Thursday, March 31, 2011

Google denies any work on a mobile facial recognition app

It was an idea that probably would have caused a ton of privacy concerns if it reached fruition, but Google says the idea, an app that could take a picture of a person and search the Web to find their Google Profile, is an "invention of the reporter."

At the same time, however, CNN's original story remains posted, and shows no obvious changes. In fact, the story has an interview with Hartmut Neven, the Google engineering director for image-recognition development. He said:
"We recognize that Google has to be extra careful when it comes to these [privacy] issues. Face recognition we will bring out once we have acceptable privacy models in place."
That's an interesting quote as Google has come back since then and denied such an app is in development.

Privacy would obviously be a big hurdle for such an app. It might even be more of a hurdle than the tech. Google already has an image-recognition tool called Google Goggles, available both on Android as well as on iOS. This new app would seem to be Goggles on steroids. Goggles on Android is described as:
Search the real world by taking a picture.
Search by taking a picture. Goggles uses image recognition technology to recognize objects and return relevant search results. Identifies products, famous landmarks, storefronts, artwork, and popular images found online. Goggles can translate words in English, French, Italian, German & Spanish. Goggles can extract contact information from business cards.
A video about Goggles can be found below.

Via: CNN, Engadget

Samsung confirms laptops not shipped with keylogger; false positive by security software

Samsung has cleared up the issues over the keylogger which had been reported by security consultant Mohammed Hassan on two different Samsung laptops (R525, R540). There was an accusation made by Hassan that these may have been intentionally pre-installed.

Instead, it was, Samsung said, a "false positive" issued by the security software that Hassan used.

Samsung said:
Our findings indicate that the person mentioned in the article used a security program called VIPRE that mistook a folder created by Microsoft’s Live Application for a key logging software, during a virus scan.

The confusion arose because VIPRE mistook Microsoft's Live Application multi-language support folder, "SL" folder, as StarLogger.
A false positive occurs when a security program detects some legitimate program as malware. According to Samsung, even an empty folder named c:\Windows\SL would be tagged as malware by VIPRE. SL represents the Slovenian language in Live.

As noted earlier, it seemed incongruous that a company like Samsung would do this intentionally, but that is precisely what Hassan said a Samsung supervisor told him.

This isn't the first false positive detected by security software, and it won't be the last. Sometimes the false positive does something worse than sullying a firm's reputation: sometimes the security software will delete important files such that an application will not run, or even worse, delete important operating system files, making it impossible for a computer to boot.

The lesson learned is to make sure you scan a suspected piece of malware with at least two different security programs before crying foul over it. VIPRE isn't one of the better known security firms either, and is probably not appreciating the negative publicity.

Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 3/31/2011: Fruit Ninja has promised a free app every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Fruit Ninja, a popular game on both iOS and Android.

The free app on the launch day of the Amazon Appstore was Angry Birds Rio, which was exclusive to the Amazon Appstore until yesterday. It's now in the Android Market, in free form, but the Amazon Appstore version is a paid version, with no ads, which remains free for a unspecified limited time. It will carry a $0.99 price when that time passes.

Fruit Ninja is $0.99 in both the Android Market, and normally is priced the same in the Amazon Appstore (as noted previously, the two marketplaces sometimes have differing prices).

It is described as follows:
Carve, Splatter, and Slash
Playing with your food might not seem like a crucial part of ninja training, but as the good folks at Halfbrick Studios will tell you--for ninjas, it's more than just a game. All ninjas hate fruit! Join the ninja clan as you slash your way through three modes of juicy gameplay. You'll soon see that Fruit Ninja is the messiest, most satisfying fruit game ever!

Enter the dojo of the wise ninja sensei to hone your deadly fruit-slaying skills. Learning to play is easy: just swipe your finger across the screen to carve gruesome, juice-splattered smears out of hordes of apples, watermelons, coconuts, and other ninja foes. Fruit Ninja is an addictive, fun, casual game that brings a splash of bright color to your Android mobile screen.

Leave Your Juicer On the Shelf: Get a Ninja Instead
To slice and dice your way into gaming bliss, simply choose one of three different game modes to begin your adventure.

Slice multiple fruit at the same time to score combos and earn bonus points, but be careful of bombs--touching one will put a swift end to your juicy adventure. Precise touchscreen controls and simple addictive gameplay ensure a fun experience for even the youngest of grasshoppers.
Fruit Ninaj has 18,199 ratings for a 4.5 average out of 5 in the Android Market. In the Amazon Appstore, it has 35 reviews, and is in the 4-star range.

The Amazon Appstore requires sideloading, which means that for now AT&T devices can't use it. As we noted before, however, there is a way to at least "reserve" these free apps for installation later, when AT&T corrects the issue, as it has promised.

Amazon opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic.

Softbank to provide free cell phones and service to earthquake orphans

Japanese carrier Softbank is going above and beyond the call of duty, with the founder and CEO of the company, Masayoshi Son, making some very generous offers in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami as well as the ongoing nuclear disaster.

Son recently visited Tamura which is one of the cities hard hit by the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant's continuing radioactive disaster. He announced help for the 1,200 people who are going to relocated to Takeo in Saga, the prefecture where he originally came from. He said that Softbank will provide a year's worth of living costs (including both commute expenses and food) and well as provide job positions for those families.

Additionally, at the site of Softbank's "Let's Do It" campaign, Son announced that all earthquake orphans will receive free phones, and free accounts until the age of 18. In addition, Son promised there will be free replacements for all iPhones lost or damaged as a result of the earthquake (details to follow).

Finally, Son announced via Twitter that his offer of free phones and phone service is not limited to Softbank customers. He said the company will also provide phones and pay for phone services for earthquake orphans who are on other networks, as well.

Via: Engadget

Samsung takes heat over keylogger installed on computer systems

Samsung is taking it on the chin today after revelations that a keylogger was found by a Network World writer, on not one but two Samsung computers. Because of the placement of the files in the same location, the writer, security consultant Mohammed Hassan, says in fact be something intentional that Samsung is doing.

According to Hassan, he spoke to a Samsung supervisor. That supervisor:
[...] confirmed that yes, Samsung did knowingly put this software on the laptop to, as he put it, "monitor the performance of the machine and to find out how it is being used."
This whole incident makes little sense, however. For one, the keylogger, StarLogger, is pretty old (2004). It is therefore readily detectable by antivirus software.

Most people, however, don't run a virus scan on a new computer once they receive it, believing it to be pristine. We, however, do run a virus scan upon receipt of a new computer.

Additionally, it would seem that Samsung, if they were doing this, would be setting itself up for a lawsuit. Here's Samsung's official statement on the matter:
“Samsung takes Mr. Hassan’s claims very seriously. After learning of the original post this morning on, we launched an internal investigation into this issue. We will provide further information as soon as it is available.”
Meanwhile, Samsung users either run an antivirus scan, or check their computer for a a folder “c:\windows\SL” on their machines, which reportedly stores the StarLogger program.

