Monday, January 31, 2011

Google teams with Twitter to build 'SpeakToTweet' service for Egypt

Google, Twitter, and SayNow combined over the weekend to produce a product targeted at one country: Egypt. The idea was to give the public a way to work around the lack of ISP support and still Tweet. They came up with "Speak to Tweet."

CraftBeerClub.com-Beer Club Gifts-234x60 banner  SayNow is a company that Google acquired last week. Simply by leaving a voicemail at one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855), a user can Tweet. The service will Tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt.

Mr. Beer Home MicrobreweryAh, what about reading the Tweets? In that case, people can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or, if they have an Internet connection, somehow, going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.

The service faces some opposition, however. The Egyptian Information Ministry has told CNN that it is shutting down mobile phone networks in preparation for the planned "March of the Millions" demonstrations planned for Tuesday.

Via: C|Net, Google, CNN

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AT&T slapped with class action lawsuit for data use overbilling

A new class action lawsuit claims that AT&T "systematically" overstates data use on iPhones and iPads on its network. The lawsuit, first reported on Monday, is said to be the result of a two-month study which determined that typically AT&T data traffic was overstated by some 7 to 14 percent, with some billing errors in excess of 300 percent.

E-Mail Your Resume to 1000's of Headhunters!The suit states that if a user downloaded a 50KB file, an AT&T bill might overstate the traffic as 53.5KB, with the billed usage potentially going as high as 150KB. The lawsuit, filed for plaintiff Patrick Hendricks, compares the practice to a gasoline pump that "charges for a full gallon when it pumps only nine-tenths of a gallon into your car's tank."

Interestingly, during the investigation, a consulting firm hired by the lawyers of the plaintiff bought a new iPhone and immediately turned off all push notifications and location-based services, also making sure that no apps or email accounts were active. The investigators then left the iPhone idle for 10 days. The result was a bill for 2,292KB of data over 35 transactions.

This wouldn't be a big deal, unless one is close to the limit of one of AT&T's data tiers. New subscribers or those who decide not to stick with a "grandfathered" unlimited plan have a maximum of 2GB they can use on the more expansive data tier.

An AT&T rep responded to the complaint, saying:
"Transparent and accurate billing is a top priority for AT&T. In fact, we've created tools that let our customers check their voice and data usage at any time during their billing cycle to help eliminate bill surprises. We have only recently learned of the complaint, but I can tell you that we intend to defend ourselves vigorously."
Via Electronista

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Dell Streak 7 to launch on T-Mobile Feb. 2; $200 with contract and MIR, $450 sans contract

The Dell Streak 7 is reportedly headed for T-Mobile on Feb. 2nd, according to a Tweet by the carrier. The device is T-Mobile first 4G tablet, the company emphasizes, and will come with a much nicer price point than we've seen before for an Android tablet: $199.99 (subsidized, and with a $50 mail-in rebate).

Sans contract, the device will run $450, which seems like a sweet price for a 3G enabled 7-inch Android tablet. The device is dual-core Tegra 2 powered (1GHz), has the aforementioned 7-inch screen and comes in slightly larger overall than a Samsung Galaxy Tab. The device carries the non-tablet-optimized Android 2.2. As part of the price drop, however, the screen only carries an 800 x 480 resolution, although it is Gorilla Glass.

Compared to the iPad, the Dell Streak, even off contract, offers a lower price point than the wi-fi only iPad ($499). The lowest-priced 3G capable iPad is $629, without a contract.

Via Engadget, T-Mobile

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Intel restates guidance, announces Sandy Bridge chipset flaw

In what could prove to be the biggest issue with an Intel product since the floating-point bug in the Pentium, Intel has issued a press release about a problem in its new Sandy Bridge platform, and issued new forecast guidelines for 2011 based on recovery from the problem.

At issue is a defect in the Serial-ATA (SATA) ports in the chipset. According to Intel, the ports may degrade over time, affecting the performance of SATA devices such as hard drives and optical drives. This is a support chip; the actual microprocessor itself is unaffected.

Sandy Bridge is Intel's just introduced Second Generation Intel Core processor platform. Intel halted shipments of the original chipset, and is beginning to manufacture a fixed version.

Here's what Intel said in their press release:
The company expects to begin delivering the updated version of the chipset to customers in late February and expects full volume recovery in April. Intel stands behind its products and is committed to product quality. For computer makers and other Intel customers that have bought potentially affected chipsets or systems, Intel will work with its OEM partners to accept the return of the affected chipsets, and plans to support modifications or replacements needed on motherboards or systems. The systems with the affected support chips have only been shipping since January 9th and the company believes that relatively few consumers are impacted by this issue.
While few end users may be impacted by the flawed chipset, it's clear that this will impact Intel financials, but Intel believes it will not materially affect overall 2011 earnings. The company did note that the problem will cut revenue by $300 million in the first quarter. At the time of this writing, Intel stock is down about 1.16 percent to $21.21, down about $0.25.

