29 percent of the market belonged to Android. Now it has a 41 percent market share.

“Global Android tablet shipments doubled annually to 10.2 million units,” said Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics. “No single Android vendor comes close to Apple in volume terms at the moment, but the collective weight of dozens of hardware partners, such as Asus, Samsung and Nook, is helping Google’s Android platform to register a growing presence in tablets.”

The company says it expects tablet sales to pick up speed in the current quarter, thanks to new entries from Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

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Android Powers 75% of Global SmartPhone Market

(Zack Whittaker IDC) Summary: Research firm IDC says Google-developed Android is now on three-quarters of all smartphones worldwide, while Apple's closed software-hardware ecosystem relegates the platform to a distant second-pace.

Latest figures from research firm IDC shows Google's Android mobile operating system is dominating the mobile market, with the software present on three-quarters of smartphones worldwide in the third quarter.

According to the figures, Android's gain is mostly thanks to the wide range of smartphone manufacturers adopting the software on a bevy of phones. According to comScore figures released today, Samsung retains a strong lead on the mobile OEM market. While Samsung's lead is due to a range of cheap feature phones and low-budget Android-powered smartphones, the company has seen strong success with its Galaxy range of smartphones, in particular the Galaxy S III, which has sold more than 30 million handsets in the three months since it first launched.

Meanwhile, 'underdog' Apple has only 14.9 percent of the mobile market as a result of its closed ecosystem and software exclusivity with the iPhone range.

Screen Shot 2012-11-02 at 16.25.32

By the numbers, Google's Android and Apple's iOS mobile platforms account for just shy of 90 percent of the overall smartphone market worldwide. 

Android shipped on 136 million smartphones in the third quarter of 2012, taking in 75 percent of the global smartphone market; a year-over-year change of more than 90 percent. 

In comparison, iOS shipped on 26.9 million iPhones in the third quarter of 2012, taking a 14.9 percent of the global smartphone market, representing a 57 percent increase year-over-year.

Research in Motion's BlackBerry platform remains at third place and accounts for 7.7 percent of the worldwide smartphone market. However its market share continues to fall rapidly by 34 percent on the same quarter a year ago.

RIM faces further dwindling smartphone market share in the run-up to the launch of the next-generation BlackBerry 10 release, aimed for the first quarter of 2013, but some analysts believe the new range of QNX-based smartphones will not launch until the end of the three-month period.

Nokia's now-defunct Symbian platform declined the most in share, according to IDC, by more than 77 percent year-over-year. That said, Symbian's decline comes as a blessing for Nokia as it continues to plug the Windows Phone platform through its 'special relationship' with Microsoft. 

On that note, the biggest gainer of all the platforms is Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. Year-over-year it has seen a 140 percent increase in share on shipments. However, in spite of Nokia and Microsoft's relationship and the ongoing push for Lumia sales to bring up the Windows Phone share, the Microsoft mobile software still comes in fourth-place after Nokia. IDC pegs global shipments of Windows Phone-powered devices at just 3.6 million for the third quarter.

In the coming quarter, it's likely that Symbian's continued decline along with a range of new Windows Phone 8-powered smartphones could switch the third- and fourth-place around and see Windows Phone in fourth place.

Image credit: IDC.

 

Android is better than iPhone - 10 Reasons by Syed Ahmed

1) Browsing with Android is much faster, and it has FLASH You can view all flash websites.and yes, you can play Facebook games like city ville, farm ville

2) Desktop With Iphone you will have a page full of icons. Even if you categorized your apps, it’s still going to be ICONS :sWith Android, you will be able to customize your pages with widgets that have an actual Purpose like : Twitter, facebook: update ur status

3) Connectivity On android, there is the famous page. where you have 4 buttons Turn on/off bluetooth Turn on/off Wifi Turn on/off Mobile Network Turn on/off GPS One press and ur’e done. There’s even an app on Android market called Y5, which turns off the Wi-Fi automatically when no known wireless network is available.Now with Iphone you have to go through various options to control connections

4) PC Connection With Iphone u need to have iTunes to manage your phone. But with Android it’s simple as to Mount your SD card and then just drag and drop

5) Multi-notification On Iphone, to receive a notification from a specific program like twitter for example, the twitter program has to be open. But with Android you receive all updates in the blasting notification bar for all your social activities in one place. Whatever it’s an e-mail, tweet, facebook, new SMS, missed call.

6) Personalization Using Iphone, you have to stick with what apple says when it comes to personalizing your Iphone looks and settings.But with Android, you can customize your phone look and setting to match your lifestyle. If you’re a social network power user, you can have a screen for Facebook, one for Twitter, one for texting, and one for Flickr. Or if you are a business user, you can have a screen for contacts, for your calendar, for GMail, for email, for RSS, and more.

7) Market With Iphone, its the Apple app store. But so does android. The Android Market, one of the most active markets. you can find apps for everything. very easy to install though. and if your are interested to pay for an app you like to get all features, you enter your information on the Google Market one time and you’re done. I assure you there are Billions of free apps that’s gonna be useful depending on how you can make use of it. Keep Checking in as i will publish a post for the best apps you can have and it’s features.

8) Google Integration We’re talking about Google, Do you have a gmail account? You will get surprised when you see how Android and Google are so close and easy to communicate with all its services.

9) Open Source There are lot of developers working every minute on Android’s software and upgrading, tweaking to best performance. So when there is weakness it is fixed. iPhone Open? u’re kidding me.

10) Android Lets You Choose Your Hardware This is my best Option. Apple keeps saying “think different” but when it comes to hardware, they don’t give much choce. Either black or white, 16 GB or 32 GB, u’re also stuck with 3.5 inch, 320×480 pixel display with 256M RAM and 600MHz processor. Now with Android they fit it to any hardware they want like the Nexus One (with 3.7-inch, 480×800 pixel display, 512MB of RAM and 1GHz Snapdragon processor) or the Motorola Droid which has a physical keypad.

Angst Over Facebook Email Policy and Address Book Changes

Users report friends' address book entries are being changed without their knowledge and a  survey of tech sites around the Internet shows many Facebook users are increasingly upset at Facebook's changes to users' email addresses.

Last week it was revealed Facebook quietly switched many users' default email address from the one they had chosen to their Facebook email address. Over the weekend users began to report that the email changes are affecting address books.

Missing messages

One user reported that her contact entry in a colleague's address book had changed from her work email address to her Facebook email address. Work emails, she said, were suddenly going to her Facebook email account. Worse still, she said, when she checked the account there was no sign of the diverted messages.

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Another Mac OS X Trojan requires no user interaction

Another Mac OS X Trojan has been spotted in the wild; this one exploits Java vulnerabilities just like the Flashback Trojan. Also just like Flashback, this new Trojan requires no user interaction to infect your Apple Mac. Kaspersky refers to it as “Backdoor.OSX.SabPub.a” while Sophos calls it at “SX/Sabpab-A.”

After infecting a given Mac, this Trojan is like most: it connects to a remote website using HTTP in typical command and control (C&C) fashion to fetch instructions from remote hackers telling it what to do. The backdoor contains functionality to take screenshots of the user’s current session, upload and download files, as well as execute commands remotely on the infected machine. Encrypted logs are sent back to the control server, so the hackers can monitor activity.

Antivirus Not Enough To Prevent Cyberattack

During a four-month long cyberattack by Chinese hackers on the New York Times, the company's antivirus software missed 44 of the 45 pieces of malware installed by attackers on the network.

( @CNNMoneyTech) That's a stunning wake-up call to people and businesses who think they are fully protected by their antivirus software.

"Even the most modern version of antivirus software doesn't give consumers or enterprises what they need to compete in the hacker world," said Dave Aitel, CEO of security consultancy Immunity. "It's just not as effective as it needs to be."

The New York Times said it had an antivirus system from Symantec (SYMC, Fortune 500) installed on devices connected to its network. The Chinese hackers built custom malware to, among other things, retrieve the usernames and passwords of Times' reporters. Since that brand-new malware wasn't on Symantec's list of forbidden software, most of it was allowed to pass through undetected.

Symantec responded that it offers more advanced solutions than the one the New York Times (NYT) deployed.

"Advanced attacks like the ones the New York Times described underscore how important it is for companies, countries and consumers to make sure they are using the full capability of security solutions," the company said in a written statement. "Antivirus software alone is not enough."

Related story: Nations prepare for cyber war

The cold fact is that no single solution can prevent all cyberthreats. Sophisticated attacks on networks routinely bypass network security systems, no matter how rock-solid they are -- or claim to be.

"Commercially available solutions are available to everyone," said Rohit Sethi, head of product development for SD Elements, a security firm. "It's not hard for attackers to learn how to evade detection, and they're coming up with ingenious ways of doing just that."

 

The solution, security experts say, is to deploy technology that keeps a very, very close eye on what's happening inside your network. You can't always prevent attackers from getting in, but you can at least set tripwires to alert you when they do.

In the New York Times' case, the company suspected that it would be attacked because of its investigation into Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's family finances. It asked AT&T (T, Fortune 500) to monitor its network. AT&T quickly picked up suspicious signs. Two weeks later, when the extent of the infiltration became clear, the Times hired security consultancy Mandiant to track the attackers' movements through its systems.

"Attackers no longer go after our firewall," Michael Higgins, the Times' chief security officer, told Times reporter Nicole Perlroth. "They go after individuals. They send a malicious piece of code to your e-mail account and you're opening it and letting them in."

From there, the best thing companies can do is track what attackers are doing.

"The question we always ask our customers is, 'Do you know every program running on your network?" said Immunity's Aitel. "When you know the answer to that question, you don't need antivirus software. When you don't, you're screwed."

Experts say that antivirus software is still a good, basic thing to have. Owning an antivirus solution is like putting the Club in your car -- it's not going to stop a determined thief, but it's going to make stealing your stuff more difficult.

Antivirus software maker Avast, whose free antivirus software is among the most widely used, says there's a major distinction between the kinds of threats encountered by everyday Web surfers and the carefully targeted attack the Times faced.

"Seatbelts and airbags are wonderful protection and improve the safety of millions, but they will not stop a bullet fired -- say by a hired killer," said Jindrich Kubec, Avast's threat intelligence director. "Does it mean you will stop using airbags and seatbelts?"

Some antivirus solutions are better than others. In a recent analysts, Immunity simulated attacks against networks protected by the top-of-the-line software built by Symantec, Kaspersky Labs and Intel's (INTC, Fortune 500) McAfee security division.

Immunity was able to break into the systems protected by Kaspersky and McAfee in two days. Symantec was the best of the breed, with Immunity unable to penetrate it in the several days it gave itself to achieve the task.

"New reputational-based software works to an extent," Aitel said, referring to systems that aim to contextualize the threats they detect. "But deep down, nothing is as good has having a proper awareness about what's going on in your network." To top of page

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Apache forges ahead with Open Office suite

In its new role as steward of the OpenOffice.org open source office suite, the Apache Software Foundation expects to offer an Apache-branded version of the package for developers in 2012. Apache also is carefully guarding its trademarks.

Apache on Tuesday is releasing a statement about its OpenOffice efforts, entitled "Open Letter to the Open Document Format Ecosystem," which notes the planned 3.4 release, tentatively slated for early 2012. Apache has just about completed with code clearance stage of the effort, said Don Harbison of the Apache OpenOffice project management committee in an interview.... What this means is....

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Appeals Court Rules Forcing Defendant to Decrypt Hard Drive Unconstitutional,

The defendant in April had refused to comport with a Florida federal grand jury’s orders that he decrypt the data, which was encrypted with TrueCrypt. A judge held him in contempt and jailed him until December 15, when the circuit court released him ahead of Thursday’s ruling.

“The government’s attempt to force this man to decrypt his data put him in the Catch-22 the Fifth Amendment was designed to prevent — having to choose between self-incrimination or risking contempt of court,” said EFF senior staff attorney Marcia Hofmann, who had filed an amicus brief in the case.

The Atlanta-based circuit held: First, the decryption and production of the hard drives would require the use of the contents of Doe’s mind and could not be fairly characterized to a physical act that would be non-testimonial in nature. We conclude that the decryption and production would be tantamount to testimony by Doe of his knowledge of the existence and location of potentially incriminating files; of his possession, control and access to the encrypted portions of the drives; and of his capability to decrypt the files. The court added: “Requiring Does to use a decryption password is most certainly more akin to requiring the production of a combination because both demand the use of the contents of the mind, and the production is accompanied by the implied factual statements noted above that could prove to be incriminatory.”

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Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak Expresses Cloud Concerns

My 2 cents: Whoever owns the data owns the business!

During an on-stage discussion with Apple (AAPL) critic Mike Daisey, the Cupertino-based company’s co-founder Steve Wozniak expressed major concerns about the future of computing and the shift to the cloud, Agence France-Presse reported. “I really worry about everything going to the cloud. I think it’s going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems in the next five years,” Wozniak said, adding that “with the cloud, you don’t own anything. You already signed it away” through the terms of service all cloud computing users must agree to.

“I want to feel that I own things,” he said. “A lot of people feel, ‘Oh, everything is really on my computer,’ but I say the more we transfer everything onto the web, onto the cloud, the less we’re going to have control over it.” The co-founder has never been one to mask his opinions, having previously praised Microsoft’s (MSFT) Surface tablet and Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system while criticizing Apple’s voice assistant Siri.

Apple Finally Responds to iPhone 5 Purple Haze Complaints

()Shortly after the iPhone 5 was released, some users began to complain that a purple flare appeared on pictures taken with the camera whenever it was pointed toward a bright light. Now, Apple is publicly acknowledging the problem with a response posted to its support page online:

Most small cameras, including those in every generation of iPhone, may exhibit some form of flare at the edge of the frame when capturing an image with out-of-scene light sources. This can happen when a light source is positioned at an angle (usually just outside the field of view) so that it causes a reflection off the surfaces inside the camera module and onto the camera sensor. Moving the camera slightly to change the position at which the bright light is entering the lens, or shielding the lens with your hand, should minimize or eliminate the effect.

Apple suggests in the response that flares can pop up on the edge of pictures taken with any iPhone — not just the iPhone 5 — though as you can see in the pictures Mashable took above, it appears that only the iPhone 5 has a purple flare. In any case, the solution Apple offers for any iPhone is simply to minimize the camera’s exposure to the bright light causing the flare.

This is the third big complaint Apple has been forced to address publicly about the iPhone in the past two weeks. First, users complained about the quality of Apple’s maps application for iOS 6, which eventually prompted the company’s CEO Tim Cook to issue an apology. Then, users complained that the new iPhone scuffs easily, which prompted the company’s SVP of marketing Phil Schiller to respond, noting that it’s “normal.”

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Apple Fixes Safari WebKit Flaws

Apple released an update addressing multiple security vulnerabilities in its Safari Web browser and iOS 6 mobile platform.

The iOS 6 update fixed four security bugs in the kernel, WebKit and Passcode, according to Apple's security advisory released Thursday. The two WebKit flaws fixed in iOS 6.0.1 were also present and fixed in Safari 6.0.2. One of the WebKit flaws was publicly disclosed during the Hack in the Box Kuala Lumpur conference in early October.

Users should considering upgrading to iOS 6 if they hadn't already done so, as the new version of the operating system patched a "whopping 197 CVE-numbered vulnerabilities in 41 system components," Ducklin said. The issues fixed in iOS 6 included six security bypasses, one denial of service condition, one privilege escalation flaws, 15 data leakage issues, 11 remote code execution holes, and seven spoofing flaws. Released a little over a month later, iOS 6.0.1 includes "improvements and bug fixes," of which four were security related, Apple said.

iOS 6.0.1 Fixes
The new iOS 6.0.1 addressed an information disclosure issue in the way APIs related to kernel extensions (CVE-2012-3749) were being handled which may have helped attacker bypass address space layout randomization protection, Apple said.  ASLR is deliberately intended to make it hard for attackers to know where to go, making remote control execution exploits less likely to succeed.

A person with physical device may be able to access Passbook passes (CVE-2012-3750) without entering a password because of a state management issue in the way Passbook passes were being handled, Apple said.

"Since Passbook can store coupons, loyalty programme details and even airline boarding cards, having your Passbook unlocked even when your device is locked presents a rather obvious personal security risk," Paul Ducklin, head of technology for the Asia Pacific group at Sophos, wrote on Naked Security.

The final two vulnerabilities were located in WebKit. The first Webkit flaw was a "time of check to time of use issue" which existed in how JavaScript arrays were being handled (CVE-2012-3748). The other WebKit issue was a "use-after-free" issue in the way SVG images were handled (CVE-2012-5112), and was originally disclosed by Pinkie Pie during Google's recent pwnium2 contest at HITB Kuala Lumpur.

"One of these bugs can be triggered by deliberately-dodgy Javascript; the other by a craftily-tweaked SVG (scalable vector graphics) file," wrote Ducklin. These types of vulnerabilities can be used in drive-by attacks, and are "highly regarded" by cyber-criminals, he said.

Safari 6.0.2 Fixes
The update for Safari 6.0.2 is available for Mac OS X Lion and OS X Mountain Lion, according to Apple.

Apple closed a use-after-free vulnerability in the SVG implementation of WebKit (CVE-2012-5112), Apple said. If successfully exploited, remote attackers would be able to execute arbitrary code "via unspecified vectors," Apple said. Another security flaw, if left unpatched, could potentially result in an unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution (CVE-2012-3748) if a user landed on a malicious Website. The use-after-free flaw was the same one disclosed by Pie during the HITB Kuala Lumpur.

Apple's new iOs version 6.0.2. addresses four vulnerabilities, including the above CVE-2012-5112 in WebKit and an ASLR bypass described by Mark Dowd and Tarjei Mandt also at HITB Kuala Lumpur 2012.

"A time of check to time of use issue existed in the handling of JavaScript arrays. This issue was addressed through additional validation of JavaScript arrays," Apple said in its advisory.

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Apple Loses eBook Price Fixing Case

Apple Untaxed Profits capital hill.jpg

  •  

    (AP) May 21, 2013: Apple CEO Tim Cook testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent subcommittee on Investigations. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Apple conspired with publishers to raise electronic book prices, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying the evidence left no doubt that the computer maker broke antitrust laws.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote said Apple knew that no publisher could risk acting alone to try to eliminate Amazon.com's $9.99 price for the most popular e-books so it "created a mechanism and environment that enabled them to act together in a matter of weeks to eliminate all retail price competition for their e-books."

 

'We will continue to fight against these false accusations. We've done nothing wrong.'

- Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr

 

The Manhattan jurist added: "The evidence is overwhelming that Apple knew of the unlawful aims of the conspiracy and joined the conspiracy with the specific intent to help it succeed."

She said damages could be determined at a later point.

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said the Cupertino, Calif.-based company planned to appeal.

"Apple did not conspire to fix e-book pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations," he said. "We've done nothing wrong."

Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer called the ruling "a victory for millions of consumers who choose to read books electronically."

He said the judge agreed with the Justice Department and 33 state attorneys general that executives at the highest levels of Apple orchestrated a conspiracy with five major publishers to raise prices.

"Through today's court decision and previous settlements with five major publishers, consumers are again benefiting from retail price competition and paying less for their e-books," he said.

Apple attorney Orin Snyder had told Cote previously that she would set a "dangerous precedent" if she concluded that Apple manipulated e-book prices as it entered the market in 2010. He did not immediately respond to a message for comment Wednesday.

Neumayr said Apple's introduction of the iBookstore in 2010 "gave customers more choice, injecting much needed innovation and competition into the market, breaking Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry."

The lawsuit was filed last year against Apple and major publishers.

The trial had featured testimony from executives for Apple, publishers and Amazon.com.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/07/10/apple-loses-ebook-price-fixing-case-plans-appeal/#ixzz2YjOwn5HN

Apple Mountain Lion Will Take On Windows 8

Taking cues from the iPad, Apple today revealed the next generation of Mac OS X, to be known as "Mountain Lion," and released it to developers. The software, which takes many of its cues from the iPad, will take on Microsoft's Windows 8 when it arrives later this year.

The software, version 10.8, will arrive via download. Like its predecessor, Lion, Mountain Lion will further shrink the gap between Mac OS and iOS, incorporating more iOS features into the Mac interface. New features include "Messages," which will replace iChat, as well as further integration with iCloud.

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Apple Patent Win Over Samsung Could Hurt Consumers

The jury in the Apple-Samsung patent infringement case concluded Friday that Samsung should pay Apple $1 billion in damages for ripping off features of Apple's iPhone.

This ruling is good for Apple (AAPL), bad for Samsung and other Apple competitors, and terrible for consumers, as Aaron and I discuss in the accompanying video.

The monetary damages here, though large, are almost irrelevant. Apple already has more than $100 billion of cash, and Samsung will barely miss $1 billion. And that's assuming the ruling stands up on appeal, which some legal experts think is unlikely.

More important is the precedent that this case sets, which is that gadget companies can successfully bring and win cases based on what might be described as "feature patents." One of the claims Apple made, for example, was that Samsung had infringed on an Apple patent that covered a "rectangular" phone. Given that all smartphones are rectangular, this patent and others like it could have a far-reaching impact.

Apple's success here may also cause Samsung and other competitors to think twice before incorporating basic features that people like about iPhones. And that could lead to competitive products being distinctly worse. Although Apple shareholders might like this, the precedent could hurt consumer choice.

Tell us what you think!

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Apple Plans 2012 Production Of iTV

The so-called “iTV” has been the subject of intense speculation since last fall's release of Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Isaacson reported that the Apple design team was hard at work on a "connected" television -- one that would do for TV what Apple once did for the computer, cell phone and portable music player.

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Apple Prepares to Dump Google Maps

If there was any remaining doubt that Apple and Google are now full-fledged competitors, it should be removed by the news that Apple is planning to dump Google Maps in its next operating system and on its iPhones, iPads and related gadgets.

Instead, Apple will be unveiling what insiders say is an "incredible" new in-house maps application that is said to be much cleaner, faster and more reliable than the current version.

AllThingsD, a Wall Street Journal publication, quotes an Apple insider as saying the new maps will “blow your head off.”

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Apple Says No Java For You In Mac Browser

Apple has a way of aggressively simplifying life for its users. This time, it’s vastly cutting down on their Java habit.

After a string of security vulnerabilities in Oracle’s ubiquitous program, Apple’s latest Java update released on Tuesday strips the program out of users’ browsers on Mac OSX. Apple’s tersely-worded advisory on the decision explains that if users need Java to run content on a web page, they’ll be prompted to download the plug-in. In addition to nixing the Java applet in browsers, Apple’s update also fixes 20 bugs in Oracle’s program

Although Apple hasn’t explained its move to cut out Java from Mac users’ browsers, it’s likely that Cupertino has had enough of the program’s endless string of bugs that have allowed malware-infected websites to download malicious programs to users’ machines. Beginning in late August, for instance, hackers exploited a vulnerability in Java to install nasty programs like the Poison Ivy trojan to PCs. When Oracle patched the flaw–four months after it was reported to the company by external researchers–it was soon discovered that the patch itself had an exploitable vulnerability that would allow its security measures to be bypassed. And before that bug could be patched, another critical security flaw in the program appeared.

A vulnerability in Java was also the culprit that allowed the malware known as Flashback to infect more than 600,000 Apple users in an unprecedented Mac botnet, although in that case it was Apple whose delay in implementing Oracle’s security fix led to the attack.

In the wake of Flashback, Apple’s update to Java disabled the browser plug-in for any users who hadn’t recently used it, and set the program to be disabled again after certain periods of disuse. Apple had also already removed Java in its latest versions of Mac OSX. Now it’s going further in its Java purge by actively disabling the plug-in for all users.

For Windows users, too, Apple’s move should serve as a reminder that Java poses security risks that may outweigh its usefulness in browsing the Web. Blogger Brian Krebs has assembled a helpful guide to uninstalling the program here.

And for Oracle, Apple’s Java boycott should serve as a wake-up call: Get serious about maintaining Java’s security, or watch one of its most widespread programs go extinct.

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Apple The New Microsoft In 2013?

( @TheTonyBradley)

Apple can benefit from lukewarm Windows 8 reception? A funny thing happened recently. A survey of 45,000 PCWorld readers found that a majority prefers Apple laptops. While that’s just one perspective from one audience, it represents a trend that Microsoft and Windows PC OEMs should be concerned about.

Large enterprises are too entrenched in Windows to shift the entire IT ecosystem to Mac OS X. It could be done, but like stopping a train, or turning a cargo ship—it would take some time.

Small and medium businesses, however, are more agile and can switch platforms on a whim. And, according to a report by Intermedia, recent SMB tech purchases are overwhelmingly favoring Apple. BGR states that nearly 70 percent of all smartphone activations for SMBs in the most recent quarter were iPhones, and more than 90 percent of the SMB tablet purchases were iPads.


Apple laptops received higher reliability and satisfaction scores than PC rivals.

iPhones and iPads are mobile devices, and don’t represent any real threat to Windows. But, if you combine the SMB demand for iOS mobile devices with the popularity of Mac OS X laptops indicated by the PCWorld survey, it paints a picture.

Looking at those two things together makes sense as well. Apple’s iPhones and iPads integrate with and sync with Windows PCs to an extent, but using Mac OS X unleashes the true power of seamless cross-platform syncing. Many of the native iOS apps like Calendar, Contacts, Notes, and Reminders have Mac OS X equivalents, and the information is automatically updated across all devices. The iMessage app allows you to receive and respond to text messages sent to your iPhone phone number from your Mac.

Windows 8 is a dramatic overhaul of the traditional Windows operating system, and there is a learning curve to getting familiar with the features and conventions. That’s true for any new software, but the difference between Windows 7 and 8 is significant enough that some SMBs might see it as an opportunity to just switch to a different OS entirely.

Again, iOS is capable of syncing contacts, calendar events, and other data from Windows PCs and Microsoft Outlook as well—especially for organizations that use Exchange Server. However, the reliability, support, and overall customer satisfaction scores for Apple laptops in the PCWorld survey are good reasons to consider a change.

The “Apple tax” is becoming less and less of a factor as well. Apple products are generally perceived as expensive, premium gadgets that cost more than similar products lacking an Apple logo. At the same time, comparable smartphones and tablets cost essentially the same as their iPhone and iPad counterparts, and the deluge of ultrabooks designed to take on the popular Macbook Air are priced roughly the same as the Apple laptops.

The threat is certainly not imminent, though. Microsoft won’t be going bankrupt any time soon. Mac OS X is nice, but many of the software applications that SMBs rely on simply don’t exist for it…yet.

Large enterprises may purchase tens of thousands of PCs or Windows licenses at a time, but there are tens of thousands of SMBs out there for every massive enterprise. If enough SMBs and consumers jump ship to Mac OS X, it will also be a more viable market for developers, and for third-party peripheral manufacturers—which could attract more people to the platform. It’s a self-feeding cycle.

Truth be told, Windows 8 is a great OS, and SMBs will appreciate many of the features and benefits once they get through the learning curve. However, Apple has an opportunity here to snag significant market share.

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Apple Watch Sales Tank

 

Photo

Photo © bluebay2014 - Fotolia

(Jennifer Abel @ ConsumerAffairs) Is the Apple Watch destined to be the next big iFlop? According to a report by California-based market researchers Slice Intelligence, Apple Watch sales have dropped 90% in the United States since the watches first went on sale in April.

These are unofficial estimates, as Apple generally doesn't release its sales figures. Slice based its estimates on e-receipts from shoppers who have allowed access to their inboxes for such data.

Slice's most recent report is very different from what it said in mid-June, when it told Reuters that it estimated Apple had sold about 2.79 million watches since April — and that Apple likely stood to make even higher profits off the sale of watchbands and other accessories.

Stagnant sales

Apple sold an estimated 1.5 million watches during the first week it was available, according to Slice – about 200,000 per day. But now, Slice estimates Apple is selling fewer than 20,000 watches per day in the U.S. sometimes less than 10,000.

Apple itself has not commented on the report, but some Apple fans are taking umbrage on the company's behalf. Apple Insider said that “Widely publicized study data reported by clickbait sites as evidence that Apple Watch sales have 'plunged' and 'are tanking' actually shows something completely different: that Apple has launched the most successful smartwatch product by a vast margin.”

Apple Insider didn't specify which “clickbait” sites were saying such things, but tech-news sites reporting the plunging-sale statistics did nonetheless point out that even if the 90% drop is true, the Apple Watch still remains the best-selling smartwatch to date.

Daily Tech, for example, said “Indeed, the Apple Watch is a blockbuster -- but in smartwatch terms. Last year all Android OEMs combined only summed up to roughly 720,000 sales of Android Wear smartwatches. When the Apple Watch went on sale on April 10 via a preorder, it quickly racked up 1.5 million orders, in a week doubling Android's entire sales total for the last year.”

Successful, but in small terms

So even pessimists agree Apple Watch is a smashing success by smartwatch standards; it's just that in tech-company-sales terms, circa mid-2015, “the best seller on the smartwatch market” is kind of like being “the most maturely behaved student in preschool” — impressive in some contexts, but not necessarily a standard which a 39-year-old adult (or 39-year-old best-selling multinational tech company) should brag about surpassing.

Of course, even if the Apple Watch does prove a failure, that doesn't necessarily say anything about the current or future market for wearable tech devices; it could simply mean there's not much of a market for a wearable device that's completely useless on its own, but works only as an accessory to another expensive device (in this case, an iPhone 6).

Apple Watch Take It or Leave It

 

Photo

Photo (c) Apple

(Jennifer Abel @ ConsumerAffairs) Though the Apple Watch, Apple's first new product line since the iPad, won't be available to the public until April 24, a handful of tech writers and reporters have spent the past week previewing the upcoming new devices, and those reviews all came out today.

 

The results are an odd mix: pretty much everyone agrees the Apple Watch is an amazing new piece of technology, yet even the most enthusiastic reviews found a lot to complain about. (My personal cover-all-bases prediction: the Apple Watch will prove either a dazzling success for Apple, a colossal failure, or something in between. You heard it here first!)

The Watch combines many features of a wearable miniature iPhone, iPod and iPad combination, with some new technological features as well. For example, the underside of each watch is outfitted with what Apple calls a “Taptic Engine,” which lets the watch literally tap you on the wrist anytime it wants your attention.

The Apple Watch review in Bloomberg BusinessWeek actually kicks off with a description of the Taptic Engine in action:

I’m in a meeting with 14 people, in mid-sentence, when I feel a tap-tap-tap on my wrist. I stop talking, tilt my head, and whip my arm aggressively into view to see the source of the agitation. A second later, the small screen on my new Apple Watch beams to life with a very important message for me: Twitter has suggestions for people I should follow. A version of this happens dozens of times throughout the day—for messages, e-mails, activity achievements, tweets, and so much more. Wait a second. Isn’t the promise of the Apple Watch to help me stay in the moment, focused on the people around me and undisturbed by the mesmerizing void of my iPhone? So why do I suddenly feel so distracted?

Fashion statement

The Wall Street Journal concluded that the Apple Watch was more of a fashion statement than an actual useful gadget:

After over a week of living with Apple’s latest gadget on my wrist, I realized the company isn’t just selling some wrist-worn computer, it’s selling good looks and coolness, with some bonus computer features. Too many features that are too hard to find, if you ask me.

Re/Code.net's reviewer felt the opposite — it's pretty nifty having these techno-gadgets strapped to your wrist, but not very fashionable:

I’ve liked having access to iMessages, email and photos on my wrist. I didn’t resent the reminders to get up and move around after I’ve been sitting for too long. I even got used to accepting or rejecting phone calls from my wrist. … Apple Watch strives for high fashion, but it still looks like a techie watch. Even if you can easily swap out the basic, smooth plastic band for a more elegant one — the $149 leather band, the $149 Milanese loop or the $449 link bracelet — the face looks kind of like a miniature iPhone.

On the other hand, Re/Code feels that if you must wear a smartwatch solely as a fashion statement, the Apple Watch is probably your least-worst option:

… the face looks kind of like a miniature iPhone. With that said, I’ve worn my fair share of smartwatches and none are as good-looking as Apple Watch....

Quite smart

The New York Times agreed with the Wall Street Journal on two main issues: both think the watch is good-looking – theTimes said it “looks quite smart, with a selection of stylish leather and metallic bands that make for a sharp departure from most wearable devices” – and both think the device is plagued by typical first-gen technology issues.

Quoth the Times: “the Apple Watch works like a first-generation device, with all the limitations and flaws you’d expect of brand-new technology.”

And if you ask the Wall Street Journal writer if you should buy yourself a new Apple Watch, she'll tell you no:

[E]very time I gaze down to admire it, I start seeing how the next one will look better. You could say the same about many fashion objects, but watches should be timeless (ironically). Unlike the Cartier I got for college graduation, the original Apple Watch’s beauty will soon fade. Unless you opt for the cheapest $350 sport version, you should really wait for the future.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the U.K.'s Telegraph said pretty much the same thing, going on at length about the Watch's many neat and nifty features before concluding:

That’s not, however, to say that even Apple fans with £299 burning a hole in their pocket should rush out and buy this first generation Watch. It’s beautifully designed and frequently rather useful - but history suggests version two or three will be even better.

Even worse, at least according to the Timesunlike earlier Apple product lines, the Apple Watch could prove difficult for “tech novices” to use, at least at first:

unlike previous breakthrough Apple products, the Watch’s software requires a learning curve that may deter some people. There’s a good chance it will not work perfectly for most consumers right out of the box, because it is best after you fiddle with various software settings to personalize use. Indeed, to a degree unusual for a new Apple device, the Watch is not suited for tech novices. It is designed for people who are inundated with notifications coming in through their phones, and for those who care to think about, and want to try to manage, the way the digital world intrudes on their lives.

Of course, if you want to manage (or even limit) the way the digital world intrudes on your analog real life, altering notifications and other settings on those techno-gadgets you already have might be a better bet than buying a new techno-gadget, and is definitely less expensive.

Apple WiFI Connectivity Issues

(AppleInsider Staff @ ApplesNews) Some early adopters of Apple's latest MacBook Air models have found their new thin-and-light notebook will unexpectedly and repeatedly drop its wireless connection.

MacBook Air

A growing thread on the Apple Support Communities website details the connectivity problems being experienced by numerous users. The problems appear to apply to both the 11- and 13-inch varieties of the recently updated notebook lineup.

In addition, an anonymous source from an Apple retail store in London said to Gizmodo that their store has had complaints about wireless connectivity for the new MacBook Airs that are "well above average."

In the thread on Apple's official site, users say they're experiencing the problems across a range of routers, including Apple's own AirPort accessories. Users say they can initially connect to a Wi-Fi network, but that connection will drop after a short period of use.

At the moment, there doesn't appear to be an available solution that addresses the problems seen by all users, though some have had success with various routers or even different placement of the MacBook Air.

The updated MacBook Air lineup launched last week at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference. In addition to faster 802.11ac connectivity, the notebooks also feature Intel's latest Haswell processors, helping to enable battery life as great as 12 hours.

The new MacBook Airs are also priced $100 less than their predecessors, with the new low-end $999 11-inch model packing 128 gigabytes of flash storage. Readers can always find the lowest prices on Mac notebooks in AppleInsider's Mac Price Guide.

In addition to the discounts, it's worth mentioning that a couple of the largest resellers only charge tax in their home state (B&H Photo, NY), or states in which they operate (MacMall, CA, IL, NY, TN, MN, GA, NC, WI.). Orders shipped from these resellers to other states are untaxed. Those savings are in addition to those listed in red in the Price Guides, a snippet of which follows:
 

New 2013 MacBook Airs

 

MacBook Pro
MacBook Airs
Apple Amazon MacMall macconnection B&H Photo & Video
Discount
11-inch Models
11" Air (1.30GHz/4GB/128GB) new $999.00 $999.00 $964.18* $999.00 $994.00 $34.82
11" Air (1.30GHz/8GB/128GB) new $1,099.00 n/a $1,061.18* n/a yet $1,199.00 $37.82
11" Air (1.30GHz/4GB/256GB) new $1,199.00 $1,199.00 $1,158.18* $1,199.00 $1,194.00 $40.82
11" Air (1.30GHz/8GB/256GB) new $1,299.00 n/a $1,255.18* n/a yet n/a yet $43.82
11" Air (1.30GHz/8GB/512GB) new $1,599.00 n/a $1,546.18* n/a yet n/a yet $52.82
11" Air (1.70GHz/4GB/128GB) new $1,149.00 --- $1,109.68* n/a yet $1,149.00 $39.32
11" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/128GB) new $1,249.00 n/a $1,206.68* n/a yet $1,249.00 $42.32
11" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/256GB) new $1,449.00 n/a $1,400.68* n/a yet $1,449.00 $48.32
11" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/512GB) new $1,749.00 n/a $1,691.68* n/a yet $1,749.00 $57.32
13-inch Models            
13" Air (1.30GHz/4GB/128GB) new $1,099.00 $1,099.00 $1,061.18* $1,099.00 $1,094.00 $37.82
13" Air (1.30GHz/8GB/128GB) new $1,199.00 n/a $1,158.18* n/a yet $1,199.00 $40.82
13" Air (1.30GHz/4GB/256GB) new $1,299.00 $1,299.00 $1,255.18* $1,299.00 $1,294.00 $43.82
13" Air (1.30GHz/8GB/256GB) new $1,399.00 n/a $1,352.18* n/a yet $1,399.00 $46.82
13" Air (1.30GHz/8GB/512GB) new $1,699.00 n/a $1,643.18* n/a yet n/a yet $46.82
13" Air (1.70GHz/4GB/128GB) new $1,249.00 n/a $1,206.68* n/a yet $1,249.00 $42.32
13" Air (1.70GHz/4GB/256GB) new $1,449.00 n/a $1,400.68* n/a yet $1,449.00 $48.32
13" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/128GB) new $1,349.00 n/a $1,303.68* n/a yet $1,349.00 $45.32
13" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/256GB) new $1,549.00 n/a $1,497.00* n/a yet $1,549.00 $52.00
13" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/512GB) new $1,849.00 n/a $1,788.68* n/a $1,849.00 $60.32
Show 2012 MacBook Air clearance models            

*Price when using links in the Mac Price Guide and then applying 3% discount Promo Code APPLEINSIDER01
*MacMall also only charges sales tax for orders shipped to CA, IL, NY, TN, MN, GA, NC, WI.
-B&H only charges sales tax in NY
-B&H offers AppleInsider readers a savings of roughly 30% on 3-Year AppleCare protection plans when purchased alongside a new Mac.

 

New 2013 MacBook Airs with 3 Years of AppleCare

 

MacBook Pro
MacBook Air
Apple
MacMall
B&H Photo & Video
Discount
11-inch Models (June 2013)
11" Air (1.30GHz/4GB/128GB) new $1,248.00 $74.01
11" Air (1.30GHz/8GB/128GB) new $1,348.00 $37.83
11" Air (1.30GHz/4GB/256GB) new $1,448.00 $74.01
11" Air (1.30GHz/8GB/256GB) new $1,548.00
n/a
$43.83
11" Air (1.70GHz/4GB/128GB) new $1,398.00 $69.01
11" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/128GB) new $1,498.00 $69.01
11" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/256GB) new $1,698.00 $48.33
11" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/512GB) new $1,998.00 $69.01
13-inch Models (June 2013)        
13" Air (1.30GHz/4GB/128GB) new $1,348.00 $74.01
13" Air (1.30GHz/8GB/128GB) new $1,448.00 $69.01
13" Air (1.30GHz/4GB/256GB) new $1,548.00 $74.01
13" Air (1.30GHz/8GB/256GB) new $1,648.00 $69.01
13" Air (1.30GHz/8GB/512GB) new $1,948.00
n/a
$55.83
13" Air (1.70GHz/4GB/128GB) new $1,498.00 $69.01
13" Air (1.70GHz/4GB/256GB) new $1,698.00 $69.01
13" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/128GB) new $1,598.00 $69.01
13" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/256GB) new $1,798.00 $69.01
13" Air (1.70GHz/8GB/512GB) new $2,098.00 $69.01
11-inch Models (June 2012)        
11" Air (1.70GHz/4GB,/64GB) $1,248.00 $184.01
11" Air (1.70GHz/4GB/128GB) $1,348.00 $269.01
11" Air (2.00GHz/8GB/128GB) $1,598.00 $45.33
11" Air (1.80GHz/4GB/128GB) $1,648.00 $319.01
11" Air (2.00GHz/4GB/256GB) $1,998.00 $319.01
13-inch Models (June 2012)        
13" Air (1.80GHz/4GB/128GB) $1,448.00 $319.01
         

Apple iCloud Service Not Ready For Business by Erik Eckel

Takeaway: Erik Eckel explains why iCloud is not a business-grade solution for certain critical functions. Here is what he recommends instead.