Via: Forbes

Google +1 begins rolling out, adding social to search ... and ads

Google's new sort of answer to Facebook's Like button, but in terms of search results, has begun rolling out, it was reported on Wednesday.

Google +1 is a small button that will sit next to every Google Search result (once it rolls out). [If you don't see it, you can always hop over to Google Experimental and force it to appear.]

The idea is simple: If you "like" a search result, you click the +1 button and the result is shared socially. You can always undo your +1-ing. There's another change, too: if you opt-in to Google +1, you also opt-in to making your profile public, something Google has been pushing of late.

The easiest way to think of Google +1 is Digg for search results ... and ads (more on that, later).

Assuming you have "upgraded" to the new Google Profile, you will have a new +1 tab that will keep track of all the +1-ing you've done. There you can remove any +1 click. Another option that you can reset is to opt-out of using your +1 information to “personalize content and ads across the web."

That's not all, however. As we said, did you expect Google to leave out the ads? No, you can vote and +1 ads as well.

It's an easy concept, and one that Google says will improve search results. Google said:
We’re confident that +1, combined with all of the social content we’re now including in search, will mean even better, more relevant results than you get today.
You can watch a video on Google +1 below.

Via: Google, TechCrunch

Paul Allen memoir reveals rifts between Microsoft co-founders

Sometimes, co-founders eventually have a falling out (a good example would be Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg). The latest to be publicized is that between Bill Gates and Paul Allen, outed in an excerpt in Vanity Fair from an upcoming Paul Allen memoir.

In the excerpt, Allen lists of a number of contentious incidents between the two. One of them involved the hiring of current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Allen said:
I was angry for another reason: Bill had offered Steve 8.75 percent of the company, considerably more than what I’d agreed to.

It was bad enough that Bill had chosen to override me on a partnership issue we’d specifically discussed. It was worse that he’d waited till I was away to send the letter. I wrote him to set out what I had learned, and concluded, “As a result of discovering these facts I am no longer interested in employing Mr. Ballmer, and I consider the above points a major breach of faith on your part.”

Bill knew that he’d been caught and couldn’t bluster his way out of it. Unable to meet my eyes, he said, “Look, we’ve got to have Steve. I’ll make up the extra points from my share.” I said O.K., and that’s what he did.
Another incident took place after Allen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, when Allen was still undergoing treatment:
One evening in late December 1982, I heard Bill and Steve speaking heatedly in Bill’s office and paused outside to listen in. It was easy to get the gist of the conversation. They were bemoaning my recent lack of production and discussing how they might dilute my Microsoft equity by issuing options to themselves and other shareholders. It was clear that they’d been thinking about this for some time.

Unable to stand it any longer, I burst in on them and shouted, “This is unbelievable! It shows your true character, once and for all.” I was speaking to both of them, but staring straight at Bill. Caught red-handed, they were struck dumb. Before they could respond, I turned on my heel and left.
Allen said he later received apologies from both Ballmer and Gates.

Allen eventually left Microsoft in 1983. He said that before he left, Gates attempted to buy Allen's shares from him at what was a bargain price.
“It’s not fair that you keep your stake in the company,” he [Gates] said. He made a lowball offer for my stock: five dollars a share.

"[...] I’m not sure I’m willing to sell,” I countered, “but I wouldn’t even discuss less than $10 a share.

“No way,” Bill said, as I’d suspected he would. Our talk was over. As it turned out, Bill’s conservatism worked to my advantage. If he’d been willing to offer something close to my asking price, I would have sold way too soon.
Paul Allen is currently #57 on the Forbes list of billionaires, at $13 billion, while Gates is #2 in the world at $56 billion.

In an emailed statement, Bill Gates said, "While my recollection of many of these events may differ from Paul's, I value his friendship and the important contributions he made to the world of technology and at Microsoft.".

Allen's memoir, titled Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft is set for release on April 19. It will also be available in a Kindle edition.

The book will be published by Portfolio on that date, and according to Portfolio Allen will not be doing any interviews prior to that date.

Via: Vanity Fair, WSJ

Google's 1Gbps fiber-optic broadband service won by Kansas City, KS

In February of 2010, Google announced it was going to be running an experiment with its own fiber optic broadband network with speeds of 1Gbps, and that it was taking applications from localities with at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people. More than 1,000 towns applied, and Google eventually delayed the decision to 2011. It's now announced the winner: Kansas City, KS, population 150,000.

Topeka, KS is probably extremely disappointed right now. It took the step of temporarily naming itself Google, KS. Google noticed, as one of the company's April Fools' Day Pranks for 2010 was to rename itself Topeka.

Google noticing the stunt by Topeka wasn't enough for it to win. The build-out of the network is pending approval from the Kansas City's Board of Commissioners. Assuming that happens, Google plans to offer service beginning in 2012.

All is not lost, however. Google said they will also be looking at ways to bring ultra-high-speed Internet to other cities across the country.

Pricing has not been set, although Google has previously said that prices will be "competitive." It was not clear, however, if they meant competitive with standard broadband pricing, or pricing of other ultra-high-speed broadband services.

You can watch a short video on the announcement below.

Via: Google

Microsoft mulls the possible lifespan of the tablet segment, while Dell disses iPad in the Enterprise

Both Microsoft and Dell took a hammer to the iPad, and tablets in general on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Microsoft saying it wasn't sure if the tablet space would persist, while Dell earlier said the iPad would fail in the Enterprise.

Microsoft's global chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie made his statement while speaking at a lunch in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday. The lunch was sponsored by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). Mundie reports directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Save $240 - Triple PlayMundie said he believed the smartphone "as it emerges more will become your most personal computer", while laptops would occupy a space he dubbed the "portable desk." He added,
"Mobile is something that you want to use while you're moving, and portable is something that you move and then use.

"These are going to bump into one another a little bit and so today you can see tablets and pads and other things that are starting to live in the space in between. Personally I don't know whether that space will be a persistent one or not."
In a sense, Mundie's views appear to intersect some with Motorola's, who see their Atrix 4G and laptop dock system as something all their new high-end smartphones will carry.

Mundie's statement, however, diverges from the opinion of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who said at the iPad 2 launch event that tablets are a big part of the "post-PC era."