Intel estimated it will spend $700 million to fix the problem, and since some of the affected chipsets were manufactured in Q4 2010, Intel will take a charge against the cost of goods sold for that quarter, cutting its A4 2010 gross margin percentage to about by about 4 points, down from the previously reported 67.5 percent. Intel will also take a charge in Q1 2011, so it cut its margin guidance for the current quarter and for the full year, as well.

Despite the chipset problem, Intel raised its sales guidance for Q1 and 2011 overall. The company did so as a result of its recently announced acquisition of Infineon Technologies' wireless solutions business. With both the chipset problem and the Infineon purchase taken into account, Intel now expects first-quarter revenue of $11.7 billion, up from its previous $11.5 billion guidance.

Intel also added that it expects its purchase of security software company McAfee to close by the end of Q1.

Via Intel

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Wikileaks chief Julian Assange interviewed by '60 Minutes' (video)

Julian Assange was interviewed on CBS' "60 Minutes" on its Jan. 30, 2011 episode. The controversial Wikileaks founder and chief discussed, among other things, the site, U.S. attempts to indict him, attempts to shut down the site, and the upcoming release of banking documents that are assumed to target banking giant Bank of America.

While Wikileaks is best known for its controversial releases of classified documents and diplomatic cables, it has also uncovered information which while eye-opening, is less well-known as the leaks are not of classified material, and not U.S. classified material, to boot.

They include "information that played some role in deciding the 2007 election in Kenya, and fueling the anger that recently brought down the government in Tunisia. It has also divulged the membership rolls of a neo Nazi organization in Great Britain, and secret documents from the Church of Scientology."

There is a full transcript of the interview at the CBS link below, and you can watch the videos (2 parts, plus a behind-the-scenes video) below, as well.

Via: C|Net, CBS







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Gorilla Ambam Walks Upright on Viral Video

A YouTube video has "exposed" the antics of a gorilla who likes to walk upright, like a man. However, while people are going wild over it, and while it's certainly not the norm, it's not all that unusual for gorillas to walk upright.

Save Up To 50% On All Your Pet NeedsThe gorilla is Ambam, a 21-year-old silverback western lowland gorilla at The Aspinall Foundation's Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, southeast England. The video, s filmed by Animal Researcher named Johanna Watson while she was working for a project on great ape locomotion, has been viewed nearly 2 million times.

Gorilla keeper Phil Ridges explains that although interesting, the behavior is not all that rare:
"Ambam's father Bitam used to display the same behaviour if he had handfuls of food to carry. Ambam also has a full sister, Tamba, and a half sister at Howletts, who also sometimes stand and walk in the same way. All gorillas can do it to some extent but we haven't got any who do it like Ambam and he is quite a celebrity at the park.

We think he might use it to get a height advantage to look over the wall when keepers come to feed him and standing up can also help him in looking for food generally in his enclosure as it gives him a better vantage point. Ambam can also carry a lot more food if he stands and uses both hands and walking on two feet also means he doesn't get his hands wet when it is raining!"
Although the behavior is not all that unusual, the video has drawn attention to The Aspinall Foundation. Western Lowland Gorillas are critically endangered, and the Aspinali Foundation requests that those interested adopt one of them, or any of a number of other animals, here.

Those concerned that Ambam is really Gorilla Grodd in disguise, needn't worry. Although he might "walk like a man" as in that old Frankie Valli song, he hasn't attempted to "talk like a man," as is said later in the same song.

Watch the video below:



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nook color gets a taste of Honeycomb (Android 3.0)

It's been thought that Honeycomb (Android 3.0) would require some seriously updated HW specification to run effectively, but it seems that might not be the case after all. Although it still hasn't had its official coming-out party, developers have managed to port the new version to the Barnes and Noble nook Color, and although its still missing a lot of functionality, it now has hardware graphics acceleration implemented.

While looking a little scraggly it's a very early build (a preview build of Honeycomb that they ported) so it's to be expected. The potential of Honeycomb, really, is what's being shown off. Imagine what it will be like on a dual-core beast like the Xoom.

Take a look at the video in the sidebar. Just remember what they said over at XDA-Developers: most functionality is still not working:
What is not working... pretty much everything else, no accelerometer, no wlan, no sound. Haven't started working on those things yet.
Via: Engadget, XDA-Developers



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Kinect 'hacking' contest winners announced

Kinect is a great gadget, and its possibilities extend far beyond the gaming controller it was designed to be. Not blind to this, we saw an earlier contest by Adafruit for an open source driver for Kinect, and here we have another contest, one run by Googler Matt Cutts, that ended up with seven (!) winners.

As we've noted before, Kinect is already being used in number of ways, far outside its original purpose of controlling the Xbox 360. We've seen it used to help in teaching American Sign Language, control Chrome, and even control a sex video game.

Winner No. 1 is Tomoto Washio. His program allows users to transform into Ultra Seven (the Ultraman follow-up).