Clients frequently ask the best methods for synchronizing email, developing and hosting Web sites, collaborating on calendars and backing up files. Firms that leverage Apple technologies, and even some Windows organizations, have begun using iCloud to perform these critical tasks. But that may not be the best bet, at least for businesses.
iCloud is an awesome personal service

Apple’s iCloud is an outstanding consumer service. It’s a smart choice for residential Apple computer users, especially. The ability to share audio and video files (songs and movies) between devices sharing the same iTunes account using iTunes Match is well worth the annual fee. Add in synchronized bookmarks (including on Windows systems), a basic photo backup courtesy of Photo Stream, and even cloud-based backup and sharing for iCloud-enabled apps, and the service is a steal.

But it’s not a business tool.
What happened to iWeb and web hosting?

Apple is first and foremost a hardware company. The company’s laptops and desktops are almost breathtaking. That’s saying something, considering the blasé beige boxes from which personal computing really grew. Its Smartphones are life-changing (I listen to audio books while the unit’s GPS tracks my route, calculates my split times and posts the results to the Web all while I’m checking my calendar, Tweeting and returning email and maybe even making or receiving a phone call) and changed the way millions leverage smooth intuitive gestures to navigate a stunning variety of applications on display-dominated devices.

Services, though, are another issue. Sure, AppleCare is a no brainer, and users new to Apple will find One to One services a rewarding investment. But Mobile Me proved Apple isn’t successful in everything it tries. With little fanfare Apple’s Mobile Me web hosting service simply ended. And what happened to those businesses that built their websites using iWeb, which published websites easily straight to Mobile Me? They’re finding the application harder to find; it’s not even promoted within new versions of iLife. Those relying upon Apple to provide an application to design websites and a service to host the site unceremoniously found themselves out in the cold and having to turn to third parties.
Business-grade solutions

Businesses and enterprise organizations needing to synchronize email and calendars will be much better served using a Microsoft Exchange server. Or, if developing and maintaining an Exchange backend infrastructure is too burdensome, these firms can purchase hosted Exchange services from a variety of reliable providers including Go Daddy, Microsoft or Rackspace. Exchange is simply a more robust, more proven, more reliable messaging platform. That’s not to say iCloud can’t catch up, but I’d wait before moving my business’ critical email and calendaring functions to an Apple-powered service.

As for audio, video, and file backup and synchronization, I’m not convinced iCloud can manage the rigors of a true business environment. My consulting firm employs only 25 people, yet we maintain some 25GB of critical documents and files. The total doesn’t even include photos or video. My own personal audio and video library exceeds 1.1 terabytes alone, so iCloud’s Photo Stream, which only tracks 1,000 of my latest images, won’t work. The free iCloud service, meanwhile, provides only 5GB of data storage, although additional capacity can be purchased at reasonable rates.

The real question for businesses is do they want to try synchronizing several hundred gigabytes of data across wireless connections? Probably not. While iCloud, again, is awesome for personal use, businesses will find themselves better served by a terminal server parked in a secure data center, VPN access to a corporate server, or another cloud-based file sharing solution that ensures only authorized users securely access corporate data.

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Apple loses e-book antitrust case

Photo(James Hood @ Consumer Affairs) A U.S. District Court judge has ruled against Apple, finding it liable for violating the antitrust laws by conspiring with major U.S. publishers to fix the prices of electronic books. A Seattle attorney representing consumers in a class-action lawsuit said the court's ruling should hasten the progress of the consumer case. 

That case, filed on Aug. 9, 2011, seeks damages for millions of e-book purchasers to compensate them for higher e-book prices resulting from Apple and the publishers’ alleged price-fixing scheme. 

“Judge [Denise] Cote ruled definitively that Apple was guilty of conspiring to fix prices for e-books, and we believe this ruling is binding on the consumer case, meaning we do not need to again prove Apple’s culpability in the price-fixing scheme,” attorney Steve Berman said. “Once we receive class certification, the only issue that will remain is for a jury to assess damages, which under federal law are trebled, or tripled.”

Three-week trial 

The judge’s opinion comes after a three-week bench trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York that ended June 20. The court found the federal and state government plaintiffs demonstrated that five major publishers “conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, and that Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy.” 

“The publishers and Apple manipulated the marketplace by artificially increasing prices,” said Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said, one of 33 state AGs joining in the action. “As confirmed by the Court today, that is against the law and it is wrong.”

PhotoThe court’s order and opinion only addressed the issue of Apple’s liability under federal and state antitrust law. Issues involving damages and other remedies are still to be decided. 

The publishers -- Hachette Book Group Inc.; Harper Collins Publishers L.L.C.; Simon & Schuster Inc.; Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC d/b/a/ Macmillan; and Penguin Group (USA), Inc. -- had settled lawsuits filed by states and others against them prior to trial, which will result in consumers nationwide receiving more than $166 million in compensation provided the court approves all of the settlements.

"Masterfully prosecuted"

Berman said the ruling didn't surprise him.

“When we filed the original consumer case, we were certain that e-book purchasers across the country were victims of a well-organized price-fixing scheme organized largely by Apple,” said Berman. “We were heartened when the Department of Justice and the states filed their own anti-trust cases. Those cases were masterfully prosecuted, culminating in today’s ruling.”

Apple rejects apps that access UDIDs

Apple has begun rejecting apps that access unique identification numbers (UDIDs) that are unique to every iPhone and iPad. The move comes as the issue of apps that gather address book and location info comes under extra scrutiny from government and media.

Last year, researchers discovered iPhones were gathering location information while in recent months a whole furore arose over social app Path’s gathering of address book information from phones to its servers.

Apple has now moved to reject apps accessing UDIDs.

The big question is what impact will this have on the advertising industry, which uses UDISs to directly target users for advertising.

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Apple to release new operating system and iPads updates

Photo(Jennifer Abel @ ConsumerAffairs) Tech and consumer journalists could save a lot of time if they’d program their work computers so that pressing a single key made the sentence “Apple’s releasing some new products” instantly appear on their screen.

 

 

Anyway, Apple’s releasing some new products. Specifically, updated iPads and a new operating system called OS X Mavericks, which will add an extra hour and a half to the battery life of a MacBook Pro, according to Apple’s software engineering chief Craig Federighi.

The Washington Post tech blog reported the upcoming Apple unveilings as part of a larger piece discussing the current market for tablets.

“While Apple continues its reign on top of the tablet world, analysts say the company is beginning to see some of the same competitive pressures it faced in the smartphone market. It once dominated that market, but has recently been unseated by smartphones running the Android operating system.”

Of course, the Post also quoted Apple executives insisting they’re not remotely worried about competitors in the tablet market; as Apple chief executive Tim Cook said, “Our competition is confused … We have a very clear direction and a very ambitious goal. We still believe deeply in this category, and we’re not slowing down in our innovation.”

Which is why we said tech journalists could save a lot of time, if they’d program their work computers so that pressing a single key made the sentence “Apple’s releasing some new products” instantly appear on their screen.

Apples Area 51 Appears To Be Expanding

These overhead photos of Maiden, North Carolina, data center — captured last month — show Apple’s $1 billion data center and two adjacent areas where Apple has started new construction. Rumors have suggested that Apple is building a second data center beside the first, but judging from these photos — and county building permits — it appears that this is not the case. In all likelihood, the two construction areas will house the new-age biogas fuel cell plant and the massive solar array Apple will use to help power the original facility.

The Maiden data center is home to Apple’s iCloud service, a way for consumers and businesses to store files, photos, and other data on the web and use it across a wide array of devices. The data facility itself cost $500 million, but Apple has pledged to spend $1 billion on the site over the next decade. Opened for business around the beginning of the year, the Maiden center is just one of the many custom-designed data centers the giants of the web are building to supply their ever-growing array of web services. Google has built several of its own dedicated data centers across the world, and the likes of Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo aren’t far behind.

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Apple’s iOS surpasses Mac OS X in web traffic

Apple’s mobile devices apparently have been taking a bite out of the larger PC market, but they’re also eating up some of Apple’s own computer market share, a new web traffic study suggests.

The study from Chitika finds that Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, has surpassed its Mac OS X in generating web traffic. That means there are more users surfing the Internet on iPads, iPods and iPhones than on Mac computers. It’s a correlation that suggests more people are opting for Apple mobile devices than Apple computers, and potentially, as other data suggests, desktop computers in general.

 

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Are Cable TV Consumers Really Cutting The Cable?

With consumers continuing to be unhappy with cable providers, a trend known as “cord cutting” has quickly risen up. The concept has gained a lot of attention over the past couple of years especially since more Internet alternatives have become available.

Is cord cutting actually a trend or is it simply a threat that consumers are sending to cable companies?

According to a report from ISI Group, cable went from having more than 53 percent of the video market in 2010 to less than 50 percent in 2011:

While it appears that cord cutting is a growing trend, a couple of other reports actually indicate the opposite. Bernstein Research found that pay-TV subscribers grew last quarter. Although the increase (0.2 percent) wasn’t significant, it’s enough to raise some questions about the so-called trend of cord cutting.

What’s more, Business Insider Intelligence found that there was “no meaningful evidence to bolster the much-heralded ‘decline of TV.’” (Emphasis not added.) Alex Cocotas explained that, while cable has lost some subscribers, bundled Internet, telephone, and TV packages have grown.

It’s clear that a lot of consumers are unhappy with cable options, but these recent reports can’t help but make one wonder what is actually happening. According to Bryan Gonzalez, the Director of Social Entertainment Labs at the Entertainment Technology Center at USC, there are many challenges to cord cutting.

Services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV can be very effective, but there is a downside to some Internet options. For instance, with March Madness in full swing, basketball lovers may not be able to find all their favorite games online. In addition, a lot of the Internet services don’t have current content, which is a problem for some consumers.

As Gonzalez explained, many consumers are trying to get away from cable and are looking to Internet and satellite options instead. However, some appear, as the above charts suggest, to be going back to traditional content even though they aren’t completely happy with their choice.

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Are Cash Registers and Cashiers Obsolete

If you've noticed lately, cashiers and cash registers are becoming scarce in retail locations.

With the increasing use of kiosks and digital checkout scanners, stores are using technology to speed up the shopping experience and make paying for items easier.

The latest retailer to do so is J.C. Penney, which just announced it will be getting rid of its cash registers and replacing them with mobile checkout devices and self-pay kiosks.

J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson said within the next year, he would like to see all cash registers disappear, and also said the new process will be extremely user friendly.

"My goal by the end of 2013 is to eliminate the cash route," he said. "You'll be able to check out anywhere anytime, from anyone including yourself, because we're going to roll out self-checkout to our stores next year. It's really cool and it's really easy because it's RFID-based. You don't have to scan an item. You just throw it down and there's the price."

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Are Disc Drives An Endangered Species

(Doug Gross CNN) -- Could the phrase "burn a disc" soon be interred in the computing graveyard, resting peacefully alongside 8-bit graphics and the chirping, buzzing hum of a dial-up modem?

  • New innovations could spell beginning of the end for DVD drives
  • Apple's new iMac shipped last week with no optical drive
  • Cloud storage, streaming and faster downloads paved the way
  • Apple was first to can the 5-inch disk and floppy disk

Some technology analysts, along with some of the most influential computer makers in the world, say yes. Optical disc drives take up precious space in our ever-shrinking gadgets, and the ability to stream music or movies on demand has made CDs and DVDs less essential.

The disc drive's spin into obscurity may have started swirling faster last week.

Apple's new iMac, its flagship desktop computer, was released Friday. For the first time, it has no disc drive. This marks a trend that has already begun on some laptops, like Apple's MacBook Airs, and of course with mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

"Over time, an optical disc will be as much of an historical curiosity as a floppy disk," said Michael Gartenberg, a tech-industry analyst with research firm Gartner Inc.

According to Apple, where sleeker, thinner designs are always en vogue, dumping the disc drive was a no-brainer.

"These old technologies are holding us back," Phil Schiller, Apple's head of marketing, told CNN sister publication Time. "They're anchors on where we want to go. We find the things that have outlived their useful purpose -- our competitors are afraid to remove them. We try to find better solutions -- our customers have given us a lot of trust."

If the company's track record on such things holds, the optical drive may be doomed. The original Mac dumped the 5-inch disk for a 3.5-inch floppy, and the first iMac was one of the first desktops without a floppy disk drive.

"It's clearly a long-term trend, but Apple's always been aggressive about making moves like this sooner as opposed to later," Gartenberg said.

The company's tiny Mac Mini, for the record, has been disc drive-free since last year.

Sony has already announced that it will stop making optical drives itself. And the release of Microsoft's Windows 8, an operating system that works on disc-free smartphones and tablets as well as laptops and PCs, suggests that computing giant would be well positioned for such a move as well.

For some users, Web habits have already begun trending away from actions that require external media.

CDs? There's music streaming or digital downloads. DVDs? Netflix, Amazon or a host of other online movie sites. Video games? There's digital distribution like Steam and, increasingly, downloads from the major console and game makers.

"As personal cloud services become ubiquitous and broadband speeds increase, there's very little reason for many consumers to use an optical drive on their computer going forward," Gartenberg said.

There are always USB ports available on the occasion that an external device is needed (Apple, for what it's worth, offers an external optical disc drive for $79).

Much as Google has with its Google Drive service, Apple has embraced cloud computing with its iCloud offering, which lets users store documents, photos, music and movies on Web-based servers. A move to the cloud could mean internal storage is less of a concern for users going forward.

Combined with advances in "solid state" internal storage and quicker broadband speeds that make downloads and streaming less painful, a post-DVD era could grease the skids for Apple and its competitors to make increasingly thin, light and inexpensive computers.

Witness the new Chromebooks, laptops that run Google's Chrome system, that rely almost exclusively on the cloud and sell for around $250.

To be sure, the transition may be rough on some users.

"For those who still own DVDs and want to watch them on their computers, the iMac isn't the ideal solution," Fortune's JP Mangalindan wrote in a review of the new iMac. "Sure, there's a $79 external SuperDrive that connects via USB cable, but that means shelling out extra for -- let's face it -- a feature that still comes standard on most PCs. It also means messing with the iMac's minimal-looking setup."

But like it or not, folks who still pop in a disc may not have long to keep doing so.

"While it may be too early to say for certain that the optical drive is absolutely dead," wrote Chris Pirillo, founder of blogging network Lockergnome, "it is certainly showing all the early warning signs of a technology that is past its prime."

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Are Googlers Losing Faith in Google

One of Google's own, Chief Internet Evangalist (and Internet inventor) Vint Cerf, has joined the growing chorus of voices warning of the possible end to Google's dominance. "There's nothing to stop someone from developing better technology than we have and to invent something even more powerful and efficient and effective," Cerf said speaking at the National Media Museum. "Which, of course, scares us," he continued. Sure, that's not exactly as definitive as Mat Honan's take over at Gizmodo, where he declared the end of the once-dominant search giant in his "Case Against Google," but Honan doesn't work at Google. 

Cerf hasn't totally given up on Google's ability to adapt. He thinks this fear will drive the company further ahead. "It means we run as fast as we can to develop better tools for search in order to try to stay ahead of the game," he continued. But, of course, that's what the Chief Internet Evangelist would say. More importantly, he's admitting that there's fear within the company and not everyone inside the Googleplex agrees that fear is pushing the company in the right directions. Remember that Google engineer, who wrote a big long blog post about why he quit? He mentioned a bad kind of fear: the fear of social. "It turns out that there was one place where the Google innovation machine faltered and that one place mattered a lot: competing with Facebook," wrote James Whittaker on his new Microsoft developer blog.

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Are You Allergic to Your SmartPhone

(Mark HuffmanPhoto Consumer Affairs) Before 2007, when Apple introduced the first iPhone, the Blackberry, made by Research in Motion (RIM), ruled the smartphone world.

Since then, the Blackberry fortunes have fallen, not just because of the iPhone but because of competition from Android phones as well. So the latest news from the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) can't be good news for RIM.

A study of smartphones looked at devices that might have a tendency to make you sick, because of the metals they contain.

Many Blackberries contain nickel

“Approximately one-third of all Blackberries contain nickel, but neither cobalt nor nickel was detected in iPhones or Droids,” said allergist Tania Mucci, M.D., lead study author and ACAAI member. “Both metals can cause an allergic reaction including dry, itchy patches along the cheek bones, jaw line and ears.”

If you haven't updated your own flip cell phone for a smartphone, the researchers suggest you have a reason if you suffer from certain allergies. These older model phones also contain cobalt and nickel.

Roughly 91 percent contained nickel and 52 percent tested positive for cobalt. These metals are commonly used in items such as jewelry, coins and even makeup.

Common allergy

Nickel is one of the most common contact allergens, affecting 17 percent of women and three percent of men.

“Patients with nickel and cobalt allergies should consider using iPhones or Droids to reduce the chance of having an allergic reaction,” said allergist Luz Fonacier, M.D., study author and ACAAI fellow. “Blackberry users with known allergies should avoid prolonged conversations, text messaging and handling their phones if they begin noticing symptoms.”

Symptoms of nickel and cobalt allergies can include redness, swelling, itching, eczema, blistering, skin lesions and occasional scarring. For sufferers that are glued to their phones, ACAAI advises opting for plastic phone cases, wireless ear pieces and clear film screens to decrease allergic reactions.

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Are cable companies conspiring to shut out Netflix, Hulu?

Justice Department Probe: So think about it a minute: Would you want to live your life as a pipe, doing nothing but moving everybody else's slush around?

No, of course, you wouldn't and the Justice Department reportedly suspects that Comcast, Time Warner and other cable companies don't like the idea either and is said to be investigating whether they have conspired to squash competition from the likes of Netflix and Hulu.

Cable and phone companies know what being a pipe is like, after all. They've been there, done that. If you'll recall, cable companies originally did nothing but capture distant television signals and transport them to the homes of subscribers who lived too far out in the boonies to pull in a decent over-the-air signal

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Are mobile wallets in our future?

Photo(Mark Huffman @ ConsumerAffairs) A fragmented industry and other obstacles mean it could be a distant future! Right now you probably carry your credit cards in a wallet. In the future, will you carry them in a smartphone?

 

You might. A few early adopters are giving it a try, with recent applications like Google Wallet, LevelUp and Square. These applications reside on your smartphone and store your credit card information. When making a purchase the data is transmitted electronically from your phone to the register.

“Some of the more common things you'll see with a mobile wallet is some kind of application you can use on your phone to store payment information and maybe some other things like rewards cards and coupons,” said Lisa Gerstner, who has written about mobile wallets for Kiplinger.

At least that's the ideal. Right now it's a very fragmented landscape with different players employing different platforms. It's reminiscent of the early days of the PC, when compatibility among manufacturers was a major obstacle. It took the dominance of Microsoft and the unversality of the Internet to make compatibility as an issue go away.

Cloud and NFC

Right now there are two main types of mobile wallets – those that operate in the cloud and those that are chip-based, using something called near field communication (NFC). Google Wallet, rolled out in 2011, is the latter category. Because the information is stored on a chip, not every phone will work. In fact, Google Wallet only works on Sprint phones because Sprint is the only carrier, to date, that has installed the chip.

PhotoTo use Google Wallet a consumer simply walks up to the register with their purchase and taps their phone on a payment terminal. The payment information is automatically transferred. Pretty nifty, assuming the merchant has installed the necessary payment terminal. In a way, it's like an automated toll road, where your EZ-Pass transponder pays the tolls as you pass checkpoints while other drivers sit stewing long lines at the toll booths.

The cloud-based wallets store all your data in the cloud, meaning they might work on many different mobile phones. But there are a few more steps in the payment process.

“If you're using one of the cloud-based applications you'll go to the register and click your phone to make the payment.,” Gerstner said. “You might enter a PIN to get into the application securely.”

QR codes

At that point a QR code pops up on your phone. A scanner at the register reads it and loads your payment information. It's simple, and can be even simpler.

“Square is doing something interesting where in certain cases you just walk into the store and your phone talks to the register and when you get to the register all you have to do is say your name and your payment information pops up,” Gerstner said. “The payment then goes through after you confirm it.”

PhotoDespite the possibility that your smartphone security could be compromised by downloading malware – and that happens more than you think these days – a mobile wallet might be more secure than your old fashioned one. After all, if you lose your wallet, you must contact each credit card company individually to cancel the cards. With a mobile wallet, assuming you have set up the ability to remotely disable your phone, you simply wipe the information if the phone is lost or stolen. 

Warp speed?

Consumer technology tends to move at warp speed – think about where mobile phones were five years ago – so we could all soon be buying stuff with our phones, allowing men to get rid of that bulge in their hip pocket. However, for now the obstacles are still there.

“We're not there yet, the space is very fragmented,” Gerstner said. “For example, to use Google Wallet you must have a Sprint phone. And when you go to use it, only certain stores accept Google Wallet.”

In fact, Forbes Magazine reported last month that “Google Wallet isn't happening anytime soon” and that retailers shouldn't count on it in their plans for 2013, and maybe not even 2014. Should they ever? Maybe, but even Gerstner isn't sure.

“People are still pretty happy with their old fashioned wallets,” she said. “Most people don't have a problem with pulling out a card and swiping it.”

At Work Social Networking Surged Last Year

Companies hoping that Twitter and Facebook were just passing distractions for their employees are in for a disappointment. Research by Palo Alto Networks, a security company, suggests explosive growth in global social networking and browser-based file sharing on corporate networks. The company said it found a 300 percent increase in active social networking compared with activity during the same period in the latter half of 2010, with twitter use increasing 700%. "Whether or not employees are using social networks or sharing files at work is no longer a question; this data clearly demonstrates that users are embracing and actively using such applications,” said René Bonvanie, chief marketing officer at Palo Alto Networks...

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BIOLOGY is the future of technology Not Devices

The future of technology lies in the biological and material sciences

Jamie Rigg @ engadget) A lot of you, dear readers, may remember a time when mobile phones didn't exist, let alone smartphones with touchscreens, apps and pro-grade cameras. Some may even recall a childhood completely devoid of TV, when the phrase "playing in a sandbox" meant literally that. Not content with books that glow in the dark, among other electronic conveniences, we're now strapping computers to our heads and a second smartphone screen to our wrists. io9's Annalee Newitz and Joichi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, took to our Expand stage to talk about what technology of the future might look like, and both agreed we'll see much less built from circuits, and much more from (somewhat) natural ingredients.

Why discuss something as mainstream as Google Glass when you can brainstorm a prologue for the next sci-fi classic? Our "Thinking Ahead" panelists argued that currently, we're very aware of the gadgets we use: Take a picture with this; check an email with that. If the tech of today uses physical interfaces, the tech of tomorrow will be based on biological interfaces, perhaps even operating without our conscious input. They discussed how the concept of devices will be defunct, and your body will become plugged into a global network, as will everyone else's. "I like the idea of injecting a phone," joked Newitz, but what happens when an OTA update introduces a bug, and how do you get rid of something when it's part of you?

Such embedded technology could completely change how we communicate -- we could simply exchange memories instead of telling a story, for instance. Using technology could become so interactive that you no longer have to interact; it's like a sense. While a Borg-esque future where systems are plugged in your brain may be a lifetime away, Ito pointed out that certain types of body augmentation already takes place. For example, some people have opted to have limbs amputated in favor of more functional prosthetics. Not too far-fetched is the idea that fairly soon, completely healthy people could start modifying their bodies to make themselves harder, better, faster, stronger.

In the near-term future, and something that's relevant to our generation, Ito highlighted that how we are consuming technology is changing. Companies are starting to sell products that make things, rather than just selling things themselves. 3D printers are becoming increasingly accessible, and there are so many beginner-friendly tools that mean you don't need a degree in electronics or programming to create something. Ito believes people will soon make their own products, and you only have to look at what's being done with the Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards to buy into the notion.

Newitz and Ito also talked extensively on how our environment will change with time, too. They consider the mid-20th century view of futuristic design, one that pervades most sci-fi films, far from prophetic. As synthetic biology and material sciences become the new technologies, our civilization will integrate more with nature -- imagine a building that repairs itself thanks to bioengineered bacteria, or bioluminescent algae replacing traditional lightbulbs. We'll grow our own energy, and the science of biological programming will no longer be performed in labs, but in hobbyists' garages. As Newitz quipped: "Soon, we'll all be living in giant bioengineered bubbles."

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Backers raise cash for Tesla museum

Inventor Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943) foresaw wireless communications and wanted to develop clean fuel.

(CNN) -- At the dawn of the 20th century, Nikola Tesla wanted to save the world from fuel dependency. Now, an Internet cartoonist wants to save Tesla's last remaining laboratory as a tribute to the futurist inventor.

The structure, a 94-by-94-foot building, was the location where Tesla hoped to develop wireless communications and clean, free energy for everyone in the early 1900s. He moved his operation to the Wardenclyffe Tower in Shoreham, New York, in 1902 -- so named because of a 187-foot tower rising from the ground (as well as being sunk 120 feet below it) that was to be one of the great transmitters for his wireless energy dream.

The facility was lost a few years later due to debts Tesla racked up, and the huge tower was demolished in 1917. The site would ultimately become a Superfund location because of silver and cadmium toxicity in the ground after a photographic film company used it for nearly 48 years. It has now been cleaned up and is no longer harmful.

Tesla died penniless and in debt in 1943.

 
Inventor Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943) foresaw wireless communications and wanted to develop clean fuel.

Currently, the building and surrounding land sit idle and are up for sale. Matthew Inman, the creator of Web cartoon "The Oatmeal," is joining forces with a nonprofit group, The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, to help preserve the facility as a science center and museum honoring "the father of the electric age."

'Fringe' star examines real weird science

"Tesla is an unsung hero, and there are very few monuments to him in the United States. I feel like that's something we need to fix," Inman said. "I made a comic about Tesla on my site. It got the most 'likes' on Facebook that I've ever seen in my career. Combine (the fact) that I've got this army of Tesla fans and the experience and success with my other fund-raiser, I felt like I was the ideal person to step in to control."

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Bankruptcy court Protects Radio Shack Customer Data

Photo

File photo

(Truman Lewis @ ConsumerAffairs) State attorneys general from across the country have reached a settlement to protect consumers' personally identifiable information in the sale of RadioShack's trademark and intellectual property. A coalition of 38 states, led by Texas, joined together to oppose the sale of consumer data.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement reached after mediation, the overwhelming bulk of RadioShack's consumer data will be destroyed, and no credit or debit card account numbers, social security numbers, dates of birth or even phone numbers will be transferred.  The bankruptcy court approved the settlement on Wednesday.

"The settlement is a victory for consumer privacy," said Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring. "I glad we could be a part of this multi-state effort to limit the types of customer information covered by the sale and to provide former customers of RadioShack with a meaningful opportunity to decide whether their personal information is transferred to the new operator."

General Wireless obtained bankruptcy court approval to purchase RadioShack's entire e-commerce business, intellectual property and remaining assets, including certain customer data limited by this settlement. In March, General Wireless, a subsidiary of RadioShack's largest shareholder, purchased 1,750 RadioShack stores out of bankruptcy.

Out of the 8.5 million customer email addresses in RadioShack's files, the new owner will be allowed to retain only a limited number of email addresses, specifically the email addresses of those who specifically requested product information within the last two years. Customers whose email address is sold to General Wireless will also be contacted by the company and given the opportunity to opt out of future communications.

General Wireless further agreed it will not sell or share any of this customer information in the future with any other entity, including its new co-branded business partner Sprint Communications.

Barns and Noble Hit By Hackers But Accounts Safe

(James Hood Consumer Affairs) Barnes & Noble says hackers broke into payment devices at 63 of its stores nationwide and may have stolen credit and debit card information from customers.

"We have detected a sophisticated criminal effort to steal credit and debit card information from our customers who have swiped their cards through PIN pads when they made purchases at certain retail stores. The tampered devices were capable of capturing information such as name, card account number, and PIN," the company said.

Barnes & Noble said it discovered the tampering during maintenance and inspection of the devices and has discontinued the use of all PIN pads in all of its stores.

Customers can make transactions securely today by asking booksellers to swipe their cards through the card readers connected to cash registers, the company said.


Barnes & Noble Oct. 24, 2012, 7:23 p.m.
Consumers rate Barnes & Noble

"We want to reassure you that this situation does not involve any purchases you may have made at Barnes & Noble.com or using your NOOK or a NOOK mobile app. The Barnes & Noble member database is secure. The tampering only affected transactions in which customers swiped their cards at one of the compromised in-store PIN pads," the company said in a statement on its website.

Machines were tampered with in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. 

In Connecticut, where three stores were hit, Attorney General George Jepsen wants to know what Barnes & Noble is doing to protect its customers.

“Given the possible impact on individuals in Connecticut and elsewhere, my office is requesting detailed information on how this breach occurred, what steps have been taken to protect the affected individuals, and what new procedures have been adopted to prevent future data breaches,” Jepsen wrote in a letter to Gene DeFelice, the company’s vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary.
 
Customers who are concerned that their credit card numbers may have been compromised should take the following actions, the company said:

Debit Card Users:

  • Change the PIN numbers on your debit cards
  • Review your accounts for unauthorized transactions
  • Notify your banks immediately if you discover any unauthorized purchases or withdrawals

Credit Card Users:

  • Review your statements for any unauthorized transactions
  • Notify your card-issuing banks if you discover any unauthorized purchases or cash advances

Stores listed

Here is a list of the stores B&N has identified as being hit by hackers.





Store Address

City

State

Zip

4735 Commons Way

Calabasas

CA

91302

2470 Tuscany Street Suite 101

Corona

CA

92881

2015 Birch Road Suite 700

Chula Vista

CA

91915

313 Corte Madera Town Center

Corte Madera

CA

94925

5604 Bay Street

Emeryville

CA

94608

810 West Valley Parkway

Escondido

CA

92025

1315 E. Gladstone Street

Glendora

CA

91740

5183 Montclair Plaza Lane

Montclair

CA

91763

894 Marsh St Bldg G

San Luis Obispo

CA

93401

2615 Vista Way

Oceanside

CA

92054

72-840 Highway 111 Suite 425

Palm Desert

CA

92260

27460 West Lugonia Ave

Redlands

CA

92374

1150 El Camino Real Space 277

San Bruno

CA

94066

10775 Westview Parkway

San Diego

CA

92126

3600 Stevens Creek Blvd

San Jose

CA

95117

11 West Hillsdale Blvd.

San Mateo

CA

94403

9938 Mission Gorge Road

Santee

CA

92071

40570 Winchester Rd

Temecula

CA

92591

4820 Telephone Road

Ventura

CA

93003

1149 S. Main St.

Walnut Creek

CA

94596

470 Universal Drive North

North Haven

CT

06473

100 Greyrock Place Suite H009

Stamford

CT

06901

60 Isham Road

W. Hartford

CT

06107

18711 NE Biscayne Blvd

Aventura

FL

33180

333 N. Congress Avenue

Boynton Beach

FL

33436

152 Miracle Mile

Coral Gables

FL

33134

1900 W International Spdway

Daytona Beach

FL

32114

2051 N. Federal Highway

Fort Lauderdale

FL

33305

12405 N Kendall Drive

Miami

FL

33186

11380 Legacy Ave

Palm Beach Gardens

FL

33410

14572 SW 5th St Suite 10140

Pembroke Pines

FL

33027

11820 Pines Blvd

Pembroke Pines

FL

33026

5701 Sunset Drive Suite 196

S. Miami

FL

33143

700 Rosemary Ave Unit #104

West Palm Beach

FL

33401

1441 West Webster Avenue

Chicago

IL

60614

1130 North State Street

Chicago

IL

60610

5380 Route 14

Crystal Lake

IL

60014

20600 North Rand Road

Deer Park

IL

60010

728 North Waukegan Road

Deerfield

IL

60015

1630 Sherman Avenue

Evanston

IL

60201

1468 Springhill Mall Blvd

W. Dundee

IL

60118

170 Boylston Street

Chestnut Hill

MA

02467

96 Derby Street Suite 300

Hingham

MA

02043

82 Providence Highway

East Walpole

MA

2032

395 Route 3 East

Clifton

NJ

07014

55 Parsonage Road

Edison

NJ

08837

2134 State Highway 35

Holmdel

NJ

07733

4831 US Hwy 9

Howell

NJ

07731

23-80 Bell Blvd.

Bayside

NY

11360

176-60 Union Turnpike

Fresh Meadows

NY

11366

1542 Northern Blvd

Manhasset

NY

11030

160 E 54th Street (Citicorp)

New York

NY

10022

2289 Broadway

New York

NY

10024

33 East 17th Street (Union Square)

New York

NY

10003

555 Fifth Ave

New York

NY

10017

2245 Richmond Avenue

Staten Island

NY

10314

230 Main St

White Plains

NY

10601

97 Warren Street

New York

NY

10007

100 West Bridge Street

Homestead

PA

15120

800 Settlers Ridge Center Drive

Pittsburgh

PA

15205

1311 West Main Road

Middleton

RI

02842

371 Putnam Pike Suite 330

Smithfield

RI

02917

1350-B Bald Hill Rd

Warwick

RI

02886

 

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Battery Technology Holding Us Back

(AP) As 21st century technology strains to become ever faster, cleaner and cheaper, an invention from more than 200 years ago keeps holding it back. It's why electric cars aren't clogging the roads and why Boeing's new ultra-efficient 787 Dreamliners aren't flying high.

And chances are you have this little invention next to you right now and probably have cursed it recently: the infernal battery.

Boeing is the first company to make extensive use in an airliner of technology's most advanced battery -- lithium ion. But a Jan. 7 battery fire aboard a Dreamliner in Boston, followed by a similar meltdown in Japan, led authorities around the world to ground the fleet this month, highlighting a longstanding safety problem that engineers have struggled with.

In 2006 and 2007, more than 46 million cellphone batteries and 10 million laptop batteries -- all lithium ion -- were recalled because of the risk of overheating, short-circuiting and exploding. Additional safety features have been installed since then on lithium ion batteries used in consumer electronics.

 

'We need to leapfrog the engineering of making of batteries. We've got to find the next big thing.'

- Lawrence Berkeley National Lab battery scientist Vince Battaglia

 

As for the electric car industry, lithium ion batteries have proved to have two major drawbacks: They are costly, and they do not allow automobiles to go far enough between rechargings. A123, a maker of lithium ion batteries for electric cars, went bankrupt last year because of poor demand and high costs after receiving a $249 million federal grant.

Lithium ion batteries, which store more energy at a higher voltage and a lighter weight than earlier types, represent the most recent big jump in battery technology. And that took place nearly a quarter of a century ago.

"We need to leapfrog the engineering of making of batteries," said Lawrence Berkeley National Lab battery scientist Vince Battaglia. "We've got to find the next big thing."

But none of the 10 experts who talked to The Associated Press said they know what that big thing will be yet, or when it will come.

"If you crack it ... it'll change the world," said Carnegie Mellon University materials science professor Jay Whitacre.

Batteries are so crucial to a greener energy future that the Obama administration has spent more than $2 billion to jump-start the advanced battery industry, including setting up what some experts say is a mini-Manhattan Project for batteries.

To make the next breakthrough, researchers will have to master complex chemistry, expensive manufacturing, detailed engineering, a variety of different materials, lengthy testing, stringent safety standards and giant cost problems. It involves dealing with liquids and solids, metals and organic chemicals, and things that are in between, said Glenn Amatucci, director of the Energy Storage Research Group at Rutgers University.

"We're dealing with a system that you can imagine is almost alive. It's almost breathing," Amatucci said. "Trying to understand what's happening within these batteries is incredibly complex."

One reason the battery is the slowpoke of the high-tech highway is that it has conflicting functions. Its primary job is to store energy. But it's also supposed to discharge power, lots of it, quickly. Those two jobs are at odds with each other.

"If you want high storage, you can't get high power," said M. Stanley Whittingham, director of the Northeast Center for Chemical Energy Storage. "People are expecting more than what's possible."

On the commercial market, lithium ion batteries are generally ones small enough to fit into cellphones. But to power bigger items -- from a Prius to a 787 -- they get grouped together, increasing the juice they store and provide. That also increases the safety risk, experts say. The lithium ion battery that caught fire in a Boeing 787 weighed 63 pounds and was 19 inches long.

"You can't get around the fundamental thing is that lithium ion batteries are stuffed full of flammable liquid," Whitacre said.

Even one-in-a-million problems with lithium ion batteries can result in many fires because there are billions of them in use now, with dozens sometimes stacked together in a single device.

Experts say lithium ion batteries are more dangerous because their electrolyte, the liquid that allows ions to move between electrodes in the battery, is more flammable than the substance in older type batteries. Those older types include the lead-acid batteries in most cars and the nickel cadmium batteries that are often in video equipment and power tools.

Still, MIT materials science and engineering professor Gerbrand Ceder and others said the safety problems can be fixed.

Change doesn't come often in the battery field.

"The big advances in battery technology happen rarely. It's been more than 200 years and we have maybe five different successful rechargeable batteries," said George Blomgren, a former senior technology researcher at Eveready and now a private battery consultant. "It's frustrating."

Alessandro Volta -- for whom the volt is named -- invented the first useful battery in 1800. That was long before other breakthrough inventions like the internal combustion engine, telephone, car, airplane, transistor, computer and Internet. But all of those developments have seemed to evolve faster than the simple battery.

The lead-acid car battery "has been around for 150 years more or less," Whitacre said. "This is a remarkable testament to first how robust that chemistry is and how difficult change is."

Battery experts are split over what's next. Some think the lithium ion battery can be tinkered with to get major efficiency and storage improvements. Amatucci said he thinks we can get two to three times more energy out of future lithium ion batteries, while others said minor chemical changes can do even more.

But just as many engineers say the lithium ion battery has run its course.

"With the materials in the current lithium ion battery, we are definitely plateaued," Blomgren said. "We're waiting for something to come along that really does the job."

There are all sorts of new type batteries being worked on: lithium-air, lithium-sulfur, magnesium, sodium-ion.

"Right now it's a horse race," Blomgren said. "There's deficiencies in every technology that's out there. Each one of them requires a major solution."

One of the nation's best hopes for a breakthrough, said Battaglia, is John Goodenough, the man responsible for the 1979 breakthrough that led the first commercial lithium ion battery in 1991. He will receive the National Medal of Science at the White House next month.

Goodenough is 90.

"I'm working on it," Goodenough, an engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said Tuesday. "I'm optimistic in a sense that I'm willing to keep working on it. I think we can do some interesting things."

NiCAD Nickel Cadmium Battery - What Happened!

Who Killed The Electric Car

Another Article!

Be wary of fax claiming to stop unwanted faxes

Small businesses around the country have reported receiving an unwanted fax, telling them how to end "unwanted faxes." The best advice? Throw it away. The fax comes from an organization called the "Envirofax Commission." In bold type, the fax declares "Fax Us Your Unwanted Faxes." In smaller type the fax notes that a change in regulations, in 2006, gives fax recipients the the right to opt-out from receiving future faxes. "Please fax your unwanted faxes to the Envirofax Commission," the fax declares. "We will contact the sender and have your fax number permanently removed from their fax list."

What's the angle?

The fax states this service is free, so what's the angle? According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the motive may not be all that altruistic. "It sounds too good to be true and like a scam to gain active fax numbers," the BBB says...

Read More - Click Here!

Best Buy and HSBC Customer Clicked Box Agreeing to Terms Charged 59 Dollars Annualy

Lawsuit claimed that Best Buy and HSBC did not properly disclose a $59 annual fee. We all click those little boxes saying we "agree to the terms and conditions." Well, guess what -- that action has consequences, as a the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed when it upheld a lower court's dismissal of a proposed class action lawsuit against the consumer retailer and HSBC Bank.

The suit charged that the retailer and the bank had failed to properly disclose a $59 annual fee in advertisements and applications for the Reward Zone Program MasterCard.

Though lead plaintiff Gary Davis could have canceled the card the avoid the fee, he instead refused to activate it and continued to pay the annual fee for five years, Courthouse News Service reported.

U.S. District Judge George King dismissed the Los Angeles case, and a three-judge appeals panel unanimously affirmed on Friday. He noted that neither Best Buy's online application nor its advertisements violated federal disclosure laws. Furthermore, whatever alleged harm Davis suffered could have been easily avoided.

"The advertisement contained the disclaimer, 'other restrictions may apply,' which would have motivated a reasonable consumer to consult the terms and conditions," Judge Dorothy Nelson wrote for the appeals court. "If that were not enough, the online application used boldface and oversized font to alert Davis to the Important Terms & Disclosure Statement, instructing him to 'read the notice below carefully.'"

Additionally, Judge Nelson noted that Davis had checked a box indicating his assent to the terms and conditions.  She noted that Davis could have received a refund of the annual fee if he canceled the card within 90 days.

"Because Davis failed to read the terms and conditions before agreeing to them, and because he refused to cancel his card within 90 days, even when viewing the facts in Davis's favor, we must conclude that any harm he suffered was the product of his own behavior, not the advertisements," Nelson wrote.

Best Tablets and Where To Buy Them

iPad

(Mark Huffman @ ConsumerAffairs) Competition is almost always good for consumers and that's especially true when it comes to tablet computers. Manufacturers continue to put out new models with improved features and functions.

