Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Royal Wedding's backstage, via online spoof site NMA News

Online "news site" NMA News, which spoofs the news with Sims-style animated, decided to take a poke at the Royal Wedding. After all, everyone else did.

In this case, the site shows viewers a home movie done by Prince Harry, showing a backstage view of the wedding, including the Queen doing the chicken dance.

Watch it, and laugh, as many have said the Royal Wedding was taken far too seriously (and cost far too much taxpayer money, as well). Unlike most NMA News videos, this one is dubbed.





Despite Sony assurances, PSN users report fraudulent credit card use

Although admitting that personal information was stolen during the PlayStation Network (PSN) and Qriocity, Sony has said 1) that it is unsure if any credit card data was stolen, and 2) that even if they had been, the numbers were encrypted. However, a number of PSN users are coming forward, saying they have seen fraudulent charges on the credit cards they have linked to their PSN accounts, damning evidence against Sony's statements.

For example, Australian PlayStation user has reported $2,000 of unauthorized charges on his credit card in recent days, and that is just the start. The claims of fraud include $1,500 spent in a German grocery store on a U.S. credit card, and plenty of other complaints, as well.

There is, of course, always the chance that these credit cards were exposed by some other method, not via the PSN hack. However, this Tweet emphasized that the charge occurred on a credit card only used for PSN, no other uses. Another said his American Express card, which sits in his drawer for emergencies but was used once for a PSP account, had charges on it that thankfully, Amex caught. If true, these incidents point to only one possible way the credit cards were compromised: the PSN hack.

Hackers have been boasting on forums that they have millions of credit cards numbers from the PSN hack. In order to use cards, however, they would need the CVV codes (3 digits for most cards, 4 for Amex) that Sony initially claimed in its FAQ that it never requests. However, Sony later changed their statement to say that while it does ask for the codes, they aren't stored in their database.

It took Sony a week to reveal that personal information, including perhaps credit card data, had been accessed by the hackers. That delay and a lack of openness have already led to a lot of heat, including government questions and a lawsuit.

Sony Corporation's Executive Deputy President Kazuo Hirai will hold a press conference on Sunday to discuss the PSN hacking. It will be the first time a company executive is directly addressing the issue. The press conference is scheduled for The news conference will be at 2 p.m. Japan time (1 a.m. EST).



Amazon Appstore's free app of the day for April 30, 2011: Hex Defense

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Hex Defense.

Hex Defense is $1.49 in the Android Market, and normally is priced at $1.49 in the Amazon Appstore (as noted previously, the two marketplaces sometimes have differing prices).

Hex Defense is described as follows:
Defend your home base from hordes of attackers with HexDefense. HexDefense combines gorgeous special effects with classic "open field" tower defense gameplay. Engagingly simple yet deeply challenging, HexDefense provides countless hours of pyrotechnic arcade action.

Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master
The gameplay of HexDefense will be familiar to lovers of tower defense games. Your enemy spawns wave after wave of attackers that storm towards your base, and you place weaponized towers in their path, hoping to destroy them before they destroy you. The battlefield is laid out in a hexagonal grid, and because of the open field nature of the game there is a strong element of strategy to how you array your towers.

Deploy Your Arsenal
You are armed with four different types of towers, each with four available power-ups. Each tower has individual strengths and weakenesses that make it more or less effective against different types of attackers. The Minigun is the least expensive weapon and targets one enemy at at time. The laser fires a high-powered enemy beam that can shoot through multiple opponents at once. The Rocket launches heat seeking projectiles that pack a powerful payload. Lastly, the Shockwave sends out sonic pulses that damage all enemies in all directions.

The more powerful the tower the more it will cost you. You earn cash by destroying bad guys, which funds your ability to manufacture additional military might. Choose wisely when setting up your towers--the wrong selection can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Bring on the Flood
Attackers come in many shapes and forms... some are fast but lightly armored, while others are slow but hard to kill. There are also four types of Boss Creeps, each of which is impervious to one type of weapon. Additionally, there are special tiles on some of the levels that add an extra dimension to the game. These include Directional Tiles, which force the creeps to move a certain way, and Sludge Tiles, that slow down the Creeps and make them easy targets.

Watch the Fireworks
HexDefense uses every ounce of graphics power your phone can muster, with vibrant OpenGL-based graphics and dazzling particle effects. Shimmering lazer beams, flaming rockets, and blinding explosions fill the screen with eye candy. Slick animations and 3D stereo sound round out the package. Take note that if you have an older Android phone, you will want to try out the free version of HexDefense to make sure the game will run smoothly on your phone before you buy the full version. You can also lower the graphics requirement by unchecking the "Intense Graphics" option in the settings menu.
Hex Defense has a 4.5-star rating in the Android Market. In the Amazon Appstore, it has 4-star rating. There is also a free version, but that version only has 3 levels versus the paid version's 17.