Winner No. 2 is Tiago Serra and the SenseBloom team for the project "XBox Kinect OSCeleton." The application is basically a DIY motion capture system.


Cutts also added five people who have "made the Kinect more accessible on Linux or helped the Kinect community." That brings his contest award total, first set to be $2,000, to $7,000 instead.

We remain hopeful that Microsoft will officially expand Kinect support to the PC. In fact, CEO Steve Ballmer recently said it will come, when the time is right. Until then, these and other projects continue to expand the Kinect into exciting places.

Via: Matt Cutts

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Google's Instant Preview festure begins appearing on mobile devices

In November, Google unveiled what it called Instant Previews on its desktop version of search results. It now appears the company is testing a mobile version of the same feature.

Some are seeing the feature, which allows users to view a preview of page on their mobile phones. So far, it's only been reported on iOS devices, but since Google has its own Android platform, there's every reason to believe it will come there, as well (and in fact, it's a little surprising it's been seen on iOS first).

The feature has not appeared on all devices, and Google has not made a public announcement about it either. With that, it's likely this is either a limited test or limited roll-out of the feature.

A detailed explanation of Instant Previews as it was rolled out is here. It is, in fact, a pretty useful feature, and we'll be excited to see it arrive on mobile.

Via 9to5Mac



Sunday, January 30, 2011

Do you 'like' T-Pain's Facebook tattoo?

Rapper T-Pain has given a thumbs-up to Facebook with his latest tattoo. It's unclear why, but his latest tattoo, as noted by his own Tweet, is a dead ringer for the Like button in Facebook.
I get a tatt every time I come to Hawaii. I think this one is pretty sweet, unless facebook shuts down soon 0_o http://plixi.com/p/72961385
It's not likely that Facebook will shut down, except in the form of random Internet rumors. Thus, T-Pain is pretty safe.

Certainly, with the popularity of Facebook, this would probably prove to be a popular tattoo. What do you think? Chime in below in the comments.

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Laptops, tablets, wi-fi combine to tweak hotels' in-room entertainment revenue

The Marriott Hotel chain is about to remove porn from the pay-per-view selections in its hotel rooms. It's not, however, just because the firm wants to advertise itself as family-friendly, although it will. In reality, it's because the ubiquity of the laptop and tablets such as the iPad, as well as now-required free hotel wi-fi are reducing revenue from adult films.

It is true that conservative groups have been pressuring Marriott for years to dump in-room porn, but it is only now, when economics and technology come into play, that the chain made the decision to pull adult films. Marriott's statement on the matter, from early last week, makes it clear:
“Changing technology and how guests access entertainment has reduced the revenue hotels and their owners derive from in-room movies, including adult content.”
It isn't just about porn, either. The ability to carry media-playing mobile devices means that many simply load up their devices prior to a trip, or stream it from Netflix and other vendors. Recently, in fact, USA Today reported that hotel-room movie provider LodgeNet, whose clients include Marriott and Hilton, showed a 19 percent drop in its guest-entertainment revenue from 2008 to 2009.

Glenn Haussman, editor-in-chief of HotelInteractive.com said,
"Marriott sees porn as a rapidly declining source of income, so they [figure they] might as well get ahead of the competition and make this a good PR message."
There's another reason, besides the reason to get free wi-fi in many hotel rooms, and the technology they carry: online porn is not censored as hotel room porn is. As Quentin Boyer, spokesman for the adult entertainment studio Pink Visual said,
“It’s also true that in many hotels the adult fare is highly edited and censored, while online content generally — well — isn’t.
It's also true that despite Apple CEO Steve Jobs' assertions, the iPad is not absent from porn-viewing devices. It's easy to load videos on the device, and also to browse the Internet for porn, despite Jobs' claims.

Via: MSN

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Zuckerberg friends Eisenberg on 'SNL'

It was really no surprise, but Jesse Eisenberg, hosting the Jan. 29, 2011 episode of SNL, was surprised by two other Mark Zuckerbergs during his opening monologue.

Eiserberg is the Academy Award nominee for Best Actor for his role as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerbert the film "The Social Network." He was interrupted during his monologue by Andy Samberg, who impersonates Zuckerberg on SNL. Then, surprise, surprise, out walked Mark Zuckerberg himself. When he was asked how he liked "The Social Network," Zuckerberg said it was “interesting.”

Zuckerberg also appeared in a brief backstage encounter with SNL Executive Producer Lorne Michaels, and the endihg SNL group appearance, where he gave Eisenberg a hug. It's well-known that Facebook and Zuckerberg were not pleased with the filming of "The Social Network."

Watch a clip of the "fun" below.

Via Mediaite.