But what's the best kind of tablet to buy, and what size? Apple created the category with its full-sized iPad but last year was forced to put out a seven-inch tablet to compete with a number of very good smaller devices.

Which model is the best? It depends on what you want to do with it and how much you want to spend. It also depends on who you ask.

Best all-around

Technology site CNET ranks the fourth-generation iPad, which retails for around $500, as the all-around first choice in tablets. If you are new to tablets this should be your first choice, the CNET editors say.

The site is also very high on the Google Nexus 7, with a seven-inch screen, as the best small tablet. It retails for around $200.

For consuming media the CNET editors choose the Kindle Fire HD, a middle ground between the iPad and Nexus 7 in both size and price. The Kindle Fire HD sports an 8.9 inch screen and retails for $269.

Consumer Reports has also rated tablets, suggesting your choice should reflect your priorities. If price and portability are tops, it says you should consider the Samsung Galaxy Tab with Wi-Fi. If access to the largest selection of apps is high on your list, it recommends the iPad.

Listen to consumers

Photo
Asus Vivo

While we won't quibble with these tech experts, you might also peruse consumer reviews of the models you are considering. Sandy, of Strathmore, Alberta, purchased a Google Nexus 7 tablet last December and started having problems with it six months later.

“During week of June 9-15, I could only open it with on button held for at least two minutes several times,” Sandy wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “From June 16-19, it would not open at all, I returned it to Best Buy to be informed their return policy is 14 days only and it shows nowhere on our receipt. I was told to contact the manufacturer. I tried to contact Asus and cannot reach anyone there,.It has become a nightmare.”

Dale, of Sweeny, Tex., is not all that impressed with his Asus Vivo Tab TF810C.

“I've had it about six months and it keeps breaking down,” Dale writes. “The system, with Microsoft Office and two-year protection plan, is well over $1,000.The system keeps losing Microsoft Office. Now I am sending it in to Asus (AGAIN) to have the second Atom Processor installed.”

Best places to buy

Photo
Google Nexus

Once you've done your research and settled on the tablet that best meets your needs, you next have to decide where to buy it. Some people like to purchase from a brick and mortar store, giving them the opportunity to see and handle exactly what they are getting. There's a lot to be said for that but increasingly, tablets are being sold online.

Change Sciences Group, an Internet research company, recently ranked, not the tablets, but the companies selling them. For criteria it selected usability, engagement, and conversion. The results were a little surprising.

High marks for Amazon and Walmart

Despite Apple's sleek and simple approach to design, the researchers found people were 20% less successful finding and buying a tablet on its site compared to top performer Amazon, and 18% less successful than on Walmart.com.

But not all general merchandisers fared as well as Walmart and Amazon. For example, people shopping for tablets on Target were 10% less successful than Walmart, and 12% less successful than Amazon.

"In e-commerce, small differences in usability can have a huge impact on the bottom line,” said Pamela Pavliscak, a Change Sciences founder. “This research shows that although finding and purchasing a product is one of the most common consumer activities online, there are still significant differences in how the shopping experience is supported by major retailers."  

Beware of legitimate.rtf and legitimate.doc - Contains Malware 9/14/2011

Microsoft today warned that innocuous documents, including legitimate rich text format files (.rtf), text files (.txt), or Word documents (.doc) could be used in code execution attacks against Windows users.

As part of this month’s Patch Tuesday release, Microsoft shipped MS11-071 to address a publicly known vulnerability in Windows Components that could be exploited via Office documents.

Opening legitimate .doc, .txt files brings code execution risk. Read More – Click Here!

Bicameral bill would ban Internet fast lanes

Photo© Nmedia - Fotolia.com

(Jennifer Abel @ ConsumerAffairs) On June 17, Democrats in Congress and the Senate have put forward a proposed piece of legislation which, if successful, would ban so-called “fast lanes” on the Internet.

In May, the FCC issued a rather confusing report claiming to support net neutrality, the idea that Internet providers must treat all content equally, so that viewers can see all websites at the same speed, rather than enjoy quick access to the websites of wealthy companies willing to pay fast lane fees while suffering slow, clunky service everywhere else.

Yet the FCC confusingly -- at least to some -- spoke in favor of net neutrality while simultaneously allowing ISP to offer “fast lanes” to companies willing to pay extra.

In response, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative Doris Matsui of California proposed the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act which, if passed, would ban ISPs from offering paid fast-lane services.

The Washington Post, which reported on the proposal Tuesday morning before it was actually introduced, noted:

Leahy and Matsui's proposed ban on fast lanes would apply only to the connections between consumers and their ISPs — the part of the Internet governed by the FCC's proposed net neutrality rules. The FCC's current proposal tacitly allows for the creation of a tiered Internet for content companies, though the commission has asked the public whether it should ban the practice as "commercially unreasonable."

Whether a bill proposed by two Democrats will get enough Republican and Democratic votes to actually pass into law remains to be seen.

Big Brother Watching You On Social Media

(CNN) -- We leave small clues about our lives all over the Internet like fingerprints.

Take Melvin Colon, who is facing charges of murder, along with weapons and narcotics-related crimes. The suspected New York gang member posted public photos on Facebook that showed him flashing gang signs but made private more incriminating posts, including references to past violent crimes and threats against others.

Unfortunately for Colon, one of his Facebook friends agreed to give police access to Colon's "private" information, and on August 10, a federal judge ruled Colon lost all claims to privacy when he shared those details with friends.

"Colon's legitimate expectation of privacy ended when he disseminated posts to his 'friends' because those 'friends' were free to use the information however they wanted -- including sharing it with the government," the judge wrote.

Leveraging Facebook is just one of many ways law enforcement officials are gleaning evidence from social media to help them solve crimes.

Police look at what information is public and sometimes create fake online identities to befriend suspects and view their private information. Authorities also can request private data directly from social networks with subpoenas or warrants, or make an emergency request for user information if they think there's an imminent threat of danger.

These techniques are slowly catching on across the country. According to a recent survey of 1,221 federal, state and local law enforcement who use social media, four out of five officials used social media to gather intelligence during investigations. Half said they checked social media at least once a week, and the majority said social media helps them solve crimes faster. The online survey was conducted by LexisNexis Risk Solutions and had a 2.8% margin of error.

The survey found that Facebook is the most fruitful social network for law enforcement, followed by YouTube.

Gathering public data

One pioneer in this emerging area is the city of Cincinnati, where police dismantled a local street gang and arrested 71 people in 2008 following a large nine-month investigation that used social media to identify key members. Collaborating with the University of Cincinnati's Institute of Crime Science, the police created databases of information scraped from social networks, existing police records and phone records, then used software to analyze the data and establish links between suspects.

As with most police departments, Cincinnati's social-media efforts began small, with a few officers checking online profiles on their downtime. Then police teamed up with the university and received training from social-media experts.

"A 22-year-old girl, who knew more about Facebook than Mark Zuckerberg did, taught us how to mine Facebook for info," said Capt. Daniel Gerard, who works at the department.

As they soon discovered, criminals were using social networks to blab about the crimes they were plotting, set up drug deals, brag about wrongdoings and even upload incriminating videos.

Criminals who can't resist bragging online are a boon to police and prosecutors across the country. In one 2008 case, Ronnie Tienda Jr. was convicted of a gang-related murder in Texas based largely on incriminating words and photos he had posted publicly on his MySpace pages.

Some "public" information takes a bit of maneuvering to find. Someone can have their Facebook settings as private as possible, but their friends or relatives might not be as savvy, allowing police to collect information by looking at what a suspect posts on their friends' public pages. Drug dealers have been known to post innocuous public updates that include location information so clients -- and unwittingly, law enforcement -- know where to find them, police said.

Police even have been using Facebook as a way to help victims identify suspects.

Going undercover on Facebook

A more controversial approach to getting information from social networks is going undercover online -- creating fake profiles to befriend suspects.

"We do have some covert accounts for targeted enforcements," said Cincinnati's Gerard.

Facebook, where almost 9% of accounts are believed to be fakes or duplicates, frowns on this practice, however.

"It just undermines the integrity of our whole service if we allow people to use false accounts," said Joe Sullivan, Facebook's chief security officer, in an interview with CNN last month. Creating a fake profile is against Facebook's terms of service, even for law enforcement. Sullivan said there is no context in which Facebook allows fake identities, and that it has a "large commitment" to finding and disabling false accounts.

While these fake accounts may violate a social network's rules, they are not illegal. And evidence collected in this way can still hold up in court.

"In other, nondigital circumstances, these types of practices have been upheld," said Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet civil-liberties organization, in an email. "For example, the police oftentimes pose as young girls to capture people for soliciting a minor to engage in sexual activities. Or they pose as a potential drug buyer in order to arrest individuals on drug crimes."

The LexisNexis survey found most law enforcement officials have no qualms about creating fake profiles for investigations, with 83% saying they thought it was ethical.

Using proper channels

Facebook told CNN there is no secret backdoor access to its network for any law enforcement agency, not even federal investigators. Police seeking access to private information on Facebook must go through official channels.

Each social network has established a policy for how it turns over data when requested. Most require a subpoena or a warrant, depending on the type of details being requested and how long it has been hosted on the site.

When police suspected a Minnesota man, Darrin Anderson, of using a fake Facebook page to talk to underage girls in 2006, detectives had to obtain a search warrant for the profile. Facebook turned over 2½ years of data associated with the then 31-year-old's profile, including more than 800 chat conversations, primarily with girls under 18. The Facebook profile was used as evidence in court, and Anderson pleaded guilty to traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and was sentenced last year to 12 years in prison.

Some social-media companies attempt to notify users when their information has been requested, while other companies might fight requests in court.

Twitter has been the most resistant to turn over user information. The company made headlines this year when it refused to turn over a suspected Occupy Wall Street protester's tweets and location information to the Manhattan district attorney when subpoenaed. The legal battle is still ongoing.

"Twitter users own their Tweets. They have a right to fight invalid government requests, and we continue to stand with them in that fight," Twitter's litigation lead, Benjamin Lee, tweeted Monday.

In case of an emergency

If there's an emergency such as a credible threat of violence, authorities can try to gain immediate access to someone's social-network data by filing an emergency request.

While they are not legally required to comply with these requests, many companies, including Facebook and MySpace, have 24-hour hotlines to handle emergency issues. Facebook says its hotline is staffed by a team of paralegals and lawyers who screen every request. Law enforcement officers must fill out a form explaining the emergency and what information is needed.

"It's a really high standard for an emergency situation like that. It can't be a situation where an hour or two doesn't matter," Facebook's Sullivan said.

There are no publicly available statistics on how many emergency requests Facebook complies with or turns down.

In early August, an anonymous Twitter user posted a string of tweets threatening to open fire at a New York theater hosting former boxer Mike Tyson's one-man Broadway show. "I got 600 people on my hit list and that's gonna be a mass murder for real," read one tweet.

Detectives submitted an official emergency request to Twitter to identify the user. But Twitter rejected the request, saying it did not fall under its parameters for "when it appears that a threat is present, specific and immediate."

The police then got a subpoena from the district attorney's office, forcing Twitter to comply with the request and turn over the information.

Debating the Fourth Amendment

In the case of Colon, the alleged gang member, his attorneys claimed his Facebook posts were protected under the Fourth Amendment, which shields people's homes and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. But a federal judge disagreed, saying Colon forfeited any expectation of privacy when he shared online postings with friends.

In other words, the online world is just like the offline world in many respects: Your friends can inform on you to police, and detectives can go undercover to catch you in the act.

Users don't have Fourth Amendment protection rights when they store information with a third party, such as a website, legal experts said. But Fakhoury and civil-liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation want to challenge the idea that people have no right to privacy for information stored online, especially when it comes to location data. (Even when a post or photo doesn't include public location information, the social network can track its location by seeing the IP address from which it was shared.)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also would like to see more social networks stand up for their users when law enforcement requests information. The foundation is trying to educate the public about how information can be viewed and obtained.

"People post without realizing the consequences, and any change to preserve privacy has to start with greater awareness by users," Fakhoury said.

Catching up with modern technology

Despite the widespread adoption of social media, the courts and police are still playing a game of technological catch-up. Only 10% of the law enforcement officials surveyed by LexisNexis said they had received formal training on how to use social media for investigations.

A typical example of social-media evidence in court has been a black-and-white photocopy of a printout of a screenshot taken of a profile page. Private companies such as X1 Discovery help law enforcement and prosecutors capture metadata and follow a chain of custody so their cases have a better chance of holding up in court.

For police, however, keeping up with new technology will continue to be a challenge. According to Gerard, crime is still down in the Cincinnati neighborhood where his department dismantled a street gang four years ago, but police are seeing more gangs use social media and the Internet to expand their reach beyond traditional areas.

"They're reaching out across the city and working in conjunction with other gangs. They working together much better than before," Gerard said. "We have to learn from their example."

Read More - Click Here!

Big Firms Launch Offensive Against Spam Phishing Emails

Google, Yahoo, PayPal and AOL are among the firms behind DMARC.org, a technical working group that has been developing standards for reducing the threat of deceptive emails.

"Email phishing defrauds millions of people and companies every year, resulting in a loss of consumer confidence in email and the Internet as a whole," said Brett McDowell, Chair of DMARC.org and Senior Manager of Customer Security Initiatives at PayPal. "Industry cooperation -- combined with technology and consumer education -- is crucial to fight phishing."

DMARC.org's founders say it draws upon a history of private industry collaboration with 18 months of dedicated work, to outline an enhanced vision for email authentication that can scale up to today's Internet needs. The group's work includes a draft specification that helps create a feedback loop between legitimate email senders and receivers to make impersonation more difficult for phishers trying to send fraudulent email.

Read More - Click Here!

Big Suprise Facebook adding search feature

(Reuters) Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled on Tuesday a feature to help its users search for people and places within the social network, in the company's first major product launch since its May initial public offering.

Speaking to reporters at its Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters, Zuckerberg revealed "graph search," which allows users to sort through only content that has been shared with them -- addressing potential privacy concerns.

Available as a beta or early version to hundreds of thousands of users now, the new feature -- dubbed "graph search" because Facebook refers to its growing content, data and membership as the "social graph" -- will initially let users browse mainly photographs, people, places and members' interests, he added.

Zuckerberg promised users will be able to tailor their searches, such as by specifying music and restaurants that their friends like, or their favorite dentist. The reverse is also possible, such as discovering friends who have an interest in a particular topic.

Facebook may explore ways to earn revenue off of the service in the future, he added.

"You need to be able to ask the query, like, who are my friends in San Francisco," Zuckerberg said. "Graph search is a really big product. It's going to take years and years to index the whole map of the graph and everything we have out there."

"We'll start rolling it out very slowly. We're looking forward to getting it into more people's hands over coming weeks and months."

Critics have long deemed the social network's current search capabilities inadequate. Zuckerberg stressed Facebook was not getting into Internet searches, Google Inc's specialty.

But the news drove shares in Yelp Inc, which focuses on pooling customer reviews of restaurants and other popular services, about 7.1 percent lower. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter argued that recommendations from trusted friends were more valuable than from strangers on the Web.

"The initial focus is on getting users more engaged, so this is making Facebook more useful and sticky," Pachter said. "I don't see a revenue model initially, but think ultimately, search makes user activity even more relevant to advertisers, and allows greater focus."

MAKING MONEY

The world's largest online social network, with more than one billion users, Facebook is moving to regain Wall Street's confidence in the wake of a rocky IPO and concerns about its long-term money-making prospects.

Central to its efforts is devising new ways to make money from users who are migrating to mobile devices. Zuckerberg said the company is working on that front.

Speculation approached fever pitch over the past week about what Facebook planned to reveal in its highest-profile news briefing since its market debut. Guesses had ranged from a long-rumored smartphone to a full Web-search product.

That anticipation, as well as expectations of strong fourth-quarter financial results, helped boost Facebook's stock. Its shares are up more than 15 percent since the start of the year.

On Tuesday, its stock slid 2 percent at $30.30, giving up some of its recent gains.

"The search function on Facebook was basic and as such, a wasted opportunity given Facebook's imperative to strengthen advertising revenues," said Ovum Research analyst Eden Zoller.

Zuckerberg said he could foresee a business in search over time, but analysts advised caution. Facebook has come under fire numerous times for unclear privacy guidelines.

"Facebook graph search will no doubt leverage member data to provide advertisers with more targeted, personalized advertising opportunities going forward. But Facebook needs to tread very carefully here and be mindful of user privacy," Zoller said.

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Bing Big Changes Attempts to Conquer Google

In the ongoing scuffle to be on top of the search engine hill, Microsoft's Bing is trying to compete with Google by making its site more interactive.

"Today we are taking a big step forward as we begin rolling out what is the most significant update to Bing since we launched three years ago," said the company in a prepared statement. "Over the coming weeks, we will be introducing a brand new way to search designed to help you take action and interact with friends and experts without compromising the core search experience.

If you can't beat them join them, right? Which appears to be Bing's mentality as it's borrowing Google's idea of paying attention to your connections and web browsing patters to further personalize your search.

Read More - Click Here!

BitTorrent site IsoHunt to shut down and pay $110m

Screenshot of IsoHunt listings (Dave Lee @ bbcnews) IsoHunt lists many popular TV programs and movies available to download illegally

IsoHunt, a popular website offering BitTorrents of mostly pirated material, is to shut down following a court settlement.

The site's owner, Canadian Gary Fung, has agreed to pay $110m (£68m) to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

MPAA chairman Chris Dodd said the move was a "major step forward" for legitimate commerce online.

In a blog post, Mr Fung said: "It's sad to see my baby go."

The site is currently still online, but will soon be shut. It is one of the most popular sites of its kind on the internet.

A group of companies, including Disney, Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox, accused the site of willfully infringing copyright by listing millions of popular movies and TV programs - in a court battle that has lasted for more than seven years.

Now Mr Fung has agreed to settle. He added: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have remained faithful. 10.5 years of IsoHunt has been a long journey by any business definition and forever in internet start-up time.

"It started as a programming hobby in my university days that has become so, so much more."

Court documents acknowledged that it is unlikely that Mr Fung's company could pay $110m, and that the MPAA would probably receive between $2m and $4m.

Degree of separation

Like a similar site, The Pirate Bay, that has been blocked in the UK by a court order, IsoHunt did not host pirated material itself.

It instead acted as a directory of sources from which to download illegal files.

Chris Dodd Motion Picture Association of America

According to court documents, Mr Fung's defense hinged on this degree of separation - and argued that it was the users of IsoHunt responsible for distributing pirated material, not IsoHunt.

The Californian court disagreed.

"It sends a strong message that those who build businesses around encouraging, enabling, and helping others to commit copyright infringement are themselves infringers, and will be held accountable for their illegal actions," said MPAA chairman Mr Dodd.

"The successful outcome of this landmark lawsuit will also will help preserve jobs and protect the tens of thousands of businesses in the creative industries, whose hard work and investments are exploited by sites like IsoHunt."

'Reluctant revolutionary'

Ahead of the ruling, Mr Fung had taken to social news site Reddit to take part in an AMAA - Ask Me Almost Anything - session.

In it, he described himself as a "reluctant revolutionary", and backed calls for copyright reform.

He said he did not hold a disregard for the law, and acted upon requests to remove links to pirated content when the company was made aware.

Walking Dead billboard Despite efforts to minimize piracy, vast numbers still illegally downloaded TV series The Walking Dead

He also said the industry could render sites like IsoHunt obsolete if it offered simultaneous releases worldwide, as well as digital offerings that were cheaper than physical copies.

His thoughts echoed findings by a trio of researchers at George Mason University in Virginia, US.

Their site piracydata.org has been collating the weekly top 10 most-pirated films and investigating whether legal digital methods were available.

They found that half of the movies in the list were not available to access legally online. Furthermore, none of the 10 titles could be streamed - arguably the most straightforward way to consume media online.

However, in contrast, efforts by Fox to curb piracy of TV series The Walking Dead fell flat.

Despite the first episode of the latest series being made available to stream free online, the program was still illegally downloaded more than 500,000 times, according to data gathered by Torrentfreak.com.

BlackBerry Playbook Security Flaw

Researchers have found a security flaw in the BlackBerry Playbook that would enable an attacker to steal personal data from the tablet. The vulnerability was found in the Bridge application used for communications via Bluetooth between the PlayBook and the BlackBerry handset, both made by Canada-based Research in Motion (NSDQ:RIMM), Kaspersky Lab reported in its ThreatPost blog. Handset customers use the Bridge application to access corporate e-mail, calendar and other personal data on the tablet.

Read More - Click Here!

BlackBerry Three Day Disruption has hit North America and Worldwide 10/11/2011

In a third day of outages, BlackBerry service disruption has hit the United States and Canada, the company has said.

BlackBerry users have once again taken to social networking sites and microblogging sites like Twitter and Facebook to air their grievances, disgust and frustration at the downed network, which began to falter over three days ago. Read More - Click Here!

Blackberry RIM May Switch To Microsoft

(Reuters) - Research In Motion Ltd's board is under mounting pressure to consider unpalatable options such as selling its network business or forming an alliance with Microsoft Corp after the Blackberry maker again delayed the release of its next-generation smartphones, said three sources familiar with the situation.

Shares in the Canadian company, which announced a steeper-than-expected quarterly operating loss on Thursday, plunged 18 percent in extended trading, slashing its market value to $4.1 billion. The stock has fallen about 70 percent in the past year.

RIM said the launch of BlackBerry 10 mobile devices has been postponed to early 2013 - more than a year later than initially promised - because the development of its new operating system had "proven to be more time-consuming than anticipated."

The latest setback has increased pressure on RIM's board to more seriously explore other options, including measures that would amount to an admission that it cannot survive by sticking to its current strategy, said the sources, who declined to be identified because the information was confidential.

One of these options is for RIM to abandon its own operating system and adopt Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had approached RIM in recent months, looking to strike a partnership similar to the one the software giant has with Nokia Oyj, the sources said. Under that partnership, Nokia will use Microsoft's latest Windows operating system on its smartphones.

In such a scenario, RIM could also look for Microsoft to buy a stake in the company and fund marketing and other expenses, the sources said. However, this option is not attractive to RIM because it would mean the end of the Waterloo, Ontario-based company's technology independence, they said.

The RIM board prefers to see through the efforts to develop the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, according to the sources.

Microsoft could also be interested in RIM's wireless patents, the sources said.

RIM and Microsoft declined to comment.

Another option for RIM would be to sell its proprietary network to a private equity firm or a technology company. The buyer could then open up RIM's network operating centers to other smartphone providers, allowing them to also provide highly secured emails and other services to companies and government agencies, the sources said.

In that scenario, however, RIM's device business is seen to have no future, they said, adding that private equity firms have been considering how to separate the hardware business from the network business.

RIM has in the past considered opening up its network to rivals, under a plan led by former co-CEO Jim Balsillie. That could offer RIM a way forward as demand for its BlackBerry phones faces fierce competition from Apple Inc's iPhone and Google Inc's Android phones.

The idea would be to clearly define the network as an asset that could exist without BlackBerry handsets - an operational precursor that could have led to a possible legal split if the handset business ultimately proved untenable.

RIM is "going to have to be much more open minded to the idea that Jim Balsillie was working on before he was ousted of opening their network to third parties," said Eric Jackson, a hedge fund manager at Ironfire Capital in Toronto.

(Reporting by Nadia Damouni; Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp in Toronto; Editing by Ryan Woo)

Blackhole malware exploit kit suspect arrested

Blackhole software (BBBnews) The Blackhole kit offered an interface used to manage malware attacks

Russian police have reportedly arrested a man on suspicion of masterminding two infamous hacking tools.

He is suspected of being the man behind the alias Paunch - the nickname used by the creator of the Blackhole and Cool exploit kits, sold to cybercriminals to infect web users with malware.

The Russian authorities have not confirmed the details.

But security firms said they had already detected a decline in the programs' use.

A spokesman for the law enforcement agency Europol told the BBC: "Europol and the European Cybercrime Centre has been informed that a high-level suspected cyber criminal has been arrested.

"We can only refer you to the Russian authorities, they are the ones who should speak about this topic."

The Russian police's press office said it had nothing to add at this time.

However, Alexander Gostev, chief security expert at the Moscow-based internet protection provider Kaspersky Lab, said the arrest had been confirmed to him by "anonymous sources".

Spreading malware

The Blackhole kit, released in 2010, dominated the crimeware market throughout 2012 and the start of 2013, according to Fraser Howard, a researcher at the anti-virus company Sophos.

He said the code had been sold for an annual licence of $1,500 (£940) or could be rented from its creator for $200 (£125) for one week's use, among other price plans.

The software targeted a range of vulnerabilities in the Java programming language, Adobe's Flash media player, Windows software and PDF files.

It had two ways of doing this:

  • adding malicious code to hundreds of thousands of legitimate websites, which then copied malware to visitors computers
  • creating links in spam messages to specially created sites that infected PCs
Blackhole email Sophos said that Blackhole was used to send links that directed users to sites that downloaded malware

Among the malware downloaded was:

  • fake anti-virus software that falsely claimed the PC was infected and urged the user to pay a fee to remove viruses
  • Trojans that attempted to steal financial records stored on the PC
  • the ZeroAccess rootkit, which downloaded other software that hijacked the PC for use in a botnet - a facility used to overwhelm websites with traffic and force them offline
  • key loggers that took a record of what was typed on the PC
  • ransomware that attempted to blackmail the PC owner

Although Mr Howard said Blackhole was once the biggest threat of its kind, he added that in recent months it had been overshadowed by rival kits, including Sweet Orange and Neutrino.

According to the researcher, the Blackhole and Cool kits put together were only involved in about 4% of all malware detected by Sophos in August, down from 28% the previous year.

The figure had since dropped to 2% in recent days, he added.

Another independent security blogger stressed that the arrest was still significant.

"If it's true that the brains behind the Blackhole has been apprehended it's a very big deal - a real coup for the cybercrime-fighting authorities, and hopefully cause disruption to the development of one of the most notorious exploit kits the web has ever seen," said Graham Cluley.

"However, it's worth remembering that nature abhors a vacuum, and there would surely be other online criminals waiting to take their place, promoting their alternative exploit kits and malicious code."

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, agreed.

"If indeed it is Paunch that they arrested, that is a major arrest - he is a big deal," he told the BBC.

"He was clearly the biggest player in providing exploit kits - not just by selling them, but also renting and leasing them to online criminals.

"Both Blackhole and its successor Cool have been very popular.

"Users didn't have to be very technical to operate them - there was a manual that came with them - they just had to get them running and be able to break into a high-profile website, or create a new one from scratch, to install something bad on your computer."

Bloodhound diary: 1,000mph wheels

() A British team is developing a car that will be capable of reaching 1,000mph (1,610km/h). Powered by a rocket bolted to a Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine, the Bloodhound SSC (SuperSonic Car) vehicle will mount an assault on the land speed record. The vehicle will be run on Hakskeen Pan in Northern Cape, South Africa, in 2014 and 2015.

 

Wing Commander Andy Green, world land-speed record holder, is writing a diary for the BBC News website about his experiences working on the Bloodhound project and the team's efforts to inspire national interest in science and engineering.

I have just returned from Singapore and a forum on Innovation, Technology and Design.

The British Council and the British High Commission had invited an A-list group of UK companies to showcase the best of British expertise.

It was an impressive list, including McLaren, Rolls-Royce, Arup, Dyson - and Bloodhound.

Trent engineWheel technology for aeroplanes

Singapore, and South East Asia overall, is facing the same shortage of engineers and scientists as we are in the UK.

This is where Bloodhound is aiming to make a real difference and, based on the feedback from this conference, it's working.

At the end of the event, the head of the UK's Technology Strategy Board described Bloodhound as "perhaps the best education outreach programme in the world".

That's a huge vote of confidence for the Bloodhound Education Team - well done guys!

If you haven't joined this (now officially world-class) education scheme yet, click here and do it today.

I also found out that Rolls-Royce assembles the Trent engine (for the A380 airliner) in Singapore.

Here, we share some technology with them. The compressor disc (the bit you can see, with all the blades) is made by Castle Precision in Glasgow, and Castle is also leading the consortium of companies to make Bloodhound's 1,000mph wheels.

While I was in Singapore, someone asked me if I was scared to drive at such high speeds.

Wheel forgingMaking go-faster alloys

The answer is simple - Bloodhound is using the same technology as Rolls-Royce, so if I'm not scared to use it flying home, why would I be scared to use it on the ground?!

We were hugely privileged to go and watch the forging of Bloodhound's final batch of desert wheels this month.

The forging process was done by Otto Fuchs in Germany and the exact process is carefully protected.

We believe that we are the first people to be given media access in the 100-plus-year history of the company - it was a very special visit.

We took a couple of the Bloodhound team, plus four engineers from Castle Precision (so that they could see the early stages of the process that they will finish off); and Top Gear Magazine came along to write about the world's ultimate go-faster alloys.

The Bloodhound wheels have to support the car at over 1,000mph, at which point they will be rotating at just over 10,000rpm, or about 170 times per second.

At this speed, the 900mm disc will be enduring a radial acceleration of 50,000g at the wheel rim.

Gun (BBC)A 1,000mph pebble gun

Imagine strapping a standard 1kg bag of sugar inside the wheel rim. At these speeds, it would exert a load of 50 tonnes, i.e. more than a fully-laden articulated lorry.

In addition, we are aiming for a safety factor of 50%, if we can get it, to make sure that we can trust these wheels just as much as Rolls-Royce trust their engines!

The wheels need to be seriously strong.

The first thing we had to do was choose the best material.

Previously, we looked at titanium (which is expensive and can be brittle under load), carbon fibre (which is unproven and can also damage easily) and aluminium alloys, which we used to set the current record back in 1997.

Hence, aluminium was our preferred choice, provided we could find a shape that would be strong enough to cope with the 1,000mph loads.

It's taken several years, several re-thinks and a lot of help from Lockheed Martin (UK), but we've finally designed a wheel that can use aluminium alloy without exceeding its strength. So which is the best alloy to use?

In 2010, we tested various alloys by firing lumps of desert rock into the wheels at 1,000mph, to look a the worst case of a stone impact, but the results didn't produce a clear winner.

Since then, we've done a lot more design work, which has led us to choose a new aerospace alloy, known as 7037.

This is one of the 7000 series alloys (aluminium mixed with zinc) and 7037 is the best of the range for our wheel design.

Aluminium "snowflakes"Aluminium "snowflakes"

Trimet supplied the raw liquid aluminium to cast the initial "billets" (in this case, 280kg cylindrical blocks) that are the starting point for making the wheels.

The 7037 melt was done specially for us, as we need about five tonnes of liquid metal to make 18 wheels - four sets of four, plus two spares for testing purposes.

All the casting was done months ago, but that's only the start of the process.

Cast metal is funny stuff and, as it solidifies, it grows tiny internal crystals.

The structure of cast aluminium contains these crystals, or dendrites - tiny structures that look like microscopic Christmas trees.

Think very tiny snowflakes inside the metal. To make the aluminium strong enough, we need to remove the dendrites, which is done by forging (squashing) the metal at high temperature and under huge loads.

This is a bit like making a snowball - squashing the loose snowflakes together to make a stronger shape.

This is what Otto Fuchs does, as a forging house, to make very high-quality forged wheels.

DIY kit for a 1,000mph chassisDIY kit for a 1,000mph chassis

Being German, they even have their own word for it: "Fuchsfelge" (literally "Fuchs wheel" - I think).

The 280kg billet takes four hours to heat up to 390 C in a huge oven.

The two-man team then has about 30 minutes to complete the forging before it cools down too much - so the pressure is on.

One of them drives the manual arm to hold the block in exactly the right position for each forging operation, while the other one operates the 3,600tonne press.

I counted well over 100 different operations on this quarter-tonne block, taking it from a cylinder to a cube to a large flat disc in under half an hour.

It was like watching someone working Plasticine. A very large, very hot bit of Plasticine.

The final result is a disc just over the 900mm diameter that we need. Once it's cooled down, there is a final bit of cold forging in the big press (yes, the 3,600 tonne press is "small" in this place - the big one is 20,000 tonnes).

Throughout this process, there is also a huge range of quality control procedures, just as there are when Castle manufactures discs for Rolls.

Steering wheelSteering wheel: A perfect fit

This is one of the key differences between aerospace and automotive engineering: around one out of every hundred alloy car wheels is tested for quality; for aerospace products (and Bloodhound) every one is checked.

The discs are initially machined, then shipped off to the UK.

On this occasion, the Top Gear crew kindly transported one of the first batch to Castle's Glasgow HQ in the back of the shiny new car they were testing.

Once in Scotland, the extended wheel team will then take another three months to produce two sets of desert wheels.

We'll keep the rest of the blanks available for modification, in case we have to make any design changes after our first visit to South Africa - this is an "Engineering Adventure" after all, and we don't know all the answers yet.

The rest of the car is coming along well. The rear lower-chassis has been a major project in itself, and now that it's complete, the workshop team is pushing on with the rest of the build.

I have also just got to see the final mock-up of the steering wheel, in position in the cockpit mock-up.

We're going to use Additive Layer Manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) to produce a bespoke wheel, moulded to my hands. Good news - thankfully - the shape fits my hands perfectly!

Cockpit designSafety means looking after fine detail

The steering wheel has involved several of our engineering team at various points, plus some help from the Cambridge Design Partnership to finish the job off nicely - thanks guys.

The design will now be finalised and then printed in titanium. Can't wait to see it.

While my 1,000mph office needs to control the car and keep the wind out, it also needs to keep me safe.

We're now working closely with the FIA Institute to review all of the cockpit safety aspects, with the aim of making this the safest Land Speed Record Car in history.

I'm learning a huge amount about the nuances of crash helmets, seat design, harnesses, head restraints - you name it.

If you're going to work at 1,000mph then you've got to get the details right.

 Bloodhound will attempt to break the Land Speed Record in 2014

Broadcasters want Supreme Court to shut down Aereo

Photo(James Hood @ ConsumerAffairs) Once you throw message in a bottle into the water, you have no control over what happens to it. It may sink. It may wash up on an uninhabited island. Or it may be scooped out by someone who finds a way to sell it to millions of people at a profit.

Should you have any control over the bottle once it leaves your hand? That's the question the over-the-air TV industry wants the Supreme Court to consider.

Major broadcasters including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are appealing a ruling earlier this year by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied their request to shut down Aereo, a streaming video service that is built on a technicality.

The technicality is this: You can't legally record a TV show and redistribute it to others for profit, because the show is intellectual property covered by copyright laws. Ah, but can you build an equipment rack just crammed with little tiny antennas that pull in the over-the-air signal -- the broadcasters' message in a bottle -- and sell the streaming video of that signal for profit? 

That's what a start-up called Aereo has been doing with great success. And is driving broadcasters and cable companies insane. Worse than that, it's eating into their profits.

Threatening the fundamentals

PhotoAereo antennas on a circuit board

In their petition to the Supreme Court, the broadcasters say Aereo and the appeals court's decision are "already transforming the industry and threatening the very fundamentals of broadcast television."

But how can Aereo be threatening the TV industry when all it is doing is making it easier for consumers to get a decent signal without paying $100 or more per month for a cable TV feed from the likes of Comcast?

After all, in much of the country, it's difficult at best to get a decent over-the-air signal. Many people live too far away from the local station's transmitter. Others live in apartments or condos that don't allow big, bulky TV antennas.

Community antenna

Enter Aereo. The company is doing exactly what cable TV did in its early days, back when it was known as Community Antenna TV, or CATV. Back in the day, small towns were desperate for someone to come in and build a CATV system that would haul in signals from the ABC, CBS and NBC stations so taxpayers could watch "I Love Lucy," baseball and other staples of American life.

Although it does not say so in so many words, Aereo basically is doing the same thing -- simply acting as an antenna for folks who don't have their own.

Comcast Cable Service Oct. 14, 2013, 12:18 a.m.Consumers rate Comcast Cable Service

For a mere $8 per month -- chump change by almost any definition -- Aereo delivers local TV signals in New York, Boston, Atlanta and other major markets. It plans to reach 22 cities by year's end and will unveil an Android mobile app this month.

You would think that broadcasters would be grateful. Aereo, after all, is helping them get viewers they might not otherwise have. Ah, but not so fast, say the broadcasters. They argue that Aereo is skimming off the handsome royalties that TV stations get from cable systems that carry their signal.

After all, if a majority of viewers cancel their cable contract and switch to Aereo, the cable systems won't want to pay those fat royalties to the TV stations anymore.  

"Free TV"

This, of course, has not always been the case. Within living memory, over-the-air broadcasters called themselves "Free TV." Of course, that was when they were fighting the -- you guessed it -- cable industry.

Broadcasters back then said it would ruin them financially if those rotten cable systems took their precious signals and bundled them in a cable feed to consumers. They said this with a straight face long enough and loud enough to strong-arm Congress and the courts into letting broadcasters put their hands into cable's pocket and extract some of the money placed there by consumers.

Now the cable systems that broadcasters said just a few decades ago were killing them are their partners in crime and it's Aereo that's killing them -- killing them! -- by not giving them even more money to produce the crap that we all watch every night.

Ring of truth?

PhotoIt doesn't really sound like a very convincing argument, does it? No, and so far the nation's judges don't think so either. Just last week, a federal judge in Boston refused to grant an injunction to stop Aereo from distributing WCVB-TV's signal, turning aside the station's argument that Aereo puts its "entire business model at risk."

That, of course, is not a matter for the courts. Business models rise and fall with consumer demand. If consumers stop buying your product, your business model is toast. 

Despite all their bleating about business models, freedom of information and so on, about all that broadcasters have to stand on legally is their claim that Aereo is violating copyright law, a fairly feeble argument when all Aereo is doing is the same thing as a piece of dipole cable hung out your window could do if your window faces the right way.

As it stands now, broadcasters -- and the cable industry, for that matter -- just may be on the wrong side of history. Consumer sentiment appears to be tiling towards getting TV the same way consumers get just about everything else now -- over the Internet, at a fraction of the former cost.

Filing a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court sounds good but it doesn't mean the court will hear the case, or that it will rule in the broadcasters' favor. No one else has, why should they?

So, while we have no opinion on the matter and would never think of giving investment advice, we would just say that we are examining our threadbare stock portfolio and will be dumping anything that remotely resembles TV broadcasting.

The guys with the puffy hair had a fun decade or so laughing at the newspaper industry's troubles. Let's say how they like it when it's their turn.

Business Hacks for Gmail

Business Hacks for Gmail that Will Change Your Life image gmail blog() Business Hacks for Gmail that Will Change Your Life

 

With millions of emails sent everyday, it’s no wonder there’s a love hate relationship between most professionals and their inboxes. Gmail is one of the big three in email service providers and has recently allowed for a lot of developer customization through their labs.

Knowing how to use gmail effectively is the first step to hacking your ability to be productive and effective with email. From there, knowing how to use integrated hacks to improve your experience and efficiency is what will truly change your life.

Here are a few hacks that will make you more productive, efficient and ultimately drive real results:

Rapporative

We recognize the importance of knowing as much as possible about your clients and customers to nurture relationships. Knowing a bit of insight into their lives and what they do is important information when crafting an email to someone.

Rapportive gives you a sneak peak of each person you email by connecting their email address to their social networks and social graph. Instead of seeing ads in Gmail you will start seeing a snippet of their twitterfeed, their current job title from Linkedin along with links to their Facebook, Google+ and any other social networks associated with this email.

Another cool trick with Rapportive that can be helpful is identifying someones email that you don’t already have in your address book or isn’t available online. If you don’t know someone’s email address for sure, you can guess it (typically firstname@[company here].com) by typing it into the “TO” field of an email, and if their social profiles show up, you know that you have the right email. Try this with some executives, CEOs, celebrities or media reporters you’ve been itching to get an email out to.

Canned Responses

Repetition is a productivity killer. On a regular basis you will be met with clients who are requesting additional information or requesting a pitch deck of some sort. If you’re speaking at an event, you might be asked for a bio or for a few examples of some of the work you have done in the past. Instead of writing these same emails over and over again from month to month, Canned Responses allows you to write them once and save the message text with the “Canned responses” button. Later, you can open that same message and send it again and again.

Kate Mats wrote a post about her productivity secrets and expressed how she uses this tool for situations like these:

  • Recruiter thanks, but no thanks response
  • Vendor thanks, but no thanks response
  • Introduction templates
  • My address (one for home, and I used to have one for work when I worked outside of my house)
  • Directions to my house

Inbox Pause

Have you ever tried to get to inbox zero but the emails wouldn’t stop? Have you ever tried to get work done, only to find that every 30 seconds, your new email notification pops up over and over again with everything from Groupons to Cat pictures?

Instead of trying to ignore these distractions. Remove them with Inbox Pause. Using this app you can pause your inbox (surprised?) as gmail stores them in a seperate section of your mail until you turn it back on. Sure, it’s a moment of relief but it’s one that can provide you with quality time to be effective and efficient.