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.



Case manufacturers given 'fits' by slightly thicker white iPhone 4

Size does matter, at least when it comes to devices. The long-awaited white iPhone 4 has arrived, carrying a surprise for many: it's slightly bigger than the black model, just enough to give case manufacturers fits.

The new white iPhone 4 is about 0.2 mm thicker than the black model. In your hand, it doesn't make much difference (although some have reported noticing the thickness difference simply by holding the white one). However, with an especially form-fitting case, it could be a deal-breaker.

Apple’s iPhone 4 specification page still lists 9.3mm as the thickness of the iPhone 4, with no difference given for the white version. The reason for the difference is unknown.

Some cases will do just fine (in particular, Apple's own bumper cases). Some cases may not. TiPB ran a few cases through the wringer, and they all fit, but some were quite tight. It's possible given manufacturing tolerances that some cases of a particular model may fit, while others will not.

Indeed, it is a "small" problem, but if someone had their heart set on a particular case, and it wasn't returnable without a restocking fee (or at all), it could prove to be expensive.

Can we call it thickness-gate?



Verizon to attach location tracking warning tags on new handsets

Both Google and Apple track users, no matter what they might say, but at least the data is anonymized. Not so with the data that carriers have on you.

Way before the recent furor over a hidden iOS file that researchers found on the device, but after a story by the New York Times about the tracking possible because of the capabilities of smartphones, Congressmen Joe Barton (R-TX) and Ed Markey (D-MA) sent letters to the big 4 U.S. wireless carriers.

The carriers admitted that they do track of users' locations, but added that they are required to do so by federal law. The congressmen asked the carriers how long they hold onto the data, and the responses were as follows: Verizon: seven years, AT&T: "from" several days to five years (it is not clear why there is a range), Sprint: three years, and T-Mobile was simply vague on the number.

However, information is key. If you agree to a company's Terms of Service, you can't say anything, now can you? Thus, Verizon said that it is going to start placing a warning label on phones it sells. The label will say:
This device is capable of determining its (and your) geographical location and can associate this location data with other customer information. To limit access to location information by others, refer to the User Guide for Location settings, and be cautious when downloading, accessing, or using applications or services.
The label, from Verizon's own letter to the Congressmen, is pictured above.

Apple and Google are due to appear at a Senate hearing on May 10 to explain more about the location tracking on their devices. It's a truism, if you didn't already know it. 100 percent true privacy is a thing of the past.

Via: Forbes



Apple buys iCloud.com domain name, for obvious reasons

Digital Daily has confirmed that Apple has purchased the domain name iCloud.com. Sweden-based hybrid cloud computing firm Xcerion had owned the domain name, but its service has recently been rebranded to CloudMe. Xcerian acquired the CloudMe.com domain on April 5, 2011.

Top 100 Products to Keep Baby Safe
According to Digital Daily, sources "in position to know" confirmed the deal. What they didn't confirm is whether or not the rumored price of $4.5 million was accurate.

As far as what the domain will be used for, it's pretty obvious it will be used for the cloud-based initiatives that Apple is planning. That would obviously include the cloud-based music service that is pretty much assumed to be coming soon.

Amazon.com launched its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player services in late March. It did so without signing licensing deals with any of the big 4 music labels, saying its Cloud services were nothing more than a file locker, and thus needed no licenses. Apple isn't going that route, and has reportedly signed agreements with at least two of the big 4 labels.



Amazon MP3 starts a price war with iTunes, but will it really matter?

iTunes overwhelmingly has the lead in downloadable music, with Amazon MP3 a distant second. Will lowering its prices, effectively starting a price war with iTunes, make a difference?

Amazon MP3 now prices select hot-selling tunes for 69 cents, down from 89 cents previously. Many of the songs in Amazon's 69-cent store sell for $1.29 on iTunes. However, if they couldn't make a move on iTunes' market share with a $0.40 price advantage, will an extra 20 cents win them market share?

Among the songs that Amazon MP3 buyers can save nearly 50 percent on include, Katy Perry's "E.T.", Jennifer Lopez's "On the Floor," The Black Eyed Peas' "Just Can't Get Enough," and Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."

Amazon MP3's digital download music market share sits at about 10 percent. Apple's iTunes continues to have about 70 percent of the digital download music market, according to the NPD Group.

In 2010, Apple went to a tiered pricing model. New releases went to $1.29 each, up from 99 cents. Despite that, Amazon MP3 continued to toddle along at 10 percent, in terms of its market share.  It has never been able to take any sort of bite out of iTunes' market dominance.

Some of this, of course, is because it is so easy to buy from iTunes, and load it onto your iDevice. However, Amazon.com has an MP3 downloader that takes any MP3s you buy from them and slaps it right into your iTunes library, without an issue.

Considering the near 50 percent price difference, isn't Amazon MP3 worth a look?