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U.S. Senate to revisit Internet 'kill switch' legislation

It's something that's been discussed before: am Internet "kill switch" to give the President power to reduce the impact of a cyber-attack. While it passed a committee on Dec. 15, 2010, the full Senate did not act on the measure. Despite what may appear to be bad timing, based on the actions of Egypt, it appears the bill is set to return.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). In a email to Wired sent last Friday, Collins said the following:
“My legislation would provide a mechanism for the government to work with the private sector in the event of a true cyber emergency. It would give our nation the best tools available to swiftly respond to a significant threat.”
There has been rampant speculation that the U.S. could already do the sort of disabling of the Internet that Egypt has done, but those thinking along those lines have to remember the scale differences between the two countries. ISPs in the U.S. are not restricted to just a few, as in Egypt. On the other hand, the sort of "kill switch" being mentioned in the legislation will make it far easier to close down the Internet in the event of a cascading cyber-attack.

In the event of a cyber-emergency, however, the President would not be attempting to turn off access to the entire Internet. Instead, there would be certain defined "critical infrastructure" that would need protection. An example given to Wired if the following: infrastructure connected to “the system that controls the floodgates to the Hoover dam” would be required to cut its connection to the Internet if the government detected an imminent cyber-attack.

However, one change made to the proposed bill in its Dec. 2010 form is that the federal government's designation of vital Internet or other computer systems "shall not be subject to judicial review."  That has some worried. Berin Szoka, an analyst at the free-market TechFreedom think tank and editor of The Next Digital Decade said:
"No amount of tightening of what constitutes 'critical infrastructure' will prevent abuse without meaningful judicial review. Blocking judicial review of this key question essentially says that the rule of law goes out the window if and when a major crisis occurs."
It is an interesting statement, as many said the rule of law went out the window once 9/11 occurred, with the passing of the Patriot Act and events such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Just what constitutes a cyber-attack and how the government would be able to detect an imminent one are unclear. Additionally, in June of 2010, a group of two dozen organizations signed a letter voicing concerns over the bill. The letter (.PDF) said, in part,
The 
Internet 
is 
vital 
to 
free 
speech
 and
 free 
inquiry,
 and 
Americans
 rely 
on 
it 
every 
day 
to
 access 
and 
to 
convey
 information.

 Any 
cybersecurity
 action 
the 
government 
requires 
that 
would infringe 
on 
these 
rights 
of 
free 
speech 
and 
free 
inquiry 
must 
meet 
a 
traditional 
First 
Amendment 
strict 
scrutiny 
test:


 (i)
 the 
action 
must 
further 
a 
compelling 
governmental 
interest; 
(ii) 
it 
must 
be 
narrowly 
tailored 
to 
advance 
that 
interest;
 and 
(iii) 
it 
must 
be 
the 
least 
restrictive 
means 
of 
achieving 
that 
interest.

 Finally,
 the 
bill 
should 
also 
be 
amended 
to 
require 
an 
independent 
assessment 
of 
the 
effect 
on 
free 
speech,
 privacy 
and 
other 
civil 
liberties 
of 
the 
measures 
undertaken 
to 
respond 
to 
each 
emergency 
the 
President 
declares.

 It 
is 
imperative 
that 
cybersecurity 
legislation 
not 
erode 
our 
rights.
Among those who signed the letter are the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the ACLU, Center
 for 
Democracy 
&
Technology, Citizens 
Committee 
for 
the 
Right 
to 
Keep 
and 
Bear 
Arms, and the American Library Association.

Via Wired, CBS

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Toy figure's 3-inch gun declared 'firearm' by U.K. security officials

TSA employees can take comfort in the fact that this incident took place in England. Security officials at Gatwick Airport branded a 3-inch toy gun from a plastic soldier a "firearm" and refused to let it on a plane.

Canadian Julie Lloyd, 60, visited England and purchased a toy soldier at the Royal Signals Museum at Blandford Camp in Dorset. She bought it as a gift for her husband, Ken, who who recently retired as a signaler from the Canadian army.

Originally, it was the tiny metal antenna metal antenna on the figure's backpack radio that caused a problem. According to Lloyd, once security personnel took a look at the 9-inch soldier and his little 3-inch gun, the real trouble started.

Lloyd said, from her home in Oakville, Ont., Canada, on Thursday,
"They told me it was a gun and that I was not allowed to take it on the plane. I showed them politely that it had no moveable parts and no hole down the gun barrel. But they kept saying it was a gun.”
The figure was an expensive one, about $300. Since the figure would not be complete without the gun, she was told she could remove the "firearm" and mail it to herself.

Interestingly, the incident actually occurred during an April, 2009 trip, but the story has become news now because, for some reason, the Royal Signals Museum at Blandford Camp in Dorset, England, where she bought the figurine, just went public with the story. She said she has been interviewed by several newspapers in the U.K., and has been invited to appear on a popular morning talk show.

Aviation security expert Peter St. John stated the obvious, saying:
“It’s excessive. Maybe there’s a laser from this toy that’s going to kill you too. The British are usually better than that. It’s the kind of thing you expect to happen in U.S. and Canada. We’ve thrown billions at airport security without making any noticeable difference.”
The good thing is that Lloyd was able to give her husband the figure at the occasion of his retirement ceremony, last summer.