Meanwhile, a day earlier, Dell’s global head of marketing for large enterprises and public organisations, Andy Lark, spoke to CIO Australia. He said that the iPad will fail in the Enterprise:
“I couldn’t be happier that Apple has created a market and built up enthusiasm but longer term, open, capable and affordable will win, not closed, high price and proprietary. [Apple has] done a really nice job, they’ve got a great product, but the challenge they’ve got is that already Android is outpacing them. Apple is great if you’ve got a lot of money and live on an island. It’s not so great if you have to exist in a diverse, open, connected enterprise; simple things become quite complex.”
Part of Lark's argument, however, is based on the so-called Apple tax. He said:
“An iPad with a keyboard, a mouse and a case [means] you’ll be at $1500 or $1600; that’s double of what you’re paying. That’s not feasible.”
Even assuming the highest-priced iPad 2, it's hard to understand how he calculated those figures:
  • One iPad, 3G, 64GB: $829
  • Apple Wireless Keyboard: $69
  • iPad Dock: $29
  • iPad Smart Cover: $69 (the more expensive Smart Cover, leather)
The grand total: $999, not even $1,000, and certainly not $1,500 or $1,600. That is using the highest priced iPad 2, as well.  Using the lowest-priced iPad 2, you would come up with $666.

Two questions for readers, therefore: are Tablets here to stay?  And what do you think of Dell's statements?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kinect used to create autonomous Quadrotor flying system

Researchers at MIT, the University of Washington: Peter Henry, Mike Krainin, and Intel Labs Seattle have used Microsoft's Kinect motion controller to turn a Quadrotor system (sort of a mini four prop helicopter) into an autonomous robotic device.

It's not the first such hack of Microsoft's gaming controller, and it won't be the last. Microsoft announced earlier it would soon be releasing an SDK to enable development of PC-based software for the device.

Watch the video below.

iFixit tears down GSM, CDMA iPad 2s

iFixit has already torn down the wi-fi only version of the iPad 2, but as you might expect, folks are interested in the 3G versions as well, particularly the differences between CDMA and GSM. That said, iFixit tore down those models, too.

Of course, the two 3G models' most obvious external differences between themselves and the wi-fi version is the black antenna window that also houses the microphone on the devices (and which reportedly causes some differences with audio quality).

The GSM version naturally carries a microSIM slot, as well. Other than that, the changes are internal, as you would expect.

Apple used its experience with the Verizon iPhone 4 with the iPad 2. The CDMA version has the same dual-mode Qualcomm MDM6600 chipset, although just as in the Verizon iPhone 4 GSM portion of the chipset is unused. This chipset has an integrated GPS. Just as with the Verizon iPhone 4, it possibly points to a global version of the iPad in the future.  The CDMA version also has an extra antenna.

The AT&T version carries another Infineon baseband chip (337S3833). The AT&T version also carries an upgraded GPS chip from the iPhone 4; it has a Broadcom BCM4751 Integrated Monolithic GPS Receiver; the iPhone 4 had a BCM4750.

The logic boards pictured above are, top-to-bottom, wi-fi only, GSM, CDMA.

Via: iFixit

Living Social's 52 percent off deal sells out quickly

Living Social continues to make inroads on Groupon's market share with nationwide as well as local deals. Living Social's last big nationwide hit deal deal was an deal that was 50 percent off (spend $10 for $20). On Wednesday, the company announced a new deal involving which is even better: 52 percent off., although not as well-known as, focuses on electronics and computers. The selection isn't as great as, but we personally have found some deals there that exceed's. Additionally, you can use rebate sites such as MrRebates to get rebates on purchases there, something not available at (although if you use an Amazon VISA you get a 3 percent rebate).

The new Living Social deal is $12 for $25 at A few examples of the deals you frequently find at (from an email they sent us this morning).

SAVE $230 - Gateway Notebook Intel Core i5 2.53GHz 4GB DDR3 500GB HDD Blu-ray/DVDRW 15.6" Win7 Premium 64-bit $549.99
SAVE $300 - FREE SHIPPING - Panasonic 54" Viera S2 Plasma HDTV CleanTouch Bezel Design 1080p 3x HDMI $1199.99 after COUPON CODE: WYR24973

Update: They sold out. Unlike the deal, which ended up with over a million sold, this one was limited to 1,500.

Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 3/30/2011: Soundhound Infinity has promised a free app every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Soundhound Infinity, a sound recognition app. There is a free version, as well, but the Infinity version has a widget you can put on your home screen for one-click access to the music recognition feature of the app.

[Users need to remember that at least for now, at the time of this writing, if you move the app to SD, widgets for that app will not work. This is a platform limitation.]

The free app on the launch day of the Amazon Appstore was Angry Birds Rio, which is exclusive to the Amazon Appstore for now, and which remains free for a unspecified limited time. It will carry a $0.99 price when that time passes.

Soundhound Infinity is $4.99 in both the Android Market, and normally is priced the same in the Amazon Appstore (as noted previously, the two marketplaces sometimes have differing prices).

It is described as follows:
SoundHound Infinity is instant music search and discovery, with the world's fastest music recognition. It is the ultimate music app, ad-free with unlimited usage and premium features.

Say it, tag it, sing it, hum it, or type it -- SoundHound Infinity offers every gateway of music search. Boasting the world's fastest music recognition, the world's only sing and hum recognition, and voice-directed search, it lets users find and explore music faster than ever before with rich content including cover art, videos, lyrics, song previews, recommendations, tour dates, and more, all with one tap access.

View lyrics, search for videos, or buy the MP3
SoundHound Infinity's Android home screen widget, included only in the paid version, allows you to put the SoundHound widget on your homescreen, giving you immediate, one-tap launching of the music recognition feature. A heavily requested feature by Android device users, the SoundHound widget is the fastest way to ID a song. Even if the song is about to end, you may still capture it!

Key Features
  • Blazing fast music recognition: name tunes playing from a speaker in as little as 4 seconds
  • The world's only viable singing and humming recognition
  • Voice recognition music search: just speak a title or band name to check it out
  • Lookup song lyrics
  • Song previews allow you to listen and sample tops hits and new discoveries
  • Buy link for instant music downloads, including Amazon MP3
  • Song mapping allows you to see where you discovered your songs on a map, and can be viewed later in your History
  • Social sharing: it's fast and easy to share your song IDs via Facebook, Twitter, SMS, and e-mail
  • Optimized for both phones and tablets, including Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab
Soundhound Infinity has 9,093 ratings for a 4.5 average out of 5 in the Android Market. In the Amazon Appstore, it has 30 reviews, and is in the 4.5-star range.

That's a change from the normal Amazon Appstore critics: most of the apps that have been "set free" were much more critically judged in the Amazon Appstore than in the Android Market. In fact, Monday's Farm Frenzy was removed in favor of Newsweek Mobile after a furor over app permissions.

The Amazon Appstore requires sideloading, which means that for now AT&T devices can't use it. As we noted before, however, there is a way to at least "reserve" these free apps for installation later, when AT&T corrects the issue, as it has promised.

Amazon opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic.

Why Amazon leaped into the cloud without licenses: 'users acquired early usually stay put'

Although reportedly took a very strong stance with regards to its new digital music locker service, including both Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, it's reportedly looking into licensing the music uploaded to its music locker post-launch. Why then, would it take the aggressive step of launching before it reached that stage?