Download and Try Rinse for FREE


HBO Go apps launch, bring HBO to Android and iOS (if you can log in)

HBO Go has hit both iOS and Android devices. As we wrote earlier, the HBO Go service has finally gone mobile, which is fitting based on its name.

Launched in February 2010, HBO Go allows customers of DirecTV, Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, and more to catch up on their HBO favorites (assuming, of course, they subscribe to HBO) on the Web or now, via a free iOS or Android application. Unfortunately, it seems HBO Go's applications should not have "gone" anywhere, certainly not live yet.

Some have experienced an inability to log in. One user of the iOS version said that it was telling him the service was only available in the U.S. (he lives in Southern California). An Android user said that
although he already had an HBO Go account, the app tried to force him to create a new one. The problem was that it would then say that both the username and email address were already used.

The HBO Go app will, it says, allow viewing on both wi-fi and 3G (once you login). A user can also restrict viewing to times when the user is on wi-fi only.

Android requires 2.1 - 2.3.3. You're reading that right, no Honeycomb. A test on a Xoom resulted in a force close. Meanwhile, the iOS version requires iOS 3.2 or greater.



The Internet survives massive Royal Wedding coverage

The Royal Wedding between Prince William and now-Princess Catherine (Kate Middleton) has come and gone, and YouTube survived streaming the live Royal Wedding coverage on the Royal's official channel. Sure to become viral videos, however, are the excerpts from the wedding and the procession.

Not only did YouTube survive, the whole of the Internet saw a rise in traffic, but no major disruptions. One exception to that was the official website of the British Monarchy, which saw occasional "server too busy" errors during the height of Royal Wedding coverage.

Akamai Technologies' Real-Time Web Monitor said that Web traffic peaked at 42 percent above normal at about 7 a.m. EST. U.S. Web traffic was normal, likely because of the event's timing, while the highest Web usage was right where you would expect it to be, in the U.K. and Western Europe.

Akamai's Net Usage said that viewing of news coverage was high, higher in fact than another notable event: the death of a music royal, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, in 2009. Viewing of coverage of Michael Jackson's death peaked at 4.2 million page views per minute in 2009.

Earlier, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone joked with an image posted to Twitter's official Flickr account showing the company prepping Twitter for Royal Wedding coverage by dedicating a server to Will and Kate. Despite the heavy [heavy] trending traffic about the wedding, Twitter's infamous "fail whale" did not make an appearance during the wedding, so whatever Twitter did to prepare (if anything) certainly worked.

[In the image, three of the Apple Xserves shown were shown as dedicated to Justin Bieber tweets, while Lady Gaga and "Wills & Kate" only have one apiece. In September of 2010, Twitter said 3 percent of their traffic was Bieber-related, and it may have risen since then.]

The Royals have clips of the wedding available on the Royal Channel. Some are embedded below. In addition, the British Monarchy announced titles for the newly wedded couple. Prince William will be Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus. Meanwhile Kate Middleton became Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.







Friday, April 29, 2011

Hackers claim possession of millions of credit card numbers from PSN intrusion

Sony has previously said it wasn't sure if credit card information was stolen in the recent PlayStation Network (PSN) and Qriocity hack, and thus, it has not offered any free credit monitoring service for customers. That may have to change, now, as a hacker group has claimed it has credit card information gleaned from the attack.

Although the hackers have not come forth themselves, security researchers have noticed posts in underground hacker forums claiming to have made off with credit card information, as well as other information. The hackers claimed that they had a database with customer names, addresses, usernames, passwords and as many as 2.2 million credit card numbers.

Kevin Stevens, senior threat researcher at the security firm Trend Micro, said he had seen discussions on several hacker forums. He added one forum member told him the hackers had offered to sell the data back to Sony but had not heard back from company. Stevens added that that he saw indications that the hackers hoped to sell the credit card list for $100,000 or more to third-parties.

Stevens has Tweeted several times about the forum posts. He added, however, that he only saw posts, not the database. Other security firms confirmed the forum discussions, but there is no way to know if these claims of having credit card information are valid.

Patrick Seybold, senior director of corporate communications and social media at Sony, said,
”To my knowledge there is no truth to the report that Sony was offered an opportunity to purchase the list.”
In addition, Seybold pointed to a blog post Sony published on Wednesday that said:
“The entire credit card table was encrypted and we have no evidence that credit card data was taken.”
Mathew Solnik, a security consultant with iSEC Partners said,
“Sony is saying the credit cards were encrypted, but we are hearing that the hackers made it into the main database, which would have given them access to everything, including credit card numbers.”
iSEC frequents hacker forums to search for posts on new vulnerabilities that may affect their clients. The posts that Solnik read had details about the servers used by Sony, possibly indicating that the posters had direct knowledge of the hack.