Via National Post

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YouTube viral video: Man dunks himself along with basketball

A YouTube video of a man dunking himself during an exhibition at a pro basketball game has gone viral, with nearly 1 million views at the time of this writing. You read that correctly, the man actually dunked himself, in addition to the basketball.

The game was Wednesday's Charlotte Bobcats vs. Phoenix Suns game, which visiting Charlotte won, 114 - 107. A member of the Suns’ Sol Patrol, Nick Corrales, performed as usual during the Suns’ end of third quarter routine in which the Sol Patrol and The Gorilla mascot perform acrobatic dunks off of a trampoline.

Corrales had too much speed, and not only made the dunk, but found himself headfirst in the hoop. Fortunately, he managed to extricate himself, and no, we don't think he did it on purpose.

Watch the viral version (1) and another angle (2) below.  In (2), the dunk doesn't occur until about 1:30.





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Watch Michael Vick lead 2011 Pro Bowl practice via his helmet cam

The 2011 NFL Pro Bowl will be broadcast on Fox, with game time 7PM EST on January 30, but it is arguably the least of pro sports' All-Star games.  Perhaps to drum up some interest, the NFL decided to strap a ContourHD 1080p camera to Michael Vick's helmet during one of the practices.

Watch the video below, and you will see Eagles QB Vick break out of a huddle, fire off a pass to Dallas TE Jason Witten, hand off to Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson, and then run a play-action pass to Witten. Meanwhile, he exchanging some friendly gibes with fellow NFC QBs Matt Ryan (Atlanta) and Drew Brees (New Orleans), including comments about how old Vick is compared to the other two.

The Pro Bowl is considered somewhat lame because of the limitations placed on gameplay (such as no blitzing). In addition, teams must play a 4-3 defense (both Super Bowl teams play a 3-4, for comparison), and there are no nickel or dime packages allowed. Also, players, fearing the obvious possibility of career-ending injury, take it very easy during the game.

At any rate, watch the Vick footage below. It's still pretty interesting.



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Verizon unveils 'countdown to iPhone pre-order' page, mark Feb. 3, 3AM EST on your calendar

Although those who want to buy a Verizon iPhone probably already had Feb. 3 marked on their calendar, Verizon has begun a pre-order countdown on its website. The page confirms what we already heard, that pre-orders will begin on Feb. 3 at 3AM EST.

Remember, however, that pre-orders will only be available for existing Verizon customers. Everyone else, and those who don't jump on quickly enough, as pre-order supplies will be limited, will be resigned to trying to line up or buy online on Feb. 10.

Watch the first Verizon iPhone commercial below.

Via: Verizon, Engadget



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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is an Amazon.com Netflix-style service for Prime members nearing roll-out?

An Amazon.com Netflix-style video streaming service rumored late last year may actually be nearing a roll-out. First reported in October of 2010, it was rumored to be added as another bonus to the accounts of Amazon Prime members, at no extra charge.

As reported by Engadget on Saturday, one of their readers saw an option for live streaming, not a rental, and saw the magic price of $0.00. A note at the bottom of the page (screenshot above, click to enlarge) says that the person's Amazon Prime membership gives him access to "unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows."

The biggest problem with all this is the video streams in 480p. However, it's free for Amazon Prime members, who pay $79 to gain free two-day shipping on most items, and inexpensive one-day shipping upgrades for those same items.

Although Amazon.com has not released official numbers, Amazon Prime has millions of members. Netflix's streaming-only plan has a larger catalog, but also costs $96 a year, and realistically, if you're already an Amazon Prime member, this is great bonus. If you're not a member, this could be the shove you need to join.

However, we are Amazon Prime members, and even checking the exact same title above, we do not see the options listed. It's possible that it's rolling out slowly to members, or that it was a test of some sort that accidentally went public. Let's hope it is the former.

Via Engadget

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Demonoid registration again open, but not for long

Popular BitTorrent tracker Demonoid, which only infrequently opens for new registrations, is currently open. The open registration period for Demonoid generally lasts only a day or two.

This one has been open since Jan. 27th, so it is bound to close soon. The site closes registrations frequently because, as they say in the FAQ:
A tracker/site of a large scale such as this, needs to close registration for periods of time. The only way to register while registration is closed, is to be invited.
To register, go to http://www.demonoid.me/register.php.

More information about Demonoid and its history can be found here. Demonoid has been considered the largest, and the most popular, public torrent tracker, since The Pirate Bay tracker was shut down in November of 2009.

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How Facebook stopped an entire country's passwords from being stolen

Facebook's security has been lampooned before, but right around the New Year, its security team helped stop a country from stealing the passwords of all its users. The country was Tunisia, and its citizens, bloggers, and activists were using Facebook as a means to disseminate information.

Facebook's security team noticed strange activity right on Christmas Day. However, the evidence was anecdotal. It took time, before they finally figured it out.
After more than ten days of intensive investigation and study, Facebook's security team realized something very, very bad was going on. The country's Internet service providers were running a malicious piece of code that was recording users' login information when they went to sites like Facebook.