The answer is easily, when you think of things: to be first.

Earlier, portrayed its Cloud Drive service as just another storage medium. Craig Pape, director of music at Amazon, said,
"We don't need a license to store music. The functionality is the same as an external hard drive."
That said, it's well known that both Apple and Google are investigating similar services, and are entrenched in negotiations over rights and licenses for the uploaded music.

However, C|Net reported the key to's decision to beat both of the other companies to the punch:
One studio source told me recently that research has shown digital-lockers users may be reluctant to switch after going to the trouble of uploading their media. The source said the studios saw the same thing with iTunes. People don't typically leave. That means any service that acquires a user first stands to keep him or her.
Since it was reported earlier last week that Google has begun testing Google Music internally, and it was reported earlier this month by Bloomberg that Apple is in the midst of negotiations with labels over licensing, saw the writing on the wall.

It made the decision to leap past Google and Apple, perhaps into lawyer-infested waters, but also, by being first, perhaps acquiring users it wouldn't (possibly) lose later.

[It's true that Apple's iDisk feature of MobileMe has similarly enabled users to manually upload their music (and other files) to the cloud for streaming playback, but manually. Apple also has not been publicizing this, perhaps because of negotiations for a more far-reaching program.]

What's next for the music labels? Legal options are always there, but the labels were apparently surprised by's actions. One spoke to Reuters:
That executive called the move "somewhat stunning" and noted that some within the media industry said the service might be illegal.

"I've never seen a company of their size make an announcement, launch a service and simultaneously say they're trying to get licenses," said the executive, who requested anonymity because the discussions were not public.

iSuppli estimate: Nintendo 3DS BOM $100.71

Talk about right on the nose. The earlier estimate by UBM TechInsights on the Bill of Materials (BOM) cost for the Nintendo 3DS has been confirmed by iSuppli's own preliminary estimate. UBM TechInsights gave a BOM number of $101, while iSuppli came up with $100.71.

It doesn't look like there's much wiggle room there, so the $249.99 (retail) 3D portable gaming device runs about $101, according to both estimates. If you add in the obligatory $2.54 manufacturing cost of the 3DS, the total cost to produce the portable gaming system rises to $103.25, said iSuppli.

This is about a 33 percent increase over the BOM for the Nintendo DSi. Included in the differences between the BOM prices are the new 3D screen, $33.80 vs. $21.95; memory, $8.36 vs. $3.61; and the UI subsystem components (gyroscope, accelerometer), $6.81 vs. $3.98.

The 3DS also has a camera subsystem that 3D photographs. In order to do this, the 3DS uses two parallel VGA cameras in a module, plus a third VGA camera. Because VGA components are mature and inexpensive, the camera subsystem costs $4.70, or 4.7 percent of the BOM, up a measly $0.20 from the DSi.

While it seems like Nintendo is making a pretty penny at first glance, the BOM leaves out items such as development, support, marketing and so forth. It should also be remembered that the $249.99 is the retail price, not what Nintendo receives from retailers.

Via: iSuppli

IDC Predicts Android No. 1, Windows Phone No. 2 in global smartphone market by 2015

IDC issued a report on Tuesday, forecasting growth of 50 percent in terms of the worldwide smartphone market by 2015. More interesting, and somewhat astounding, is their prediction that Microsoft's Windows Phone platform will take second place overall by that time.

IDC also forecasts that Google's Android platform will lead all platforms, with more than double the share of #2 Windows Phone (45.4 percent vs. 20.9 percent), but that is not amazing by any means. Many analysts have made that sort of prediction. No official Windows Phone 7 numbers have been issued yet, and many believe that sales have been tepid, at best.

Additionally, IDC said that smartphone vendors will ship more than 450 million smartphones in 2011, which can be compared to the 303.4 million units shipped in 2010. By 2015, BlackBerry OS will have 13.7 percent, while iOS will drop slightly, from 15.7 percent in 2011 to 15.3 percent in 2015.

Why would a nascent platform that has been criticized and seems to have problems pushing out its first major update become No. 2 overall? It's all about that Nokia deal:
Nokia's recent announcement to shift from Symbian to Windows Phone will have significant implications for the smartphone market going forward. "Up until the launch of Windows Phone 7 last year, Microsoft has steadily lost market share while other operating systems have brought forth new and appealing experiences," added Llamas. "The new alliance brings together Nokia's hardware capabilities and Windows Phone's differentiated platform. We expect the first devices to launch in 2012. By 2015, IDC expects Windows Phone to be number 2 operating system worldwide behind Android."

Tech-based April Fools' Days Pranks

Google is good at its April Fools' Day Pranks, and we expect another one (or more) on Friday. However, what are some popular tech jokes you can do to annoy your co-workers on April 1?

Here are a few April Fools' Day Pranks you can pull on your co-workers. Some of them require access to their computer, which may not be the easiest thing if they are paranoid and constantly lock their PCs.

Wireless Mouse: take a wireless mouse, either Bluetooth or one with its own receiver, and connect it to their PC. In most cases, the ones with their own receiver are easier to use, as you don't need to pair the devices. At any rate, it's easy: as soon as they arrive, move your mouse and watch them wonder what's going on.

Wireless Keyboard: same idea, only suddenly they see weird text when they are typing. You should probably do this in such a way as to not get them in trouble. It might be bad if you put some stuff into an email they send the CEO. One way to be safe is to tell them you are taking some voice recognition software, then have mistyped characters show up; watch the fun as they try to make their voice and tone clear enough to get decent voice recognition.

Screen Capture: Take a screenshot of their desktop and set it as the wallpaper. Then drag all their icons in one folder so you can move them off their normal path of usage). Finally, hide the only remaining folder. This will differ slightly from Windows version to Windows version; on Windows 7 right click the desktop, select View, and then uncheck Show Desktop Icons and Show Desktop Gadgets. When they return, the clicking and possibly swearing will be hilarious.

Wake them up unexpectedly on April Fools Day: Here is a free service that is supposed to be used to wake yourself up in a pinch. In this case, you probably violate their Terms of Service by using it in this way, to wake up a friend, but you (hopefully) will only do this once.

Elmer Fudd: Speaking of Google, they have a good sense of humor, and it's possible to change your preferences (or your friend's) to use the language Elmer Fudd. Make that change to their settings and instead of Google Search, they'll see Google Seawch on the Google home page, as well as I'm Feewing Wucky.

Fake-a-Call: Let's not forget smartphones in our April Fools' Day Pranks list. Often used to get out of a bad blind date, the Fake-a-Call Android app (free) and iOS app ($0.99) can be used to fake a call from even, say, The President. In this case, it would be easiest to have the call come in to your phone, but if you are resourceful and have access to their phone, you could set it up on your friend's, as well.

Readers, feel free to comment below on your favorite tech-ish April Fools' Day Pranks.