This all points to PSN members bneeding to be cautious. Since Sony hasn't offered any free credit monitoring, they should alert their banks, and read their credit card statements, carefully. Certainly, Sony has more explaining to do, and this incident is by no means over.



Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 4/29/2011: Fast Food Calorie Counter

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Fast Food Calorie Counter.

Fast Food Calorie Counter is $2.99 in the Android Market, and normally is priced at $2.99 in the Amazon Appstore (as noted previously, the two marketplaces sometimes have differing prices).

Fast Food Calorie Counter is described as follows:
Do you know how many calories are really in that deep-fried dish you're about to devour? Are you trying to balance your diet with your love of fast food? Whether you're looking to seriously start paying attention to the food you consume or you're just curious about the nutrition value of today's fast food industry, Fast Food Calorie Counter is the app for you. Take this app with you on your Android device and dine out with confidence. Keep track of your eating habits and always be aware of your caloric intake, even if you have to eat on the run.

Thousands of Menu Items from Burgers to Coffee
Peruse the 75 restaurant chains and more than 9,000 menu items in this app before you order out. Get educated about what exactly it is that you're putting into your body by tapping on the restaraunt of your choice. Familiarize yourself with the nutrition facts about your favorite fast food meals. Each item has accurate nutritional information including calories, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. The information is neatly packaged for you and ou can simply swipe to skim through other menu items at a fast pace.

Counting Carbs
This handy guide can help you maintain your diet whether you're on a specific plan or you're just looking to limit your caloric intake. From Applebee's to White Castle and Domino's to Denny's, this app has 75 of the top restaurants that you're likely to visit when deciding to dine out. Give this app a try and learn all about the food your favorite restaraunt serves.

75 Top Fast Food Restaurants
  • Arby's
  • Boston Market
  • Burger King
  • Dairy Queen
  • Denny's
  • Domino's Pizza
  • Dunkin' Donuts
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Jack in the Box
  • KFC
  • Long John Silver's
  • McDonald's
  • Old Country Buffet
  • Papa John's
  • Pizza Hut
  • Popeyes
  • Sonic
  • Starbucks
  • Subway
  • Taco Bell
  • Wendy's
  • White Castle
Tablet Note
Please note: Fast Food Calorie Counter is not compatible with all tablets.
The note about tablets is one we've been seeing a lot in the Amazon Appstore. It likely means that the app is not compatible with Android 3.0, or Honeycomb, the tablet-optimized version of Android that first appeared on the Motorola Xoom.

Fast Food Calorie Counter has a 4-star rating in the Android Market. In the Amazon Appstore, it has 2.5-star rating. In the Appstore, the complaints range from lack of selection (restaurants), no way to add up items at a restaurant (for a grand total), and no size selection.

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.



Motorola 'ships' 250,000 Xooms in Q1 2011, sell-through characterized as 'good'

Motorola Mobility is still losing money, but at least it's losing less money. Excluding special items, the company lost $25 million during the Q1 2011, an improvement on losses of $142 million year-over-year.

Motorola Mobility also posted $3 billion in net revenues. That is up 22 percent year-over-year. Mobile device revenues were $2.1 billion, up 30 percent year-over-year. GAAP net loss was $0.27 per share compared to $0.72 in Q1 2010. Non-GAAP loss was $0.08 per share versus $0.48 loss in Q1 2010.

The big question on the minds of all: how many devices did Motorola sell. Well, Motorola didn't give us that number. Instead it gave us the number of devices "shipped." The company said that it shipped a total of 9.3 million mobile devices, which included more than 250,000 Motorola Xoom tablets and 4.1 million smartphones. That compares with Q1 2010's numbers of 8.5 million mobile devices, with 2.3 million smartphones.

That is just "shipped," however. What analysts are most interested in is "sell through," meaning how many of those Xooms reached the hands of consumers.

Compare that number to Apple's 4.69 million iPads in the first calendar quarter of this year (which still underperformed analyst's estimates of 6 million for Apple's fiscal Q2 2011). Apple sold 300,000 of the original iPad on the first day it went on sale.

Still, 250,000 devices used to be considered a hit. When asked about "sell-through," Motorola Mobility's chief financial officer Marc Rothman said that it was “good.” He added that the Xoom didn’t begin shipping until late February during a quarter that ended in March.

Meanwhile, Motorola Mobility recently began shipping a wi-fi only version. In addition, Sprint announced on Thursday that it would begin selling the wi-fi only Xoom on May 8. It's unclear why Sprint wouldn't sell a 3G or WiMax version, but it's possible that Motorola needs more time to make changes for that support, and a Sprint-capable Xoom might show up later.



Google adds video chat support to Android's Google Talk, but only on 2.3+ devices

iOS has FaceTime, and Android has what? Fring, Qik, etc.? None of those are integrated into the OS as FaceTime is. That is about to change.