By January 5, it was clear that an entire country's worth of passwords were in the process of being stolen right in the midst of the greatest political upheaval in two decades. (Facebook's Chief Security Officer Joe) Sullivan and his team decided they needed a country-level solution -- and fast.
Basically, the ISPs were sucking in user data by an ISP level keylogger. Rather than having the keylogger installed on an individual machine, they were logging requests over the Internet. So Sullivan devised a two-step solution to the problem. These same changes were eventually rolled out to the rest of Facebook, this week in fact. Here's what Sullivan's team did, and eventually pushed out to the entirety of Facebook:
Sullivan's team rapidly coded a two-step response to the problem. First, all Tunisian requests for Facebook were routed to an https server. The Https protocol encrypts the information you send across it, so it's not susceptible to the keylogging strategy employed by the Tunisian ISPs.

The second technical solution they implemented was a "roadblock" for anyone who had logged out and then back in during the time when the malicious code was running. Like Facebook's version of a "mother's maiden name" question to get access to your old password, it asks you to identify your friends in photos to complete an account login.
In the end, Facebook's security team ended up securing the passwords of most of their users in Tunisia. As criticized as some of its security FUBARs and privacy SNAFUs have been, Facebook was the hero, this time.

Via: The Atlantic

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260 MPG VW XL1 plug-in hybrid to actually see light of day

A 260 MPG turbo-diesel plug-in hybrid was shown off this week in Qatar by Volkswagen. Able to travel 22 miles on electric power alone, what's more exciting than just the prototype itself is news that VW will actually build it.

The VW XL1 will be built in a small quantity, 100, in 2013, it was reported on Wednesday. The news came via Volkswagen AG Chair Martin Winterkorn. The two-seater has a .8 liter two-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, and can reach a top speed of 100 MPH.

The XL1 will reach Germany first, then expand to the U.S. and China, according to Winterkorn. With 260 MPG, despite its use of harder-to-get diesel, if they build it, will you come?

Via: Automobilwoche.

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'Close' is good enough due to Amazon.com password system flaw

CompUSA Best sellers
"Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades," says the old saying, but it appears that close is good enough for some Amazon.com passwords. A flaw in Amazon.com's password validation system is allowing password entries that are close, but not exactly a match, to be used to log in to some customers' accounts.

First reported on Reddit, the flaw has been confirmed. It only appears to affect passwords that have not been changed in several years. The theory behind the problem involves Amazon using the unix crypt() function to encrypt old passwords.

crypt() truncates longer passwords, discarding anything after the 8th character. This would explain why the "close" passwords are those with extra characters after the eighth character. Thus "password" would be matched by "password1234." Additionally, Amazon.com was upper-casing passwords prior to storing them, so "PASSWORD1234" would work as well.

Newer passwords are not affected by the flaw, which points to Amazon.com fixing the problem, but without updating older, previously stored passwords. The fix is simple: change your password on Amazon.com. You can even change it once, then change it back back again. That will ensure that almost is no longer good enough for your Amazon.com account.

Via Wired, Reddit

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Coincidence or War? Honeycomb unveiling scheduled on same day as "The Daily's"

Although it's known that the Motorola Xoom will launch very soon with Honeycomb, Android 3.0, there's been no detailed unveiled of the new tablet-specific Android version. That will all change on Feb. 2, a date that has been called by some as a sort of "War Manuever" by Google.

The reason for that nickname is that Feb. 2 is also the date that Rupert Murdoch and Apple will be unveiling "The Daily," the new iPad-only digital newspaper. At the same time, it's expected that Apple will detail how its new iTunes "push subscription" model will work.

However, at the Honeycomb event, which will take place on Wednesday in Mountain View, Google will have hands-on demos of the new Android 3.0 platform. The two events are staggered, but separated by an entire continent: Google's will be in Mountain View, CA, and Murdoch's in New York City. Times will be 8AM PST for Murdoch's event, and 10AM PST for Google's.

Thus, journalists will be required to choose one or the other to attend life. It is true, however, that Google will host a live stream of the event on YouTube, but it is doubtful that Murdoch will do the same, as no announcement as such has been made.

Hopefully, no one has made arrangements for a trip to New York City that they may now have to decide to switch for a trip to Mountain View. It's going to be a hard call as far as which event will be more significant for the industry.

Google's invite says:
A Taste of What’s New from Android

You’re invited to an Android event at Google headquarters in Mountain View on Wednesday, February 2. Please join us for an in-depth look at Honeycomb, Android ecosystem news and hands-on demos.
Is it war, as TechCrunch claims? We think it's already been war. In this case, as Googler Andrew Kovacs Tweeted, "actually sometimes a coincidence is just that."

Via TechCrunch, Mobilized

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Text message spam detonates suicide bomb early, saves hundreds

Spam text messages are an annoyance, and perhaps more so than spam email, as each spam SMS message could cost a subscriber who doesn't have an unlimited messaging plan money. However, in this case a spam text message prevented a suicide bombing, saving hundreds of lives.