Boomerang

Some people are morning people, some are not. If you’re a night owl, you will love the power of boomerrang as it allows you to schedule your emails the same way that an app like Buffer would allow you to schedule your tweets. Instead of sending emails to clients at 3AM in the morning, you can now schedule them using Boomerrang to go out in the morning bright and early.

It’s also a great tool for lead nurturing and managing client or prospect expectations. If a potential lead expresses that they’ll be out of town for the next two months, instead of putting it in your calendar to follow up with them the day they return, schedule an email to go out upon their arrival.

CIOs may have no choice in supporting Windows 8

(Scott Lowe TechRepublic) It’s more than obvious that an enterprise migration to Windows 8 will not look like the migration to Windows 7.  In fact, many organizations remain in the midst of their Windows 7 deployments and won’t even consider a look at Windows 8.  Other organizations have completed their Windows 7 projects while still others remain firmly and happily planted on Windows XP.

Many CIOs have indicated that Windows 8 is not currently on their radar and many have also indicated that they intend to skip Windows 8 altogether while they either await Windows 9 or simply stick with Windows 7 or XP.  Personally, I see many XP organizations ultimately being forced to Windows 7 because of emerging compatibility issues in new third-party software releases.

For those that intend to ignore Windows 8, I don’t think it’s going to be quite as easy to do as it may have been to skip, say, Windows Vista.  Sure, many organizations will put into place policies that prevent the installation of Windows 8 on official corporate desktops and laptops, but that alone will not prevent these same organizations from having to support it anyway.

BYOD

Primarily, Windows 8 will worm its way into organizations through BYOD initiatives, whether or not those initiatives are officially sanctioned.  Even if an organization doesn’t deploy its own Windows 8 desktops and laptops and absolutely forbids the use of personal Windows 8 desktop and laptops, it’s important for CIOs to bear in mind that we’re moving to a Windows 8 everywhere world.  In this era, Windows 8 runs on devices that span the spectrum and include tablets and, if you count Windows Phone 8, mobile devices.

For organizations that have implemented BYOD policies, it will be difficult to make Windows 8 tablets an exception to the policy.  After all, Windows 8 tablets will likely be a whole let easier to support than some other tablets.  Organizations tools may run natively on the tablet.  This is not generally the case with iOS- and Android-based devices on which it’s necessary to run Windows-native applications through some kind of remote connection.

Although Windows 8 is quite different than Windows 7 in many ways, those that have experience in supporting Windows 7 won’t have much trouble upgrading their skills to include Windows 8. From a support perspective, it may be easier in some ways to support Windows 8 in a BYOD scenario than it is to support other platforms.

The executive

I expect that, upon its release, Microsoft’s Surface (Windows 8, x86-based edition), will, at least for a while, be a popular device and, if Microsoft executes well, could be a long-term winner.  I also suspect that there will be some in the upper echelons of the organization that will buy these devices and want to use them at work.  This is part of the BYOD coin, but senior management, unfortunately, often has different rules, so IT may end up supporting these devices through that backdoor entrance into the company.

Feature set

Windows 8 does, in fact, carry with it some features that CIOs might find compelling, depending on the organization’s needs.

Windows To Go

Windows To Go might be an answer for your need to support part-time or temporary staff.  In short, you can provide these people with a USB stick that contains Windows To Go, which is a full corporate desktop.  This USB stick can be inserted into any Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer and the person will be presented with your corporate desktop image.

Direct Access

Direct Access has been improved in Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 and provides users with a VPN without needing to use a VPN.  With Direct Access, users are able to directly access the corporate network from anywhere, which means that their machines cab be managed as if they were local and the user gets access to the resources they’d have if they were on the local network.

Side load Metro apps

With the Enterprise edition of Windows 8, organizations will be able to side load Windows 8 Metro apps without having to use the Windows Store.

Summary

Although many out there are planning to skip Windows 8 altogether, forces may align that make this decision far from a slam dunk and you may end up discovering that Windows 8 is, in fact, a part of your support portfolio

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CNN Internet Rules :-)

(Todd Leopold @ CNN) Welcome to the Internet. It's a big place, so let me show you around. You're approaching Oversharing Pass, where residents routinely post too much information. The Facebook Gorge and Twitter Triangle are particularly nefarious time-sucks. Restraint is advised.

Up ahead is Hyperbole Junction, which is the Worst. Spot. Ever. We recommend that you maintain an even keel and stay to the center; the extreme left and right can be dangerous.

And over there is the infamous Lair of Sociopaths, the home of trolls and loners who mercilessly mock everyone who enters their territory. Watch your step: They may trip you up and you'll fall into the Chasm of Lulz.

Our world isn't all dangerous, of course. You may visit Squee City, where images of cute cats and laughing babies fill the landscape. You'll also meet countless kind strangers, hilarious raconteurs and hard-working fact-checkers. They make it all worthwhile.

Hmm. Maybe it would be easier if you had a guide -- you know, some rules to help you find your way.

What, you didn't know there are rules of the Internet?

Of course there are rules. How do you think we maintain order around here?

A parody of rules

That's a joke.

But there really are some rules of the Internet -- even if they, too, began as kind of a joke.

According to the site KnowYourMeme.com, the Rules began around 2006 as a guide for the Internet collective Anonymous and emerged on the old Encyclopedia Dramatica, a bawdy meme catalog. Soon a version emerged on 4chan, an online bulletin board where most users post anonymously, says Jamie Cohen, director of web/digital media at Hofstra University's School of Communication.

"Chris Poole (4chan's founder) kind of designed it, kind of like a Netiquette rules," he says, describing the unspoken code of conduct that lubricates Internet discourse. (Poole has attributed the rules to Gaia Online, a role-playing community.)

But the rules of the Internet deliberately mocked many of those conventions. The self-reflexive parody fit perfectly with its community's attitude, points out Anthony Rotolo, a professor at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies.

"These jokes are meant to comment on something happening in the world," he says. "Later they get accepted as truisms or become a meme."

The absurdity has been reflected even in the supposed number of rules. Though the best-known first version claimed there were 50 rules, only 18 were listed. Number 1 was initially "Do not talk about Rules 2-33"; no Rules 2-33 were on the list.

The sarcastic attitude was reinforced by the kicker found on Encyclopedia Dramatica. It was a parody of Wikipedia's stub language: "This article is crap. You can help by completely re-writing it."

'Fight Club' and Monty Python

Very quickly, the lists started multiplying and expanding, liberally borrowing from comedy, Web culture and math-science tropes. On one list, a few were designated by complex numbers and mathematical symbols. Some were observations; others were directives.

Some have traced the Internet rules to Chris Poole, the founder of 4chan.
Some have traced the Internet rules to Chris Poole, the founder of 4chan.

Two rules were taken from "Fight Club": "You do not talk about 4chan (or "/b/," 4chan's random, free-wheeling bulletin board) and "You DO NOT talk about 4chan." One version of Rule 6 stated "There is no Rule 6," which is from a Monty Python sketch. Rule 42, "Always bring a towel," was drawn from Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series. (If you have to ask, read the books.) "Profit," Rule 49, came from "South Park."

Other rules went the reverse direction and became part of mainstream culture. Rule 34 -- "If it exists, there is porn of it" -- is likely the most famous. But there's also "Pics or it didn't happen" (Rule 30), "For every given male character, there is a female version of that character; conversely for every given female character, there is a male version of that character" (Rule 63) and, of course, the corollary to Rule 34 -- "If no porn of it exists at the moment, it will be made" (Rule 35).

Most retained a sense of humor, riffing off established rules and occasionally ending with a giggly "No exceptions."

But a handful were, and remain, as serious as a judge -- notably the three directly about Anonymous (commonly Rules 3-5):

- We are Anonymous.

- We are legion.

- We do not forgive, we do not forget.

The overall Internet rules may have started as a joke, but such ominous language from Anonymous speaks to some of the paradoxes of the Web:

Rules? Why do we need some stinkin' rules?

After all, rules can be helpful -- or divisive. They can create community -- or subvert it.

Even Anonymous, the activist group itself, cuts both ways, says Rotolo. When it hacked the extremist Westboro Baptist Church, many people cheered. But when it goes after less unpopular targets, some cry vigilantism.

Cohen says that the rules themselves try to have it both ways. They're funny until someone gets hurt.

They "play more of a game type of role. They can be bent or broken or cheated or moved around, as you would in any game that has no physical reaction," he says. "That doesn't take into account ever the result of real people being affected by this -- such as teenagers, children, anybody who's seeing things that they shouldn't."

He adds, "There's a lot of rules in there that work for (the creators) more than anyone else. Until they become victims of their own thing, they don't know how powerful the rules are."

Evolving from the Wild West

Of course, the Internet isn't that old, and we're still in its Wild West era in many ways. As the technology evolves from a handful of hackers on Usenet bulletin boards to billions of users on officially sponsored sites, the customs -- the rules -- of the Web will evolve with it.

But we're not talking about the kinds of changes that your family makes to the rules of Monopoly (no, Free Parking is NOT for the pool of money acquired via Chance and Community Chest). We're talking something more expansive: All the established customs of our carbon-based life forms, making way for the instantaneous and virtual modes of silicon-based electronics.

Who knows what new rules may be written?

"When you're in the midst of social change, it's impossible to determine where it's going," says Peter S. Vogel, a former programmer who's now a Dallas-based attorney. "And I think we are in the greatest social change in the history of humans, because there are no boundaries of geography or time."

We haven't even sorted out what happens when the differences in local culture meet global technology. Bruce Umbaugh, a philosophy professor at Webster University in St. Louis who teaches a course on philosophy and technology, argues that not all parts of the world are as tolerant or open-minded as Western democracies.

There's a lot of rules in there that work for (the creators) more than anyone else.
Jamie Cohen, Hofstra University

"There are a lot of other places in the world that are actively using the technology of the Internet to control the free communication among citizens, and to identify critics of the government and hurt them," he says. "We need to be mindful in what we advocate from our perspective that the tools that are implemented on the Net are tools for the global Net."

In other words, citizens of other countries already face actual, enforceable rules -- unlike the folkways established by Web users in the West. Witness the frictions of the Arab Spring, or the restrictions of societies such as North Korea.

It's the kind of perspective that provides a different context for the issues raised by a libertarian, anything-goes Internet. It's hard enough to stop "Star Wars" comment boards from devolving into flamebaiting, meme-generating files of NSFW Yodas.

So for now, we're still making our way through the Series of Tubes, and nobody knows where the boundaries lie. We joke, we grimace and we marvel at the creativity of the hive mind. The Internet is a big place, and countless cultures have set up residence. Eventually, what is now humor may lose its zing; what are now customs may become laws.

Will the rules ever become The Rules? Maybe some future generation will figure out the true guideposts of Internet life, and the singularity will be upon us.

Nah. It'll never happen.

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Cable Giants Lash Their Wi-Fi Networks Together Creatin Cable WiFI

"We believe that WiFi is a superior approach to mobile data, and that cable providers are best positioned to build the highest-capacity national network offering customers fast and reliable Internet connections when away from their home or business broadband service," said Kristin Dolan, Cablevision's senior executive vice president of product management and marketing. "We've built an extensive WiFi network in our own service area, and see real value and potential in other leading providers joining with us to extend that connectivity to major markets across the country."

The first implementation is already complete as Bright House Networks and Cablevision launched "CableWiFi" alongside their branded WiFi networks in the New York City area and central Florida earlier this month. Over the next few months, the "CableWiFi" network name will be added by each of the cable companies to their branded WiFi hotspots.

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Cable Modem Coax Thieves Convicted of Wire Fraud

Could they hack your neighborhood? A Redmond, Ore., man who marketed a "Coax Thief" program has been convicted of seven counts of wire fraud by a federal jury in Boston.

Ryan Harris, 26, was the owner of TCNiSO, a company that distributed products enabling users to steal Internet service.  From 2003 through 2009, Harris developed and distributed hardware and software tools that allowed his customers to modify their cable modems so that they could disguise themselves as paying subscribers and obtain Internet service without paying. 

The products included a “packet sniffer,” which Harris dubbed “Coax Thief.”  It surreptitiously intercepted (or “sniffed”) Internet traffic so that the user obtained the media access control addresses and configuration files of surrounding modems.

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Cable Subscribers To Get A Sneaky Fee

(If you have cable TV service, you probably have at least one set-top box in your house. On Monday, a federal rule change takes effect that could eventually force you to rent more cable boxes.

Right now, most cable systems don’t scramble the “basic tier” service which includes local broadcast stations, public, government and education channels, as well as some non-premium programming. Buy basic service and you can plug the cable into a digital set that has a QAM tuner and see these unencrypted channels without a set-top box.

Cable companies want to scramble everything coming through their wire, including basic service. They say this will allow them to reduce theft – prevent people from watching programs they didn’t pay for – and improve customer service.

Their plan is to keep every cable household connected to the network and then activate or terminate service remotely, rather than sending out the cable guy. They say this will improve efficiency – technicians can focus on more difficult installations – and reduce the need for customers to stay at home waiting for service.

The Federal Communications Commission had prohibited the encryption of basic cable since 1994. But in October, the commission voted to allow it, starting on Dec. 10.

“By permitting cable operators to join their competitors in encrypting the basic service tier, the Commission has adopted a sensible, pro-consumer approach that will reduce overall in-home service calls and accelerate cable operators’ transition to all-digital networks,” said Michael Powell, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) in a statement.

Should your cable company do that, you will need a set-top box on every TV in the house to watch any cable programming.

A charge for every television
“The cable companies, with the FCC’s blessing, have figured out how to pick the pockets of cable customers and charge them for every television they have – even when they don’t really need a cable box,” said consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org

Dworsky told me he has “secondary” television sets in his kitchen, office and guest room. Each of these has the cable wire from the wall connected to it so he can watch his local TV stations. If his cable company encrypts those stations, which he expects it to do sometime in the next six months, he’ll need to get converter boxes for each of those sets – or buy an antenna.

The FCC acknowledged that its rule change would “adversely affect a small number” of cable subscribers.

Dworsky calls that “ludicrous.”  And he points to comments filed by the City of Boston, which warned the commission that allowing cable operators to encrypt basic service “would result in real and substantial benefits for cable operators, and equally real and substantial costs for consumers.” 

None of the six major cable companies in the country has announced a date to encrypt basic channels.

In an email to NBC News, NCTA spokesman Brian Dietz noted that Cablevision already encrypts basic service in New York City under a waiver granted by the FCC in 2010. Dietz said the company did not receive any complaints from its customers.

When asked what it planned to do, Comcast, the country’s largest cable service provider, said in a statement:

“Currently, we do not have any announcements to make. Should we plan any changes in the future, we will notify any impacted customers well ahead of time.”  

(Comcast is the parent company of NBC Universal, which owns NBC News.)

Dworsky insists Comcast and other cable companies would not have lobbied so hard for the rule change if they did not plan to scramble basic cable channels. 

The details of the FCC’s encryption decision
Before a cable company can encrypt basic service, it must give customers 30 days advance notice. The FCC rule requires them to give two free converter boxes to customers with only basic service for two years and one free box to everyone else for one year. After that, the cable companies could sell or rent the boxes.

The FCC’s decision does not require those free converter boxes to deliver high-definition signals. For basic service in HD, customers would have to rent an HD box which could cost as much as $10 a month.

Consumer advocates say these box rentals will become a new revenue stream for cable companies.

“People have gotten used to seeing these channels for free, so this is going to be a setback for many folks,” said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities at Consumer Action. “People have to ask themselves if cable TV is something they want and can afford, because it’s going to continue to go up in price.”

Dworsky hopes unhappy customers will let the FCC and their cable companies know how they feel about the rule change.

“This will be a good test to see which cable companies really care about their customers and which care more about their bottom line,” he said.

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Cable companies lobbying FCC to force customers into using set-top boxes

While some consumers have cut the cord from cable and satellite companies over the past couple years, cable companies are looking for a way to earn additional revenue from basic cable subscribers.

According to a recent article at Public Knowledge, cables companies are pushing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider a rule regardboxee-live-tving the encryption of the basic cable tier. During the early nineties, a rule was adopted by the FCC to make sure cable companies kept a portion of the broadcast stations completely unencrypted. Commonly known as “basic cable” by the public, these stations can be accessed without the need of a set-top box. This is useful for households that have multiple televisions and don’t want to pay an addition $5 to $15 for each set-top box. It’s also used by many public institutions, like schools, as well as consumers that receive poor over-the-air reception through an antenna.

Cable companies are arguing that costs will go down by removing the basic cable option, specifically due to the ability to remotely service digital boxes rather than sending out technical support and a reduction in piracy by encrypting the stations. However, this would also put cable companies in the position to vastly increase the amount of set-top boxes currently in American homes and increase revenue from set-top box rental fees each month. This also puts the cable companies in the position of providing exclusive access to these stations and can charge licensing fees to any third-party company that wants to develop a solution to watch cable channels within a separate software interface such as the Boxee Box.

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California poised to Charge Online Sales Tax

According to Gov. Jerry Brown, this will "create tens of thousands of jobs and inject hundreds of millions of dollars" into the state's moribund economy and spur the rest of the nation to follow in its footsteps. How will this work?

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Can Google Glasses Make Reality More Real

Why settle for plain old reality when you could have augmented reality? Today it's Google Glasses -- thin wraparound shades that give new meaning to "in your face." Googlers say the new glasses will not only display maps, information, ads and other stuff we already see all day long but will also snap photos, accept voice commands and do just about everything except help you cross the street. Oh wait, maybe they'll do that too. We're not quite sure, since the glasses aren't for sale yet.

 

 

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Can Google Grab 90% of Microsoft Office Users in 2013

2012 was a big year for enterprise software, as companies began to more readily adopt technology to more effectively communicate and collaborate.  It looks like 2013 may be an even bigger year, as in an interview with AllThingsD, Amit Singh, a Google VP and head of its Enterprise unit, said “Our goal is to get to the 90 percent of users who don’t need to have the most advanced features of Office.”

Singh said that in 2012, “This was the year where we broke the barrier and got large-scale customer adoption.” This was quite a change from 2011, when Google could barely compete in the enterprise market, awkwardly navigating the bidding process – and often losing. Google even backed out of a bid for Toyota, which ended up going with Microsoft Office 365.

In 2012, though, Google made several improvements to ramp up its enterprise offerings. In addition to its Compute Engine, which competes directly with Microsoft Azure, Google also introduced Drive, which enables Google App users to store almost any type of document “in the cloud”. Google also recently began charging companies to use Google Apps. With these improvements, Singh now believes that Google can dominate the enterprise market – and effectively steal Office users away from Microsoft. He says, “We know the gaps between our features and theirs. We’re improving them week by week. We’re going to get to the 90 percent.”

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Can you correct misinformation on the Web

(Have you heard about the dentist who pulled all of her ex-boyfriend's teeth out in a fit of jealous rage? What about the "fact" that more women are the victims of domestic abuse on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year? How about the story about terrorists who have stolen thousands of dollars worth of UPS uniforms? (Like delivery people don't have enough problems already.)

Need I go on?

All these stories are false, but thanks in large part to the wonderful World Wide Web, they live on, ricocheting around cyberspace. Unfortunately, some new research points out how difficult it is to correct mistaken ideas and stories online.

One would think that this fount of digital knowledge, the greatest democratizing communications tool the world has ever seen, the ultimate solution to every education problem, and the medium that was supposed to wipe out ignorance forever would be the best way to correct inaccurate beliefs. Think again. Even the most cutting-edge, immediate Web technology may not be enough to correct misunderstandings. Indeed, immediacy may work against the truth.

'It should be better to correct a rumor at the source before it ever spreads.'

- R. Kelly Garrett, assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University

In experiments designed to determine the best way to correct misinformation and inaccurate beliefs online, researchers at Ohio State University found that instantly offering corrected information may not help as much as we'd like.
"It should be better to correct a rumor at the source before it ever spreads," R. Kelly Garrett, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University, told FoxNews.com. "But instead, the attempt to correct it before it spreads seems to trigger a defensive response."

In other words, when presented instantly with the corrected information, say that the statistics are fake, we may refuse to believe it, especially if we were predisposed to believe the false rumor in the first place. So if you're, say, already afraid of dentists and think they are all sadistic fiends, you probably still believe there's a faithless, toothless ex-boyfriend out there.

The point of the of the study was actually to determine if Web-based programs that present fact-checked information and corrections automatically would improve the accuracy of a surfer's knowledge. Intel had one such research project called Dispute Finder, a fascinating browser extension that would highlight information and let you know that the item was either incorrect or at least contested by contradictory information. That program has ended, but it was an interesting tool for reporters, researchers, and anyone curious about other points of view. There are two other similar programs now being tested, Hypothes.is and Rbutr, both of which are in the early experimental stage.

Ideally, such programs would all but eliminate the "you can't trust anything on the Web" sentiment. In theory, every page online would be fact-checked, footnoted, and referenced so that a reader would know exactly where the information came from (this author is being paid by a large conglomerate!) and whether or not it was correct (the CDC says that touching aluminum will not give you Alzheimer's).

Imagine, you would actually be able to trust what you read online!

Unfortunately, we're talking about human beings, not binary code. And changing people's minds isn't simply a matter of ones and zeros, as Garrett and his co-author Brian Weeks discovered.

Some participants in the study did in fact adjust their beliefs to form more correct views when information was instantly highlighted, pointing out errors. However, a disturbing number of people rejected the corrections. While precisely quantifying this trend wasn't possible in the research (how do you put a number on wide-ranging degrees of belief, confidence, or skepticism?), the trend itself was "scary," says Garrett. In fact, they rejected the corrections even though they were told it was from a reputable, impartial source.

On the positive side, people were more receptive to the corrections when they were presented after some delay. When corrected information was presented 3 minutes after reading a story (a distracting task was introduced during that time), participants--which included ethnically and politically diverse members--were moderately more likely to adjust their views and form more accurate beliefs.

One could nevertheless see the results as showing that the battle for truth and against misinformation is a Sisyphean war against a rising tide of blogs and babble online. If people won't correct their beliefs and adjust their understanding when presented with the truth, how can we possibly ever correct spurious Twitter tails or wacky Wikipedia entries or Facebook falsehoods?

Garrett suggests that the reason some people may not see instantaneous corrections as credible online is because it's confrontational.

"It's like you're getting called out," he says. "It's saying, no, you're wrong."

This may account for why corrections, separated in time from the initial erroneous report are more effective. We're not as immediately vested in the rumor, so we're more likely to accept the new, more credible information. We are, in short, less defensive.

Also, corrections that appear from the same source as the original story are more likely to be accepted. So a newspaper correction about a story it previously ran is more credible; the news source itself is saying that it made a mistake--not you.

Still, the research is disturbing and should be a cautionary tale for anyone online. Think of a rumor or personal joke made on a social networking site that could malign your chances of getting a job. Then think of how difficult it would be to get the truth out so that employers don't think you, say, hate babies and despise fuzzy kittens.

Garrett doesn't think the situation is hopeless. He points out that some corrections are better than none. Some people did form more accurate beliefs based on amended information.

"We shouldn't throw up our hands entirely," says Garrett. "My next task will be to test for something that really works."

Careful What You Like On Facebook

On Valentine’s Day, Nick Bergus came across a link to an odd product on Amazon.com: a 55-gallon barrel of ... personal lubricant.

He found it irresistibly funny and, as one does in this age of instant sharing, he posted the link on Facebook, adding a comment: “For Valentine’s Day. And every day. For the rest of your life.”

Within days, friends of Mr. Bergus started seeing his post among the ads on Facebook pages, with his name and smiling mug shot. Facebook — or rather, one of its algorithms — had seen his post as an endorsement and transformed it into an advertisement, paid for by Amazon.

In Facebook parlance, it was a sponsored story, a potentially lucrative tool that turns a Facebook user’s affinity for something into an ad delivered to his friends.

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Catapult Distribution: An ideal site for the independent musician

Photo(Daryl Nelson @ ConsumerAffairs) Instead of trying to get songs into iTunes and getting turned down, use a middleman! Okay, so you’re a musician and you’ve got tons of songs that you want others to hear, but you’re undecided on what route you should go in order to reach the most listeners and make a little money for yourself.

Of course you can throw your songs on Facebook or Twitter, but everyone does that and quite honestly those kinds of sites are more known for communicating between friends and followers rather than a being a place on the Internet that hardcore music fans flock to.

Also, most social networking sites don’t have a money-making component (except for themselves), so when songs are posted, the best an artist can hope for is that it's retweeted or posted again by a follower, while also hoping that your material will get to that one person who’s either in the music industry that can further your musical mission or someone not in the industry who is willing to invest in you and your project.

Either way, simply posting songs on the Facebooks and Twitters of the world doesn’t really allow you or your material to be singled out, as it's almost a certainty that your songs will be swept up with the millions of other people who are posting songs. Besides, posting material for your friends to hear, who probably already know that you do music, won’t get you or your songs very far.

PhotoDon’t get me wrong, posting your songs on these sites is a good start, but that’s all it is, a start. If you really want to get your material to the serious music listeners and connect with folks who like and appreciate your particular brand of music, you need to gete into Rhapsody, Spotify, Google Play, Zune, MOG, Amazon mp3 and of course iTunes, since these sites are solely for music and most times will allow you to make a couple of bucks from your songs.

So why not just send your material to places like Spotify and iTunes on your own, since they all seem eager to host music and work with artists who either may or may not be signed to a major label?

Well, the answer is quite simple. Although digital music stores have helped artists bypass the record label process by giving them an alternative outlet, many of the bigger stores like iTunes still won’t take just anyone, and they tend to follow the pattern of record labels, in that you either have to have a buzz or an inside connection to get on these sites.

Time for a middleman

Some unknown artists are able to get past the digital gatekeepers, but more times than not, if you’re just starting out and you think it’s going to be an easy time getting your songs on the bigger mp3 sites, there’s a good chance you’ll be very disappointed.

PhotoThat’s where Catapultdistribution.com comes in, as it plays the digital middleman by allowing you to submit singles or entire albums to the company and they’ll reach out to all of the major mp3 stores on your behalf and find digital homes for your material.

Here’s how it works: Artists simply go to the website and for $25 they can upload an entire album or upload a song or ringtone for $9.

You’ll also be asked to enter needed information like song titles, guest features, and the song’s minute count. You also have to upload artwork for your project and pretty much shape what you want your album to look like once it’s sold in mp3 stores. And once the material is uploaded there are no other fees to pay.

From there, Catapult sends your songs to just about every major digital music store on the Internet and the company says that nine times out of ten, the company is successful at placing your songs in about three to six weeks’ time.

And once your songs are housed and people start purchasing them, Catapult takes 9% of the proceeds. 

Catapult also sends you all kinds of monthly reports like which of your songs sold the most and in which country each song was purchased.  The monthly reports are free with your $9 or $25 upload, but the company also offers daily reports for an extra fee of about $10 a month.

In order to use Catapult and get your songs distributed, you’ll need a barcode for your album or song, as the digital stores won’t accept your music without one, so if you haven’t set up a barcode for yourself as of yet, Catapult can set one up for you for a onetime fee of $20.

Original material preferred

Catapult is mostly for artists who have original material, but the company will also allow you to post covers of songs. However you have to get permission from the original artists and get the material licensed.

So if you want to get your songs out to the buying public and you don’t want to simply add them to the infinite pool of material that’s already on all of the social sites, than using a company like Catapult makes perfect sense, especially since you can create a link on your social site that brings your followers directly to the mp3 stores.

Because if you want to be a successful independent artist, you’ll have to use social media, mp3 stores, and any other outlet you can to get your songs heard and your music out there.

 

Cell Phone Bill Taxed 17%

wireless bill tout

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Your wireless carrier isn't the only one pocketing money when you pay your cell phone bill.

(@CNN) Local, state and federal governments, 911 systems and even school districts tack on taxes and surcharges to your wireless bill that end up costing American cell phone customers an extra 17.2%, on average, according to the Tax Foundation. That's up from 16.3% fifteen months ago.

For consumers accustomed to single-digit sales taxes, these double-digit fees can appear unusually burdensome. But unlike sales, income or property taxes, wireless taxes remain largely hidden -- tacked on to the end of your monthly wireless bill and often ignored.

They shouldn't be. A $60 cell phone bill actually costs the average customer $70.32.

In Nebraska, which has the country's highest wireless tax rate, customers would pay $74.69 each month for a $60 cell phone bill. That's $10 per month more than customers in Oregon would spend for the same services. Oregon has the nation's lowest wireless tax rate.

"The problem with taxes on wireless is so many different jurisdictions impose taxes and fees," said Scott Drenkard, an economist with the Tax Foundation.

Related story: What an Internet sales tax will cost you

A wireless customer who lives in New York, for instance, could have up to 12 different taxes and surcharges show up on his or her wireless bill.

High wireless taxes date back to the "Ma Bell" days of AT&T (T, Fortune 500), when few Americans had cell phones and various governments saw wireless surcharges as a way to support expensive services, such as rural telephone infrastructure build-outs. Every American today pays 5.82% of their cell phone bill to the federal Universal Service Fund, which originally paid for those rural phone services.

Some opponents to the current wireless tax structure argue that states, cities and other districts see cell phone bills as an undercover way to dodge the political fallout of raising other taxes.

"Wireless taxes have long been a fairly frictionless way for states and cities to get revenue," said Jot Carpenter, vice president of government affairs at telecom industry association CTIA. "It used to be a tax on the wealthy, but now that most people have cell phones, it's hard to say it's just targeting the rich now."

Even living in a state with no sales tax doesn't save you from having to pay high taxes on your cell phone bill. Sales-tax-free Alaska has a higher-than-average 17.9% tax rate on wireless services, thanks in large part to its hefty 6%, state-imposed Universal Service Fund tax to support rural telephone services.

Related story: Watch out bullies and slow drivers, you're about to get fined

People in a high-tax state bordering a state with low fees can't escape by buying a phone across the border. The Mobile Telecommunications Sourcing Act of 2002 demands that taxes be levied at the address that the cell phone company determines to be a customer's "place of primary use." So if you live in Washington -- the state with the nation's second-highest wireless tax rate -- it doesn't necessarily pay to buy your next phone in Oregon, which has the lowest rate in the country.

Relief probably isn't coming any time soon, but wireless taxes may soon stop spiking. Two versions of a "Wireless Tax Fairness Act" that are floating around Congress have garnered bipartisan support. Though the act wouldn't lower taxes, it would place a moratorium on raising them.

"What needs to happen is an overhaul of this poorly thought-out tax policy," Carpenter said. "But before you can fix it, you have to stop digging the hole." To top of page

Cell Phone Popups On The Way

Remember when pop-up ads used to fill your computer screen and slow your PC? The same thing may be happening to your smartphone.

Where are they coming from? A mobile security firm is pointing a finger at some of those apps you're downloading. Many of these apps are running ads from rogue ad networks.

They can even change settings on your device and steal your contacts without you ever being the wiser. Security firm says guidelines for developers needed to protect consumers.

Read More - Click Here!

Cell Phone Use Whilst Pregnant May Cause Behavior Disorders in Children

As mobile phones have become a universal accessory of modern life, concerned researchers look for possible harmful health effects. There is already a growing body of study on cell phones' potential impact on tumor development.

Now, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine have determined that exposure to radiation from cell phones during pregnancy affects the brain development of offspring, potentially leading to hyperactivity.

The study was based on mice and the results are detailed in the latest issue of Scientific Reports.

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CellPhone Expense Crippling Family Budget

Heidi Steffen and her husband used to treat themselves most weeks to steak at Sodak Shores, a restaurant overlooking a lake near their hometown of Milbank, S.D. Then they each got an iPhone, and the rib-eyes started making fewer appearances.

"Every weekend, we'd do something," said Ms. Steffen, a registered nurse whose husband works at a tire shop. "Now maybe once every month or two, we get out."

More than half of all U.S. cellphone owners carry a device like the iPhone, a shift that has unsettled household budgets across the country. Government data show people have spent more on phone bills over the past four years, even as they have dialed back on dining out, clothes and entertainment—cutbacks that have been keenly felt in the restaurant, apparel and film industries.

The tug of war is only going to get more intense. Wireless carriers are betting they can pull bills even higher by offering faster speeds on expensive new networks and new usage-based data plans. The effort will test the limits of consumer spending as the draw of new technology competes with cellphone owners' more rudimentary needs and desires.

So far, telecom is winning. Labor Department data released Tuesday show spending on phone services rose more than 4% last year, the fastest rate since 2005. During and after the recession, consumers cut back broadly on their spending.

The combined cost of the components for the iPhone 5 is estimated at $197, or only $9 more than for the iPhone 4S, Arik Hesseldahl reports on digits. Photo: Getty Images.

But as more people paid up for $200 smartphones and bills that run around $100 a month, the average household's annual spending on telephone services rose to $1,226 in 2011 from $1,110 in 2007, when Apple Inc.'s iPhone first appeared.

Families with more than one smartphone are already paying much more than the average—sometimes more than $4,000 a year—easily eclipsing what they pay for cable TV and home Internet.

The trend has been a boon for companies like Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (T). U.S. wireless carriers brought in $22 billion in revenue selling services such as mobile email and Web browsing in 2007, according to analysts at UBS AG. By 2011, data revenue had jumped to $59 billion. By 2017, UBS expects carriers to be pulling in an additional $50 billion a year.

But the question for the industry is how much bigger bills can get before the cuts in other parts of the family budget grow too painful.

Melinda Tuers, an accounting clerk at a high school in Redlands, Calif., said she already pays close to $300 a month for her family's four smartphones. She and her husband have cut back on dining out, special events and concerts to make room for the bigger phone bill.

Her household may soon have an even bigger hole to fill. Two of the Tuers's smartphones are on unlimited data plans, meaning she pays the same price no matter how much she surfs the Web. She has taken advantage of that freedom to watch TV shows such as "Covert Affairs" and "Grey's Anatomy" on her phone almost every day.

Ms. Tuers now wants to replace those three-year-old smartphones. But her carrier, Verizon, announced this summer that customers would have to give up unlimited data plans if they want to upgrade their phones at the subsidized price.

Ms. Tuers figures that she and her husband would need to scrape together more than $1,000 to pay full price for two new high-end phones or settle for one of Verizon's tiered-data plans, which she fears would cost a lot more given her video habit.

Streaming 30 minutes of video per day over a 4G connection and doing nothing else on her phone would cost Ms. Tuers roughly $120 a month on one of Verizon's new data plans, according to the carrier's website.

Carriers fully expect people to use more data and pay more for it. "Speed entices more usage," Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said at an investor conference last week, according to a transcript. "The more data they consume, the more they will have to buy."

But some question where the money for that data will come from. Americans spent $116 more a year on telephone services in 2011 than they did in 2007, according to the Labor Department, even as total household expenditures increased by just $67.

Meanwhile, spending on food away from home fell by $48, apparel spending declined by $141, and entertainment spending dropped by $126. The figures aren't adjusted for inflation.

The increase in telephone-services spending masks an even higher rise in cellphone bills, because people have been paying less for landline service.

Much of the revenue growth that industry executives and investors are hoping for is likely to come from higher-income households that do have the money to spend more on wireless data. But the wireless industry also generates a lot of revenue from lower-income users.

Almost nine in 10 of all U.S. adults have a cellphone, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Middle-income consumers increased their telephone spending in 2011 by $59, almost as much as the $64 in additional telephone spending by the 20% of consumers with the highest incomes, according to the Labor Department data.

As wireless service gets more expensive, the trade-offs become more painful. That could threaten to further crimp consumer spending elsewhere—or slow the upward swing in consumer spending on wireless.

That trend is evident in the home of 40-year-old Scott Boedie, a neighborhood service representative for a cable company.

Mr. Boedie said he and his wife now pay $200 a month for cellphone service, up by about $50 from early last year, even as they have managed to cut spending on groceries by shopping at discount chain Aldi and on "fun stuff" by going out to dinner and movies less often.

Looking over the family budget on Sunday night, Mr. Boedie said, his wife marveled at how much of it was going to the phone company.

"It stinks," Mr. Boedie said. "I guess it's the cost of modern-day America now."

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Cellphone spammer multi-million-dollar class action

Photo(Truman Lewis @ ConsumerAffairs) A federal judge is allowing a multi-million-dollar class action against an alleged cellphone spammer to go forward. Wise Media is accused of charging millions of consumers for services they didn't want or order.

 

The plaintiffs filed their case in October 2012, saying they had received unsolicited text messages from Wise offering flirting tips, horoscopes, celebrity gossip and weight loss advice, Courthouse News Service reported. 

The Federal Trade Commission is also on Wise's case. It filed a complaint in April, asking the court to freeze the defendants’ assets immediately and order them to stop their “deceptive and unfair practices.”

It's the first time the FTC has gone after an alleged cellphone crammer.

Flirting tips 

The class action charges that a typical initial text sent to cellphone users by Wise Media stated: "Lovegenietips Flirting Tips; 3msg/week for $9.99/m T&Cs: lovegenietips.com Msg&data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel." 

Then through a process called "cramming," Wise allegedly used middlemen to place charges on millions of consumers' cellphone bills, even when consumers rejected the offers or simply didn't respond. 

The suit also names Mobile Messenger Americas, mBlox Incorporated and Motricity, aggregators that it says acted as Wise's middlemen. Mobile Messenger had moved for dismissal of the claims against it but  U.S. District Judge William Alsup, of the Northern California district, refused and allowed the case to go forward.

Alsup left the class's actions for conversion, negligence -- and the common law counts of unjust enrichment and money had and received -- intact. He found that at this stage of the proceedings, there was sufficient cause to believe that money was taken from cellphone users and restitution must be paid.

Lead plaintiffs in the case are Edward Fields, Cathie O'Hanks, Erik Kristianson, Richard Parmentier, Kimberly Brewster and Kristian Kunder.

Not a new idea

The concept of ‘cramming’ charges on to phone bills is a not a new one,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “As more and more consumers move to mobile phones, scammers have adapted to this new technology, and the commission will continue its efforts to protect consumers from their unlawful practices.”

In many instances, the FTC complaint maintains, Wise Media sent text messages to consumers that suggested they were subscribed to the service, which many consumers dismissed as spam and ignored. Even if consumers responded via text indicating that they did not want the services, they were charged on their mobile phone bills on a continuing basis.

Caught unaware

The commission says Wise Media and its operators took advantage of the fact that consumers may not expect their mobile phone bills to contain charges from third parties and that these charges appear on bills in an abbreviated manner that does not always clearly designate the company as the source of the charge.

As a result, it says, many consumers didn’t notice or understand the charges and paid the bills. To the extent that consumers did notice the charges, the process of obtaining refunds was difficult and often unsuccessful according to the complaint.

Wise Media is accused of going to great lengths to hide its contact information from consumers. And it says, when consumers were finally able to find a phone number for Wise Media, the company's call center employees frequently promised refunds that were never provided.

Chamber Honors Active Technologis

Businesses honored at quarterly chamber meeting     

Published Thursday, November 19, 2009 3:10 PM

Summerville Journal Scene ®

Provided

Left to Right: Robby Robbins, Chamber Chairman of the Board; Mac Baughman, MeadWestvaco; Rita Berry, Chamber President/CEO; Greg Allen, Chamber Ambassador of the Quarter, Active Technologies, LLC.

On Sept. 23, the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce presented awards to the Ambassador of the Quarter and Business of the Quarter at a breakfast sponsored by MeadWestvaco.

The event took place at Legend Oaks Country Club.  The recipients were honored for their contributions over the 3rd quarter as exemplary members supporting Chamber goals – working to promote economic vitality and a favorable business climate in the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County area.

The Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the recipients of these awards:

Business of the Quarter Award Recipient:  Art Central, Ltd. Fine Art Gallery

Art Central Gallery opened in Summerville 11 years ago and has proved to be an exemplary small business.  Community support and cooperation are defining words for their business model.  Art Central Gallery persevered for 18 months during a total closure and renovation of their street.  They have held innovative, successful fundraisers for the Francis Willis S.P.C.A., Children in Crisis and Meals on Wheels.  Art Central Gallery also supports the Chamber’s mission by being active at Chamber events.  The Gallery has graciously hosted three Chamber Business After Hours evenings. Art Central Gallery’s “Third Thursday” Art Walks have favorably increased business and tourism for Historic Summerville and the surrounding area.  The Gallery has held Art Competitions, hosted Exhibits, judged and hosted seminars for our local school students and the Summerville Community.

Ambassador of the Quarter Award Recipient: Greg Allen, General Manager Active Technologies, LLC.

Mr. Greg Allen dedicates his time volunteering with countless events in support of our Chamber. He is also a very active member of our Home Based Business Council.  Greg chose Summerville many years ago to build his family and his business, a Network & Computer Management & Web Hosting Design Search Engine Optimization company.  He lives in Summerville with his wife and four daughters.

Chat in 29 Languages

 

tiw translation app

  •  
 
(Alanna Petroff @ CNNMoney)

Interpreters may have to pursue alternative careers if a new translation app starts to gain traction.