Google has begun rolling out an update to Nexus S devices. That update will add voice and video chat to Google Talk, which most will recognize as one of the core apps included on most current Android phones. The new features will work on both wi-fi and 3G/4G wireless networks, unlike FaceTime, which only works on wi-fi.

The update will gradually roll out OTA, which means it will take some time to hit all Nexus S phones. It also has a number of bug fixes. The Nexus One will receive an update as well, but since the N1 does not have a front-facing camera, it won’t include the video chat support.

This is a great move, and it brings Android further into parity with iOS. Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) has offered video chat in Google Talk since it launched, but that is a tablet-specific platform, and this is the first time video chat been available as part of Google Talk on smartphones. Google said that the feature will roll out to more Android 2.3+ devices in the future.

And that is the bad thing about the new feature is that it is specific to Android 2.3+ smartphones. It raises the bar for lowest-level Android version that will get the most desirable features.

You can watch the a Google video on the new features below.





Alaska bans wildlife 'Tase-and-release'

In a proactive move related to Taser's new X3W wildlife electronic control device (ECD), Alaska has banned any type of so-called "Tase and release" hunting, or behavior. The ban is effective starting on July 1.

The Taser X3W wildlife ECD has been modified to penetrate the extra tough hide of an animal such as a bear or moose. It has a range of 35 feet.

Rick Smith, Taser CEO said the following when the device was launched:
"Just as our Taser technology is a safer and more effective option to stop dangerous individuals, the Taser Wildlife ECD is an extension of Taser's technology to save animal lives. It is designed to incapacitate larger animals more effectively and safer than current animal control tools."
The device was designed for self-defense purposes, to take down an animal if it was charging or attacking a wildlife professional.


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The X3W is a variant of the X3 design, which carries the 3 numbering because, unlike a standard Taser, which is a single-shot design, it has not one, but three cartridges side-by-side.

While designed for use by wildlife professionals, there was fear that some might decide that tasing an animal might be a cool sport. Although no such incidents have been reported, Alaska decided it was better to err on the side of caution and ban it proactively.

Of course, it's possible that no one thought of the idea, and publicity over the ban might make someone decide to do it before July 1. The ban will not affect the ability of users to protect themselves in a self-defense situation, however.

Larry Lewis, the Alaska's Department of Fish and Game's expert on Tasers and wildlife said:
"An analogy was the computer-generated killing of animals that was taking place in some parts of the United States for sport where a person was able to use a computer to sight in on an animal within a high fence and push a button to send a bullet into the animal killing it. That use of modern technology was unforeseen by many state agencies and quick action had to take place to regulate or outlaw the use of that."
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, says they have not heard of any such instances of wildlife tasering. That said, they wouldn't put it past anyone. Martin Mersereau, PETA's director of emergency response said,
"There are all kinds of cruelties out there."


Three Foxconn employees arrested for leaking iPad 2 specs to accessory manufacturers

If you've ever wondered how third-party accessory firms in China are able to produce cases and other accessories for iDevices, many times in time for launch, here's the (obvious) answer. DigiTimes reports that three Foxconn employees have been arrested and charged with leaking the design for the iPad 2 to accessory companies.

Considering it is China, where intellectual property is not such a big deal, the story is no surprise. After all, an enterprising entrepreneur managed to start a cottage industry over DIY white iPhone 4 kits, using parts from China (which we are quite certain were not supposed to be sold). Unfortunately for him, now that the white iPhone 4 is officially on sale, he's out of business.

Apple relies on Hon Hai Industries' Foxconn subsidiary to make many of its products, including iDevices. When several online shopping retailers in China began selling iPad 2 cases before the launch of the iPad 2, the report said that Foxconn suspected that there might have been some employees leaking the design of iPad 2.

Local police arrested three employees on December 26, 2010. Police officially charged the three employees for violating Foxconn's (really, Apple's_ trade secrets on March 23, 2011, the report added.

It's not unusual to see cases available before an iDevice launch. In fact, they are often used to speculate on actual designs of the iDevices. Cases began leaking out of China in early December 2010, and these were mostly dismissed as speculative, and based on rumor. They were far too accurate, however.

Still, this isn't the first time early case designs have been accurate. This leads one to wonder if (when? how many times?) this has happened before.



NVIDIA says SLI coming to AMD-based motherboards

NVIDIA and AMD are competitors in the GPU market, that's no secret, and they have their own competing multi-GPU technologies (SLI and CrossFireX) as well. Until now, NVIDIA has only licensed SLI on Intel motherboards, but that's changed, as of now.

In their blog post, NVIDIA says "You asked for it, you got it: SLI for AMD." They go on to give some history in the matter. There was, as NVIDIA notes, a time when AMD overtook Intel as the gamers' choice
for CPUs, but that prominence fell by the wayside as Intel fought back. However, as NVIDIA said,
However, we’ve been recently hearing chants of “SLI for AMD CPUs”, and figured that now is a great time to do it. After all, we want to make sure gamers can benefit from the new CPU competitive landscape and ensure they have NVIDIA SLI – the highest performance, most stable multi-GPU solution - to game on! According to Steam, 93% of all multi-GPU systems in use today use SLI.