Unofficial Gingerbread updates for Droid 2, Droid X released

If you really want to get your hands on Gingerbread (Android 2.3) for the Motorola Droid 2 / Droid X, and if you don't mind rooting your device and voiding your warranty, have we got a deal for you.

The folks at My-Droid-World have come up with custom ROMs for both the Droid 2 and Droid X. Naturally, both of them require you to root the device. You can find full instructions here. Remember, there is always the chance of bricking your phone.

Instructions for DROID X:
  1. Download this file and place it on your SD card.
  2. Buy and Bootstrap so you can put your X into recovery mode.
  3. Create a backup (This is not compatible with new firmware).
  4. Install the Firmware using recovery:
    • Select "install zip from sd card"
    • Choose zip from sdcard
    • Select the file you downloaded
  5. Restart the phone.
If your Droid X goes into a constant boot loop:
  • Hold down the power and home buttons.
  • When you see the triangle icon hold down both volume buttons.
  • Select wipe data/factory reset; press power button to select.
  • Reboot.
Instructions for DROID 2:
  1. Download this file and place it on your SD card.
  2. Use Bootstrap (it is the same as the above version for the Droid X) so you can put your phone into recovery mode.
  3. Create a backup (This is not compatible with new firmware).
  4. Install the Firmware using recovery:
    • Select "install zip from sd card"
    • Choose zip from sdcard.
    • Select the file you downloaded.
  5. Restart the phone.
  6. Re-activate your phone.
  7. Dial *228.
  8. Select 1.
If your D2 bootloops after installing, perform the same steps as above for the Droid X. To decide if you want to take a chance on this procedure, you can watch the video walkthrough of Gingerbread on the Droid X below.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Missing Bronx Zoo cobra taunts zookeepers via Twitter

Last Friday afternoon was the last time a 20-inch Egyptian cobra was seen in its exhibit at New York's Bronx Zoo. It's been missing since then, but perhaps its keepers should have been looking at Twitter posts instead of in the reptile house.

It seems the venomous reptile, or some anonymous stand-in has been Tweeting as BronxZoosCobra since Monday. Even with the account around a day old, it already has nearly 100,000 followers. The Tweets are all coming from the Web, which means that the Bronx Zoo could simply contact Twitter to find out where the IP address of the cobra is located. His first Tweet:
I want to thank those animals from the movie "Madagascar." They were a real inspiration.
He, or she, is apparently having trouble getting his account verified by Twitter. As we noted earlier, Twitter is out of the verification game, and won't do it any longer except in special cases. The cobra Tweeted:
Hey @piersmorgan, @jack and @biz, What does a snake have to do to get this account verified?
In fact, an Egyptian cobra is extremely venomous, with a neurotoxin that is believed to have taken out Cleopatra. Zoo officials believe the cobra is hiding out in its enclosure in the reptile house, ensconced with a laptop, it appears.

Amazon's Cloud Drive, Cloud Player brings your music tracks to the Web; surprises Google, Apple

Both Google and Apple are rumored (and expected) to move music into the cloud, but they have been beaten to the punch: on Tuesday announced two cloud services, one called Cloud Drive (which probably needs no explanation) and one called Cloud Player.

iolo System Mechanic® - Fix, Speed Up Your PCCloud Drive is what it sounds like: 5GB of free Amazon-provided storage in the cloud. Amazon Cloud Drive can be used for anything, but most importantly, it can be used as a digital music locker. The Cloud Drive is tied to your account; if you are logged into that; you are logged into the Cloud Drive.

The importance of the tie-in between your account and the Cloud Drive becomes evident when examining's Cloud Player (for the Web, and Android). Both of those enable you to play music uploaded into your Cloud Drive, streaming it to your desktop browser or to your Android device.

[Google has been rumored to be planning this sort of service for a long time. Apple is reportedly planning such a launch, perhaps tied in with MobileMe, with the release of iOS 5. It's true that Apple's iDisk feature of MobileMe has similarly enabled users to manually upload their music (and other files) to the cloud for streaming playback, but manually.'s Uploader program automates that, and by adding the feature that Amazon MP3 purchases are automatically added to the Cloud Drive, it adds functionality that Apple is looking toward in the future. Additionally, Apple does not publicize iDisk much, possibly due to ongoing negotiations with the music labels for a more far-reaching program. Reportedly, both giants were surprised by the launch.]

The files you upload to your Cloud Drive can be iTunes-purchased (indeed, it will play AAC riles that don't have DRM) or Amazon MP3 purchased, or even music you ripped from your CDs to your hard drive. Importantly, however, Amazon MP3 purchases do not count against your storage limit. Additionally, if you purchase an Amazon MP3 album, your storage limit is upgraded to 20GB, although only for a year after the purchase.

Users can also upgrade storage for a fee. Prices range from $20 annually for 20GB, all the way up to 1TB of storage for $1,000.

The big missing pieces in the service are obvious: makes it clear that the Cloud Player service covers desktop browsers (Macs and PCs) and Android browsers with Cloud Player for the Web, and Android devices via an app, but no iDevices. Attempting to play anything from an iPad or iPhone's web browser results in failure, and there is no iOS app, either. The Cloud Player for Android, by the way, is not a separate app, but is part of the latest Amazon MP3 Android app (2.0.0, just released).

Office Depot, Inc
There is no iOS version of Amazon MP3, as it would "conflict" with Apple's iTunes. could create a standalone iOS app, but that would likely conflict with Apple's assumed own cloud music services.

On an iOS device, users can try using Safari to play tracks, but they receive an "unsupported browser" error message. They can attempt to continue past the error, but when the user finally tries to play, nothing happens.

There is a way around it, but it would seem to be something that would basically make the service useless except as a storage medium. An iOS-based end user can download the song to his device, and then play it locally.

Reports have indicated that some of the issues with Google and Apple's cloud-based music lockers is reaching agreements with all of the four major record labels. Naturally, these songs that may be uploaded to the music lockers could, in fact, be pirated. sidesteps this issue by treating the service as a storage medium, nothing more than a cloud-based external storage drive.'s director of music, Craig Pape, said:
"We don't need a license to store music. The functionality is the same as an external hard drive."
In terms of usage, to upload tracks to your Cloud Drive, you can either use a Web-based uploader, or install the Amazon MP3 Uploader application. That app will search your desktop computer for tracks, and makes uploading easy, once the search (which could take some time) is complete.

The quality of the Web-based music seems no different than playing from a streaming service such as Pandora. The Web-based player seems intuitive and easy to use, although lacking in frills. This will change as the product matures, but it was obvious from trials that the service has been well-thought out, and well designed.

Performance on an Android device was just as seamless. You will see the same problems as on any other streaming service such as Pandora when on cellular (drop-outs, pauses), but the quality is just as good.