The Droid Translator app -- which runs on both the iOS and Android platforms -- has the potential to revolutionize personal and business chat by translating your phone, video and text conversations into 29 different languages.

But the app -- created by a start-up based in Ukraine and registered in the Czech Republic -- still needs more work.

During a CNNMoney test interview with creator Alexander Konovalov, the app was clunky. Nevertheless, it compared favorably in terms of speed with traditional interpretation, producing only a few translation errors along the way.

Konovalov answered questions in Russian posed by CNNMoney in English. He said he was inspired to create the app because he wanted to be able to speak with people all over the world.

"We want to create a universal means of communication between people," he said.

Related: Employers are seeking foreign language skills

Konovalov has a team of 12 working on developing the technology, including five full-time programmers.

"Over the next year, we want to have over 10 million users throughout the world," he said.

Konovalov's company TIW Innovations says the app has been downloaded 120,000 times since it was launched in June.

Related: Web developers make $30 an hour, no degree required

Droid Translator competes with a variety of other translation apps and services, such as iTranslate, but Konovalov says no other service can operate in as many languages via so many different call formats.

Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) Translate can process text and spoken words in 80 languages, but does not have an option to translate voice or video calls. To top of page

China Just Declares War On Apple

(Forbes) On Friday, Chinese state media reported that, from January of last year to the end of last month, more than 20,000 college students in the central city of Wuhan applied for 160 million yuan of “high-interest rate loans” from Home Credit China.  The finance company was charging rates of up to 47.12% for one-year money.

 

Beijing’s saturation coverage mentioned Home Credit China’s unsavory lending practices, but that was not the primary point of the reporting.  The reporting, based on a Xinhua News Agency dispatch, complained that Chinese students, who were generally portrayed as victims, were buying “fancy electronic products,” especially from Apple.

The Xinhua reporting was notable in that it was the second attack on the iconic American brand in as many weeks.  On the 15th of this month—World Consumer Rights Day—China Central Television severely criticized Apple’s warranty practices

The state broadcaster’s annual investigative program, “3.15,” noted that the company discriminated against Chinese iPhone owners, offering shorter guarantees than in other countries, using refurbished rather than new parts, and shirking after-sale obligations.  Last August, Apple modified its policies, but Xinhua said they were still “unfair.”  The company’s repair practices “caused some provincial consumer watchdogs to include the firm on a ‘company integrity’ blacklist.”

CCTV’s program, which has run for 23 years, has nationwide bite, calling out consumer-products companies and hitting them where it hurts, their sales and stock prices.  On Weibo, China’s extraordinarily popular Twitter-like service, Apple was mentioned 50,000 times in the first hour after the show’s segment on the company aired.  Most of the comments were critical of the brand.

For instance, Peter Ho, a Taiwanese-American actor with 5.3 million Weibo followers, posted this on the microblogging site: “#315isLive# Actually, Apple has so many tricks in its after-sales services.  As an Apple fan, I’m hurt. Have you done right by your founder Jobs? Have you done right by the young people who sold their kidneys?  It’s really true that big stores bully customers. Post around 8:20.”

“Post around 8:20”?  Ho had goofed.  The movie star uploaded not only his sharply critical posting at 8:26 P.M., but he also posted the instructions he received from some other party.  He is a Samsung Galaxy spokesman, but no one is fingering the Korean brand as the culprit.

So who told Ho to post “around 8:20”?  For China’s noisy netizens, there was only one suspect: CCTV.  Weibo users immediately pounced, noting that there were other anti-Apple postings around that time.  By 8:45 P.M. comments criticizing the inattentive Mr. Ho were overwhelming the anti-Apple postings.

Ho, at 10:08 P.M., deleted his original posting and then denied he authored the attack on Apple, claiming that someone had “hacked” his Weibo account.  Just about nobody believed the denial.  Users began posting acerbic comments with the #PostAround8:20 hashtag.  Weibo censors later deleted tens of thousands of postings with that hashtag.

The incident is now being called “Ho-gate” in China.  CCTV got caught red-handed orchestrating a broad-based follow-up campaign to its 3.15 program.  “Weibo and CCTV often work together to coordinate discussion on the social networking site, asking high-profile Weibo users with large numbers of followers to comment after programming or to weigh in on big issues,” reports the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report blog, relying on someone who had been asked to participate.

Is Beijing beginning a campaign against Apple?  The best way to avoid attention on 3.15 is to advertise on CCTV, so perhaps there is a simple explanation for this year’s attack on the brand: the broadcaster was giving the company a powerful incentive to purchase ad time on its channels.  Unfortunately, that relatively benign—and cynical—interpretation is probably too optimistic.  As we saw from Friday’s countrywide reporting on student purchasing habits, Beijing is continuing its attack on Apple.  Executives in Cupertino should get worried that the 3.15 show is not a one-off.

And other companies should begin to see a pattern.  Beijing appears to have begun a long-term campaign against foreign brands.  This year’s 3.15 program also targeted Volkswagen.  Last year’s show went after McDonald’s and Carrefour.  In December, state media hit Yum Brands.  And not all foreign companies are as fortunate as Apple, which looks like it escaped damage because an actor flubbed his lines.  Some of the Chinese government’s attacks are having an effect: Yum’s same-store sales in China plunged 20% in the two months following the December reporting.

Moreover, Google has been the object of a multi-year effort to undermine its operations in China, and Beijing just signaled it was upping the stakes.  This month, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued a white paper claiming that China was too dependent on the company’s Android mobile operating system.  Guess what happens next.

Back at Apple, company executives apparently did not see the storm coming.  “China is currently our second largest market,” Tim Cook said in January to Xinhua.  “I believe it will become our first.”  That is about the last thing Apple’s CEO should have said to an increasingly nationalistic media.  We should not be surprised that Chinese officials, determined to protect domestic competitors, started to take on his brand soon after that prediction.

The truth is that Beijing, despite its trade obligations, will do its best to cripple foreign companies.  Its tactics can be subtle or vicious as the occasion dictates.  Its attacks may not work, but it is nonetheless predatory in intent.

It looks like China’s one-party state has just declared war on Apple.  Its first attack failed.  It will not give up.

Chinese hack White House computer Confirmed - How they did it

(FoxNews , White House sources partly confirmed an alarming report that U.S. government computers -- reportedly including systems used by the military for nuclear commands -- were breached by Chinese hackers.

“This was a spear phishing attack against an unclassified network,” a White House official told FoxNews.com. “These types of attacks are not infrequent and we have mitigation measures in place.”

A law enforcement official who works with members of the White House Military Office confirmed the Chinese attack to FoxNews.com on Monday, but it remains unclear what information, if any, was taken or left behind.

"This [White House Communications Agency] guy opened an email he wasn't supposed to open," the source said.

That email contained a spear phishing attack from a computer server in China, the law enforcement source told FoxNews.com. The attack was first reported by the conservative blog Free Beacon. Spear phishing involves the use of messages disguised to appear as valid; in fact, they contain targeted, malicious attempts to access sensitive or confidential information.

By opening the email, which likely contained a link to a malicious site or some form of attachment, the agency member allowed the Chinese hacker to access a system, explained Anup Ghosh, founder and CEO of security company Invincea.

"The attack originated in the form of a spear phish, which involves a spoofed inbound email with either a link to a malicious website or a weaponized document attachment such as a .pdf, Microsoft Excel file or Word document," he told FoxNews.com.

'Today, training is the primary solution to this problem ... and training simply does not work.'

- Cybersecurity expert Anup Ghosh

Free Beacon claimed that the U.S. government’s most sensitive networks were breached in the incident, which took place early last month.

“One official said the cyberbreach was one of Beijing’s most brazen cyberattacks against the United States,” the report said.

The law enforcement source told FoxNews.com he was notified of the successful phishing incident but did not know what information was actually accessed. A White House official downplayed that report, saying that the system involved was not a sensitive nuclear system, and no evidence indicated that information was actually taken.

“In this instance the attack was identified, the system was isolated, and there is no indication whatsoever that any exfiltration of data took place. Moreover, there was never any impact or attempted breach of any classified system,” he said.

The attempted hacking of U.S. military networks used by the White House is a common occurrence, but success is rare.

Due to the volume of these attempts on secure computers, law enforcement, military, and members of other agencies with access to those systems and other White House secure networks have strict rules about email and Internet usage, the law enforcement official explained to FoxNews.com.

Chinese hackers are often cited as the cause of such incidents, Ghosh said. 

"Over the past 24 months, China has been aggressively targeting America’s corporations for their intellectual property and our government agencies and departments for critical national security information," he told FoxNews.com.

The incident underscores the real cybersecurity challenge today: people. 

"The cybersecurity industry is woefully behind the curve in terms of protecting the network from spear-phishing attacks against employees," Ghosh said. "Today, training is the primary solution to this problem ... and training simply does not work."

"The White House, every Fortune 1,000 and Global 2,000 organization -- medium-sized business, small businesses, consumers -- ALL are at risk from spear-phishing attacks."

Technologies need to be developed to protect against such attacks, Ghosh said, and government and private companies will remain at risk until computer users are placed in some form of "protective bubble" when they encounter untrusted content. 

America is on the losing end of an aggressive cyberconflict waged by nation states, organized cybercriminals and hacktivists, he said. 

"We need to give this critical priority -- it needs to be a discussion at every level of our government and we must rapidly adopt new technologies to protect our nation from this threat."

Read More - Click Here!

How they did it!

Chrome Desktop breaks free from from the web

The firm has posted about the emancipation, saying that it means users can play games or use its applications even when they are in internet blackspots. Initially the For Your Desktop applications are available for Chrome, while Mac and PC versions will follow, said Google.

"Today we're unveiling a new kind of Chrome App, which brings together the speed, security and flexibility of the modern web with the powerful functionality previously only available with software installed on your devices. (Think apps designed for your desktop or laptop, just like the ones for your phone and tablet)," said the firm on the fifth anniversary of its Chrome launch.

"These apps are more powerful than before, and can help you get work done, play games in full-screen and create cool content all from the web."

While it is aimed at the web, Google said that the Chrome app collection removes many of the distractions associated with web browsing. "No tabs, buttons or text boxes [means] you can get into the app without being distracted by the rest of the web," it said.

Users will still get notifications if they want them, but through the desktop. Google said that the apps are synced across devices, meaning that you can pick them up on a range of machines.

Apps are automatically updated and are protected with security features like sandboxing for mitigating the risks of phishing and malware infection.

Cisco Won't Buy Any US Companies Or Hire Any US Workers Until The Tax Code Is Changed

(Julie Bort@Business Insider) Cisco has $46 billion in cash, but CEO John Chambers says he is no longer willing to use it to acquire U.S. companies. That's because 80 percent of that cash is stored in overseas accounts and if Cisco spends it in the U.S., the company will have to fork over 35 percent in taxes.

For years, he has been trying to get the U.S. to change that tax rule. He's said before that this prevents him from hiring more U.S. workers.

But now he's said he's also stopped shopping for acquisition targets in the U.S., too.

That's a blow, as Cisco has historically been a company that acquires like crazy.

Cisco is not the only company hoarding cash overseas to avoid taxes. U.S. companies have about $1.7 trillion offshore. For instance, Microsoft keeps about 87 percent of its $66.6 billion stored outside the U.S.; Oracle, 80 percent of its $31.6 billion; and Apple about 68 percent of its $121.3 billion, reports CNBC's Jon Fortt.

A lot of the money sitting overseas was earned overseas, but some of it is stashed there through accounting methods, a situation that Congress has recently been investigating.

Chambers wants low tax rates when that money is used here (called repatriation), or preferably no taxes at all (called a repatriation holiday). 

He explained on an interview on CNBC:

"Tax policy will determine where our growth and head count will be. I' m a very loyal American citizen and company, but in terms of future growth, unless tax policy changes, you will see that occur outside the U.S. ... wherever we acquire is where our head count growth is going to be. If the majority of our money remains outside the U.S., and this depends on tax policies, that's where you'll see us acquire going forward."

He's been true to his word so far this year.

For instance, in 2012, Cisco bought 11 companies, nine of them from the U.S. and two from overseas including its massive $5 billion purchase of U.K.-based NDS Group.

In 2013 so far, Cisco has bought two companies, both of them from overseas.

Clues link U.S. to new computer viruses

BOSTON (Reuters) - Researchers have found evidence suggesting that the United States may have developed three previously unknown computer viruses for use in espionage operations or cyber warfare.

The findings are likely to bolster a growing view that the U.S. government is using cyber technology more widely than previously believed to further its interests in the Middle East. The United States has already been linked to the Stuxnet Trojan that attacked Iran's nuclear program in 2010 and the sophisticated Flame cyber surveillance tool that was uncovered in May.

Anti-virus software makers Symantec Corp of the United States and Kaspersky Lab of Russia disclosed on Monday that they have found evidence that Flame's operators may have also worked with three other viruses that have yet to be discovered.

The two security firms, which conducted their analyses separately, declined to comment on who was behind Flame. But current and former Western national security officials have told Reuters that the United States played a role in creating Flame. The Washington Post has reported that Israel was also involved.

Current and former U.S. government sources also told Reuters that the United States was behind Stuxnet. Kaspersky and Symantec linked Stuxnet to Flame in June, saying that part of the Flame program is nearly identical to code found in a 2009 version of Stuxnet.

For now, the two firms know very little about the newly identified viruses, except that one of them is currently deployed in the Middle East. They are not sure what the malicious software was designed to do. "It could be anything," said Costin Raiu, director of Kaspersky Lab's Global Research and Analysis Team.

NEWSFORYOU

Kaspersky and Symantec released their findings in reports describing analysis of "command and control" servers used to communicate with and control computers infected with Flame.

Researchers from both firms said the Flame operation was managed using a piece of software named "Newsforyou" that was built by a team of four software developers starting in 2006.

It was designed to look like a common program for managing content on websites, which was likely done in a bid to disguise its real purpose from hosting providers or investigators so that the operation would not be compromised, Kaspersky said in its report.

Newsforyou handled four types of malicious software: Flame and programs code-named SP, SPE and IP, according to both firms. Neither firm has obtained samples of the other three pieces of malware.

Kaspersky Lab said it believes that SP, SPE and IP were espionage or sabotage tools separate from Flame. Symantec said it was not sure if they were simply variations of Flame or completely different pieces of software.

"We know that it is definitely out there. We just can't figure out a way to actually get our hands on it. We are trying," Symantec researcher Vikram Thakur said in an interview.

About a dozen computers in Iran and Lebanon that are infected with one of the newly identified pieces of malware are trying to communicate with command and control servers, according to Kaspersky Lab.

The researchers found a large cache of data on one of the command and control servers, but cannot analyze it because it is encrypted using a password that they said would be virtually impossible to crack.

They believe that it was encrypted so heavily because the people coordinating the attack did not want the workers using the Newsforyou program to be able to read potentially sensitive information.

"This approach to uploading packages and downloading data fits the profile of military and/or intelligence operations," Symantec said in its report.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Coke dumps voicemail - Did anyone miss it

There are those who argue that if email had been invented first, the telephone would never have gotten off the ground. While that may be a little far-fetched, ask yourself: if voicemail had never been invented, would the world be better off?

Coca-Cola asked itself that question and decided the answer was yes, so it is ditching voice mail at its offices. It's not a cost-saving measure, it's just intended to increase productivity, Bloomberg reports.

Internal callers -- Coca-Cola's employees -- are being encouraged to use email or text. Some might even walk around the corner and get in a little facetime. We would mention gathering around the water cooler but maybe they don't have those at Coke's offices. Soda machine, maybe?

Good-bye

External callers -- customers, suppliers and such pests as customers and reporters -- instead of the infuriating voicemail tree, will get a message suggesting they use "an alternative method" to contact the department or person they're looking for. Then, they will hear the sweet fizzing sound of the dial tone. 

While Coca-Cola may be one of the biggest companies to banish voicemail, it's far from the only one. Increasingly, companies have voicemail but simply don't use it very much. Employees and suppliers know each other's direct smartphone numbers and either call or text when they have something to say.

Besides annoying callers, voicemail is a soul-deadener for the poor souls who must start or end their day wading through 30 minutes of more of messages that, most likely, should have been directed to someone else anyway.

What will be the last company to pull the plug on voicemail? Our money is on Verizon, which has perfected the art of the voicemail tree that leads nowhere except to a website that takes you in circles. It is, after all, when you get right down to it, still a telephone company and voicemail seems deeply encoded in its DNA.

Years ago, when working as a consultant, this reporter counted a few telephone companies among his clients. It was not unusual for voicemails from various Dilberts to come in faster than I could listen to them, meaning that I never actually accomplished anything other than listening to voicemails complaining that nothing was getting done on our various projects.

Which, when you come right down to it, is exactly what's wrong with voicemail. And maybe the phone company. 

Collection Agency To Settle FTC Texting Charge

Photo(James Limback @ ConsumerAffairs) In the first Federal Trade Commission (FTC) case of its kind, a Glendale, California-based debt collector will pay $1 million to settle charges of using text messaging to attempt to collect debts in an unlawful manner.

According to the FTC, Archie Donovan and two companies he controls -- National Attorney Collection Services, Inc., and National Attorney Services LLC -- used English- and Spanish-language text messages and phone calls in which they unlawfully failed to disclose that they were debt collectors. They're charged with violating both the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the FTC Act.

Unlawful disclosure

In their text messages, phone calls and mailings, the defendants also falsely portrayed themselves as law firms -- by using the names National Attorney Services, National Attorney Service, National Attorney, and Abogados Nacionales. Building on their deceptive company name, the defendants falsely threatened to sue consumers for not paying their debts or to garnish their wages.

PhotoThe FTC also contends Donovan and his companies illegally revealed debts to the consumers’ family members, friends and co-workers. Among other tactics, the defendants used mailing envelopes picturing a large arm shaking money from a consumer who is strung upside down.

The law does not allow debt collectors to disclose publicly someone’s private debts, because doing so could endanger their jobs and reputations. Mailing envelopes can include only the name and address of the company, and cannot indicate that the consumer may owe a debt.

“No matter how debt collectors communicate with consumers -- by mail, by phone, by text or some other way -- they have to follow the law,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC has a zero tolerance policy for deception.”

In addition to the $1 million civil penalty, the settlement requires the defendants to stop sending text messages that do not include the disclosures required by law, and to obtain a consumer’s express consent before contacting them by text message.

The defendants also are barred from falsely claiming to be law firms, and from falsely threatening to sue or take any action – such as seizure of property or garnishment – that they do not actually intend to take.

Comcast Plans Data Caps

PhotoThe feds have opened the door to carriers gouging customers on both ends of their pipes, and that sucking sound is money coming out of your bank account!

(Jim Hood @ ConsumerAffairs) If you're looking to be relieved of your worldly goods, you can hang out in a casino, buy a batch of Lotto tickets daily and give big piles of money to everyone you meet.

Or you can just sign up for cable, telephone and Internet service.

The ink is not even dry on the Federal Communications Commission's new policy that lets companies like Comcast charge companies like Netflix higher rates to ensure that their streaming video moves smoothly and quickly and now the perhaps over-confident carriers are beginning to move towards their longtime dream -- getting more money on both ends.

A Comcast executive is being quoted today as saying he expects the company will roll out "usage-based billing" — what most people call "data caps" — to all of its customers within five years.

"I would predict that in five years Comcast at least would have a usage-based billing model rolled out across its footprint," Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said, according to ThomsonReuters (transcript).

Forked tongue

But hey, put yourself in Comcast's shoes. Currently consumers pay you $100 or so per month for Internet access and other "bundled services." If they want faster Internet connections, they pay a few bucks more.

Netflix and other big content companies pay for their local connection to the Internet but until recently, they haven't paid a premium to the Comcasts of the world even though they use more than half the available broadband capacity most days.

So now that they have their hands in the pockets of the content providers, Comcast and the other carriers are just doing what big monopolies do -- sharpening their plans to shake more money out of consumers. 

Come on, did you really expect anything else?

Comcast Plans Data Caps

PhotoThe feds have opened the door to carriers gouging customers on both ends of their pipes, and that sucking sound is money coming out of your bank account!

(Jim Hood @ ConsumerAffairs) If you're looking to be relieved of your worldly goods, you can hang out in a casino, buy a batch of Lotto tickets daily and give big piles of money to everyone you meet.

Or you can just sign up for cable, telephone and Internet service.

The ink is not even dry on the Federal Communications Commission's new policy that lets companies like Comcast charge companies like Netflix higher rates to ensure that their streaming video moves smoothly and quickly and now the perhaps over-confident carriers are beginning to move towards their longtime dream -- getting more money on both ends.

A Comcast executive is being quoted today as saying he expects the company will roll out "usage-based billing" — what most people call "data caps" — to all of its customers within five years.

"I would predict that in five years Comcast at least would have a usage-based billing model rolled out across its footprint," Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said, according to ThomsonReuters (transcript).

Forked tongue

But hey, put yourself in Comcast's shoes. Currently consumers pay you $100 or so per month for Internet access and other "bundled services." If they want faster Internet connections, they pay a few bucks more.

Netflix and other big content companies pay for their local connection to the Internet but until recently, they haven't paid a premium to the Comcasts of the world even though they use more than half the available broadband capacity most days.

So now that they have their hands in the pockets of the content providers, Comcast and the other carriers are just doing what big monopolies do -- sharpening their plans to shake more money out of consumers. 

Come on, did you really expect anything else?

Comcast Tells Customers to Stop Using Tor Browser

(inquisitr) Embattled Comcast has another complaint about customer service to add to its growing list. The cable and Internet provider has been telling customers that their service will be terminated if they don’t stop using the Tor web browser. According to a report by Deep.Dot.Web, multiple accounts of Comcast customer service crossing into monitoring customer activity online have been reported to them.

Comcast agents have reportedly contacted customers who use Tor, a web browser that is designed to protect the user’s privacy while online, and said their service can get terminated if they don’t stop using Tor. According to Deep.Dot.Web, one of those calls included a Comcast customer service agent named Jeremy, who allegedly described Tor as an “illegal service.” The use of Tor was then described as against Comcast usage policy.

According to the Comcast customer’s account, the customer service agent repeatedly asked the customer what sites he was accessing on the Tor browser. During a follow-up call the next day, another Comcast customer service agent said again that Comcast doesn’t want customers to use Tor.

An account by the customer of their conversation with the Comcast representative as told to Deep.Dot.Web, alleges that Comcast has a very specific bias against Tor:

“Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the Internet, are usually doing things that aren’t so-to-speak legal. We have the right to terminate, fine, or suspend your account at anytime due to you violating the rules.”

A Comcast statement said they would never monitor a customer’s Internet usage without a proper warrant from a court. They used an opaque process recently, though, when they cooperated with the FBI to provide information on alleged Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht’s Internet use. He was arrested in San Francisco last October.

With the approach of Ulbricht’s trial, questions over how his Icelandic data center server was located have been raised by the defense. The computer was hidden by the anonymous software of Tor. According to Wired, the FBI has said in a new filing on the case that they found the location of the server by playing around with the Silk Road login page to find its location.

The FBI has made a point of dismissing any privacy concerned raised by Ulbricht’s defense. Among those concerns are a Fourth Amendment violation because of illegal searches and a warrantless search of the Silk Road server. Lawyers for Ulbricht have argued that privacy violations could undermine the government’s case by rendering evidence inadmissible.

 

Computer problems affect jobless claims report

(James Limbach @ ConsumerAffairs) The government reports first time claims for state jobless benefits shot up by 15,000 in the week ending September 14 to a seasonally adjusted initial total of 309,000. But analysts say it's hard to gauge how accurate that number really is.

According to economists at Briefing.com, computer glitches in California and Nevada prevented many claimants from filing for benefits. Those problems created a backlog of filings, which resulted in a temporarily lower initial claims level. The Department of Labor says it expects the backlog to be processed over the next week or two before the claims level returns to normal.

When the mess is cleaned up, Briefing says it expect the initial claims level to settle back to its previous 330,000 trend.

The 4-week moving average, which is less volatile than the weekly number and considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market, totaled 314,750 -- down 7,000 from the previous week.

The full jobless claims report may be found on the Labor Department website.

Computers On Verge of a Quantum Leap

   
Watch this video
 

3D transistor could transform computing

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Computer scientists working at the nanoscale to keep up with technology demands
  • Silicon chips in all our electronic devices now contain billions of transistors
  • Tiny nano-sized switches are building blocks of modern computing
  • Quantum computing could supersede traditional computers soon

(Matthew Knight and Nick Glass @ CNN) -- We swipe, we tap, we scroll and click, but rarely do we pause to think about what goes on in the maze of electronics beneath our fingertips.

But next time you are marveling at the computer hardware in your hands spare a thought for the tiny transistors in our computer chips. Without them all our modern gizmos wouldn't work.

"I think transistors really are the unsung heroes of the information age," says Kaizad Mistry, vice president at the world's leading chip maker, Intel. "These tiny little switches ... these are the things that our computers, our servers, our smartphones and laptops (depend on)."

Since Intel introduced the first commercial microprocessor in 1971, all chip manufacturers have been striving to increase processor speeds by cramming more and more transistors -- the tiny switches that control electrical signals -- onto surfaces no bigger than the size of a fingernail.

Intel's landmark 4004 chip contained 2,300 transistors, each measuring a few micrometers (a millionth of a meter) across. Today, the most advanced silicon chips contain billions of nano-sized switches controlling the flow of electrical currents.

The amount of data produced and consumed every day is reaching unthinkable levels, and it increases every day
Peter J. Bentley, University College London

Measuring one billionth of a meter across, objects at the nanoscale are almost impossible to imagine.

Imagine that a marble measured one nanometer across, says the U.S. government's National Nanotechnology Initiative by way of comparison. If it did, then a meter would be equal to the diameter of the Earth.

"Nanoscale devices are important because our societies have gone crazy about information," says professor Peter J. Bentley from University College London and author of "Digitized: The science of computers and how it shapes our world.

"The amount of data produced and consumed every day is reaching unthinkable levels, and it increases every day. But that data has to be stored somewhere, and processed by something," Bentley told CNN via email.

"So basically, we either keep getting smaller so that we can store and process more information in the same small size for about the same power cost ... or we will have to start rationing data usage per person because the computing power needed will eventually use more energy than the planet can support," he added.

In a bid to keep pace with Moore's Law -- Intel founder Gordon E. Moore's assertion that the number of transistors on a chip should double roughly every two years -- Intel have developed new "3-D" or "Tri-Gate" transistors, each one measuring 22 namometers across.

Traditional chips are getting way too hot. The Tri-Gate transistor will almost certainly help in that respect as it can operate at lower voltages
Peter J. Bentley, University College London

"For the last 40-50 years, the transistors we've made have conducted electricity along a planar surface of a silicon wafer. A 3-D transistor is a new concept, a new architecture for making tiny transistors ... it's just a fundamentally better switch," Mistry says.

"What we've done is create these pillars or fins on the surface of the wafer and now the current can flow on all three sides of that fin so in any given footprint you can have more of a current conduction."

Intel's Ivy Bridge chip contains an astonishing 1.4 billion transistors that switch on and off more than 100 billion times a second and run 4,000 times faster and use 5,000 times less energy than the 4004 microchip.

"The Tri-Gate transistors are a very nice redesign of the traditional planar transistor that sits inside the chips," says Bentley.

"One of the key problems with keeping up with (Moore's Law) is heat dissipation. Traditional chips are getting way too hot. The Tri-Gate transistor will almost certainly help in that respect as it can operate at lower voltages."

Smaller 14 nanometer transistors are currently being developed, with Intel planning a release date in 2014. But it won't be long before computer chip manufacturers will be having to think even smaller.

"We have just about hit the limits now," Bentley says. "Already we are so small that quantum tunneling -- where electrons magically zip through solid objects because of quantum effects -- can cause real problems in chip design. Go smaller and quantum effects will stop the transistors working at all."

Our only choice is to learn how to perfect the science of quantum computing, he says.

In theory, quantum computers would be able to solve difficult problems by finding one elusive solution out of gazillions.
Peter J. Bentley, University College London

Quantum computers work in a different way from conventional computers, manipulating objects like electrons and photons to perform processing tasks.

Rather than using transistors which switch on and off the zeros and ones or binary digits (bits) of information, quantum computers work with quantum bits (qubits) which can represent all combinations of zeros and ones simultaneously.

"In theory, (quantum computers) would be able to solve difficult problems by finding one elusive solution out of gazillions because they kind of look at all the solutions at the same time," Bentley says.

In May, Google and NASA announced they were teaming up to share one of the world's first commercial quantum computers.

The machine made by Canada's D-Wave Systems will be installed at the new Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab at NASA's Ames Research Center in California.

Crunching enormous amounts of data is expected to spur advances in climate and economic modeling as well as improving understanding of human genetics. But that's all still quite a long way off, says Bentley.

"In practice, there are bound to be many practical limitations, so we've got to spend the next few decades perfecting this radical new technology before we'll really know how far we can push it."

Consumer Complaint Email Scam Targets Small Businesses (9/11/2011)

Consumer Complaint Email Scam Targets Small Businesses - Well-run, conscientious businesses usually react with concern when they get a consumer complaint. Scammers, it seems, are using that quality trait against them. But instead of getting information about an unhappy customer, you would download malware onto your computer. Read More - Click Here!

Consumer Report Says Wait on Windows 8 and stick with Windows 7

(Suzanne Choney NBC News) If you don't have a "compelling" reason to switch from Windows 7 to Windows 8, then don't, Consumer Reports said Tuesday after looking at the pros and cons of Microsoft's latest operating system.

The main reason users shouldn't feel they have go to the new OS? "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," the magazine said.

"Windows 7 generally received favorable reviews when it was released," wrote Donna L. Tapellini on the magazine's blog. "A few years after its 2009 launch, there still haven't been a lot of complaints. If you've been happy with Windows 7 and even Windows XP up until now, there's no compelling reason to switch to Windows 8."

It's not exactly what Microsoft was hoping to hear from the country's leading consumer publication. 

"Windows 8 is Windows 7, only better," a Microsoft spokesperson told NBC News in response to the magazine's report. "Windows 8 is fast and fluid, and makes it easy to connect with the people, apps and information that are most relevant to you. In conversations with consumers who have early experiences with Windows 8, they have also found the new Windows 8 to be very intuitive and easy to use."

A representative from the magazine said it's not that consumers have been complaining about Windows 8. 

"Our analysis at this point is based on our own lab tests and experiences with Windows 8," James McQueen of Consumer Reports told NBC News.

Noting that Windows 8 is "all about touch," Tapellini wrote that there "are reasons to buy Windows 8 computers, but they're probably a matter of personal preference":

If you are getting a touch screen and like the idea of using your computer in some ways that are similar to a tablet, Windows 8 could be for you. If you like the notion of "live" tiles that change as new emails or social-network updates come in, you'll appreciate the tile interface on Windows 8.

"Yes, you can use it with a mouse or touchpad, but it's designed to make you instinctively want to tap on the computer screen, and even swipe it," she wrote. "Without a touchscreen, reasons for upgrading an old system or buying a computer with Windows 8 become less compelling."

She also wrote that many Windows 8 drivers "still are not performing as well as expected." 

"The need for vendors to update their Windows 8 drivers could explain the less-than-optimal performance," she said.

Read More - Click Here!

Consumers Union Opposes Verizon cable TV deal

WASHINGTON — Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, today filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission in opposition to the proposed spectrum deal between Verizon Wireless and the cable TV companies Comcast, Time Warner, Bright House, and Cox.

Parul P. Desai, Policy Counsel for Consumers Union, said, “We strongly believe this transaction does not serve the public interest. If approved, it will lead to the loss of competition and choice for consumers in the video, broadband, and wireless markets. Consumers would likely be saddled with an increase in prices and fewer competitive alternatives.”

Verizon is seeking to purchase spectrum licenses from SpectrumCo, a joint venture among Comcast, Time Warner, and Bright House, while Cox has agreed to sell off spectrum to Verizon. At the same time Verizon and these cable companies have entered into joint marketing agreements, which allow each cable company and Verizon to sell one another’s products

Read More - Click Here!

Copyright Alert System Forces ISPs to send notice of illegal downloads

Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

Internet users who illegally share music, movies or television shows online could soon receive warning notices from the nation's five major Internet service providers.

The Copyright Alert System, organized by the recording and film industry, is being activated this week to target consumers using peer-to-peer software.

Under the new system, complaints will prompt an Internet service provider to notify a customer whose Internet address has been detected sharing files illegally. A person will be given up to six opportunities to stop before the Internet provider will take more drastic steps, such as temporarily slowing their connection, or redirecting Internet traffic until they acknowledge they received a notice or review educational materials about copyright law.

Consumers who maintain they have been wrongly accused would be forced to pay $35 to appeal the decision. The fee would be reimbursed if they prevail.

According to CNET, participating members of the program include AT&T, Cablevision, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and Comcast.

Critics of the program are worried it will hinder public Wi-Fi by deterring venues like coffee shops and public hotspots from providing a free place for people to use the Internet. However, proponents say the focus is on deterring the average consumer rather than chronic violators.

The director of the organization behind the system, Jill Lesser of the Center for Copyright Infringement, said in a blog post Monday that the program is "meant to educate rather than punish, and direct (users) to legal alternatives."

Lesser adds in a separate blog post that businesses like Starbucks, that provide public Wi-Fi, will never be sent a copyright notice.

Each Internet provider is expected to implement their own system. The program gives each customer five or six "strikes" after a music or film company has detected illegal file-sharing and lodged a complaint. The first alerts are expected to be educational, while the third and fourth would require the customer to acknowledge that they have received the warnings and understand their behavior is illegal. The final warnings are expected to lead to "mitigation measures," such as slowing a person's Internet connection speeds.

Officials involved in the effort acknowledge it's unlikely to stop the biggest violators. There are ways to disguise an IP address or use a neighbor's connection that is unlocked. Public wireless connections, such as those offered at coffee shops, also won't be monitored.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Cost of Social Engineering Attacks (9/27/2011)

A survey of 850 IT and security professionals located in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, Australia and New Zealand found almost half, 48 percent, had been victims of social engineering and had experienced 25 or more attacks in the past two years. Social engineering attacks cost victims an average of $25,000 - $100,000 per security incident, the report states

Read More – Click Here!

Could Chromebooks save the PC industry

  • chromebook-hero_tcm_245_1484737

(Lisa Eadicicco @ LaptopMag) It’s no secret that the PC industry has seen some troubling sales within the past year, but a new report suggests that consumers aren’t even purchasing computers for the new school year. At least not the traditional PCs that most consumers use.

According to NPD, PC sales have slumped by 2.5 percent during this year’s back to school season when compared to the same time period during 2012. While desktop and laptop sales have fallen by 5 percent and 2 percent respectively, MacBook sales decreased by more than 3 percent. However, Chromebooks served as the PC industry’s saving grace by preventing sales from spiraling even further downward. NPD reports that Chromebooks added 175,000 units to the market and were the primary source of growth in the notebook industry.

MORE: Top 10 Laptops Now

“Chromebooks and Windows Touch helped offset what could have been much steeper declines this back-to-school season,” Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, said in a statement.  

Chromebooks are a newer type of Google-branded  laptop that rely on the Internet for most of their functionality. They run on the search engine giant’s Chrome OS and can range in price from less than $300 for a simple Samsung notebook  to more than $1,000 for a machine such as the Chromebook Pixel. Chromebooks target the user base seeking a mobile device for light productivity and surfing the Web. Essentially, those who don’t want the full functionality (and price tag) of a laptop but also want a full-sized keyboard may be interested in a Chromebook.

At the same time, Windows touch notebooks have gained more traction in the market according to NPD’s research. These laptops represented a quarter of back-to-school notebook sales, mostly due to significant price drops. More than 33 percent of these touch screen Windows notebooks that were sold cost less than $500.

“The rapid roll-out of under $500 devices put touch much more aggressively in front of the key back-to-school consumer and created incremental demand,” Baker says.

This isn’t the first report to suggest that the PC industry is facing threatening competition from mobile devices, but it is one of the few to emphasize that there’s a silver lining for the notebook market. Earlier this year, the IDC reported that the PC industry had seen the biggest decline in nearly two decades, partially due to the lukewarm reception of Windows 8. Microsoft is prepping its first major operating system update for the software known as Windows 8.1, which is intended to address some of the major concerns and complaints surrounding Windows 8.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are getting more serious about the hardware implemented in their Chromebooks. HP recently announced the first line of Chromebooks to come with Intel’s latest Haswell chip, which hints that more robust functionality and better battery life is in the Chromebook’s future.

Countdown To April: XP deadline looms - Few Firms Are Ready

( in Tech Decision Maker) Abandoning the ageing Windows XP can be a costly, time consuming process, and even though time is running out many organisations have yet to get started, according to our panel of tech chiefs.
 

Microsoft will stop supporting the now venerable Windows XP operating system in April, but many companies are still finding it hard to let go.

On 8 April 2014 Microsoft will cease providing any patches, including security fixes, for its now nearly 12-year-old but hugely popular Windows XP operating system. But even now, despite exhortations from Microsoft which is keen to push customers onto later iterations of its operating system, XP still runs between one quarter and one third of the world's desktops.

And even with the end of support looming, many organisations remain unprepared to switch away from the OS. When asked "Do you think businesses are prepared for the end of Windows XP support?" TechRepublic's CIO Jury of tech decision makers responded yes by seven-to-five, the narrowest of possible margins, while the comments by CIOs suggest that many organisations will chose to go it alone and run Windows XP even when Microsoft has stopped providing security fixes.

Some CIOs are quite positive about the state of Windows XP preparation: Delano Gordon, CIO at Roofing Supply Group, said: "My thought is enough awareness has been made around this that organisations are well on their way to, if not completed, with Windows 7 deployments."

But others have a more downbeat assessment of readiness.

Dale Huhtala, executive director for enterprise technology infrastructure services at Service Alberta, said: "We're ready but only after 18 months of focused effort to get ourselves here," and added: "Most organisations we've talked to do not appear to be ready."

John Gracyalny, VP of IT for SafeAmerica Credit Union, said many businesses are not ready "as a lot of folks run on the 'if it's not broke don't fix it' methodology". He added: "Sadly, in this case, once it is 'broke, i.e. hacked, it is too late. In my particular case, we migrated all workstations to Windows 7 about two years ago."

For the companies that have moved away from Windows XP it has been a long and complicated process. Derrick Wood, group CIO at Wood Group, said it took a three-year multi-million dollar programme to get his company ready for life after XP. "The cost/complexity of this exercise (following on from the similar exercise on to XP in 2004-2006) has prompted us to look at other solutions going forward – specifically OS-agnostic applications," he said.
XP migration projects also have the potential to suck money out of other initiatives unless budgets are carefully planned, warned Kelly Bodway, VP of IT at Universal Lighting Technologies: "Technically I believe businesses are ready, but the financial impact of making this change is quite substantial and if proper budgets were not already in place for this fiscal year, other spending areas will be impacted dramatically."

Michael Spears, CIO at NCCI Holdings, said that while businesses are well aware that XP support is coming to a close, ditching the operating system might not be on their do-to list.

"Many companies will continue to run XP despite the risks associated with running an unsupported OS. That is likely a conscious choice.  Moving off XP is no walk in the park if users have old software packages in use that won't run on a modern OS," Spears said.

He added migrating to  Windows 7 is "clearly the best bet". "Hopefully, we'll be able to leapfrog [from] Windows 7 to 'Windows 9', bypassing Windows 8 just as we did Windows Vista." 

Court Ruling Internet firms aren't broadcasters

(Reuters) - Internet service providers are not broadcasters, and don't need to adhere to strict rules designed to boost Canadian content on domestic television and radio, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Thursday. (Could have implacations for the USA)

The decision is a victory for telecommunications and Internet companies, including Bell Canada, Telus, Rogers Communications, Cogeco Cable and Bell Aliant, and a loss for Canadian performers and producers.

Read More - Click Here!

Court Upholds Right to Criticize Companies on the Web

(Truman Lewis Consumer Affairs) The Internet has presented consumers with a powerful new tool to review their experiences with products and services but it has also given companies new arguments that they can muster to try to silence their critics.

In a case that sets an important precedent for protecting First Amendment rights on the Internet, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals last week held that including a company’s trademarked name in the title and meta tags of a Web page about that company does not violate trademark law.

“Title tags and meta tags are noncommercial speech that truthfully describe a subject of the Web page and should be protected by the First Amendment,” argued Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen attorney representing the defendant in the case of Jenzabar v. Long Bow Group. “People should be allowed to use the Internet as a tool for open criticism and debate. With this opinion, the court came down on the side of free speech.”

In particular, Levy said, the court’s emphasis on the need for evidence that confusion is probable; the court’s refusal to consider the possibility of confusion by merely careless consumers; and the insistence that there must be a deliberate intent to confuse will all help prevent targets of criticism on the Internet from using frivolous trademark claims to punish people for speaking openly and freely.