So today, we are pleased to announce that SLI has been licensed to the world’s leading motherboard companies for integration onto their upcoming motherboards featuring AMD’s 990FX, 990X and 970 chipsets. ASUS, Gigabyte, ASRock, and MSI are among the first motherboard manufacturers to offer this new capability, with more coming on board shortly.
It's a good time for NVIDIA to do this, in fact. It's no longer in the chipset business, and AMD's Llano and Bulldozer-based processors are said to be competitive with Intel's Sandy Bridge. More choice certainly can't hurt the consumer.



Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fake DMCA complaints result in high-profile Facebook pages being taken down

In a wickedly simply form of cyber-mischief, some popular sites have seen their Facebook pages taken down recently. The reason was not hacking: in fact, Facebook itself took the pages down.

The reason the pages, including those of such high-tech sites as Ars Technica, were taken down was over a DMCA complaint. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act or DMCA allows copyright holders to file a complaint with a hosting provider. The provider could be a Web host, or Blogger, or Facebook, in this case. DMCA complaints have been used to pull down content from such places as YouTube, etc.

Once a complaint comes in, the host removes the content and informs the poster that it has been removed, and why. Then starts the process of trying to get the content restored, if it is an error.

The problem is, Facebook is not validating any of the information on the complaint form. According to reports coming in from around the Web, several blogs and sites have seen their Facebook pages removed. They include Ars, as mentioned above, Redmond Pie, TiPB, NeoWin, and more.

The fastest way to resolve the issue is to have the complainant retract the complaint. However, in these cases, the contact info is bogus. So how can anyone contact a complainant?

Strangely, Facebook's hair-trigger response to DMCA apparently has been around for some time. ZDNet's Violet Blue reports the same sort of thing happened to her:
Last year I started a page for women to show their support and create discussions around women’s issues with pornography. It wasn’t for pictures, links, or even off-color language and the thousands of us on it kept it clean and safe.

But we weren’t anti-porn, and conservatives on the page “Porn Harms” rallied their page members to report us to get the page taken down. It worked. On the “Porn Harms” page, they openly celebrated and discussed their successful bogus takedown of our page.

The page deletion was covered in publications such as Psychology Today and notable blogs, but Facebook couldn’t be bothered to reign in the abuse. Like Neowin, we lost our page and our community.
That's the biggest loss: the loss of your fans and followers. In this case it seems the takedowns are simply malicious. At least one case of blackmail has occurred, however, as ReadWriteWeb details it:
"In one case, with Hamard Dar's Rewriting Technology site, the page went down for over a month. Dar says he was targeted for money. 'He wanted me to pay him...to get the page back,' he told us. Dar didn't go for that option, however, because there was no guarantee the scammer would return the page once paid. Instead, Dar ran his own personal investigation until he discovered the person involved and threatened him to withdraw the complaint, saying he would report him to U.S. cyber crime enforcement (the scam artist lives in Chicago). The page was then returned."
It seems a simple bit of automated checking, validating the email addresses submitted as contact information, might halt some of these. All they need do is make sure the address does not bounce.

When asked why they did not validate emails, Facebook did not reply.

Update: a number of pages have been restored, but the questions over how Facebook does this sort of thing still remain.

Via: ReadWriteWeb, Ars Technica, ZDNet



Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 4/28/2011: Majesty the Fantasy Kingdom Sim

Amazon.com has promised a free app every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Majesty the Fantasy Kingdom Sim.

Majesty the Fantasy Kingdom Sim is $3.28 in the Android Market, and normally is priced at $1.99 in the Amazon Appstore (as noted previously, the two marketplaces sometimes have differing prices).

Majesty the Fantasy Kingdom Sim is described as follows:
Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim is a vast, magical world which honors you with the crown of a tiny fairytale kingdom. When you become the head of the country through a tragic rodent-related accident, all responsibility for the land's prosperity rests on your royal shoulders. Fight various enemies and monsters to protect your realm, explore new territories, manage economic and scientific developments, solve unusual problems, and take on unexpected tasks in this creative twist on a real-time strategy game.

Your Decisions Shape the Kingdom
What will you do when all the gold in the kingdom transforms into cookies? How will you bring back the trolls who robbed caravans, yet whose disappearance puts heroes out of business and ruins the economy? You succeed by completing specific objectives with each new level, but there's more than one road to success. For example, choose to wipe out all of the goblins in the immediate area, or employ a necromancer to resurrect the slain rats and keep the hungry goblins happy.