Surprising Apple and Google is not easy. While both of those are planning their own services, has beaten them to the market, and not with a half-baked product, either. However, Apple dominates in portable music, and when the expected cloud-based iOS 5 reaches its iDevices, there will surely be a battle that, for once, someone besides Apple has a head start on.


Scalpers' prices: WWDC 2011 tickets sell on eBay for as much as $3,550

WWDC 2011 sold out in hours. That said, you might expect to see some eBay scalping, and you'd be right.

At the time of this writing, there are 9 auctions for WWDC tickets on eBay. To be clear, the official price for a single ticket was $1,500.

One auction has a bid of $1,100, with a BuyItNow price of $3,900. Ah, but there's free shipping. Another is at $1,725, with a BIN price of $4,599, but once again with free shipping.

Among the others which have bids are ones with bids of $2,125; $3,000; and $3,250.

Before anyone assumes that Apple will step in to halt these auctions, it doesn't appear that will be the case. A number of auctions have completed, including this one for $3,550.

We haven't looked at Craigslist, but it would be interesting to see what's going on there.

Mozilla releases Firefox 4 for Android, Maemo

A week after Firefox 4 launched on the desktop, Mozilla has launched the final version (meaning non-beta) of Firefox for Android. For those few Maemo fans out there, Mozilla also launched the Maemo version, as well.

The Android version, as we've known for some time, syncs basically everything involved in your browsing experience to your desktop. That is also done vice-versa, so if you are browsing on your desktop, you're able to pick up right where you left off when you go mobile.

That does, of course, require users to set up a Firefox Sync account, which they can do directly from their desktop Firefox browser. As part of that process, you will be given a Sync key, which you will need for other devices (including other desktops).

You can then add a device, such as an Android smartphone, by going into Firefox on the device and clicking on the Sync Up option. You'll be given a set of characters to enter into your desktop Firefox version. It's not necessary to sync all your devices or versions of Firefox. If, in fact, you are using Firefox at work, you may not want to sync that to your personal Firefox browsers, or could alternatively set up a secondary Firefox Sync account.

Firefox for Android doesn’t support Flash yet, which can be seen as a major negative on a platform which trumpets Flash as a big feature. However, Firefox mobile will eventually support Flash, but for now it has focused on HTML 5 and CSS because its Flash support is simply not ready.

Here is what’s new in Firefox for Android (and Maemo):

Streamlined Interface
  • Focus on Web content: Features like tabs, one-touch bookmarking and browser controls that stow away when not in use help users focus on the websites they visit
Browse More, Type Less
  • Awesome Screen: Type less with easy access to history, bookmarks and open tabs
  • Save to PDF: Capture important websites, like directions or a boarding pass, to view offline
  • Share Page: Share websites via apps like email, Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader and more
  • Add Search Engine: Customize your search engine list
Private and Secure Synchronization
  • Firefox Sync: Access Awesome Bar history, bookmarks, open tabs, passwords and form data across multiple computers and mobile devices with secure end-to-end encryption
Most Customizable:
  • Firefox offers thousands of ways for users to customize the features, functionality and look of their mobile Web browser with Firefox Add-ons
Cutting Edge Tools for Web Developers:
  • Firefox improves existing tools like CSS, Canvas and SVG to enable developers to make exciting Web pages
  • HTML5 support in Firefox for Android and Maemo includes Location-Aware Browsing, device orientation, accelerometer, desktop notifications and more
  • The JavaScript engine incorporates the new J├ĄgerMonkey JIT compiler, along with enhancements to the existing TraceMonkey JIT and SpiderMonkey’s interpreter for faster page-load speed and better performance of Web apps and games
Via: TechCrunch

Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 3/29/2011: Angry Birds Seasons has promised a free app every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Angry Birds Seasons, another video game. You might ask how can make an already free Android game free; it because this version is not ad-supported, as is the free version you can find in the Android Market.

The free app on the launch day of the Amazon Appstore was Angry Birds Rio, which is exclusive to the Amazon Appstore for now, and which remains free for a unspecified limited time. It will carry a $0.99 price when that time passes.

Angry Birds Seasons is another take on Angry Birds, one "seasonally adjusted."  For example, it received refreshes for the holiday season, and St. Patrick's Day.

As noted, although there is a free version in the Android Market, many users have clamored for a paid version, one without ads, which this is.  Thus, if you want a free take on a paid version without ads, this is your chance.  For now, the paid version is exclusive to the Amazon Appstore.

It is described as follows:
The holidays have arrived, but the Angry Birds still can't catch a break from the tricks of those greedy green pigs. Whether it's Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, or St. Patrick's Day, the pigs' hunger for poached eggs isn't sated by festivities. Join the flock as they get angry all over again in Angry Birds Seasons.

Like in the original Angry Birds, the pigs hoodwink the peace-loving flock out of their precious eggs, leaving them with nothing but a powerful thirst for revenge. It's time to bring back their unique brand of weaponry--the finger-powered slingshot--and unleash an arsenal of angry artillery in this package of four seasonal adventures for the world's most popular physics-based casual game.

See climates whiz past as you soar through the air towards those greedy swine: destroy their new seasonally-themed bases with your feathery firepower, good aim, and plenty of holiday cheer.
Angry Birds Seasons (non-ad supported) usually carries a price of $0.99 in Amazon's Appstore. In the Android Market, the app is well-loved, with 155,079 for a 4.5 average out of 5. In the Amazon Appstore, it has 39 reviews, and is in the 4-star range.

That's a change from the normal Amazon Appstore critics: most of the apps that have been "set free" were much more critically judged in the Amazon Appstore than in the Android Market. In fact, yesterday's Farm Frenzy was removed in favor of Newsweek Mobile after a furor over app permissions.

The Amazon Appstore requires sideloading, which means that for now AT&T devices can't use it. As we noted before, however, there is a way to at least "reserve" these free apps for installation later, when AT&T corrects the issue, as it has promised.

Amazon opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic.

The New York Times' paywall goes live

As promised, the New York Times paywall was erected on Monday, March 28. It seems to already be working, in fact.

End users can read 20 articles per month on the site. Pass the limit, and you are asked to subscribe to be able to read more, via a pop-up message. As you close in on the limit, as well, you should see a pop up that tells you that you are nearly at the limit.

As the Times said earlier, there are loopholes through the paywall, including clicking through articles via Facebook or Twitter. Additionally, users can access five articles daily, each found through five different search engines (AOL, Bing, Google, Yahoo, Ask), for a total of 25 additional articles per day (with a little work).

This goes to show that the NYT isn't after the light reader. Rather, it is interested in the heavy readers, and not even those who frequently arrive at the site via a search or a social networking link, which is the way many people arrive at the Times.

They also aren't trying all that hard to hold out the technically savvy. When you reach your limit, the URL for the story will have a string at the end, something like "&gwh=158847068A1EB619B22B23BD7FEA9C9A." Remove that, and the article is yours to read. There have been quite a few other holes torn in the paywall, already.