Tiananmen Square

The defendant, an award-winning documentary company named Long Bow Group, made a film about the historic 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China, which featured Ling Chai, a student leader in the protests.

Chai now runs the company Jenzabar Inc., which makes software for colleges and universities. Chai didn’t like the way she was portrayed in Long Bow’s film, so she and her company sued over the website about the film.

After Chai’s claims of defamation fell flat, Jenzabar proceeded with claims of trademark infringement and dilution – based on Long Bow’s use of the name “Jenzabar” among the meta tags on pages about that firm on the film’s website. Both claims failed in Boston’s Suffolk County Superior Court when Judge John Cratsley ruled that Long Bow’s inclusion of the software company’s name in its meta tags was protected as fair use.

Read More - Click Here!

Cryptolocker victims to get files back for free

Padlock image

​(Mark Ward @ BBCNews) Before now Cryptolocker victims had to pay a hefty fee to get the keys to unlock their data

All 500,000 victims of Cryptolocker can now recover files encrypted by the malware without paying a ransom.

The malicious program encrypted files on Windows computers and demanded a substantial fee before handing over the key to the scrambled files.

Thanks to security experts, an online portal has been created where victims can get the key for free.

The portal was created after security researchers grabbed a copy of Cryptolocker's database of victims.

"This time we basically got lucky," said Michael Sandee, principal analyst at Fox-IT - one of the security firms which helped tackle the cyber-crime group behind Cryptolocker.

Cash call

In late May, law enforcement agencies and security companies seized a worldwide network of hijacked home computers that was being used to spread both Cryptolocker and another strain of malware known as Gameover Zeus.

This concerted action seems to have prompted an attempt by the gang to ensure one copy of their database of victims did not fall into police hands, said Mr Sandee.

What the criminals did not know, he said, was that police forces and security firms were already in control of part of the network and were able to grab the data as it was being sent.

Evgeniy BogachevEvgeniy Bogachev was believed to be living in Russia, the FBI said
The action also involved the FBI charging a Russian man, Evgeniy Bogachev, aka "lucky12345" and "slavik", who is accused of being the ring leader of the gang behind Gameover Zeus and Cryptolocker.

The Gameover Zeus family of malware targets people who bank online, and is thought to have racked up millions of victims.

Cryptolocker was created by a sub-group inside the larger gang, said Mr Sandee, and first appeared in September 2013, since when it has amassed about 500,000 victims.

Those infected were initially presented with a demand for $400 (£237), 400 euros ($535; £317) or an equivalent amount in the virtual Bitcoin currency. Victims had 72 hours to pay up or face the keys that would unlock their files being destroyed.

Analysis of the back-up database indicates that only 1.3% of all the people hit by the malware paid the ransom.

Despite the low response rate, the gang is believed to have netted about $3m from Cryptolocker. Many of those caught out did not pay because they were able to restore files from back-ups.

However, others are believed to have lost huge amounts of important files and business documents to the cyber-thieves.

"There's a bit of guesswork in that figure because some of it was paid in bitcoins and that does not have a fixed exchange rate," said Mr Sandee.

Now, security firms Fox-IT and FireEye - which aided the effort to shut down the Gameover Zeus group - have created a portal, called Decrypt Cryptolocker, via which any of the 500,000 victims can find out the key to unlock their files.

"All they have to do is submit a file that's been encrypted from that we can figure out which encryption key was used," said Greg Day, chief technology officer at FireEye.

Mr Day said people wishing to use the portal should submit a file that did not contain sensitive information to help it verify which key they needed.

Cybercrime More Lucrative Than Drug Trade (9/8/2011)

Cybercrime is costing the global economy $338bn, more than the drugs trade, according to new research by Symantec. But this criminologist argues that some crime cannot be measured in financial losses. The report suggests that more than 69 percent, at two-thirds of online adults, have fallen victim to cybecrime; a figure that is still on the rise Read More = Chick Here!

DNA Hard Drive Storage Replacement

(Sience Daily) Researchers at the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) have created a way to store data in the form of DNA – a material that lasts for tens of thousands of years. The new method, published January 23 in the journal Nature, makes it possible to store at least 100 million hours of high-definition video in about a cup of DNA.There is a lot of digital information in the world – about three zettabytes’ worth (that’s 3000 billion billion bytes) – and the constant influx of new digital content poses a real challenge for archivists. Hard disks are expensive and require a constant supply of electricity, while even the best ‘no-power’ archiving materials such as magnetic tape degrade within a decade. This is a growing problem in the life sciences, where massive volumes of data – including DNA sequences – make up the fabric of the scientific record.

"We already know that DNA is a robust way to store information because we can extract it from bones of woolly mammoths, which date back tens of thousands of years, and make sense of it,” explains Nick Goldman of EMBL-EBI. “It’s also incredibly small, dense and does not need any power for storage, so shipping and keeping it is easy.”

Reading DNA is fairly straightforward, but writing it has until now been a major hurdle to making DNA storage a reality. There are two challenges: first, using current methods it is only possible to manufacture DNA in short strings. Secondly, both writing and reading DNA are prone to errors, particularly when the same DNA letter is repeated. Nick Goldman and co-author Ewan Birney, Associate Director of EMBL-EBI, set out to create a code that overcomes both problems.

“We knew we needed to make a code using only short strings of DNA, and to do it in such a way that creating a run of the same letter would be impossible. So we figured, let’s break up the code into lots of overlapping fragments going in both directions, with indexing information showing where each fragment belongs in the overall code, and make a coding scheme that doesn't allow repeats. That way, you would have to have the same error on four different fragments for it to fail – and that would be very rare," says Ewan Birney.

The new method requires synthesising DNA from the encoded information: enter Agilent Technologies, Inc, a California-based company that volunteered its services. Ewan Birney and Nick Goldman sent them encoded versions of: an .mp3 of Martin Luther King’s speech, “I Have a Dream”; a .jpg photo of EMBL-EBI; a .pdf of Watson and Crick’s seminal paper, “Molecular structure of nucleic acids”; a .txt file of all of Shakespeare's sonnets; and a file that describes the encoding.

Researchers at the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) have created a way to store data in the form of DNA – a material that lasts for tens of thousands of years. The new method, published January 23 in the journal Nature, makes it possible to store at least 100 million hours of high-definition video in about a cup of DNA.“We downloaded the files from the Web and used them to synthesise hundreds of thousands of pieces of DNA – the result looks like a tiny piece of dust,” explains Emily Leproust of Agilent. Agilent mailed the sample to EMBL-EBI, where the researchers were able to sequence the DNA and decode the files without errors.

“We’ve created a code that's error tolerant using a molecular form we know will last in the right conditions for 10 000 years, or possibly longer,” says Nick Goldman. “As long as someone knows what the code is, you will be able to read it back if you have a machine that can read DNA.”

Although there are many practical aspects to solve, the inherent density and longevity of DNA makes it an attractive storage medium. The next step for the researchers is to perfect the coding scheme and explore practical aspects, paving the way for a commercially viable DNA storage model.

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DNS Changer Doomsday Final Call

In 10 days, there's a chance you will not be able to access the Internet on your personal computer. No email, no Facebook, no Google, no Twitter — nothing.

This potentially dire situation is due to the nasty DNSChanger Trojan, and the fateful date of July 9, on which the FBI is set to take all computers still infected with the malware offline for good. The date is being dubbed "Internet doomsday" for those who don't take action.

Launched by Estonian cybercriminals, the DNSChanger malware infected Windows PCs, Macs and routers across the world and enabled the crooks to hijack victims' Web traffic and reroute it to rigged sites. After the FBI, in "Operation Ghost Click," busted the criminals last November, the FBI set up surrogate servers to keep the computers infected with the Trojan temporarily online so users could clean them. But on July 9, those surrogate servers are coming down.

[Will the FBI Shut Down My Computer? Questions and Answers]

This is bad news for anyone whose computer is still harboring the malware. According to a new report from Internet Identity,that unfortunate group, which at the time of the FBI sting was made up of 4 million computers and routers worldwide,still includes 12 percent of the Fortune 500.

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DOJ Could Suck The Brains Out Of Hulu

Hulu could be on the hook for potentially millions of dollars in damages for allegedly transmitting consumer viewing habits to third parties, after a federal magistrate ruled that online video watching is protected by U.S. privacy law.

In a proposed class-action against Hulu, U.S. Magistrate Laurel Beeler ruled the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 applies to Hulu. The popular video-streaming service, a joint venture between NBC, Fox and Disney, argued that the 1988 act, passed to protect video-store rental records, did not apply to streaming services.

“The question is whether the mechanism of delivery here — streaming versus bricks-and-mortar delivery — ends this case at the pleading stage. Hulu’s remaining argument is only that it is not a ‘video tape service provider’ because the VPPA does not expressly cover digital distribution (a term that did not exist when Congress enacted the statute). Given Congress’ concern with protecting consumers’ privacy in an evolving technological world, the court rejects the argument,” Beeler wrote in an order last week.

Lawyers on both sides of the case did not immediately respond for comment Monday.

The lawsuit alleges Hulu sent viewing information to Scorecard Research, Facebook, DoubleClick, Google Analytics and QuantCast.

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Daylight Savings Time 2012 All Over The World

When is Daylight Savings Time in 2012

 

United States and Canada   Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins March 11 - set your clock(s) forward one hour at 2:00 AM on the second Sunday in March. It Ends on November 4, and the clocks will need to go back an hour.

Europe   Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins March 25 set your clock(s) forward one hour at 1:00 AM on the last Sunday in March. It Ends on October 28 set your clock(s) back one hour at 2:00 AM.

     

Australia   Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins October 7, 2012 set your clock(s) forward one hour at 1:00 AM. It Ends on April 7, 2013 set your clock(s) back one hour at 2:00 AM.

Chile   Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins October 13, 2012 set your clock(s) forward one hour at 1:00 AM. It Ends on March 9, 2013 set your clock(s) back one hour at 2:00 AM.

Israel   Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins March 30 set your clock(s) forward one hour at 2:00 AM. It Ends on September 23 set your clock(s) back one hour at 2:00 AM.

Namibia   Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins September 2, 2012 set your clock(s) forward one hour at 1:00 AM. It Ends on April 7, 2013 set your clock(s) back one hour at 2:00 AM.

Mexico   Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins April 1 set your clock(s) forward one hour at 2:00 AM. It Ends on October 28 set your clock(s) back one hour at 2:00 AM.

New Zealand   Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins September 30, 2012 set your clock(s) forward one hour at 1:00 AM. It Ends on April 7, 2013 set your clock(s) back one hour at 2:00 AM.

Paraguay   Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins October 7, 2012 set your clock(s) forward one hour at 1:00 AM. It Ends on April 14, 2013 set your clock(s) back one hour at 2:00 AM.

Samoa    Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins September 30, 2012 - set your clock(s) forward one hour at 1:00 AM. It Ends on April 7, 2013 set your clock(s) back one hour at 2:00 AM.

Syria   Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins March 6 set your clock(s) forward one hour at 1:00 AM. It Ends on October 26 set your clock(s) back one hour at 2:00 AM.

Uruguay   Daylight Saving Time 2012 Begins October 7, 2012 set your clock(s) forward one hour at 1:00 AM. It Ends on April, 2013 set your clock(s) back one hour at 2:00 AM.
Daylight saving is not used everywhere. Different countries and areas that do use it introduce it on different dates.

Dealing With Unauthorized Charges Advice

Demand to see a proof of purchase and don't accept less than a full refund!"I saw that a credit protection charge of around $58 - $65 had been applied to my bills," Cayne. "I don't remember seeing the charge so I called and asked for confirmation that I had ordered this service. The woman said I'd ordered it by phone. I asked for a record of the phone call, she said it was probably erased by now. I said I wanted to file a complaint. She said if I dropped the investigation, she'd credit my account two months. If I continued, with scant hope of winning my case, I would not be reimbursed. I just took the reimbursement for two months and am out $600, plus any interest I paid on that money.

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Death of Windows XP quickly approaching

windows XP boxshot AP.jpg

(Kim Komando) On April 8, 2014, it's the "end of life" for Windows XP. Now, that doesn't mean XP will suddenly stop working. You can keep using it if you want, but I wouldn't recommend it.

End of life means Microsoft won't be releasing any more security updates to the average user. Any security flaws that hackers find won't be fixed. Your computer will be a sitting duck, even with security software installed.

I know many die-hard XP users are cynical about this news. They think Microsoft is trying to force people buy new computers. Microsoft is in business to make money, so it does want people to upgrade. But in Microsoft's defense, this isn't something special for XP.

Microsoft has done the same with Windows 95, 98 and Me. Vista's end of life is April 11, 2017 and Windows 7's is January 14, 2020. In fact, Microsoft extended XP's end-of-life date several times. XP should have been gone years ago.

Here's a fun fact: XP first appeared at the end of 2001. As late as 2010, computers were still sold with XP installed. Windows Vista, which arrived 6 years after XP, only lasted until 2011.

If you think about it, XP will be nearly 13 years old. Like a teenager, it's having trouble adjusting to the world. In spite of a major overhaul with Service Pack 3, XP just wasn't built for the modern digital age.

It's missing key security features introduced in Windows Vista. It can't support the latest, safest and most Web-compatible versions of Internet Explorer. It can't take full advantage of the latest hardware advances.

It's becoming increasingly frustrating for customers and third-party companies. Many third-party companies would love to stop supporting XP. It takes a lot of time and money to make sure programs and hardware work on every version of Windows.

This even affects the Internet. Web developers will be overjoyed to see XP-only Internet Explorer versions 6, 7 and 8 go away. Those versions are so far behind other browsers, you practically have to write another website just for them.

It's going to be a serious change for many people. In most cases it's going to mean a new computer, upgraded software and possibly new accessories like printers and scanners.

And there's an even bigger problem.

Until last year, upgrading wouldn't have been quite so bad. Windows 7 was still fairly close to Windows XP in look and how it worked. In fact, I expect Windows 7 to be the next Windows version that people stick with for quite a while.

Now, however, Windows 8 is the only operating system available on new computers. When you try it, you'll find that it's radically different from previous Windows versions.

The interface was meant for touch-screen tablets and doesn't work that well with keyboard and mouse. In fact, even finding the Desktop is an adventure in itself.

The Windows 8.1 update coming out next month will allow you to bring back some of the old Windows. Microsoft will even include a tutorial on how to use Windows 8 - finally. But it's still a steep learning curve, especially coming from XP. Click here to learn more about making the most of the Windows 8.1 update.

You can find copies of Windows 7 for sale online. You can install it on your current computer - assuming it isn't too old. You could also buy a Windows 8 computer and downgrade.

Just be aware that you can't do an in-place upgrade from XP to 7. You will have to wipe your hard drive and install Windows 7 from scratch. If you buy an upgrade version of Windows 7, you will need Windows XP installation discs to prove that you are eligible. Whatever you do, start planning now. April will be coming up fast and you don't want to be still using XP when it arrives.

Now, you might hear there's a slim chance Microsoft could continue releasing security updates for XP. It is under contract to some companies to provide them for the next few years. However, that's a paid option and I wouldn't hold your breath that Microsoft will make those updates public.

Copyright 2013, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/09/08/death-windows-xp-quickly-approaching/#ixzz2eVAgvCQt

Dell Computer Excellent Linux Adventures

"I think it's great that a prominent OEM like Dell is releasing a Linux based laptop," said Google+ blogger Linux Rants. "I think they all should, and they should market those computers to the general population." The average consumer would surely be interested in Linux's many advantages "if only they knew about them."

The weather outside may be frightful, to adapt a phrase for the scorched and overheated world here in the Northern hemisphere, but there's no denying that July turned out to be delightful for our favorite operating system.

Not only did Linux get a heaping helping of recognition in the big Higgs Boson announcement recently, but we also saw MeeGo make an exciting new comeback in the mobile world.

Then, of course, there's the growing crack in the castle wall in Redmond.

Those items alone have surely been enough to lift even the most dour Linux fan's spirits, but there's more! Yes indeed, the latest news now is the apparent return of none other than Dell to the desktop Linux world.

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'Project Sputnik'

First there was Project Sputnik, which was launched as a pilot project in May but just recently graduated and became a real, working product plan.

The result: Coming from Dell this fall will be a developer-oriented laptop preloaded with Ubuntu Linux "Precise Pangolin."

Hitting the news wires more recently, meanwhile, is word that Dell is venturing even deeper back into the Linux waters with laptops featuring Red Hat Enterprise Linux as well.

Have Linux bloggers been pleased? Let's just say that more than a few tables have been danced upon in recent days down at the blogosphere's Broken Windows Lounge.

Linux Girl stopped dancing just long enough to take a small poll.

'I Think It's Great'

"It's nice to see Dell trying, again," opined Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza. "With the average user spending most of their time in Chrome, which is now the supported source of flash on Linux, there's less reason than ever before to avoid it."

Ideally, "I'd like to see them offer at least three options so that we can see what the market really wants: a Mini and a loaded-for-bear system are what I'd add to pad the lineup," Espinoza said.

Indeed, "I think it's great that a prominent OEM like Dell is releasing a Linux based laptop," agreed Google+ blogger Linux Rants. "I think they all should, and they should market those computers to the general population."

'Marketing Could Be the Tipping Point'

The average consumer would surely be interested in Linux's many advantages "if only they knew about them," Linux Rants said.

In fact, "marketing from OEMs could be the tipping point to the same old Catch 22 we always find ourselves in: No one uses Linux because their software isn't available (and they don't want to switch to alternatives), but their software isn't available because not enough people use Linux," he suggested.

The main downside associated with Project Sputnik "is that Dell is marketing the laptop to the segment of the population that would just take a regular laptop and reimage it with Linux anyway," Linux Rants pointed out. "I hope this project will be just one of the first in a long line of Linux based products from multiple OEMs."

Dell Plans USB-sized PC that gives access to Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS

 

Dell Reinvention Plan

As Mims writes, Dell is working on a projected currently called “Ophelia” that is “a complete, self-contained PC” that also happens to be as big as a USB thumb drive. But the killer feature of Ophelia is that it uses “virtual instances of… operating systems running in the cloud” to give users access to “Windows, Mac OS, Google’s Chrome OS, Dell’s custom cloud solutions, Citrix cloud software, and even Google’s Chrome OS.” Let’s take a step back and think about what this really means. If you plug Ophelia into a flat-panel television, it will connect to the nearest Wi-Fi network and give you access to any type of operating system or app that is running virtually somewhere in the cloud.

In this way, Dell wouldn’t be competing with Microsoft (MSFT) or Apple (AAPL), but with Google (GOOG) and its Chromebook computers that similarly deliver applications and data through the cloud rather than through hard drive storage. The difference is, while Google’s computers are thinly-veiled attempts to move users away from Windows-based applications and toward Google Apps, Dell’s Ophelia would give users a wide choice of cloud-based apps from several different providers. Or as Mims puts it, Ophelia is more of a “PC-as-parasite, a device that offloads most tasks to servers in the cloud so that the user is left with barely a token, a nearly ephemeral, solid-state key connecting to their could-based ‘computer,’ wherever they are.”

And the most intriguing part about Ophelia? Tarkan Maner, Dell’s vice president of cloud operations, tells Quartz that he wants to price it at just $50. Needless to say, this is certainly a project to keep an eye on for the future, even though it still looks like it could be a long way from becoming a reality.

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Device For School Children

With the new school year already here parents have just put the finishing touches on getting their kids out the door and on to the school bus for another school season.

For some children it’s their first time leaving mom and dad in the morning to catch the bus, and although it can be a definite time of excitement for him or her, it can also be a little bit scary.

And sometimes it’s even scarier for adults, as they let their children out of their sight for the first time, not being able to see them until later in the afternoon or sometimes in the evening when parents get off work.

To remove some of the anxiety associated with putting children on school buses, a company named Zonar has created an electronic tracking system, specifically designed to let parents know when their children get on and off the bus each day.

“They run a tag across the scanner and it records that they entered the bus, the location, and the time, said Dave Meeuwsen, who is the transportation director for the Zeeland, Mich. school district, where they began using the tracking system just this year.

ZPass

PhotoThe way Zonar works, or ZPass as it’s also called, is by having kids swipe an electric card once they enter or exit the bus. The swipe then gets registered to a data base which allows the school district to know the exact whereabouts of not only each child, but the bus as well.

School officials also say the ZPass is ideal for safety and emergency units to respond quicker and in more accurate fashion, as school districts can electronically send messages to response units about who is exactly on the bus at that very specific moment.

“By having students with this card, we can immediately email EMT folks about the ridership of that day, so they know who they are looking for,” said Meeuwsen.

Zonar also provides a group of service representatives that parents can contact to get specific questions answered, like why is the bus running late, or checking to see if their child had any behavioral problems on the bus that day.

In order for the system to be used, each school district must first agree to purchase and install the hub of the device on each bus. In Zeeland’s case the district received a $50,000 grant to have the tracing system put in.

What’s also handy about the ZPass is the fact that parents can receive real time text messages on their smartphones or computers, as any developing information happens on the bus while it's in route.

Nothing bulky

Additionally, students don’t have to carry a bulky or expensive electronic device to use the system, as they only have to tote a small card, which is perfect for younger children who are more prone to loose or misplace their belongings. The card easily clips on to the child’s book bag, pocket or jacket.

The tracking systems also allows school districts to gauge if buses are overcrowded, as the database will be able to give accurate daily counts of each student getting on and off the bus. This better allows schools to tweak certain bus routes if need be, or add more buses to routes that are overcrowded.

At the end of each route the bus drivers are asked a series of questions by the device like, did you check for students? And other safety questions that allows the driver to document how each bus ride and day was completed.

The Zeeland school district also says the device better allows drivers to focus more on the road, and safety, and not on headcounts, as the electronic reader provides the driver with the accurate number of riders they have each day.

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Did Apple Tell the New iPad’s Battery Meter to Lie

The new iPad is a huge hit for Apple, to the tune of 3 million devices sold in the first weekend alone. And it’s no wonder — the device is a big upgrade from previous models, quadrupling the resolution of the tablet’s screen to an ultra-sharp “retina” display. However, the new model has brought with it a spate of minor issues, one of which is slowly rising to the status of “scandal.”

First there was the trouble with older smart covers not working properly on the new iPad. Then came news that the iPad gets much hotter than previous models, possibly uncomfortably so. Both issues were more or less dismissed as minor inconveniences, with the heat problem questionable from the get-go.

However, there’s yet another complication: the iPad’s battery meter is inaccurate. After a display expert discovered the iPad continues to charge the battery even after the screen says it’s at 100%. Further testing showed that the misleading indicator could cost users as much as 1.2 hours of run time.

This problem is different from its predecessors because it’s so clear-cut. Whereas another Apple gadget fracas — the iPhone 4 “antennagate” affair — was difficult to quantify in terms of actual lost calls, in this case the cost is right there in black and white: Your iPad gets an hour less run time if you unplug as soon as the meter hits full. Apple so far hasn’t made any statement on the matter, but it should, because there may be a very good reason the battery meter on the iPad is a fibber.

The lithium-ion batteries that are used in almost every piece of electronics today have a limited lifespan. Even if you don’t ever use it, if you put a battery on a shelf somewhere and try to charge it up a few years later, it won’t work. The battery will be permanently dead.

Most of us experience this with our cellphones. If you own a phone for more than a year (and most people do), you’ve probably noticed that its battery doesn’t quite have the same all-day oomph that it used to. A number of factors can accelerate battery degradation, one of them being how often it’s kept fully charged. The table below from Battery University shows how much faster fully charged batteries degrade at various temperatures.

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Digital Security Threats 2013 Style

In 2012, a Trojan program called Flashback infected more than 700,000 Macs, making it one of the most widespread attacks on Apple ever. The Flashback hole has been plugged, but that doesn't mean a new attack isn't just around the corner.

“Flashback continues to be relevant because it demolished the myth of invulnerability surrounding the Mac and because it confirmed that massive outbreaks can indeed affect non-Windows platforms,” Kaspersky said.

The more things change, the more they stay the same
Despite the scares and the challenges, online security is not so different from offline precautions. If you exercise common sense when browsing online and keep a close eye on links and attachments, chances are you're going to be just fine.

If you do find yourself being victimized, by either one of the scams listed above or a new threat, don't panic. Take steps to keep your identity safe and your information back up your information on an external hard drive. That way you can minimize or negate any damage that might be done.

Digital distractions

(Tom Chatfield BBCNEWS)We should learn that we do not have to respond instantly to emails, text messages and status updates, says Tom Chatfield. Have you ever received a “phantom” text message? If you’ve been convinced your phone is vibrating or ringing in your pocket when it turns out to be nothing, the answer is yes. And you’re not alone. According to the Pew internet research center, 67% of American adults in a national survey experienced the same thing.

The same report also found that almost 37% of those surveyed said that they “couldn’t live without” their smartphones, depicting a world in 2013 where ubiquitous computing is increasingly taken for granted – and where our bodies are every bit as involved as our minds.

In my case, phantom messages sometimes arrive when I don’t actually have my phone. I usually keep it in my left trouser pocket and, even when it isn’t there, I sometimes feel a silent-message-style buzzing in my thigh muscles, as if a message has been sent directly into my skin. It’s a disconcerting feeling, and suggests an unwelcome degree of physical conditioning, not least because of the invariable accompanying rush of blood at the thought of someone or something wanting my attention.

Text messages may seem a trivial business, but one thinker who’s increasingly concerned by the dynamic of how we interact with machines is the author and computer scientist Jaron Lanier. In a December interview with the Smithsonian magazine, Lanier railed eloquently against the social consequences of a culture conditioned to respond instantly to services like texts and social media.

“Look what we’re setting up here in the world today,” he says. “We have economic fear combined with everybody joined together on these instant twitchy social networks which are designed to create mass action. What does it sound like to you? It sounds to me like the prequel to potential social catastrophe.”

‘Advertising fodder’

Lanier’s view may sound extreme, but it chimes with other thinking. Take the words of behavioural economics Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, for example. In his 2011 book Thinking, Fast and Slow, he writes “the often-used phrase ‘pay attention’ is apt: you dispose of a limited budget of attention that you can allocate to activities.” High quality human attention is a scarce resource; and whenever it is in short supply, the universal human tendency is to fall back on what Kahneman calls “heuristics”: snap judgements based on assumptions and shortcuts, not to mention more visceral impulses and appetites.  

Much of the time, these heuristics are vital to successful living, allowing us to function on a daily basis while conserving our higher faculties – the “slow” thinking of the book’s title. When it comes to challenges more complex than recognizing a friend or selecting a favourite food, however, our rapid-response systems for decision-making are alarmingly prone to error: riven with bias and prejudice, and ripe for manipulation. Even something as simple as the amount of time since we last ate can have a profound effect on our decision-making.

In Lanier’s terms, this is precisely what many of the constantly-connected patterns of online living push us towards: a metaphorical dismembering, in which we become little more than clicks and eyeballs. We risk, his interviewer Ron Rosenbaum says, “outsourcing ourselves into insignificant advertising-fodder”, twitching from one stock response to another, and possibly into more vicious forms of stock action than mere trolling-by-tweet.

When I sense a phantom message buzzing in my leg, I find it hard not to think of Lanier’s warning against how technology is eroding our better natures – or, at least, of the time and attention it takes to treat each other as more than a means to constant diversion and aggregation. I’m also, however, conscious of the ways in which these very systems might help us push back.

A New York Times article that discussed the Pew research findings,  for example, lists some of the solutions being tried by those on the sharp end. Technology company Atos reportedly plans to phase out all forms of email between employees by the end of 2013, preferring to rely on more efficient and less demanding methods of communication. Similarly, German car company Daimler now offers the option of deleting employees’ email during their vacations to avoid the electronic logjam usually waiting for hapless workers upon their return.

These are small steps, but they tie in with another, central observation of Kahneman’s: that, faced by an attention-sapping situation and the escalating possibility of poor judgement, the best thing you can do is “recognize that you are in a cognitive minefield, slow down, and ask for reinforcement.”

Lanier’s is a critique above what he has elsewhere called the “antihuman” perversity of many technologies: of how exploitative and reductive habits can ensnare us, via tasty digital carrots and daunting sticks. Endless sharing and clicks on "like" are, after all, far easier than taking the time to work out what we actually feel - let alone express it - while personal identity can become little more than a perpetual present of status updates, drop-down-menu preferences and instant interactions.

 Against this, in Kahneman’s formulation, we must ask what kind of “reinforcements” we can best build into the organisations and routines within which we work – and which systems we have already built that do more than augment our capacities for prejudice and error.

It’s a tricky proposition. But it’s also one whose time has surely come. To borrow a final phrase from Kahneman, “cognition is embodied; you think with your body, not only with your brain.” For me, at least, the reception of phantom smartphone messages in my upper thigh feels like my body trying to tell me something. 2013 is a year for making the very best of my high-quality attention, and asking what it means to help others do the same. It’s time to stop twitching.

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DirectTV and Exced To Bundle Internet Service With TV

Mark Huffman has been a consumer news reporter for ConsumerAffairs since 2004. He covers real estate, gas prices and the economy and has reported extensively on negative-option sales. He was previously an Associated Press reporter and editor in Washington, D.C., a correspondent for Westwoood One Radio Networks and Marketwatch.  Read Full Bio→

Photo(Mark Huffman Consumer Affairs) Since most rural consumers must get their television service from a satellite provider, perhaps it makes sense that DIRECTV and Exede broadband services would hook up in a bundling deal.

The two companies say the TV and Internet bundle will save consumers $120 a year over the cost of obtaining both services separately. Consumers may order from either company.

DIRECTV is well-established in the TV marketplace, competing with Dish Network to provide cable TV programming services. Although they compete with cable in urban and suburban markets, DIRECTV and Dish are sometimes the only TV options for rural consumers.

Win-win

Exede, owned by the same company that owns Wild Blue satellite Internet, also faces a competitor in HughesNet. Both companies recently launched new, high-speed satellites that provide faster Internet service than was available through satellites in the past. Both Exede and DIRECTV see their partnership as mutually beneficial.

“Any consumer, anywhere can now enjoy an affordable, high-speed internet bundle that includes DIRECTV service,” said Shannon Campain, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing Operations for DIRECTV. “By teaming up with Exede to offer this bundle of broadband packages of up to 12 Mbps, customers in rural and unserved markets no longer have to settle for slow DSL or dial-up service. By delivering the most robust bundle offering of any video provider, we open up more opportunities for further growth in these largely unserved areas.”

“We are thrilled to be able to offer our customers a high-quality integrated TV and Internet bundle,” said Lisa Scalpone, vice president of sales, marketing and business development for ViaSat, which owns Exede. “This agreement benefits both Exede Internet and DIRECTV customers by providing one-stop shopping for customers looking to access high-speed broadband and a video package with more than 170 HD video channels.”

Recent improvements

Both Exede and HughesNet have improved satellite-delivered broadband with their new generation satellites. However, the service does have a drawback that DSL does not. The plans provide a set amount of data the customer may use each month. In the case of both Exede and HughesNet, the entry-level plan provides 10 GB per month. For normal web surfing that amount is adequate. However, heavy Netflix and YouTube users will find they will quickly run through their allotments.

Still, for millions of rural consumers, there aren't many better options.

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Disable iPhone iOS6 User Tracking

(Mark Huffman Consumer Affairs) Apple's new mobile operating system, iOS 6, has lots of new features that owners of the new iPhone 5 really like. But there's one Apple didn't mention when it introduced the phone last month.

Back in 2011 privacy advocates were unhappy when they learned that Apple and many apps makers were collecting information about users' mobile surfing habits and sharing it with advertisers. Now, apparently, the practice has returned in iOS 6.

The new tracking system is fairly simple. It employs a unique identifier for your device called an IDFA. It's less invasive than the previous version because the IDFA only links a particular device with certain online activity.

Recent data breach

The previous system, which employed an ID number called a UDID, is still causing some concern. Just last month ConsumerAffairs reported that hackers stole the UDIDs of 12 million consumers. The hackers said the files contained user names, name of device, type of device, Apple Push Notification service tokens, zip codes, cellphone numbers, addresses, etc.

Another important difference between the UDID and IDFA is the IDFA can be turned off. If you want it off, however, you'll have to do it yourself because it was turned on, by default, when the operating system was loaded on your device.

Our friends at Sophos Security software provide this simple guide to turning off the tracking system:

  • Click on Settings.
  • Click on General to access the General Settings.
  • Click About
  • Scroll down and click on Advertising.
  • Set Limit Ad Tracking to "ON"

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Dish Network Approved By FCC to Entry Cell Phone Market

(Robert Hood Consumer Affairs) Dish could be a powerful competitor, breaking open the currnet oligopoly - Americans just can't get enough smartphones. And the cell phone companies just can't get enough bandwidth to service all the smartphones they've sold. But Dish Network, the satellite TV provider, just may crack the market wide open, muscling in on Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given unanimous approval to Dish's plans to use some of its satellite spectrum to build a new cellular network, adding new capacity to the crowded airwaves.

"These actions will help meet skyrocketing consumer demand and promote private investment, innovation, and competition, while unlocking billions of dollars of value," FCC spokeswoman Tammy Sun said, as agency chairman Julius Genachowski testified on Capitol Hill.

In prepared remarks, Genachowski said the FCC is committed to taking final action that clears the way for Dish's entry into the lucrative market.

Ground-based

Although Dish will be using some of its satellite spectrum, the cell phone network will be ground-based, eliminating the time lag that makes satellite telephones balky because of the delay in relaying signals to and from the satellites.

“The FCC has removed outdated regulations and granted terrestrial flexibility ...  We appreciate the hard work and focus of the FCC and its staff throughout this process," said Jeff Blum, DISH senior vice president and deputy general counsel. "The Commission has taken an important step toward facilitating wireless competition and innovation, and fulfilling the goals of the National Broadband Plan."

The commission has been working to open up new spectrum space for smartphones and wireless broadband use. It is expected to auction a block of frequencies adjacent to Dish's existsing segment. Sprint Nextel is expected to be among the bidders.

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Dish Network Plans New Competition For Verizon and AT&T

(James Hood ConsumerAffairs) You don't normally think of Dish Network as a wireless carrier but that could change, if Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski has his way.

FCC chairman says he backs the plan, which could provide new competition for Verizon, AT&T

Genachowski is proposing to auction off a batch of spectrum that Dish could use to start a wireless service that would compete with Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Dish has long had its eye on that spectrum but there is one potential kink. This would probably be good news to consumers who have long complained of the lack of competition in the wireless market. A consumer sentiment analysis of about 3.5 million comments posted on social media over the last year shows lukewarm feelings for Verizon.AT&T fares even worse than Verizon, although 3.5 million consumers seemed to have warmer feelings in recent months.

DISH Network  Nov. 21, 2012, 5:41 p.m.Consumers rate DISH Network

Genachowski wants to require Dish to use lower power levels than usual to minimize the chance of interference with other services.  The FCC is expected to vote on the plan before the end of the year.

“Telling us to lower our power levels cripples our ability to enter the business,” Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen told The Washington Post. “We want to enter the wireless business. We have $6 billion more we want to spend on building out this business. But the FCC could make it extremely risky for us.”

Ergen said the FCC has been dragging its feet on Dish's plan for the last 20 months. If it had approved the plan earlier, the new network could have been in place by next year. But now, Ergen says it will be at least 2015 b efore it's up and running.

Genachowski and others have complained that the highly lucrative wireless business is beginning to resemble a duoply -- with AT&T and Verizon hogging six of 10 wireless contracts. 

“If approved, these actions will promote competition, investment and innovation, and advance commission efforts to unleash spectrum for mobile broadband to help meet skyrocketing consumer demand, while unlocking billions of dollars of value to the public,” FCC spokesman Neil Grace said.

Disgruntled consumers


Verizon Wireless Nov. 21, 2012, 5:48 p.m.
Consumers rate Verizon Wireless

A little competition would be welcome to consumers like Edward of San Diego, who posted to ConsumerAffairs recently about his experience with Verizon Wireless.

So my Droid burns itself up. They tell me this is normal. Verizon forces you to sign a two-year contract and then do not support the hardware for that period, even if you get an insurance plan. My Droid burned itself up at temperatures of over 230 degrees.

Their solution? For me to pay $700 for a new one because they don't support my model, even though I bought it from them less than a year ago. Verizon is crap. Their customer service is crap.

AT&T Wireless also has more than its share of disgruntled customers. like Jennifer of Reno, who wrote to us recently about what she sees as a decline in AT&T's customer service. 

Prior to 2012, AT&T was wonderful. I've been using this company for many years, and before 2012, I use to think they took good care of me. However, something has changed with this company, and now it seems like their customer service is poor and all they want is the mighty dollar. Well, guess what, AT&T. You are not the only providers out there, so reexamine what truly makes AT&T what it is today - your customers! Just remember, without us, there would not be a you.


AT&T Wireless Nov. 21, 2012, 5:48 p.m.
Consumers rate AT&T Wireless

Not surprisingly, Dish generates quite a bundle of negative reviews itself but the theory is that another large player in the wireless field would generate at least some additional competition in terms of service plans, pricing and network penetration.  

In his comments, Genachowski noted that just two years ago, the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger was threatening to reduce the number of competitors in the marketplace. That plan was derailed by frederal regulators but T-Mobile and Metro PCS reached agreement in October to merge their operations, thus creating a stronger player to go up against Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.

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Dispose Cell Phones With Care

(Ben Huffman Consumer Affairs) Whether you are lining up to buy a new iPhone 5 or one of its many competitors, you then have the problem of what to do with your old cell phone. The last thing you should do is simply throw it away.

Not only are there toxic materials in these devices that should not go into a landfill, there is sensitive information that you should keep out of the hands of people who might misuse it.

Mining for gold

There are plenty of companies advertising online that will buy your old cell phone. In most cases they won't refurbish and resell them but tear them apart for the gold and other materials they contain.

Earthworks, an organization that collects and recycles old cell phones, says recovering the gold found in 50 million cell phones -- iPhone 5 sales are projected to reach 50 million by year's end -- could prevent the creation of 2 million tons of mining waste.

"Recycling helps protect communities and the environment in the U.S. and around the world by keeping hazardous chemicals out of landfills and reducing the demand for conflict mineral mining," said Earthworks' Recycle My Cell Phone Manager Hilary Lewis. She continued, "We hope the public will embrace this easy option for recycling with the guarantee that their devices are being handled responsibly."

Professionally sanitized

All cell phones collected through Earthworks' Recycle My Cell Phone campaign are sent to MPC, a certified IT Asset Lifecycle Management company, where the phones are securely handled in accordance with environmental and data security standards. All cell phones are either sanitized for reuse or physically destroyed and recycled in the United States.

Consumers, however, should not allow their old cell phone to be removed from their possession without first going through some "sanitizing" steps first. Even if you’re sending your phone to a company where the data is securely wiped or the phone is shredded, think about how your phone gets there. If you’re sending it in the mail you can’t be sure that it won’t be lost, or if you’re throwing it in a collection bin at a public drop off site, you never know who could get to your device before that company picks it up.

Steps to follow

So what’s a person to do when the time comes for an upgrade? One authorized method for sanitizing a phone is to delete all information, such as calls made and phone numbers, manually and then perform a full manufacturer’s reset to put the cell phone at its factory default settings. Removing the SIMcard of the phone, a commonplace for stored information, is also recommended.

The Federal Trade Commission says encrypting passwords and other sensitive data stored on your cell phone, and “locking” the keypad while your phone is not in use, can help prevent unauthorized access even after your cell phone is no longer in service. Still, certain data on your phone, including personal contacts, photos and Web search terms, may be recoverable with relatively simple and inexpensive software programs.

Permanent data deletion may require you to clear data from the phone’s contacts and other stored information. Your owner’s manual, your wireless provider’s Website, or the manufacturer will likely provide information on how to permanently delete information from your mobile device.

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Do I Need A Screensaver

Screensavers used to be important when everyone had CRT monitors, because images could "burn into" your monitor. LCDs don't really have this problem, so, no, it doesn't hurt to turn your screensaver off. Many computer users love them, though. They're a fun way to show off your personality and customize your computer.

You can have a screensaver of your favorite pictures, sports team or hobby. You can even make your own with programs like PhotoJoy. Plus, when your screensaver turns on, it locks your computer to protect it from snoopers. You can lock your computer manually by going to Start>>Lock, but a screensaver protects you if you forget.

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Do Not Track Button Does Not Work

PhotoAfter more than a year of foot-dragging, Google and other large Internet companies say they'll support a do-not-track button to be embedded in Web browsers. Details remain to be hammered out.

The pledge follows a White House call for Congress to pass a "consumer privacy bill of rights" that would give consumers more control over the personal data that Internet companies collect about them.

“American consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online,” said President Obama. “As the Internet evolves, consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy.

"For businesses to succeed online, consumers must feel secure. By following this blueprint, companies, consumer advocates and policymakers can help protect consumers and ensure the Internet remains a platform for innovation and economic growth,” Obama said.