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Russian security forces reported on the incident with a so-called "Black Widow" on Friday. The unnamed woman is thought to be part of the same group that struck Moscow's Domodedovo airport on Monday. She reportedly intended to detonate a suicide belt in a busy area near Red Square on New Year's Eve. It would have been an attack that might have killed hundreds.

Instead, it turns out, a spam SMS message from her cellular provider accidentally set off the device early. The SMS came in just hours before the planned attack, and killer her, but not her two accomplices, who were seen fleeing the scene.

It is common in Russia for Islamist terrorists to trigger bombs with an SMS message. They use cheap unused mobile phones as detonators, with the bomber's "handler," who is generally watching. The "handler" detonates the device by sending a text message which sets off the explosive belt at the moment the "handler" deems is best for maximal damage and injury.

In general the phones are kept turned off until the very last second. In this case, Russian authorities believe that the terrorists were simply lazy or careless.

Via Telegraph

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Angry Birds heads for Rio and Fox movie tie-in

Rovio's Angry Birds game is on its way to "Rio," sort of. The company announced on Friday that it is partnering up with Twentieth Century Fox to create a version of the game centered on the upcoming animated movie “Rio,” which hits theaters on April 15.

The Angry Birds games will launch ahead of the movie, sometime in March. According to Rovio's blog post:
In Angry Birds Rio, the original Angry Birds are kidnapped and taken to the magical city of Rio, where they eventually escape their captors and set out to to save their friends, Blu and Jewel – two rare macaws and the stars of the upcoming Fox motion picture, Rio. Angry Birds Rio will pair the physics-based gameplay of the original game with unique twists based on the highly-anticipated film.
Angry Birds Rio will launch with 45 levels. More levels will be added later via app updates.

It's part of Rovio's strategy to make Angry Birds a franchise on the level of Mario Bros. Some have compared Angry Birds to Pacman, but Peter Vesterbacka, Rovio's "Mighty Eagle" said,
“What we’re doing is we’re building out the Angry Birds world. Pac-Man is only one game. Mario is a better benchmark.”
Rovio recently announced plans for an Angry Birds animated series. Late last year they even created a line of plush toys.

The game is a huge success in both the App Store, where it is perennially near the top of paid apps, and the Android Market, where it has become an AdMob success story. It's also on webOS, in the Mac App Store, and in the Intel App Store (for Windows PCs). Rovio plans to get it on all relevant platforms.

Watch a Rio trailer below, and an Angry Birds Rio trailer after that.

Via: Mobilized, Rovio, Wired





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Detailed: an American company's role in the Egyptian Internet crackdown

As Egypt continues to enforce the Internet blackout we reported earlier, questions have arisen about the role of a U.S. firm in the crackdown that is occurring nationally, not just on the Internet but on protesters and dissidents.

Free Press has spotlighted Narus, a Sunnyvale, CA firm, which sold Egypt technology that Free Press claims enables the government to monitor Internet and mobile phone traffic. According to Free Press:
Boeing-owned, California-based company Narus sold Telecom Egypt, the state-run Internet service provider, “real-time traffic intelligence” equipment, more commonly known as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology. DPI is content-filtering technology that allows network managers to inspect, track and target content from Internet users and mobile phones as it passes through routers on the Web.

The company is also known for creating "NarusInsight," a supercomputer system allegedly used by the National Security Agency and other entities to perform mass surveillance and monitoring of public and corporate Internet communications in real time.
Some are directly linking Narus to the takedown of the Internet in Egypt, but this technology is not related to that. Instead, this technology allows Egypt to closely monitor traffic which could mean the government can track the activities, emails, and more from anyone it wants to.

Instead, it probably took a phone call from a highly placed government official to the ISPs to shut them down. That said, the ability of the government to use deep packet inspection shouldn't be taken lightly. As Free Press adds:

Free Press Campaign Director Timothy Karr made the following statement:
“What we are seeing in Egypt is a frightening example of how the power of technology can be abused. Commercial operators trafficking in Deep Packet Inspection technology to violate Internet users’ privacy is bad enough; in government hands, that same invasion of privacy can quickly lead to stark human rights violations.

“Companies that profit from sales of this technology need to be held to a higher standard. The same technology U.S. and European companies want to use to monitor and monetize their customers’ online activities is being used by regimes in Iran, China, Burma and others for far more suspicious, and possibly brutal, purposes.

“The harm to democracy and the power to control the Internet are so disturbing that the threshold for the global trafficking in DPI must be set very high. That’s why, before DPI becomes more widely used around the world and at home, Congress must establish legitimate standards for preventing the use of such control and surveillance technologies as means to violate human rights.”
Might we worry about this in America? Readers, what do you think?