The Digital Subscription details are:
  • $15 for four weeks of access to and a mobile phone app.
  • $20 for four weeks of access to and its iPad app.
  • $35 for four weeks of access to all of the above.
New York Times subscribers get unlimited access. That includes those who subscribe to the Kindle version of the New York Times, although that free access is not quite ready to roll out yet; issued a press release on Monday about the program; Kindle subscribers will receive emails about the program in the coming weeks.

Since it was made clear when the details of the program were first announced that Kindle subscribers would not have access, it seems the two parties have come to a deal since then. It’s unclear if Barnes & Noble has come to a similar agreement with the NYT with regards to its ebook reader, the NOOK.

Some early Nintendo 3DS buyers seeing random 'Black Screens of Death'

Early adopters of anything, whether it be hardware or software, take a chance, and some early buyers of the Nintendo 3DS in Europe and North America are seeing what is being called the "Black Screen of Death." Those who have used Microsoft Windows probably have experience with the "Blue Screen of Death," which happens when the system encounters a critical error that is cannot recover from.

The error, as shown above, requests that users reboot the Nintendo 3DS by turning it off and back on again. It's unclear what's causing the issue, whether it be device firmware, problems the game software or what.

It has affected a number of titles, including, but not necessarily limited to, Ghost Recon, Street Fighter, Monkey Ball and Lego Star Wars.

It's also inconsistent and seems to occur randomly. Reports have said it happened while playing online, or sometimes just using the menu system. Other BSoDs happened during offline gameplay.

It's also unclear if these sorts of issues were seen in the earlier release in Japan.

Via: NEOGAF, Digital Spy, AVForums

Amazon Appstore uses Android VM for its 'Test Drive' Feature

When the Amazon Appstore launched last week, we noted that the new marketplace for Android device had a "test drive" feature, that required Adobe Flash. That's where we stopped reading, but we shouldn't have.

Here's some additional info from
Clicking the "Test drive now" button launches a copy of this app on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), an Amazon Web Service available to developers. When you click on the simulated phone using your mouse, those inputs are sent over the Internet to the app running on an Amazon server -- just like a finger tap is sent to the app on your mobile device. From the server, the video and audio output from the app are sent back to your computer. All this happens in real time, creating the effect that you're running the app locally on your computer.
That's a lot better than simply playing with some Flash app that needs to be customized for each Android app. You can even take the phone and rotate its orientation during the test drive procedure, too.

Naturally, you can't get the full experience no multi-touch, and there seems to be no way to test out Android fragmentation on the emulator through the use of older versions of software or specific loads for each device. Indeed, Android users have all seen how an app might work wonderfully on one device, and then totally suck on a different one, even running the same OS version.

Considering there's no refund policy listed at the Amazon Appstore, and that even the Android Market only has 15 minutes of refund time (since it was reduced), this is a great idea, fragmentation or no fragmentation.

Now, if AT&T could just fix that "no sideloading" problem that they brought upon themselves, all would be well with the Amazon Appstore (except, of course, for that Apple lawsuit).

Via: Engadget

Warner Bros., Facebook add five more titles to movie rental test

Warner Bros. and Facebook have expanded their video rental partnership, which first began with a test: "The Dark Knight." That was first announced in early March, and testing must have gone well as the two have added five more movie rentals to Facebook.

To watch them, users go to the specific Fan Page for each movie, and then click on the Watch icon. For example, to watch Inception, go here and click on the Watch Icon (as shown); you'll pay for the movie with Facebook credits.

In addition to Inception, the other movies that Warner Bros. said would be added to its "test" are the first two Harry Potter Movies (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), the romantic comedy Life as We Know It and Yogi Bear.

Admittedly, this is a much better selection that The Dark Knight, as that film, although great and earning an Oscar for the late Heath Ledger, was 2 1/2 years old. Yogi Bear was released to DVD on March 22, and Life As We Know It on February 8. Meanwhile, Inception was released to DVD in December, 2010.

Read the full press release below:




BURBANK, CALIF., March 27, 2011 – Warner Bros. Digital Distribution (WBDD), a market leader in video-on-demand and electronic sell-through, announced it will expand its test offering of movies for rental through Warner Bros. Entertainment's Facebook Movie Pages. Starting today at 10:00 pm Pacific Time / 1:00 am Eastern Time, consumers will be able to rent five additional titles directly through each film's official Facebook Page using Facebook Credits. The films include "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," "Inception," "Life as We Know It" and "Yogi Bear."

To rent a film, consumers simply click on the "watch now" icon to apply their Facebook Credits, and within seconds they will begin enjoying the film. This offering is presently available only to consumers in the United States.

"We're pleased to expand our test with a variety of titles that will appeal to a broad audience," said Thomas Gewecke, President of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution. "These titles have substantial followings on Facebook. The Fan Pages for 'Harry Potter' and 'Inception' alone are two of the most popular and active communities on the site."

Fans will have full control over the film while watching it through their Facebook account for up to 48 hours from purchase. They can choose to watch it in full screen, pause the movie, and resume playing it when they log back into Facebook. Consumers will also have full Facebook functionality including the ability to post comments on the movie, interact with friends and update their status.

Via: The Wrap

No iPhone 5 unveiling at WWDC 2011: report

Apple on Monday announced the 2011 World Wide Developers Conference date, as June 6 - 10 in the Moscone Center (West) in San Francisco. The press release states that WWDC 2011 would be used to "unveil the future of iOS and Mac OS."

That is perhaps the most interesting part of the announcement. In the past, WWDC has been used to introduce new hardware, as well, but as was noted earlier, it appears that iOS 5 is being pushed to the fall.

This seems to confirm what sources have told The Loop about WWDC being a software, not hardware event. In addition to iOS, Mac OS X 10.7 or Lion will be discussed at WWDC 2011, as well.  Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg added that the past is not necessarily indicative of the future. He said:
“You get caught up in patterns, and it holds true, until it doesn’t. There is no reason for Apple to follow a predictable yearly pattern, and it keeps their competition off guard a little bit.”
Still, consumers have come to expect an iPhone release in the summer, and the fact that WWDC 2011 is not going to include any hardware does not mean that Apple won't have a separate event.

However, Apple usually doesn't send out invitations to big media events until the week just before the event. That means that right now, folks who were expecting the iPhone 5 this summer are in limbo,

This has been an extremely busy year for Apple, however, and perhaps that has pushed out the hardware dates. Apple released a Verizon (CDMA) iPhone 4 earlier, is still working on pushing out the white iPhone 4, and released the iPad 2 early than normal. That is a lot of hardware releases for the Cupertino-based company.