“It’s great to see that companies are stepping up to our challenge to protect privacy so consumers have greater choice and control over how they are tracked online. More needs to be done, but the work they have done so far is very encouraging,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

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Do You Replace Your Server Or Go To The Cloud? The Answer May Surprise You

Is your server or servers getting old? Have you pushed it to the end of its lifespan? Have you reached that stage where it's time to do something about it? Join the crowd. You're now at that decision point that so many other business people are finding themselves this year. And the decision is this: Do you replace that old server with a new server...or do you go to: the cloud.

 

Everyone’s talking about the cloud nowadays so you’ve got to consider it, right?  This could be a great new thing for your company! You’ve been told that the cloud enables companies like yours to be more flexible and save on their IT costs.  It allows free and easy access to data for employees from wherever they are, using whatever devices they want to use.  Maybe you’ve seen the  recent survey by accounting software maker MYOB that found that small businesses that adopt cloud technologies enjoy higher revenues.  Or perhaps you’ve stumbled on  this analysis that said that small businesses are losing money as a result of ineffective IT management that could be much improved by the use of cloud based services.  Or the poll of more than 1,200 small businesses by technology reseller CDW which discovered that “…cloud users cite cost savings, increased efficiency and greater innovation as key benefits” and that “…across all industries, storage and conferencing and collaboration are the top cloud services and applications.”

So it’s time to chuck that old piece of junk and take your company to the cloud, right?  Well…just hold on.

There’s no question that if you’re a startup or a very small company or a company that is virtual or whose employees are distributed around the world, a cloud based environment is the way to go.  Or maybe you’ve got high internal IT costs or require more computing power.  But maybe that’s not you.  Maybe your company sells pharmaceutical supplies, provides landscaping services, fixes roofs, ships industrial cleaning agents, manufactures packaging materials or distributes gaskets.  You are not featured in Fast Company and you have not been invited to presenting at the next Disrupt conference.  But you know you represent the very core of small business in America.  I know this too.  You are just like one of my company’s 600 clients.  And what are these companies doing this year when it comes time to replace their servers?

These very smart owners and managers of small and medium sized businesses who have existing applications running on old servers are not going to the cloud.  Instead, they’ve been buying new servers.

Why Cloud Computing Is Accelerating In The Enterprise
Oracle​Voice: The New and Dangerous Threat to Cloud Computing

Wait, buying new servers?  What about the cloud?

At no less than six of my clients in the past 90 days it was time to replace servers.  They had all waited as long as possible, conserving cash in a slow economy, hoping to get the most out of their existing machines.  Sound familiar?  But the servers were showing their age, applications were running slower and now as the companies found themselves growing their infrastructure their old machines were reaching their limit.  Things were getting to a breaking point, and all six of my clients decided it was time for a change.  So they all moved to cloud, right?

Nope.  None of them did. None of them chose the cloud.  Why?  Because all six of these small business owners and managers came to the same conclusion:  it was just too expensive.  Sorry media.  Sorry tech world.  But this is the truth.  This is what’s happening in the world of established companies.

Consider the options.  All of my clients’ evaluated cloud based hosting services from Amazon, Microsoft and Rackspace.  They also interviewed a handful of cloud based IT management firms who promised to move their existing applications (Office, accounting, CRM, databases) to their servers and manage them offsite.  All of these popular options are viable and make sense, as evidenced by their growth in recent years.  But when all the smoke cleared, all of these services came in at about the same price:  approximately $100 per month per user.  This is what it costs for an existing company to move their existing infrastructure to a cloud based infrastructure in 2013.  We’ve got the proposals and we’ve done the analysis.

You’re going through the same thought process, so now put yourself in their shoes.  Suppose you have maybe 20 people in your company who need computer access.  Suppose you are satisfied with your existing applications and don’t want to go through the agony and enormous expense of migrating to a new cloud based application.  Suppose you don’t employ a full time IT guy, but have a service contract with a reliable local IT firm.

Now do the numbers:  $100 per month x 20 users is $2,000 per month or $24,000 PER YEAR for a cloud based service.  How many servers can you buy for that amount?  Imagine putting that proposal out to an experienced, battle-hardened, profit generating small business owner who, like all the smart business owners I know, look hard at the return on investment decision before parting with their cash.

For all six of these clients the decision was a no-brainer: they all bought new servers and had their IT guy install them.  But can’t the cloud bring down their IT costs?  All six of these guys use their IT guy for maybe half a day a month to support their servers (sure he could be doing more, but small business owners always try to get away with the minimum).  His rate is $150 per hour.  That’s still way below using a cloud service.

No one could make the numbers work.  No one could justify the return on investment.  The cloud, at least for established businesses who don’t want to change their existing applications, is still just too expensive.

Please know that these companies are, in fact, using some cloud-based applications.  They all have virtual private networks setup and their people access their systems over the cloud using remote desktop technologies.  Like the respondents in the above surveys, they subscribe to online backup services, share files on DropBox and Microsoft MSFT +2.58%’s file storage, make their calls over Skype, take advantage of Gmail and use collaboration tools like Google GOOG +2.21% Docs or Box.   Many of their employees have iPhones and Droids and like to use mobile apps which rely on cloud data to make them more productive.  These applications didn’t exist a few years ago and their growth and benefits cannot be denied.

Paul-Henri Ferrand, President of Dell DELL -0.15% North America, doesn’t see this trend continuing.  “Many smaller but growing businesses are looking and/or moving to the cloud,” he told me.  “There will be some (small businesses) that will continue to buy hardware but I see the trend is clearly toward the cloud.  As more business applications become more available for the cloud, the more likely the trend will continue.”

He’s right.  Over the next few years the costs will come down.  Your beloved internal application will become out of date and your only option will be to migrate to a cloud based application (hopefully provided by the same vendor to ease the transition).  Your technology partners will help you and the process will be easier, and less expensive than today.  But for now, you may find it makes more sense to just buy a new server.  It’s OK.  You’re not alone.

Besides Forbes, Gene Marks writes weekly for The New York Times and Inc.com.

Do You Want Your MAC program to automatically terminate

The way this works is that on computers running OSX Lion and OSX Mountain Lion,   the system (or Finder as MAC calls it) decides when an application needs to run and will automatically terminate it on the fly and reclaim its resources.

I can see automatically terminating applications on a SmartPhone, or other device with meager resources. But automatic terminating applications on a desktop class machine seems to be an unnecessary nuisance! MACS have for greater resources, ram, storage, and processing power. Why Why Why! In fact, OSX not only terminates the application without warning, but the application also disappears from both the dock (unless you opted to keep it there permanently) and from the application switcher, which forces you to re-launch the application.

Write back and tell me what you think!

Do not track - Ad industry says Do not want

Photo(Jennifer Abel  @ ConsumerAffairs) The award for least-surprising headline of the week goes to MediaPost, which reported on June 19 that “Ad industry urges web standards group to abandon do-not-track effort.”

The ad industry is certainly being proactive here; so far, the do-not-track effort looks to be kind of a bust.

As its name suggests, the “Do not track” project seeks to give users the option to go online without having every website they visit “tracked.” So far, only a handful of companies have agreed to offer and honor Do Not Track options to their visitors, and only two of them — Pinterest and Twitter — are companies recognizable to and patronized by ordinary people (as opposed to IT or advertising professionals).

Indeed, most companies go out of their way to not offer it. At the end of April, for example, Yahoo updated its privacy policies to say that henceforth, “web browser Do Not Track settings will no longer be enabled on Yahoo.”

Not that Yahoo is  unique; Google Chrome's page about “Do Not Track” (last updated in 2012) says “At this time, most web services, including Google's, do not alter their behavior or change their services upon receiving Do Not Track requests.”

Despite this, as MediaPost reported:

The ad trade group Digital Advertising Alliance is urging the World Wide Web Consortium to pull the plug on its tracking-protection initiative, which aims to implement the do-not-track requests that users can send through their browsers.

“By wading into this public-policy matter, the W3C not only duplicates efforts undertaken by legitimate policymakers but also strays far beyond its expertise and mission,” DAA executive director Lou Mastria wrote to the W3C on Wednesday. He added that the DAA wants the Internet standards organization “to abandon this effort and to return to its mission of developing consensus around specifications for web technologies.”

Apparently, the ad industry is also worried that some web users might be tricked into inadvertently being not-tracked when they actually want to be tracked, or something:

Microsoft, for one, now turns on the do-not-track signal automatically for some Internet Explorer users.

The ad industry says that do-not-track signals set by default don't reflect a user's preference to avoid tracking across Web sites. But the industry also says there's no good way to distinguish between a signal set by a user and one set by a developer.

“There’s no mechanism for anyone in the digital media ecosystem to trust any DNT signal they receive,” industry consultant Alan Chapell said in a post to the [W3] group. “As a result, the entire framework is open to question. In any other group, this issue would result in a full stop until the questions are addressed.”

So, Reader: if you're afraid that Microsoft or some other nefarious entity is secretly not-tracking you when you really wish they would, take courage from knowing that ad trade groups like the Digital Advertising Alliance have your back.

Does Social Media Define Your Identity

Social networks such as Facebook and on-line gaming are changing people's view of who they are and their place in the world, according to a report for the government's chief scientist.

The report, published by Prof Sir John Beddington, says that traditional ideas of identity will be less meaningful.

One consequence could be communities becoming less cohesive.

This change could be harnessed to bring positive changes or if ignored could fuel social exclusion, says the study.

"This can be a positive force, exemplified by the solidarity seen in the London 2012 Olympics or a destructive force, for example the 2011 riots," says the report.

"Due to the development of smart phones, social networks and the trend towards (greater) connectivity disparate groups can be more easily mobilised where their interests temporarily coincide."

"For example," it says, "a 'flash mob' can be mobilised between people who have not previously met".

The report, entitled "Future Identities," says that near continuous access to the internet, termed "hyper-connectivity", will drive profound changes to society over the next 10 years.

'Hyper-connectivity'

Prof Beddington commissioned the study as part of the Government Office for Science's Foresight programme - the influential Foresight reports look ahead to highlight emerging trends in science and technology with a view to informing policies across government departments.

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The internet can allow many people to realise their identities more fully”

Foresight report

"The most dynamic trend (in determining identity) is hyper-connectivity," Prof Beddington told BBC News.

"The collection and use of data by government and the private sector, the balancing of individual rights and liberties against privacy and security and the issue of how to tackle social exclusion, will be affected by these trends," he said. "I hope the evidence in today's report will contribute to the policy making process."

This latest report on identity undertook 20 separate reviews in which leading UK and international experts assessed research in computer science, criminology and social sciences.

It states that the changing nature of identities will have substantial implications for what is meant by communities and by social integration. The study shows that traditional elements that shape a person's identity, such as their religion, ethnicity, job and age are less important than they once were.

Instead, particularly among younger people, their view of themselves is shaped increasingly by on-line interactions of social networks and on online role playing games.

The study found that far from creating superficial or fantasy identities that some critics suggest, in many cases it allowed people to escape the preconceptions of those immediately around them and find their "true" identity. This is especially true of disabled people who told researchers that online gaming enabled them to socialise on an equal footing with others.

London riotsSocial networks also helped people organise during riots in 2011

"The internet can allow many people to realise their identities more fully, " the authors write. "Some people who have been shy or lonely or feel less attractive discover they can socialise more successfully and express themselves more freely online".

The report points out that in 2011, 60% of internet users were members of a social network site, a huge surge in usage, up 43% from 2007. Consequently, it says that there may greater political activism using these networks as was seen in the revolution in Tunisia and the mobilisation of dissent in Egypt and Libya.

There will also be a blurring of work and social identities as photos and details of people's personal lives become increasingly public on social networking sites. The report cites a hypothetical example of how a young person was denied promotion because her employer found drunken photos of her from her university days.

The report says that as the distinction between online and real world identities diminishes criminals are likely to try and exploit the many new forms of interlinked data relating people's identities and from social media and professional and financial websites in order to steal identities.

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Does Social Media Really Have an Impact On Business Sales

(Juanjuan Zhang, MIT Sloan School of Management) It’s the Age of Social Media, and most companies are all in. They vie for likes on Facebook; they post pictures of products on Instagram; and they collect followers on Twitter and Weibo — China’s popular microblogging site — and regularly post about new services.

And yet, even as companies continue to spend time and money on social media, many are dubious about whether all that posting, tweeting, and retweeting has any effect on the bottom line.

My collaborators from Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management and I have just completed a large-scale field experiment on the Chinese microblogging service Weibo with a large global media company that produces documentary TV shows. We found that when the company posted about its shows, viewership rose 77 percent. Reposts by influential users, meanwhile, increased viewership by another third. The upshot: Social media platforms, like Twitter and Weibo, can have a significant impact on sales.

This is good news for companies and their marketing departments. Many of them had a hunch social media was an effective tool, but in the end it was only a guess. According to the 2014 CMO Survey, corporate spending on social media is expected to jump 128 percent in the next five years. Only 15 percent of marketers, however, said their companies had evidence that social media had an impact.

As marketing platforms go, Twitter is a godsend. Its barriers to entry are low. It’s an egalitarian marketplace. And it’s cheap — posting is free, and adding multimedia screenshots or artwork is easy and inexpensive. But not all tweets are created equal, and our study has several implications for companies that use Twitter and Weibo.

The first is obvious: You must tweet regularly to your community. Your followers are already predisposed to your brand, which means they are naturally more open to, and tolerant of, your advertising. Use that to your advantage. When communicating with this group, simple can be effective, we found. (Twitter’s 140-character limit enforces this nicely.) But your tweets should be informative if you expect an influx of new customers. Provide a link to the specific product or service you’re promoting to bridge the gap between the customer’s intention and his actions.

A second lesson involves how companies use so-called “influentials” to reinforce their messaging. Influentials are not actual celebrities — no Justin Biebers here — but rather ordinary people who have large Twitter followings, who tweet regularly, and whose followers tend to retweet them. We found that, when an opinion leader who (and this is critical) had a big following that did not overlap with the audience of the media company reposted the company’s message, customer engagement in the form of television viewership increased by 33 percent.

Again, short and straightforward messages can be powerful. We designed the text of the reposted messages for consistency, and, frankly, none of the posts was particularly funny or clever. Rather, they said things like: “This documentary looks interesting; you should check it out.” We did, however, make to provide a link to the particular show. This kind of information caters to the expanded audience that may not be familiar with your product and brand. Considering the fact that companies experienced a 25 percent increase in sales through the Internet last year, these links are vital to driving sales.

A third takeaway concerns third-party advertising: The fact that basic company posts and reposts have the desired impact might reduce the need for it. Third-party advertising is one of the most common ways social media companies make money. The ads — which appear on customers’ timelines or home pages and look similar to other ordinary tweets or posts — are targeted through algorithms based on a person’s Web activity and browsing history. The marketer has parsed through that person’s data and determined that she is likely receptive to its message.

The problem with third-party advertisements is that many consumers view them skeptically. Not only are these posts forced upon them, but their content is also so unnervingly accurate that it often comes across as a creepy ad campaign designed by Big Brother. Our study casts doubt on whether companies even need third-party advertisements.

Finally, our research contains a lesson for Twitter and Weibo: You could charge companies for your service. It’s clear that such social media platforms provide a lucrative stage for companies to interact with consumers; they could rightfully demand a piece of the action. This charge could come in the form of a fee to open a business account, or it could be a monthly payment that allows a set number of promotions.

Twitter and Weibo are virtual ecosystems. When companies use these platforms wisely, they can make tangible improvements to their bottom lines.

The study is Tweets and Sales, by Juanjuan Zhang, MIT Sloan School of Management. Co-authored with Shiyang Gong, Ping Zhao, and Xuping Jiang, School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University.

Juanjuan Zhang is associate professor of marketing at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Does the personal computer have a future?

Photo(Mark Huffman @ ConsummerAffairs) Yes, but sales of desktops and laptops have "flatlined"! For the first time in five years, sales of personal computers (PCs) did not go up during the holiday season. International Data Corporation (IDC) reports worldwide PC shipments totaled 89.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, down 6.4 percent compared to the same quarter in 2011 and worse than the forecast decline of 4.4 percent.

 

Maybe it's not surprising. After all, mobile computing is now the rage. Consumers are doing their computing on the go, using a wide variety of tablets and smartphones that didn't exist just a few years ago.

The boxy desktop computer, and even its cousin, the laptop, appear to be unloved in this new environment and maybe even a little old-fashioned. And to make matters worse, consumers continue to report problems with their PCs that their tablets don't seem to have.

Problems

Celita of Keokuk, Iowa, reports a problem with her Dell laptop right out of the box.

Dell Customer Service Jan. 14, 2013, 4:49 p.m.
Consumers rate Dell Customer Service

"When I turned it on it said it was doing thousands of updates," Celita wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. "So I let it run. The second day, it was still doing updates, so I called Dell. Dell says it should not be doing it, but let it run."

Despite that, she said the machine never finished updating and never operated properly and that customer service could provide no help.

H.L., of Los Angeles, reports a new Hewlett Packard PC, lightly used for web surfing, lasted less than two years. Cecelia of Brooklyn, N.Y., said her HP's hard drive failed after a year. In many caces frustrations like these prompt consumers to look at computing alternatives.

Does all this spell the end of the PC era? A lot of tech experts don't think so. Jeremy Laird, writing in Tech Radar last July, found the conventional PC proving to be remarkably resilient.

Industry is flatlining

"Sure, the PC is essentially flatlining as an industry," he wrote. "In the western world, refreshing the installed base rather than actual sales growth is where we're at. But that's very different from saying PCs are about to disappear.

From a software standpoint, Microsoft is trying to breathe new life into the PC with Windows 8, which features several departures from past operating systems, including a touch-screen function. But Windows 8 not only powers PCs but tablets as well, providing desktops and their more mobile laptop counterparts with some of the same features from the tablet world.

But not every PC user, apparently, is comfortable with that. Bill, of Burke, Va, said he bought a new Toshiba Satellite computer as a gift for his father-in-law as a Christmas gift. Though it came with Windows 8 pre-installed, he paid a computer store to downgrade the system to the more traditional Windows 7. He too, reports a bad PC experience.

"I didn't even open the box, just took it to the pros to do the install," Bill wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. "Out of the box, the G key on the laptop was broken. It works if you mash down on it, but it needs to be replaced, which can only be done by replacing entire key board for $140. It was under warranty but Toshiba refuses to do anything."

Betting on the PC

PhotoOne company that does not believe in the death of the PC is Intel, for decades a leader in chip design and manufacturing. It's invested recently in a line of sleek Ultrabook notebook computers and is currently developing a new processor that it says will improve computing and graphics features while using less electricity.

Xi3 Corporation is another company betting on the future of the PC, while trying to redefine what a PC is. At the just completed Consumer Electronics Show, it introduced the Z3RO Pro Computer, showcasing what it said is the future of small form factor desktop computing.

Tiny desktop

Unlike the boxy desktop, the Xi3's tiny chassis is the size of a typical paperback book, making it smaller than most tablets.

However, it's a computer designed for general computer use, including home and office environments, and is powerful enough for specialty applications such as digital signage environments and home theater use.

"The Z3RO Pro Computer is the ideal size for the ultimate in small form factor x86-based general computing," said Jason A. Sullivan , the company's founder and CEO. "In this post-PC era, it's clear that there's no reason to buy a tower or mini-tower computer ever again. Not only does the Z3RO Pro Computer help round out the Xi3 product line, it also marks the end of desktop computing as we've known it."

The tiny "desktop" is available with:

  • A dual-core 64-bit, x86-based processor running at 1.65GHz (with 2MB of Level2 Cache),
  • An integrated graphics processor (GPU) containing 80 graphics cores (or shaders),
  • 4GB of DDR3 RAM,
  • 16GB—1TB of internal solid-state SSD storage (with up to 12Gbps throughput speeds),
  • Two display ports providing maximum resolution of 2560x1600 (including 1 HDMI/DisplayPort v1.2 and 1 Mini-DisplayPort v1.2),
  • Four eSATAp 3.0 ports, and
  • 1Gb Ethernet port.

The computer ships standard with openSUSE Linux v11.2, but will also run an array of other x86-based Operating Systems, including Windows 8 and lower and other Linux variants. Perhaps best of all for consumers, it starts at $399.

Still kicking

Jay Chou, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, also doesn't believe the PC is on its deathbed. He said some of the fourth quarter's slow PC sales can be attributed to faulty marketing, with too much attention paid to Windows 8's touch-centric innovations and too little to other positive aspects of the operating system.

"As Windows 8 matures, and other corresponding variables such as Ultrabook pricing continue to drop, hopefully the PC market can see a reset in both messaging and demand in 2013," he said.

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Don’t Let These 4 Mobile Marketing Misconceptions Hold You Back

Don’t Let These 4 Mobile Marketing Misconceptions Hold You Back image mobile screen 600x450() Don’t Let These 4 Mobile Marketing Misconceptions Hold You Back

If you’ve been reading our blog over the last few months, you know that we haven’t exactly been shy when it comes to talking about mobile.

We can’t help it! Mobile presents a huge opportunity for small businesses marketing and nothing gets us more excited than seeing our customers succeed.

But, we also understand that not everyone shares our excitement. If you own a small business or are responsible for marketing a nonprofit organization, you may have some reservations, doubts, questions, or possibly even concerns about whether or not you should be thinking about mobile right now.

It’s understandable. You’ve put a lot of work into marketing your business and any change you make needs to be worth the time and energy that comes along with it. When considering what role (if any) mobile should have in marketing your business, you want to make sure you’re making decisions based on the right information.

Here are a few common misconceptions you may want to reconsider.

1. “My customers aren’t using mobile.”

Sound familiar?

Without question, this is one of the most common pieces of feedback we receive when talking to business owners about mobile marketing.

In a recent Constant Contact survey, 56 percent of respondents who said they weren’t using mobile technology cited a lack of customer demand as the reason why they hadn’t put a mobile strategy in place.

But while you may not think mobile is on the mind of your customers today, there’s a good chance that it will be sooner than you think.

Here’s a snapshot of what’s happened in the world of mobile in the last year alone:

  • Smartphone usage in the U.S. increased by 50 percent in 2012 (Kleiner Perkins)
  • The number of emails being opened on mobile increased by 330 percent (Litmus)
  • Tablet usage doubled in the U.S. in 2012 (Pew Research Center)

It doesn’t matter if you run a family-owned farm that just celebrated its 75th anniversary or a restaurant that just opened its doors, mobile already influences the lives of your customers and will have a greater influence in the years to come. Now is the time to get ready.

2. “Mobile isn’t important in my industry.”

Even if you accept that your customers are using mobile, you may still have doubts about whether “being mobile” matters for your particular industry.

It’s a fair argument, especially if you’re working in an industry that’s not typically known for being technologically advanced. But here’s the thing: regardless of whether or not you and your peers are ahead of the mobile curve, your next great customer probably is.

Think of one of the most popular tools consumers are using to find new businesses — online search. Did you know that searches on mobile devices are expected to surpass desktop searches by the end of 2013?

It’s true. Did you also know that 73 percent of mobile searches trigger additional action and conversion while 55 percent of purchase-related conversions occur within one hour of an initial mobile search?

This means that regardless of what you do, more and more customers’ first contact with your business is going to be on a smartphone or tablet in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. You can hold on to the belief that your industry doesn’t need to change or you can put yourself ahead of your industry peers and offer an experience new and current customers will thank you for.

3. “I don’t have the marketing budget for mobile.”

While there are certainly expenses you may want to take on to improve the mobile experience you offer customers in the future, a lot of the work that needs to be done won’t come with an additional price tag.

Let’s take a look at the work you’re already doing:

  • Are you on Facebook? 50 percent of Facebook Page views now come from a mobile device (Facebook).
  • Are you using email marketing? 43 percent of emails are now being opened on a mobile device (Litmus).
  • Are you thinking about online listings and review sites? 45 percent of all Yelp searches happen on a mobile device (Yelp).

This proves that mobile is already influencing the way people interact with and find your business online.

When you’re starting out, mobile shouldn’t cost you a dime. What it will cost you is some time to think of ways to make marketing tools like email, social media, and search work better for your increasingly mobile audience.

Here are a few tips to help get you started:

4. “I’m not good with technology.”

Without the right context, mobile can be a pretty intimidating word. But mobile is more about your audiences’ behavior than it is about the actual technology behind it.

When we’re talking about a mobile-friendly email, what we’re really talking about is an email that looks good and is easy for your reader to consume when they aren’t seated in front of a laptop or desktop computer.

You might not know how to build a mobile app (I certainly don’t,) but you can understand a few basic principles to help guide your design decisions.

  • Mobile-friendly emails use a single column template. Why? Because people don’t want to double click or pinch to zoom while reading your email on a smartphone or tablet.
  • Mobile-friendly emails use a single call-to-action. Why? Because people are more likely to be scanning your emails quickly on a mobile device and you don’t want them to miss the point of your email.
  • Mobile-friendly emails should be clear and concise in content and design. Why? Because people are far less likely to read every word of your email while they’re checking their inbox waiting in line, sitting in a meeting, or lying on the couch at the end of the day.

Once you accept that your audience is becoming more mobile, you’ll be on your way to adapting your strategy to meet their expectations.

Making the case for mobile

Later this month, we are hosting a free live webinar called, “Making the Case for Mobile.”

In this one-hour online event, we will cover:

  • Why you can’t ignore mobile even if you think your customers aren’t using it
  • How mobile is the new reality for small businesses and nonprofit organizations
  • What you can do today to become more mobile friendly

Doorbell plays MP3 tunes for visitors

You can share your good taste in music before your guests even enter the front door with the MP3 DJ Doorbell. Setup is simple: The push-button doorbell can be attached near your front door with the included double-sided adhesive. The doorbell’s speakers, which have a slot for an SD card, can be attached to a wall or placed on a shelf inside your living room up to 165 feet away from the doorbell. When someone presses the doorbell, it sends a wireless signal to the speaker, which then plays music stored on a memory card. Priced at about $50, the MP3 DJ Doorbell from Swann includes MP3 editing software.

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Drive-By Viruses Major Online Threat

In the past you could avoid most email viruses if you didn't click on a link in a spam email or open its attachment. You could open the email, read the contents, delete it and you were fine.

No so anymore. “Drive-by” viruses are becoming more common, infecting computers when the user simply opens the email. While you can be victimized by a drive-by virus when opening an email, it's not the only way.

Often computers are infected without the users knowledge when they visit a particular website or click on a deceptive pop-up, thinking they are closing it. The consumer is unaware of what is happening until the virus takes control of the device.

FBI Scam

In Connecticut, Attorney General George Jepsen says a number of his constituents have reported being victimized by a drive-by virus delivered by email that looks like it's from the FBI. In this case, the virus installs what is known as “ransomware,” software that seizes control of all computer files until the victim pays a “ransom” to free the data.

In this particular case the virus immediately locks the computer and displays a screen stating there has been a violation of federal law and that the user’s IP address was identified by the FBI for viewing child pornography and other illegal content.

The message then demands money through a prepaid money card service as a “fine” to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Our office has received complaints from consumers who we believe have been victimized by this malicious email scam,” Jepsen said. “It’s important for consumers to be informed and to exercise caution to protect themselves from scams like this. Never click on a link or open an email attachment from someone you do not know and trust. I would urge any Connecticut resident who receives this email to report it immediately.”

Links and attachments

In addition to not clicking on links or attachments, consumers should immediately delete any suspicious emails without opening and reading them. Not only are these viruses used to extort money, they may continue to operate on the computer and could be used to commit online banking and credit card fraud. Infected computers may not operate normally, and users may require the assistance of a local computer expert to remove the virus.

The FBI is cooperating with the National White Collar Crime Center on this issue and wants to hear from victims. You can reach their website here.

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Drop Dropbox

Dropbox uses a referral model to grow. If you send invitations to your friends and they create new Dropbox accounts, you get additional free storage space. There’s nothing wrong with that business model, but if you’re going to use a social strategy to grow a service that depends on secure file transfers, you had better have your back-end processes buttoned down. And Dropbox doesn’t!

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Dropbox Has Been Hacked - Change Your Password

Dropbox has admitted that hackers have compromised some of its user accounts. The company says that hackers got user names and passwords when they broke into other websites. They used them to sign into "a small number of Dropbox accounts." Dropbox didn't say how many accounts were affected. It has already contacted the users it knows were compromised.

In more bad news, a hacker also used a stolen password to break into a Dropbox employee's account which contained a document with a list of Dropbox users' email addresses. Lo and behold, those email addresses started getting spam. Users complained to Dropbox about it and that's how the company discovered the security problem.

So, it's a good idea to change your Dropbox password or to at least check a new Dropbox webpage that lets you look at all recent log-ins to your account. If you see something fishy, change your password for sure.

And if you are like most of us, and tend to use the same user name and password for each web app you use, you might want to quit doing that.  Remember, a few weeks ago Yahoo got hacked and the bad guys got 400,000 passwords to e-mail accounts.

Dropbox is promising to improve its security in a few weeks by adding an optional two-step login, where you would enter you user name and password, and then a special code sent to you elsewhere, like a text via your phone.

Dropbox Investigating Possible Security Breach

(CNN) -- Dropbox, the popular cloud-storage service, is investigating whether a security breach is to blame for a recent wave of spam e-mail sent to users.

The company is investigating internally and has brought in an outside team of experts "to make sure we leave no stone unturned," according to a post from an employee on the Dropbox forums.

"While we haven't had any reports of unauthorized activity on Dropbox accounts, we've taken a number of precautionary steps and continue to work around the clock to make sure your information is safe," the post says.

On Monday, users of the forums had begun complaining about receiving a flood of spam in their e-mail. Some of them said the e-mail address impacted is one they have only used to create their Dropbox account.

Many of the users who complained are from Europe and at least some of the spam messages are scams masquerading as messages from European gambling sites.

Many users also had wondered whether an hour-long outage Tuesday was related to the problem. But in the forum post, Dropbox said the outage "was incidental and not caused by any external factor or third party."

It has been just over a year since a glitch briefly let people use any password they wanted to sign into any Dropbox user's account. The company said that problem, which lasted for about four hours, was caused by errors in a code update.

Dropbox has roughly 50 million users who, according to the site, upload a billion files to the service every 48 hours.

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Dropbox redesign brings photo viewer, better file management

Dropbox has launched a major redesign, simplifying many file management tasks and bringing a new video and photo viewer. The first thing you'll notice in the new Dropbox UI is the action bar which lets you sort files by name, date, size and type. Click on a file, and the action bar will get new options -- for example, you can download, delete, rename, move or copy a file from there.

You can also perform these actions by right-clicking on a file, which makes Dropbox more similar to Microsoft's Windows Explorer than ever. Dropbox now also has a new video and photo viewer...

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DuckDuckGo Challenges Google Bing Yahoo with Honest Search Results

Is duckduckgo.com the honest search engine we have been waiting for? I’m tired of being bubbled and tracked. I’m tired of getting search results that benefit everyone but me.

Comments form searchengineland.com: Here at Search Engine Land we regularly hear from people who have created “radical,” innovative,” “next generation” search technology, promising to “fix” the “broken” search we all allegedly pitifully struggle with today. In virtually every instance that I can remember, these promises over-hype and under-deliver, rarely offering something that becomes part of my regular search arsenal.

But the bizarrely-named DuckDuckGo is different, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s actually a very good search engine—and it truly can do useful things. Second, the creator of DuckDuckGo has a nearly maniacal obsession with privacy, and has built very powerful tools into the search engine that go to great lengths to keep your queries (and your identity) anonymous.

DuckDuckGo is also remarkable in that it’s the creation of a single individual, serial entrepreneur and angel investor Gabriel Weinberg. And rather than hyping his creation as so many others do, Weinberg has kept a comparatively low profile, doing little to promote the search engine since launching it in September 2008. Despite this, DuckDuckGo has developed quite a following, with 5 million search queries this month.

Since the first of the year, Weinberg has been more aggressively marketing the search engine with a campaign aimed squarely at Google, with the slogan “Google tracks you. We don’t.” For those of you who aren’t aware of the various ways that Google collects and shares information about your searching behavior, you might find Weinberg’s claims disturbing—even shocking. More on that, and how DuckDuckGo differs from Google, below.

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Comments from nurelm.com:

The giant that is Google has not stopped other companies from jumping into the Search Engine arena. Obviously emulating Google is not a winning strategy.  Companies like Blekko and DuckDuckGo have realized this, and attempted to round out the Search Engine experience.  DuckDuckGo’s current marketing strategy is aggressively taking on the G giants where it may hurt the most – privacy.

A small Search Engine, manned solely by Gabriel Weinberg which launched in 2008, has recently launched the aggressive campaign stating “Google tracks you.  We don’t”. Weinberg, who is still the sole operator, makes a pretty strong claim but it still remains to be seen if the general public truly cares enough about their privacy to move away from the largest search engine. DuckDuckGo’s privacy policy is chock-full of information regarding the importance of search and how privacy should play a greater role to users. Ongoing discussions about privacy regarding social networking sites like Facebook are addressed but search engine privacy is  often overlooked.

Google has recently offered the ability to opt out of Google Analytics with a browser plugin , but unless the currently casual Internet user actively seeks it out they would never know about the option.  As more consumers raise  privacy concerns, DuckDuckGo may have a shot at becoming an outlier site with some clout.  Blekko and DuckDuckGo recently entered into a partnership.  As people’s tastes evolve there may cease to be just one colossal Search Engine in several years.

Comments from moneyblognewz.com: I see some people on the web that are uncomfortable for the returned sets by the search engines. They say that search engine should provide related contents and we should be able to pick the page we want and we mustn't be forced for some preselected pages.

DuckDuckGo has a nice user interface as Twitter and Facebook have, when you scroll the bottom of the page, it loads new results so you don't need to press a page number to get more results as in Google. Moreover, nowadays, Google uses plus profiles in its results to promote its social platform. This can be a gossip circulating on the web by Google opponents but it sometimes seems like this.

As a result of this, supporters of DuckDuckGo find it significantly productive. I have been using it for a week but I didn't see any improvements (I exclude lacking). This is because although Google uses one or two of the results to promote something, most of the time it can give me what I search for in the first page. I rarely go to next pages and if I do click in Google, that means I am searching wrong thing or in wrong way and if I would try the same thing in other engines, I wouldn't find. I don't concern about privacy a lot and I allow Google to keep track of me and it does good job with it, no need to change.

Comments from Kelley O'Donald: Google blatantly tells us in their new privacy statement that they will use our information to deliver their services.  It is the model of we are the product of the product, but for some of these services its not that we are making the product better it is the fact that they are stealing our data which leads to our privacy to marketing companies for money.  So there must be other alternatives and I am on a quest to find best of breed alternatives. 

Lets start with Google search.  I have recently found that DuckDuckGo does not breach your privacy based on their privacy statement.  They do use affiliate links to sites like Amazon and eBay to make a percentage of your purchases.  That is alright by me for not collecting personal information and then selling it for marketing purposes.

DuckDuckGo does not store ip address or UserAgent and does not link other online ids to your search criteria.  Your searches are anonymous by default.  Here is a quote that sums up what I am talking about from DuckDuckGo's website, "For these reasons, DuckDuckGo takes the approach to not collect any personal information. The decisions of whether and how to comply with law enforcement requests, whether and how to anonymize data, and how to best protect your information from hackers are out of our hands. Your search history is safe with us because it cannot be tied to you in any way.

For those who are concerned about their privacy and want to use duckduckgo, simply go to their website and then click the arrow in the upper right search area of your browser.  Most browsers have this now like Firefox and IE.

Google blatantly tells us in their new privacy statement that they will use our information to deliver their services.  It is the model of we are the product of the product, but for some of these services its not that we are making the product better it is the fact that they are stealing our data which leads to our privacy to marketing companies for money.  So there must be other alternatives and I am on a quest to find best of breed alternatives. 

Lets start with Google search.  I have recently found that DuckDuckGo does not breach your privacy based on their privacy statement.  They do use affiliate links to sites like Amazon and eBay to make a percentage of your purchases.  That is alright by me for not collecting personal information and then selling it for marketing purposes.

DuckDuckGo does not store ip address or UserAgent and does not link other online ids to your search criteria.  Your searches are anonymous by default.  Here is a quote that sums up what I am talking about from DuckDuckGo's website, "For these reasons, DuckDuckGo takes the approach to not collect any personal information. The decisions of whether and how to comply with law enforcement requests, whether and how to anonymize data, and how to best protect your information from hackers are out of our hands. Your search history is safe with us because it cannot be tied to you in any way.

For those who are concerned about their privacy and want to use duckduckgo, simply go to their website and then click the arrow in the upper right search area of your browser.  Most browsers have this now like Firefox and IE.

Summation: I don’t know if duckduckgo.com is the definitive answer. Competition is tough and the search engine heavy hitters wield a lot of power. But if something doesn’t happen soon internet search will become just another yellowpages monopoly sucking up all of our advertising money, with search results going to the highest bidder. And us poor searchers will only see what “they” want us to see. Give duckduckgo.com a try….

EU Fines Microsoft $732 Million In Browser Brawl

(Mathew J. Schwartz @ InfoWeek) Microsoft was fined 561 million euros ($732 million) Wednesday for a "serious infringement" of its agreement with European Union antitrust regulators. "Today, the commission adopted a decision sanctioning Microsoft for its failure to comply with the legally binding commitments which it made to the commission," said Joaquin Almunia, vice president of the European Commission and the commissioner responsible for its competition policies, at a Wednesday press conference in Brussels.

Specifically, Microsoft was sanctioned for breaking an agreement that it made with the European Commission, which is the executive body of the European Union, in response to EU antitrust concerns over Microsoft tying its Windows operating system to its Internet Explorer browser. In 2009, the products respectively commanded 90% of the operating system market share in Europe and 55% of the browser market.

[ For the latest on Java vulnerabilities, see Java Emergency Patch Slaps McRAT Infections. ]

To settle those antitrust concerns, Microsoft in December 2009 agreed that until 2014, it would create a "choice screen" in Windows for European users, which would allow them to select the browser they wanted. According to EU officials, between March and November 2010, people downloaded 84 million browsers via the choice screen.

But the Wednesday fine against Microsoft was triggered by the company dropping the browser-choice screen in later versions of Windows. "Although Microsoft did make the choice screen available in March 2010, the choice screen was not rolled out as required following the launch of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 in May 2011," said Almunia. "As a consequence, during more than a year, until July 2012, around 15.3 million users did not see the choice screen as they should have."

Almunia said the steep fine -- which under EU law could have been up to 10% of Microsoft's annual revenue, meaning $7.4 billion -- reflected both the gravity of Microsoft's offense and its duration, but was also meant to serve as a deterrent to other businesses. "If companies agree to offer commitments which then become legally binding, they must do what they have committed to do or face the consequences -- namely, the imposition of sanctions," he said.

A statement issued Wednesday by Microsoft said the company took full responsibility for failing to continue offering a browser-choice screen in Windows, and said a technical problem was to blame for the lapse. "We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it," read Microsoft's statement. "We provided the commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake -- or anything similar -- in the future."

The EU's approach to consumer protection mirrors that practiced by the Federal Trade Commission, which lacks the power to fine first-time offenders. Instead, the FTC seeks legally binding settlements in which the alleged offenders agree to discontinue their violations of consumer protection laws.

Likewise, rather than levying fines, the European Union often first seeks legally binding commitments from a company to alter its regulation-infringing ways. Such was the approach with Microsoft, and Almunia said it had led to the desired effect: increased competition in the Web browser market. "Of course, the browser market has evolved a lot since then -- and fortunately so," he said. "Users can now easily choose, download and install the browser they prefer, which was precisely the objective of the commission. Easy access to different browsers encourages companies to continue to innovate to provide users with the best products."

Irrespective of the effect that the EU's antitrust action had on the browser market, there's clearly been a browser renaissance in recent years, with Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox, and Apple's Safari now providing strong competition against IE in terms of features, security and reliability.

Attend Interop Las Vegas May 6-10 and learn the emerging trends in information risk management and security. Use Priority Code MPIWK by March 22 to save an additional $200 off the early bird discount on All Access and Conference Passes. Join us in Las Vegas for access to 125+ workshops and conference classes, 300+ exhibiting companies, and the latest technology.

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Email Privacy Protection

(Perry Chiaramonte Fox News) Law enforcement officials will try to make their case for leaving in place a 25-year-old email privacy law critics call woefully outdated as the Senate continues to weigh adding new protections to safeguard digital communications.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is debating a proposed revision of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which once kept digital correspondence reasonably confidential, but has, according to critics, been left in the dust by the Internet Age. When first enacted in 1986, few people kept old emails that can now be stored cheaply and indefinitely. Yet the law still requires only an administrative subpoena for law enforcement to access emails older than six months. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wants the law revised to require a court-issued warrant, and also has other changes in mind.

    "If privacy is an impediment to law enforcement, it is a good impediment."

- Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst

“This critical privacy law is significantly outdated and outpaced by rapid changes in technology and the changing mission of our law enforcement agencies.” Leahy said Monday

Leahy played a key role in drafting the original ECPA, long before technological advances like cloud storage and hyper-fast Internet connectivity were a reality.

“When I led the effort to write the ECPA more than 25 years ago, no one could have imagined that emails would be stored electronically for years or envisioned the many new threats to privacy in cyberspace," he said. "That is why I am working to update this law to reflect the realities of our time and to better protect privacy in the digital age.”

Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said the law must be updated in order to preserve the intent of the men who framed the Constitution.

"The Fourth Amendment protects the right to be left alone from interference by the government," Napolitano said. "While the Founders could not have contemplated the digital era, it is clear that their values and the requirements in the Fourth Amendment--a judicially-issued search warrant upon a finding of probable cause--are valid and vibrant today. All rational persons want their privacy protected and our privacy is no less protectable because we use the Internet than when we use the mails.

"If privacy is an impediment to law enforcement, it is a good impediment," Napolitano added.

The proposed revisions have gained support from across the political spectrum, with conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist and the American Civil Liberties Union's Laura Murphy penning an editorial for The Hill backing it.

“Today, if the police want to come into your house and take your personal letters, they need a warrant," the pair wrote. "If they want to read those same letters saved on Google or Yahoo they don’t. The Fourth Amendment has eroded online.

“…At the time ECPA was passed, digital storage was expensive. Emails were typically discarded or downloaded within six months of being received, and sensitive material was stored on paper or a local hard drive. Today, storage is cheap and seemingly endless, so why would you delete an important email already stored in a simple searchable format,” reads a question posed by the unlikely pair later in the column.

Officials in law enforcement and some lawmakers have pushed back, saying the proposed changes would impede vital investigations. The Judiciary Committee ranking Republican, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, has voiced concern the bill would create “new barriers.”

Norquist and Murphy dismissed that concern, writing that the new bill would actually alleviate confusion on the law.

“The medium, in this case, should not matter," they wrote. "The content is personal information that deserves full privacy protection consistent with the Constitution. If law enforcement would like to see your electronic documents stored with an Internet company, then they should need a warrant.”

“We recognize the importance of ensuring that government has the tools required for effective law enforcement, but extending warrant protection to cloud services and email that's more than six months old will not significantly impede investigations.”

Revisions could possibly be made at Thursday’s meeting to the bill as well as a Committee vote on the bill, an aide to the Judiciary Committee told FoxNews.com.

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End Is Nigh - Saab Automaker Files for Bankruptcy

The final desperate attempts to raise funds in China were frustrated by Saab's former owner General Motors which still holds key licences. Saab's owner Swedish Automobile said in a statement that "the company without further funding will be insolvent and that filing bankruptcy is in the best interests of its creditors.

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End Of The PC Era As We Know It

Forbes - Tim Worstall: There’s a good possibility that we’re seeing the end of the PC era. No, not the political correctness one, that’s unfortunately likely to be with us for some time. The era of the personal computer that is.

A map of the rise and rise of the personal computer over the past 30-odd years shows that the platform’s popularity may have at long last peaked.

Blogger Horace Dediu has posted a fascinating graph charting the relative sales of key computing platforms over the past 36 years, from the early days of 8-bit micros to the present day.

The key conclusion: smartphones and tablets are well on their way to becoming the defining personal computing platforms – in terms of units shipped – for the early 21st Century.

And here’s that very chart.

As you can see it’s clear that the iPhone and Android shipments together are larger than PC shipments alone. Perhaps not quite above PC and Mac shipments yet, but we can see that this is the way it’s going.

Of course this doesn’t mean the end of the computer era, not at all. We’re just seeing a change in the form factor and operating systems that our computers run on.

There’s several companies that should be worried about this as well: and not just the manufacturers of traditional box PCs. Microsoft could be seen to be having problems here. While there is indeed an offering for phones from the company it’s not really there in the market is it? And it really will be a change for the company when they’re not only not the default O/S for a new computer, but don’t even have a contender to be so.

Another company that might be looking over its shoulder here is Intel: all of those phones are powered by ARM chips, not by any of Intel’s offerings.

And this all confirms one of my own prejudices: OK, personal experiences is perhaps more accurate.

For reasons of a new job that requires a lot of travelling I’ve just replaced all of my phones/computers. And before I did this I sat down and actually thought about what it is that I used computing for. In reality, it’s, for me at least, a word processor, a browser to give me the internet and email and er, well not a great deal else. Perhaps a very little light spreadsheet use and the occasional YouTube visit. But that’s pretty much it.

And I’m reasonably sure that there’s quite a lot of people out there like me. Computers are simply a tool that we use to perform some number of tasks and we’re really entirely indifferent as to what is under the hood, processor, O/S, form factor, as long as we can perform those tasks.

And as I was running through what I needed a computer to be able to do I realised that a phone running, say, Google‘s Android can pretty much do everything that I want a computer to do. I don’t think it’s quite there yet but I was very close indeed to not buying a PC at all. If I was doing all of this again in perhaps a year, perhaps 18 months, I don’t think I in fact would have bought a PC. Just a reasonably top end smartphone (actually, wouldn’t have to be all that top end) plus, in the two places I’ll be travelling back and forth to, a monitor and keyboard that I could plug into said phone.

A truly portable computer in fast. All that I can see that would be needed as a change on the Android phone I did buy would be the necessary video and keyboard attachment slots. And given that I’ve not bothered to read the manual properly those might well exist already.

Oh sure, I’m sure there will continue to be people who buy PCs. It’ll still be a mass market item as well. But I do have a feeling that it’s going to go back to being a specific machine, used for specific tasks, rather than the general all purpose machine that we all feel somehow naked for not having. That position, the default thing that you’d expect near every adult to have, to be able to use to some level, I do have this feeling that’s going to end up being a smartphone along with a couple of peripherals to turn it into something with decent screen size and input options.

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How to prepare for the end of the PC era

TechRepublic - Patrick Gray: Takeaway: The change in market share of core components, like computer memory, should serve as a leading indicator that changes to the traditional IT model are coming, and change always favors the prepared.

I read recently that, for the first time in history, orders for common DRAM memory chips destined for PCs slipped behind orders for mobile devices. This has little immediate impact for CIOs and end users, but it does signify the end of an era when PCs and their manufacturers essentially controlled the market for components like memory chips and processors.

This change also lends observable credence to the concept of a post-PC era, when the once ubiquitous laptop and desktop are no longer the primary computing devices for most users. It’s been easy to laugh off this suggestion from inside the walls of a corporate IT department, but it’s noteworthy that control of the component markets is already shifting away from PC stalwarts like HP and toward a new generation of mobile players, many of whom have a small presence in corporate IT. Apple and Samsung have dominated the mobile phone and tablet markets and tend to have a very small presence in corporate IT, compared to familiar brands like HP, Dell, and Lenovo.

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Preparing for the end

One of the major hallmarks of the post-PC era, and the one most likely to give the average CIO fits, is that mobile devices are far more personal than the average corporate desktop. Whereas the average worker just a few years ago was quite happy to receive a generic grey laptop and BlackBerry, many now expect their iPhone, Android, iPad, and perhaps even a personal laptop to readily connect to corporate resources. Even if your company forbids access to these resources, employees are showing up with tablets to use as electronic notebooks, forwarding corporate files to cloud-based tools, and the most tech savvy are actively circumventing policies to make their devices work on the corporate network.

This is nothing new to the average CIO, but what is interesting is the growing expectation that corporate IT acts as the dreaded “dumb pipe” — they provide the infrastructure and resources but get out of the way on device selection, configuration, and restriction.

The best initial approach to dealing with this shift is gaining a deeper understanding of how your workforce expects to use its devices. Look to the newest entrants to your company for guidance, spending some time with hires straight out of school as well as hires from other companies. These people are the least familiar with your policies, and in many cases, they’ve come from organizations of different sizes or shapes than your own. Ask these people what they expect in terms of computing resources, and what they experienced at other organizations. You don’t need to adapt to every whim of this community, but their feedback will provide a good gauge of where your company stands in relation to the larger industry, and it may give you an early warning of an end user “revolt” if you have an overly restrictive policy.

For the longer term, consider what it means for your IT organization to get out of the end-user device business. For example, it may be liberating to no longer spend resources provisioning and tracking a giant pool of equipment. On the negative side of the ledger, the problems are well known — like supporting devices not controlled by IT and being deluged with questions related to everything from a bleeding-edge consumer platform to an ancient device that a misguided user wants to connect to the network.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives and dismiss the notion of an era when corporate IT becomes what amounts to a cloud service provider, rather than a one-stop hardware and application provider. The change in market share of core components, like computer memory, should serve as a leading indicator that changes to the traditional IT model are coming, and change always favors the prepared.

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Replace PC? Not So Fast!

I'm a big fan of tablets. I recommend them for most organizations as a springboard for encouraging employees at all levels to innovate, as well as for friends whose computing needs begin and end with email, Web browsing, and when they start to feel adventurous, e-books and online news feeds.

But let's not get carried away. From now through the foreseeable future (defined as three years for every business except the Psychic Hotline), tablets aren't going to replace PCs for most employees. There are just too many things PCs can do that tablets can't and, in many cases, aren't going to do.

Here's a look at where tablets fall short and where they fit in.

The tablet in the business environment
To make sure we're using our words the same way: If you give an employee a tablet and run a VDI client on it, the tablet hasn't replaced a PC so far as your software architecture is concerned. VDI doesn't replace PCs; it's just a different way to provide them. That, in fact, is the whole point -- your software doesn't have to change.

Also: As mentioned previously in this space, no matter how much we blather on about untethering knowledge workers, most employees who use PCs need them for heads-down production applications. Customer-service call centers, insurance underwriters, accounts payable staff -- fill in the blanks if you like, it's a very long list -- aren't going to get their jobs done on tablets because ... do I really have to spell this out?

But the PC is more than a software platform. It's a portal -- a window into a universe of information and capabilities. From that perspective, it's reasonable to ask whether tablets might, in fact, replace PCs as the employee portal of choice.

The answer: It depends on the employee. The more sophisticated the employee is in using information technology, the more likely it is the employee will want a tablet as an adjunct and won't accept one as a replacement. They'll want the tablet because when it can do what they need it to do, from anywhere and in a comfortable sitting position (for the employee, that is), untethered because it has batteries that last a day.

Where tablets fall short
For those employees, the tablet will be complementary rather than a replacement because of the long list of shortcomings when comparing current tablet technology to PCs.

Tablet shortcoming No. 1: Windows.

Here we're talking about the user interface style, not the Microsoft OS. PCs (I include Macs in the category) let you have more than one application open simultaneously -- that is, you can see more than one application at the same time.

Whether you're cutting and pasting information from a Web page into a document, clicking on a link in an email to open a Web page, or pasting an Excel chart into PowerPoint, having everything open in front of you makes a big difference. But you knew that.

(Of course, Galaxy Note 10.1 and the forthcoming Windows 8 Metro do include two-app split-screen capabilities, so window functionality may mature sooner than my three-year "foreseeable future." Let's hope.)

 

 

Tablet shortcoming No. 2: Screen real estate.

An average desktop PC has more than 200 square inches of real estate on hand. A laptop has about half that, which is still twice what an iPad provides. If a desktop or laptop user needs more, adding a second monitor is cheap and easy.

Whether the employee is working with a big spreadsheet or a layout-intensive document, is moving information around from one application to another (using the windowing capability), or is accessing an application while viewing a scanned document, having enough screen real estate is a bigger deal than just avoiding eyestrain. It allows for certain forms of work possible that would be impossible in a more cramped situation.

But you knew that too.

Tablet shortcoming No. 3: Work that goes beyond text entry.

Here are features I use all the time that aren't even glimmers on the iPad's horizon, whether your mobile word processing app of choice is Pages, Quickoffice, Office2HD, or Documents to Go:

  • Style-driven interparagraph spacing (although each app places space automatically between paragraphs, only Documents to Go users can specify the actual before and after spacing)
  • Mail-merge
  • Footnotes
  • Image captioning with automatic table and figure numbering
  • Cross-references
  • Document markup and commenting (although Office2HD on the iPad does Word-style -- and Word-compatible -- commenting and markup)

If you're sophisticated in your use of Microsoft Word, you knew all of this without my having to mention it. If, on the other hand, you're among those who say, with pride, "I only use 10 percent of Word's features anyway!" then you probably also say, with pride, that you don't know how to balance your checkbook.

Some advice: Learn more features. In this day and age, it's a hallmark of basic professionalism.

Tablet shortcoming No. 4: Printing.

While you can print from iOS and Android devices, caveats abound. To put it simply, with a PC I can print without hassles, on the printer I already own, without requiring new software.

Tablet shortcoming No. 5: Document scanning.

With a PC you can connect to any of a wide variety of cheap scanners or all-in-one devices. With an iPad, you can't. Sure, there are apps that "transform" your iPad into a scanner, but when it comes done to it, they don't cut it compared to what you can connect to a PC.

Tablet shortcoming No. 6: Pivot tables.

I don't use pivot tables very much, but I know lots of people who do. If you perform or consume analytics at any level, this is a big deal. If you did better on your SAT verbals than math, you won't care.

Tablet shortcoming No. 7: Blogging.

Many blog technologies use the TinyMCE editing system. Many people blog, which means many people use TinyMCE -- though likely not on their iPads because several of the selection-based features of TinyMCE don't translate well to the platform. With Android, it's even worse. (To be fair, the situation is improving, but we're a long time into the tablet "revolution" for it to still be as bad as it is.)

Tablet shortcoming No. 8: Backup and restore.

I have an external hard drive I use to back up my laptop. Combined with Allway Sync (or whatever other backup software you happen to like), backing up a PC is straightforward, even if you don't have a centralized IT department to handle the task for you automatically.

With an iPad, you can back up to your PC (hint: this means you're using a PC), or you can rely on cloud-based storage that automagically keeps your tablet synchronized with online storage.

But autosync isn't the same as backup and restore, for a very simple reason: Autosync propagates your mistakes to the cloud, at which point you're sunc -- that is to say, sync sunk. Autosync protects you from device failures, but not from the dreaded oh-no second (the fraction of a second separating your pushing the wrong button from your realizing you did so).

 

 

Tablets vs. PCs: Augment, not replace
I got tired of adding "but you knew that" -- except there's nothing here you didn't know. There's also nothing here those touting tablets as complete PC replacements for "average users" don't know. But there's a difference between what people know and what they know right now, when we're talking about the subject, because the usual discussion is about what tablets can do, not what they can't do.

Bottom line: For many employees -- those with heads-down production responsibilities -- tablets are irrelevant. For the rest, tablets are more likely to be an add-on technology, not a replacement. That's annoying from a cost perspective -- and yet another good reason to encourage BYOD.

This is the opportunity that was Microsoft's for the taking. Given the disastrous advance reviews Windows 8 has been receiving, though, it looks like Microsoft won't be taking advantage of it -- which means, sadly enough, that we won't either.

This story, "No, tablets won't replace PCs anytime soon," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis' Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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End of Windows XP Lessons Learned Over Past 12 Years

(Leo Sun @ MyWatchList) On April 8, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) will cease technical support of Windows XP, the 12-year-old operating system that is still the second most used operating system in the world after Windows 7.

While users can continue using XP, Microsoft will no longer provide XP users with automatic updates or technical assistance. However, Windows Security Essentials, its anti-malware suite, will be supported until July 2015.

Windows XP still has a 29.2% share of the world's operating systems, compared to a 47.5% share for Windows 7 and a combined 10.6% combined share for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. The longevity of Windows XP, often considered Microsoft's best operating system, has been a blessing and a curse for Microsoft.

Windows XP. (Source: Softpedia.com)

XP's dominance over the past decade has kept competitors such as Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) Mac OS X (3.2% share) and various distributions of Linux (1.6%) at bay, but it has also throttled sales of Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 8.1. That bottleneck, coupled with the steep decline in PC sales that started after Apple's launch of the iPad in 2010, caused Microsoft's Windows cash cow to start running dry.

As Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella takes over the top spot from Steve Ballmer, let's take a closer look at three lessons consumers and tech investors can learn from the end of Windows XP.

1. Windows XP was 'good enough' for most users
Windows XP was the last huge, innovative step that Microsoft took in operating systems.

Prior to Windows 95, the Windows GUI (graphical user interface) had simply "covered up" the traditional MS-DOS command prompt. In other words, clicking the icons and menus were simply visual shortcuts to prompt commands.

Windows 95 was a huge step forward for two major reasons -- the introduction of the "Start" button, which streamlined the clumsy menu system of the Windows 3.x series of operating systems, and the introduction of "Plug and Play" support. "Plug and Play" meant that most hardware didn't have to be configured through arcane command prompt menus and installation disks -- the system could automatically detect and install many more devices than before.

Windows 95 was still firmly built on MS-DOS foundations. (Source: Toastytech.com)

Windows notably evolved in two distinct paths -- the consumer series (Windows 95, 98) and the enterprise series (Windows NT, Windows 2000). Windows 95 and 98 were based on DOS, whereas NT and 2000 were built on a newer, secure system that wasn't dependent on the foundations of DOS. Therefore, Windows NT and 2000 were considered more secure options than their consumer counterparts.

Windows XP was the first system to unify both sides of the universe by completely eliminating the DOS foundations of the consumer series. It also improved support for USB devices, added enhanced security features, and added DirectX to simplify the setup of 3D games and multimedia.

These features, especially after being upgraded with three service packs, made Windows XP an ideal operating system that was simply "good enough" for most users.

In addition, it was still compatible with most modern software, and it was gracefully light on resources -- Windows XP can run on a PC with a 233-MHz processor with a mere 64MB or RAM and 1.5GB of free space on the hard drive. By comparison, Windows 8.1 requires a 1GHz processor, 1GB or RAM, and 16GB to 20GB of hard drive space.

2. Prettier, more restrictive operating systems made XP look much more attractive
Two of the most common complaints about Windows XP were that it wasn't as secure or aesthetically pleasing as Apple's Mac OS. Microsoft's response to both complaints was the ill-advised launch of Windows Vista in 2006.

Windows Vista: A beautiful nightmare. (Source: Softwareinreview.com)

Vista's aggressive control of the system frustrated users with constant confirmation boxes whenever they wanted to install programs or change system settings. In addition, many basic settings that worked flawlessly in Windows XP, such as file sharing, no longer functioned in Vista without major tweaks. Meanwhile, the graphical enhancements to the system, while easy on the eyes, wasted memory and drained the battery on laptops.

As a result, poor reviews throttled Windows Vista's growth and forced Microsoft to release Windows 7, a slimmed down version of Vista, only three years later in 2009. By comparison, the gap between XP and Vista was five years. Today, Vista has become a cautionary footnote, with a 3.3% market share in operating systems.

Unfortunately, Vista's failure simply reinforced the belief that XP was "good enough" for the everyday consumer.

3. It's not all about desktops and laptops
Although Windows XP is usually identified as a desktop or laptop operating system, it is also widely used in other machines.

95% of ATMs across the United States reportedly run on Windows XP. Upgrading a single ATM to Windows 7 can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, and U.S. banks have been reluctant to upgrade their 425,000 ATMs across the country.

95% of U.S. ATMs still use Windows XP. (Source: Extremetech.com)

Last year, a group of hackers in Europe exploited a security vulnerability in Windows XP ATMs with an infected flash drive to steal millions of Euros. That attack highlighted the fact that banks, unlike everyday users, must upgrade their ATMs by April 8 or risk being hit by new hacks.

Many point-of-sale (POS) devices in America also run the Windows XP version of Windows Embedded, a compact version of XP that is used in set-top boxes and vehicle computers.

POS devices at Target (NYSE: TGT  ) and Neiman Marcus were recently hit hard by malware attacks, highlighting the need for retailers to start upgrading their systems as well. Target reported 40 million payment card records and 70 million other records were compromised between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, and Neiman Marcus stated that 1.1 million cards were compromised between July and October 2013.

Last but not least, the U.S. Department of Health, which has XP installed on a large number of its machines, is reportedly negotiating with Microsoft for an extension beyond the April 8 deadline.

These essential upgrades in banking, retail, and the government could substantially boost Microsoft's slumping Windows OEM revenue, which fell 3% year-over-year last quarter.

The bottom line
Although Microsoft could get a boost from Windows upgrades in the consumer, banking, retail, and government sectors in the coming year, it still doesn't solve its three biggest problems -- the slow rate of adoption of Windows 8, which is regarded as a clumsy mishmash of desktop and tablet systems, fierce competition from free operating systems like Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) Chrome OS and Linux, and a global slowdown in PC sales.

What's your take on the end of Windows XP? Let me know in the comments section below!

There are few things that Bill Gates fears. Cloud computing is one of them. It’s a radical shift in technology that has early investors getting filthy rich, and we want you to join them. That’s why we are highlighting three companies that could make investors like you rich. You've likely only heard of one of them, so be sure to click here to watch this shocking video presentation

Entire Dual Core Computer Built Into USB Flash Drive

Norwegian company FXI Technologies showed off an amazing USB stick-sized portable computer prototype on Friday, Nov. 18. Code-named Cotton Candy because its 21 gram weight is the same as a bag of the confection, the tiny PC enables what its inventor calls "any-screen computing": the ability to turn any TV, laptop, phone, tablet, or set-top box into a dumb terminal for its Android-powered operating system.
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Entrepreneurs Should Get Office Space or Work From

working from home

() I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two types of entrepreneurs: Those who shouldn’t work from home  … and those who shouldn’t work from home.

This epiphany has only dawned on me recently — after seven years of working from my home office and working with business partners and colleagues who do the same.

I’ve known people who simply couldn’t concentrate or focus or discipline themselves to do the work when they were at their house.  And, until recently, I thought those were the only types of people who shouldn’t work from home.

So why the change of heart?

For the past seven years, I’ve had a sweet home office set up:  An office on it’s own floor with its own bathroom, a couch and doors that close me off from the screaming kids temptations of goofing-off on the first floor.

Now, however, we are in the process of moving to Charleston, SC, where I have separate office space about 25 minutes from our home.  I thought it would be a culture shock to have to drive to an actual office each day — but the truth is that I absolutely love it.

Why? Simple: I’ve come to the realization that I’m the type of person who has trouble “turning off the work” when my office and home-life are so closely mixed.

Even though I’ve thought, for all these years, that my office was separate enough from the living space of our home — the truth is that my mind conditioned me to feel like I was waking up in my office, eating dinner at the office, and sleeping at my office.

Over the past year, I’ve developed a productivity schedule in which I don’t check email until 10 am., and hammer our 2-3 priority to-dos between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. — but I would still feel enormously anxious that I wasn’t checking my email or writing memos when I woke up at 7 a.m.

However, when we’re in Charleston, I wake up with no temptation to check my email.  I focus on my family, eating breakfast with them and engaging in my morning ritual of working out on the beach.

My mind is conditioned that work starts when I arrive at my office at 9 a.m., and so it takes away the anxiety that comes from rolling out of bed into my workplace. Rather than try to get ahead of work in the morning, I schedule my work for when I”m physically in my office.

This also helps me to “turn off the switch” when I come home from the office.

I’ve found out that I’m not alone. Since I’ve had this epiphany, I’ve spoken with several other colleagues who feel exactly the same way.  They find it hard to turn it “on and off” when working from home; too easy to give into the temptation of running up to the office to check a few emails after dinner; drinking their morning coffee at their desk while they plow through emails.

Hence, my new belief that people either shouldn’t work from home because they can’t focus and get work done — and those who shouldn’t work from home because they try to get too much work done.

I’m sure there are probably some folks out there who are able to find that middle ground and make it work (or at least they think they’re making it work).

I thought I was one of those people.  But seeing the how the other half lives has made me realize that working from home seems great, but it’s actually more stressful than having a separate office.

Europe About To Run Out Of Iternet Address AND We Are Next

Europe has almost exhausted its stock of old-style internet addresses.

Strict rationing of these addresses - called IPv4 - has been started by the body that hands them out in Europe.

From now on, companies can only make one more application for IPv4 addresses and, if successful, will only get 1,024 of them.

In addition, any application for more old addresses must demonstrate how an organisation is using the new, replacement, addressing scheme.

"The day has come, finally," said Axel Pawlik, managing director of the Ripe NCC that hands out addresses to European ISPs, firms and other organisations.

Every device that goes online is allocated a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address.

The internet grew up using an addressing scheme called IP Version 4 (IPv4). In the 1970s when the web was being built the 4.3 billion IP addresses allowed by IPv4 were thought to be enough.

However, the rapid growth of the internet and popularity of the web have swiftly exhausted this pool.

The growth of the net is linked to the size of the pool because everything that connects to the net needs an IP address to send and receive data.

Restrictions

Plans are afoot to move to a new scheme, known as IP Version 6 (IPv6), that has an effectively inexhaustible supply of addresses.

On 14 September Ripe NCC got down to its last 16 million IPv4 addresses. While this might sound a lot, said Mr Pawlik, the use of this last substantial block would be so heavily restricted that the supply could be considered to be at an end.

"Applicants will only get about 1,000 addresses," said Mr Pawlik, "and that's it and they only get them once and that's the end of it."

To even get that small number of IPv4 addresses, he said, applicants must already have an allocation of IPv6 addresses and demonstrate how they planned to use them.

Immediately prior to reaching the last big block Ripe was handing out just under four million IPv4 addresses every 10 days.

Anyone planning expansion based around the net should already be committed to using IPv6, said Mr Pawlik.

Other techniques based around technical tricks that share IPv4 addresses among many different devices would prove increasingly unworkable, he said.

"They are complicated, potentially unstable and expensive," he said. "The other route they could go is to v6 as it's in most of the net equipment now."

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Exedes Satellite Broadband Internet Service Raises The Bar

(Mark Huffman Consumer Affairs) HughesNet recently launched a next generation satellite to provide high-speed Internet service to rural America, matching a step taken in January by its rival Exede, which is owned by ViaSat. Both companies say their new services are nothing like the old satellite-delivered broadband.

I admit I was a skeptic. Having lived in rural Northumberland County, Va., for the last ten years, I have tried just about everything to keep pace with the Internet as it has required more and more speed.

In the early- to mid-2000s I tried both HughesNet and Wild Blue, also owned by ViaSat, and found them totally inadequate. For the last few years I have relied on Verizon Wireless' old Mobile Broadband service (now HotSpot) for Internet service at home.

Just getting by

There were many challenges. First, it's a measured plan with only 5 GB of data per month. That meant careful monitoring on my usage. Watching a movie was out of the question, but not just because of the data it would consume. The 3G speed just wasn't conducive to watching streaming video.

I was also three and a half miles from the nearest Verizon tower so my signal was marginal. With a booster antenna installed in the attic I could usually get close to 1 mps download.

But then smartphones came along and suddenly the demands on the network rapidly increased. On a good day my download speed was .6 mps and the congestion on the network meant pages would often time out before they loaded.

While my urban colleagues long ago upgraded their DSL connections to FiOS, to me DSL was only a dream. Half of Northumberland County is served by Verizon switching stations still using analog equipment. Despite repeated appeals from county officials, Verizon has declined to upgrade its system.

New generation

So last month, when I interviewed Lisa Scalpone, VP Marketing for ViaSat, I was intrigued when she said the new satellite system was nothing like the old ones. Because Exede was the same price I was paying for Verizon Wireless, and I would get 10 GB of data per month instead of 5, I decided to give it a try.

The system was installed on October 20. The installer appeared knowledgeable and competent, properly siting the dish, setting up the system and making sure each computer in the house was connected.

After using the system for a few weeks, I have to say I am impressed, with a couple of caveats. The advertised download speed is 12 mps. Scalpone said I could expect it to actually be slightly higher. In fact, it's something less. Not enough to notice, but less than advertised.

When measured by the Speakeasy.net speed test, the download speed was 10.21 mps with an upload rate of 2.09 mps. When measured using SpeedTest.net, the download speed was only 6.79 with an upload rate of 2.94 mps. The “ping rate,” the response time from my computer to the server, is 724. A normal DSL connection has a ping rate of about 40. The higher the number, the longer the delay.

Latency

And that gets to the real meat of the argument against satellite broadband, the “latency,” or lag between the time you click on a link and the time the page begins to load on your computer. On the old systems latency was seen as a huge problem. But Scalpone says latency was not responsible for consumers' frustrating delays; congestion on the satellite was. That has been rectified, she says, with a bigger, faster satellite.

Latency is still there, of course, because you really can't do anything about the distance between your dish and the satellite in earth orbit. Scalpone said the delay should only be a half-second. We have found it to be more like three to four seconds. While that's slightly annoying, it's easily overlooked because, once the page begins to load, it's extremely fast. Video plays with no buffering.

The system also seems very stable. In the short time we have had Exede there have been no outages or dropouts. The service was even rock solid during Hurricane Sandy.

The satellite providers will tell you that the service might not be right for everyone. The latency issue makes online gaming problematic and Skype or other Internet phone service is a no-go. If you are an extremely heavy user, you might need to pay more for a larger data package. But for the average user, 10 GB should be ample.

I have an office in nearby Richmond, Va., where I have access to DSL Internet. As I have used the two systems over the last couple of weeks, I have been able to compare them.

Compares favorably to DSL

The DSL system provides a consistent 5 mps download speed. Because of its low latency, it seems a little bit faster. It also provides for unlimited data and is about $10 a month cheaper.

For those reasons, if I had access to DSL, I would probably choose that. The fact is, however, I don't have that choice at my rural digs and the new generation of satellite-delivered Internet gives me -- and the rest of rural America -- an option to catch up with our urban peers. And a pretty good option, at that, and it's available right now, not in a few years.

For policymakers trying to find ways to expand broadband service to rural America, the new satellite systems are something that deserve close attention. Satellite broadband requires no infrastructure investment, beyond a dish, and could be a reasonable alternative to huge taxpayer subsidies to major telecommunications companies

Experian Four State Investigation

Photo(Jennifer Abel @ ConsumerAffairs) As of mid-Friday the number of states whose attorneys general have joined the multi-state investigation into the massive Experian data breach is four: less than a week after Illinois and Connecticut started the investigation, Iowa and North Carolina signed on.

This number is likely to grow but in the meantime, pretty much all Americans (not just residents of those four states) need to give their finances a level of scrutiny which, in their grandparents' day, probably would've indicated an unhealthy level of obsessiveness.

For example: if you have a credit, debit or prepaid card, you already know to carefully scrutinize every line item on your bill at the end of each month, to detect any fraudulent charges. (Pay special attention to minor charges; many successful credit-card scammers manage to operate undetected for a long time by posting small, random-sounding amounts — $7.22, $2.97, $3.34 — which credit card holders are most likely to mistake for legitimate purchases.)

Check it daily

But in light of the Experian data breach, you should check your card balance and account activity every day, whether you've used it recently or not.

The nasty irony is that before last October, when news of the Experian breach first broke, anytime you'd read an article on the theme “Hackers entered a database with your info on it; here's how to protect yourself from identity theft,” it almost always advised you to protect yourself by contacting one of the three major credit-monitoring agencies, including Experian. So there's an undetermined number of Americans out there who, in trying to protect themselves from identity theft, wound up victims of it instead.

And there's not much you can do to protect yourself; once a company or organization puts your information into its database, you have little to no control over they do with it afterwards.

If your identity is stolen (an entirely different matter from credit card fraud), chances are you'll discover it at an extremely inconvenient time – say, when you trying filing your tax return and the IRS tells you somebody already filed your taxes (or collected your refund) for you.

Or you apply for a loan — mortgage, car, credit card — and discover that someone already took out one or more loans in your name, and hasn't repaid a single one.

Good news, bad news

The good news is that you are not expected to repay these fraudulent debts in your name. (Although you might not want to think too hard about the implications of that statement: “I never applied for any loans, I had no part in them, said loans were entirely the screwup of financial entities vastly richer and more powerful than I am—and the 'good news' is, I'm not on the hook to pay for their mistakes?”)

The bad news is that, while you need not spend money, you will have to spend a lot of time straightening out the whole mess, what with collecting paperwork, making phone calls, filing police reports and so forth. Meanwhile, the company or companies whose carelessness inflicted these problems on you is not obligated to compensate you for your time and aggravation.

“Protect yourself from identity theft” is basically another way of saying “Protect yourself from the negligence of others, for you have little recourse otherwise.”

 

Experian subsidiaries sold information to Vietnamese data thieves

Photo(Jennifer Abel @ ConsumerAffairs) Not known how many millions of Americans had their data compromised.

Where news headlines are concerned, “Hackers gain access to company database and steal customer info” has become almost as common as “Local woman gives birth.” It happens all the time, so unless you're personally involved with one or more of the actors it probably doesn't concern you.

So anytime you read such a news article – whether about Target, Sally Beauty or any other company in existence – there's always a part which says “If you are a recent customer of this company, here's certain steps you must take to protect yourself from identity thieves.” These steps often include contacting one of the big credit-reporting data broker agencies, like Experian, to warn them against possibly fraudulent activities on your account.

But the latest security breach, which KrebsOnSecurity reported on March 14, might be tougher to protect yourself against, since the identity thieves gained access to the files of Experian itself. More specifically: Vietnamese national Hieu Minh Ngo tricked Experian subsidiaries US Info Search and Court Ventures into believing he was a legitimate private investigator with legitimate (read: non-criminal) reasons to access data brokers' files.

As Krebs noted:

Posing as a private investigator operating out of Singapore, Ngo contracted with Court Ventures, paying for his access to consumer records via regular cash wire transfers from a bank in Singapore. Through that contract, Ngo was able to make available to his clients [identity thieves] access to the US Info Search database containing Social Security, date of birth and other records on more than 200 million Americans.

Experian came into the picture in March 2012, when it purchased Court Ventures (along with all of its customers — including Mr. Ngo). For almost ten months after Experian completed that acquisition, Ngo continued siphoning consumer data and making his wire transfers.

Full extent not clear

News of the Experian breach first came to light last October, but until recently, the full extent of the security damage was not made clear. Last week, finally, new information came to light. The Secret Service (which arrested Hieu last year) claims that Hieu's clients used their fraudulently obtained information for a wide variety of identity-theft schemes: opening credit lines and running up debt in other people's names, filing false tax returns and so forth.

Krebs noted (italics from the original): “The transcript shows government investigators found that over an 18-month period ending Feb. 2013, Ngo’s customers made approximately 3.1 million queries on Americans.”

It gets worse. As Krebs explained, each individual query would bring up records on multiple people — a query for “Brian Krebs” in Virginia brought back results for at least 10 different individuals, 10 people who'd be at extreme risk of identity theft after a data broker handed their confidential account information over to a fake private investigator in Singapore.

It is not known exactly how many Americans' personal information was compromised, though the government has promised to release more information “in the near future.” In the meanwhile, it might not be possible to conclusively determine whether or not your personal information is now in the hands of Hieu or his clients. All you can do is remember all the “protect yourself from identity theft” advice you've ever heard, and be doubly vigilant about it.

 

Expert Finds Major WiFI Security Flaw

The GSM vulnerability comes at a time when mobile security is drawing an increasing amount of attention, as sales of smartphones outpace that of PCs. With thousands of applications written for the devices, smartphones store personal and work data and are being used in e-commerce. Such activity is expected to attract hackers, making large-scale scams and security breaches a potential threat. What to do....

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Exploring The New Frontier Of Mobile Technology

( Have you ever wondered about those people that made the trek from the well-established east coast of the continent, through the wild and untamed country to the wide open west? Why did they take the risk of making the journey? What did they dream might be on the other side?Exploring The New Frontier Of Mobile Technology image 17541 HBR SAP Info Industries 300x231Exploring The New Frontier Of Mobile Technology

Jeff Kagan, an independent analyst cited in a new whitepaper published by Harvard Business Review says that the landscape of mobile technology and application development is “…like the wild, wild West out there”. There are no rules to limit what kinds of applications you can develop. New applications, and new ways of utilizing the mobile technology embedded in the device, are constantly being imagined and created.

Take the ways that mobile technology and applications are being used in all the different industries. According to the Harvard Business Review whitepaper “How Mobility is Transforming Industries,” Healthcare is using mobile to increase patient care quality, and decrease wait times for diagnoses. Utilities are boosting productivity for their mobile workforce by rapidly analyzing asset and service performance, and are increasing customer service by tracking consumptions trends.

Even those industries that are typically slower adopters of technology – such as farming – are finding the mobile technology frontier a boon to their industry. The agricultural industry is using wireless soil monitors attached to plants to monitor growth and with the data they collect, they can be better stewards of their land and water resources.

It seems like each new day brings announcements of new technology, or new ways that current technology is being used. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Just like that wild, wild west adventure, each new advance in technology turns a page in the tale of mobility. What can you dream up that might be on the other side of the next development?

Read the whitepaper and see the short video on How Mobility is Transforming Industries today, and start your own adventure!

Exploring The New Frontier Of Mobile Technology image 17541 HBR SAP Info Industries 1024x791Exploring The New Frontier Of Mobile Technology

FACEBOOK warns employers not to demand the passwords

FACEBOOK has warned employers not to demand the passwords of job applicants, saying that it's an invasion of privacy that opens companies to legal liabilities. The social networking company is also threatening legal action against those who violate its long-standing policy against sharing passwords.

An Associated Press story this week documented cases of job applicants who are being asked, at the interview table, to reveal their Facebook passwords so their prospective employers can check their backgrounds.

In a post on Friday, Facebook's chief privacy of policy officer cautioned that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer may open itself up to claims of discrimination if it doesn't hire that person.

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FBI Wants Your Phone Password - Is That Constitutional

It's not technically legal, but if the feds had it their way, they could have easy access to all the data on our phone even if it is password protected, The Wall Street Journal's Julia Angwin explains. While the government has made it clear that a lot of our phone data isn't really ours -- on Tuesday a Federal court said our location related data was "not constitutionally protected" -- there are still some limits to what the FBI can get easily get its hands on. "Government agents can often obtain data stored with third parties without obtaining a search warrant," writes Angwin. "But that standard doesn't take into account data as sensitive as a password," she continues. The FBI has the option to subpoena the phone owner for their password, but that's a tricky legal issue. Rather, it would appreciate easier access, as she explains in her lengthy account of the issue. 

One way the FBI tries to get around the rules is to go through the phone makers themselves. For now, it sounds like these companies aren't as complacent as the FBI might like. "Google Inc. GOOG +1.34% earlier this year refused to unlock an alleged pimp's cellphone powered by its Android software—even after the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a search warrant," writes Angwin. Apple has a similar policy: "We never share anyone's passcode," a spokesperson told Angwin. But, apparently Google has complied in other similar situations, as Softpedia's Lucian Parfeni notes, which may have contributed to the FBI's current attitude, suggests Michael Arrington over at Uncrunched. "After a couple of years of this the police won’t just be happy they can track anyone – they’ll start to really think that they have the absolute right to track everyone," he writes. For now, thanks in part to Google, the FBI does not have that absolute right. But there's a battle brewing.

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FBI and Microsoft take down $500m-theft botnet Citadel

Windows logo(BBCnews) Citadel spread by being included with pirated versions of Window. The FBI and Microsoft have broken up a huge network of hijacked home computers responsible for stealing more than $500m (£323m) from bank accounts.

The Citadel network had remotely installed a keylogging program on about five million machines to steal data.

About 1,000 of the 1,400 or so networks that made up the Citadel botnet are believed to have been shut down.

Co-ordinated action in 80 countries by police forces, tech firms and banking bodies helped to disrupt the network.

"The bad guys will feel the punch in the gut," Richard Boscovich, a spokesman for Microsoft's digital crimes unit said.

Control code

The cybercriminals behind Citadel cashed in by using login and password details for online bank accounts stolen from compromised computers.

This method was used to steal cash from a huge number of banks including American Express, Bank of America, PayPal, HSBC, Royal Bank of Canada and Wells Fargo.

Citadel emerged after core computer code for a widely used cybercrime kit, called Zeus, was released online.

Underground coders banded together to turn that code into a separate cybercrime toolkit that quickly proved popular with many malicious hackers.

In a blogpost detailing its action, Microsoft said Citadel had also grown because malicious code that could take over a PC had been bundled in with pirated versions of Windows.

The millions of PCs in the criminal network were spread around the globe, but were most heavily concentrated in North America, Western Europe, Hong Kong, India and Australia.

Despite the widespread action, which involved seizures of servers that co-ordinated the running of Citadel, the identity of the botnet's main controller is unknown.

However, Microsoft has started a "John Doe" lawsuit against the anonymous controller, believing him to use the nickname Aquabox and be based in Eastern Europe.

In addition, the FBI is working with Europol and police forces in many other countries to track down and identify the 81 "lieutenants" that helped Aquabox keep Citadel running.

Microsoft has also started action to help people clean up an infected computer.

Typically, it said, machines compromised by Citadel were blocked from getting security updates to ensure those computers stayed part of the botnet.

With the network disrupted, machines should be free to get updates and purge the Citadel malware from their system.

FBI to monitor Facebook Twitter Myspace