Via Free Press, Huffington Post

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Even on CDMA, HTC Thunderbolt will support simultaneous voice / data

Most have been well-educated to the "can't do simultaneous voice and data" limitation of Verizon's CDMA, with the release of the CDMA-only Verizon iPhone upcoming. It's a limitation of CDMA. Thus, it's certainly a surprise to hear that the upcoming HTC Thunderbolt will do both voice and data, even when it backs off to CDMA instead of LTE.

LTE will allow both voice and data simultaneously on Verizon's network. Data flows through LTE while voice goes through CDMA. However, if LTE is not present, the phone backs off totally to CDMA, and yet, this presentation slide obtained by Phandroid states that both voice and data will be supported.

How? It is most likely due to a modification to the CDMA standard, SVDO, which was first announced in 2009 by the CDMA Development group. The press release announcing it then noted it to be a "device enhancement," but no devices supporting SVDO have been released since that time.

This means the SVDO change is probably being added to the HTC Thunderbolt, which will be Verizon's first LTE handset. However, Verizon has asked its sales people to keep the feature quiet.

Why? Simply stated, although not specifically mentioning SVDO, Verizon says that it “cannot promise the experience will be one that is consistent with the brand." Thus, sales people are asked to “not reference this functionality as a benefit during your conversations with customers.”

Another sad tidbit from the leaked image: the HTC Thunderbolt will not support Verizon's mobile hotspot service at launch.

Via Phandroid

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No fear: AT&T says 90 percent of iPhone owners under contract

Want to know why AT&T isn't afraid of losing tons of its customers to the Verizon iPhone? One possible reason is that 90 percent of AT&T's iPhone customers remain under contract.

Many of those would face an expensive Early Termination Fee (ETF), up to $325, if they left. The amount of the ETF declines with each month of service.

Thursday's AT&T earnings report noted that the carrier has 95.5 million subscribers, making it the nation's largest carrier, ahead of Verizon Wireless, which has 94.1 million subscribers. With the Verizon iPhone coming, AT&T is not expected to hang onto that title for very long, however.

Still, with all those subscribers tied up with contracts, Susquehanna analyst Jeffrey Fidacaro thinks AT&T will lose only about two million iPhone users, at most, to Verizon.

That would hardly be a mass exodus, but, as those contracts expire, what will happen then? Particularly since Verizon's 4G LTE will mature much faster than AT&T's, since AT&T hasn't even begun trials, and Verizon is continuing to expand its LTE coverage.

Additionally, the ETF fee AT&T imposes diminishes by $10 every month. There are those willing to pay a premium for better coverage, or at least, perceived better coverage.

Of course, as we've said before, if you really, really, really don't need to get the Verizon iPhone now, don't. Wait until summer, when the iPhone 5 comes out, and see what happens then. Otherwise you might be only 4 - 5 months into a two-year commitment with Verizon, and be jealously watching others who are carrying the Verizon iPhone 5.

Via Digital Daily

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Lawsuit filed over iPhone 4's glass casing

image: Flickr/RichieC
We've discussed the relative weakness of the iPhone 4's glass casing before, and now a class action lawsuit has been filed over it.

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California resident Donald LeBuhn filed a class action lawsuit against Apple earlier this week. The laswuit, filed in L.A. County, asserts that Apple knows about design flaws in the iPhone 4's glass case structure, and claims that knows about the issue, yet refuses to warn consumers that "normal" use can leads to a broken iPhone.

LeBuhn purchased a new iPhone 4 in Sepeember, but three weeks later, the glass casing broke when his daughter accidentally dropped it from a height of about three feet. LeBuhn claimed he previously owned an iPhone 3GS and its case did not break when dropped from a similar distance.

LeBuhn's lawsuit claims that Apple's claims of the strength of the iPhone 4 glass are overstated. Apple has said that the glass case is "20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic," and is made of the same material as the "glass used in helicopters and high-speed trains."

In LeBuhn's lawsuit, he says that "Months after selling millions of iPhone 4s, Apple has failed to warn and continues to sell this product with no warning to customers that the glass housing is defective." LeBuhn asks that Apple refunds the purchase price of the iPhone to all those in the class action lawsuit, reimburses customers for any repairs, and makes restitution for customers' "overpayment in purchasing defective iPhone 4s."

In October of 2010, SquareTrade, a company that provides third-party warranties, said that:
With just 4 months of data, it's clear that the iPhone 4 is significantly more prone to physical damage than its predecessor. The aluminosilicate glass seem to crack at least as often as the old glass, and there is now twice as much surface area to break.
Meanwhile, earlier that same month, a report on what was called "Glassgate" was issued. It said that because of the iPhone's glass back, cases that slide onto the device could trap particulate matter, scratching the back and eventually leading to a cracked back.

This isn't the first controversy over the iPhone 4. The so-called "Antennagate" scandal revolved around holding the iPhone "the wrong way," as Apple CEO Steve Jobs called it, causing calls to drop and slowdowns in data transmission.

This is the second time since Apple released the iPhone 4 that is has had to deal with design problems. The company has already addressed issues with the device's antenna.

Via LA Weekly

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