If rumors about an iPad 3 in September are true, that could also coincide with timing for an iPhone 5. That said, says its sources indicate that the iPhone 5 has not yet hit the full production stage, adding that it feels the iPhone 5 will not go into mass production until late in 2011 for an early 2012 launch.

That would match up nicely with a year from the Verizon iPhone 4 launch, and might indicate why Apple is even bothering with the white iPhone 4 (if it launches in the Spring, and the iPhone 5 were to launch in the summer, it would make little sense).

Once again, though, there's no way of knowing with Apple's secrecy.

Via: The Loop

Monday, March 28, 2011

iPad 2 coming to RadioShack on March 29

The iPad 2 is about to come to RadioShack stores, according to a report. Reportedly, 500 of the highest revenue Radio Shack outlets in the U.S. will begin selling version 2 of Apple's "magical tablet" on Tuesday.

The information, first outed by MacRumors, was confirmed by AppleInsider. Apparently, the deal for RadioShack to sell the iPad 2 was only completed within the last few days.

Last Friday, Apple launched the iPad 2 in 25 additional countries. The iPad 2 first went on sale in the U.S. earlier this month. Last week, estimated shipping times for iPad 2's ordered from Apple's online store were reduced, from 4 - 5 weeks to 3 - 4 weeks. While hardly good news to those waiting for an iPad 2, the reduction in the wait time is good news overall.

RadioShack has announced which locations will have the iPad 2, but 500 stores is only about 20 percent of the total number of stores in the U.S. The company is advising customers to call their local store to see if it will be carried. The 500 stores are slightly more than 20 percent of the RadioShack's total outlets.

RadioShack recommends checking the site tomorrow, when the locations will be revealed, and also using that old school method of calling stores.

Amazon removes 'Farm Frenzy' as 03/28/2011 Free App of the Day after furor over app permissions

Update: it seems that has removed Farm Frenzy as the Free app of the Day for March 28, 2011, and replaced it with Newsweek Mobile. Farm Frenzy remains free, but it is no longer promoted on the Amazon Appstore homepage.

That, of course, brings up the question: why? It appears the majority of ratings at are negative, and focus mostly on the number of permissions the app requires. On the other hand, Newsweek Mobile isn't doing so well in terms of ratings, either, with 1.5 stars out of 5, just as Farm Frenzy has.

Neither of these are that badly rated at the Android Market.

You can read the original story below. has promised a free app every day in the Android-focused Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Farm Frenzy, another video game. Just as with Sunday's Diner Dash 2, this is another time management game.

The free app on the launch day of the Amazon Appstore was Angry Birds Rio, which is exclusive to the Amazon Appstore for now, and which remains free for a unspecified limited time.

Farm Frenzy is described as follows:
In Farm Frenzy, a frantically fun game from Herocraft, run your own bustling, fully working farm. Look after chickens, sheep, cows, and other animals in this clever time-management game for casual players of all ages. Produce cakes, wool, butter, and cheese, and work hard to achieve your goals--whether that's owning a certain number of animals, producing a specific number of goods, or simply racking up a huge profit.

Slip into a pair of overalls and try your hand at running a farm. From tending to the fields where your cows graze to gathering eggs for sale at the town market, Farm Frenzy is as stimulating as the real thing, only you won't have to experience the nasty smells. You will, however, be required to invest the money you earn in new equipment. Building a cheese dairy, for example, allows you to process your milk on the spot and make even more cash.

Not Your Ordinary Dairy Farm
Farm Frenzy offers 48 action-packed levels to keep you busy, starting from simple egg collecting tasks to the rigors of producing cheese, woolen cloth, and cakes all at the same time. Upgrade various parts of your farm as you advance, from the vehicle you use to transport goods to market, to your storage warehouse, and even the buildings that produce the goods.

Every Day is Moo-ving Day
As well as the standard upgrades, the really canny player unlocks special VIP bonuses, including super-fast transport vehicles, automatic water-pumps, and discount cards that secure cheaper purchasing of animals for your farm. With bright and vibrant graphics, a great soundtrack, and more fun than an afternoon at the petting zoo, Farm Frenzy will have you hooked.
Diner Dash 2 usually carries a price of $1.99 in Amazon's Appstore. In the Android Market, the app has 3,705 ratings for 4.44 average out of 5. However, as we've noted before, there is a pricing difference between the two stores. In the Android market, the app is $3.20.

Meanwhile, Amazon Appstore buyers continue to be more critical. In the Amazon Appstore, Farm Frenzy has 36 reviews, and is in the 1.5-star range.

The Amazon Appstore requires sideloading, which means that for now AT&T devices can't use it. As we noted before, however, there is a way to at least "reserve" these free apps for installation later, when AT&T corrects the issue, as it has promised.

Amazon opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic.

Band BlueBrain announces first location-aware 'album'

Washington, D.C. based band Bluebrain has announced the first location-aware album, ever. In reality, it won't be an album in the standard-sense, as it will be an app, not a set of MP3s, but nevertheless, it will be location-aware.

Their latest album is an iPhone app that changes its sound as a user walks around The National Mall in Washington, D.C. That probably means it won't be as relevant to those who live in other parts of the country, but Bluebrain is also working on an album for Prospect Park in New York, and also a third location-aware album along the total length of California’s Highway 1.

The 2-year-old group consists of Ryan Holladay and his brother Hays. Here's what the group said in a blog post:
‘The National Mall’ works by tracking a users location via the iPhones built-in GPS capabilities. Hundreds of zones within the Mall are tagged and alter the sound based on where the listener is located in proximity to them. Zones overlap and interact in dynamic ways that, while far from random, will yield a unique experience with each listen. The proprietary design that is the engine behind the app will stay hidden from view as the melodies, rhythms, instrumentation and pace of the music vary based on the listeners’ chosen path. ‘The National Mall’ is an ambitious project that will allow users to listen to and interact with a work of music in a way that’s never been possible before. [...]

Bluebrain’s concept of the location-aware album is not an augmented reality application in that it does not respond to input from the listener. It is not a toy or game that allows users to input or experiment with limitless possibilities to alter what they’re hearing. Each position on the map has been carefully considered, the music composed and recorded to be heard in their specific place in the same way you would hear a piece of music on a physical record. However, because each listener will explore the Mall in a different way and at a different pace, experiences with the album will be unique in sequencing and in arrangement. It is truly the first location-aware album in the sense that it is a work of authored music-different melodies, different rhythms, different instrumentation, and different songs entirely are to be heard at their designated locations. For instance, a listener may chose not to visit the Sculpture Garden and his or her experience with the album might not include those musical sections. But they are as permanent as a song on an LP. What you hear standing twenty feet south of and staring up at the Washington Monument will be there when you return to it one year or ten years later. The landscape is simply the way to discover and interact with the music that’s been composed and carefully placed throughout.
Their album will hit the App Store in a few weeks. Reportedly, iPhone will be first, then Android second, followed by the iPad.

Via: The Next Web