Your Heroes for Hire
Rather than existing under your direct control, Majesty's denizens live their own lives and decide for themselves what to do at any moment. However, your heroes willingly assist you when they receive bounties and rewards for their daring deeds. From valiant warriors to warlike barbarians, powerful wizards to grim necromancers, and industrious dwarves to skillful elves, and many others, your heroes improve their skills and talents as they earn rewards and cash for new equipment, weapons, and magical elixirs.

From Tiny Castle to Massive Kingdom
Create a variety of buildings, including a warrior's guild, wizard's guild, and a marketplace; then develop each structure for stronger heroes and more powerful spells, as well as more money-making opportunities and new defensive structures. Spend your money wisely and build up the right kind of defenses for each level without going bankrupt or getting overrun by monsters. Beware of corruption among your citizens; as your realm enjoys a rather urban-like sprawl, monsters may appear within your own borders--possibly at the whim of your denizens, themselves.

Product Reviews
"Gamers looking for a robust strategy game to play on the go need look no further than Majesty Fantasy Kingdom Sim. With multiple ways to complete each level, and online leaderboards, you'll find yourself playing each level over and over in an effort to get a better score. Just remember, it's easy to get wrapped up in this game." - Michael Kurz, App Rundown

"The sound quality is up there, with a full soundtrack and more. Really matches the gameplay and adds to the ambiance. Overall, the game is great. Some extra added features, like skirmish and multiplayer, would bring this game to the top of the RTS list. 9/10." - Jay Booshay, What's Good Blog
Majesty the Fantasy Kingdom Sim certainly has a long name, but has a 4.5-star rating in the Android Market. In the Amazon Appstore, it has 4.5-star rating. The ad-supported free version has a 4.5-star rating the Android Market, as well. Strangely, th free version only has a 2-star rating in the Amazon Appstore.

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.



Finally! White iPhone 4 to hit stores on April 28: Apple

After more than 10 months of waiting, the white iPhone 4 is arriving, Apple said, on April 28, 2011. The iPhone 4 was first released on June 24, 2010.

Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing said,
“The white iPhone 4 has finally arrived and it’s beautiful. We appreciate everyone who has waited patiently while we’ve worked to get every detail right.”
It is unclear what the delay has been. Apple's latest pronouncement on the delivery of the white iPhone 4 was "Spring." With the long delay, and no further announcements, some wondered if the white iPhone 4 was simply going to be cancelled.

In March, however, Schiller Tweeted that the white iPhone 4 was coming, still in the Spring, and that it was "beautiful," something he reconfirmed in the press release.

It's believed that supplies will be short. The device is not available to pre-order, either. It will be available for both CDMA and GSM versions.

Some of the concern that the white device would be cancelled came from the fact that Apple has been running annual refreshes of the iPhone in the summer time frame. If that were the case, it would seem unlikely that Apple would release another variant of the iPhone 4 so close to the refresh.

However, this year Apple has said that WWDC 2011 will focus on software (iOS 5 and Mac OS X 10.7). It's believed that the iPhone 5 will be released later this year, although some claim it may stretch into early 2012, instead.



Scots Guardsman loses wedding duty after Facebook rant calling Kate a 'cow'

A Facebook rant which included calling royal bride-to-be Kate Middleton a "cow" has resulted in a Scots Guard's dismissal, at least from his wedding parade assignment on Friday. It has not resulted in his removal from his Buckingham Palace security duties, yet.

The Facebook post took place after Kate Middleton and Prince William drove by Scots Guardsman Cameron Reilly, sort of snubbing him. Scots Guardsman Cameron Reilly wrote on his: "hur and william drove past me on friday n all a got was a sh**ty wave while she looked the opposite way from me, stupid stuck up cow am a not good enough for them! posh bitch am totally with u on this 1 who reely gives a f*** about hur."

The snubbing and posting apparently took place in March. Reilly was going to beone of the several hundred Scots Guards who are scheduled to line the route for the wedding procession on Friday, April 29, but not any longer.

As a member of the Scots Guard, the 18-year-old Reilly serves in one of the five British military units stand around Buckingham Palace with those furry bearskin hats, taunting passersby to make them laugh of smile.

Seriously, however, Reilly's post on the Royal couple was not his only Facebook faux pas. He listed "causing trouble" and "casually breaking the law" among his interests on his Facebook page, now deleted.

He also posted racist comments on the page. In a comment on one photo, which showed Reilly holding a rifle in each hand, he said he couldn't fit in any more guns because he had "2 many paki's scalps in it already." "Paki" is considered an offensive term by people of Pakistani descent.

In another exchange with a friend, he posted, "Watching a massive Jew gathering at the Tower of London! Have never seen so many rabbis in my life," to which his friend replied, "Get the rifle out..." Reilly replied to that by saying, "Have got one of the Jews in my sights now lmao."



Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Trailer Hits the Web [VIDEO]

The final chapter to the Harry Potter saga arrives on July 15, 2011. However, on Wednesday, Warner Bros. unveiled the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Trailer, giving viewers their first glimpse of the climactic battle between good and evil in the Harry Potter universe.

The video debuted on ABC Family during its "Happy Gilmore" movie airing. It then hit the Web in several locations, including Apple's iTunes movie trailers site, where it can be viewed in HD.

Those who have kept up with the Harry Potter saga know what will happen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, Trailer or not. Unlike Part 1, Part 2 will be released in 3D. The film stars:
  • Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
  • Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, Harry's best friend and Hermione's romantic interest
  • Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, Harry's other best friend and Ron's romantic interest
  • Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort, the leader of the Death Eaters
  • Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, a Death Eater and Sirius Black's cousin and murderer
  • Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid, Harry's half-giant friend and a former teacher at Hogwarts
Watch the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Trailer below.





Sony faces lawsuit, government investigations over PSN data breach

Sony on Tuesday said that at least some personal information had been lost in the data breach of its PlayStation Network (PSN) and Qriocity services. On Wednesday, both the U.S. and U.K. governments began looking into the breach, and just how long Sony knew certain details of the hacking incident.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) CEO Jack Tretton. In part, Blumenthal said:
When a data breach occurs, it is essential that customers be immediately notified about whether and to what extent their personal and financial information has been compromised. Additionally, PlayStation Network users should be provided with financial data security services, including free access to credit reporting services, for two years, the costs of which should be borne by Sony. Affected individuals should also be provided with sufficient insurance to protect them from the possible financial consequences of identity theft.

I am concerned that PlayStation Network users’ personal and financial information may have been inappropriately accessed by a third party. Compounding this concern is the troubling lack of notification from Sony about the nature of the data breach. Although the breach occurred nearly a week ago, Sony has not notified customers of the intrusion, or provided information that is vital to allowing individuals to protect themselves from identity theft, such as informing users whether their personal or financial information may have been compromised. Nor has Sony specified how it intends to protect these consumers.
Based on the earlier post from Sony, it didn't seem as though the company intended to do anything regarding credit monitoring or other such services. In fact, SCEA said it wasn't sure that credit card information was stolen, which is perhaps its (attempted) out in terms of the free credit reporting service access that Blumenthal says the 75 million members of PSN should receive.

Meanwhile, the U.K.'s Information Commissioner Office (ICO) says it is looking into whether or not Sony was did enough to protect sensitive user information, and if the SCEA notified its customers in a timely manner. The ICO is a U.K. government agency that says on its website that its mission is "to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals." The ICO said:
"The Information Commissioner's Office takes data protection breaches extremely seriously. Any business or organization that is processing personal information in the UK must ensure they comply with the law, including the need to keep data secure."
In the first of what may be many lawsuits, Kristopher Johns, 36, of Birmingham, AL, filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. He accused Sony of not taking "reasonable care to protect, encrypt, and secure the private and sensitive data of its users."

Update: Sony said that credit card data, but not personal data, was encrypted, in a new update posted late Wednesday. The company said:
The entire credit card table was encrypted and we have no evidence that credit card data was taken. The personal data table, which is a separate data set, was not encrypted, but was, of course, behind a very sophisticated security system that was breached in a malicious attack.


Android app makes Google Docs access easy, but editing remains frustrating

Google has released an Android Google Docs client. That's the good news. The bad news is that it in doesn't provide any better editing tools than those already available via the Web view that was already available for Google Docs users.

As Google says in their blog post, " Part of getting work done on the go is being able to easily access, edit and share content." That's the main purpose of the Google Docs Android app. It makes it easier to get to your Google Docs files, using the app instead of using a Web browser.

Once you get there, however, the editing process uses the Web editors. That means, for example, if you want to edit something in a spreadsheet, you have to tap an edit link for the row, and the experience is hardly fun or exciting.

The new app does have one nice feature: you can take a picture and either upload it directly, or you can take an image and have OCR translate it to Google Docs format. That's right, it will use optical character recognition to make the image into a document. It also has a widget that you can add to the home screen to allow easy access to starred documents, taking a photo to upload, or document creation.

Still, while the Web app allows easy access to the files, editing the files is just as frustrating as before. What Google needs to do is release something that allows editing in the vein of QuickOffice or Documents to Go: WYSIWYG-style editing.



Apple Q&A attempts to defuse iOS location-tracking furor; uses marketing-speak

Apple has finally responded in detail about its hidden location tracking file, and it only took a class action lawsuit, letters from a Senator and a Congressman, multiple investigations globally, and still more to get the oft-reticent firm to respond to questions about the consolidated.db file.

In a Q&A posting on their website, Apple called the issues and furor over the file a result of bugs, but also confusion on the part of end users. They admitted that Apple, among others, has not been clear enough about their location tracking technologies.

The full statement is below, with our commentary.

1. Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?
Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

[This echoes the statement made by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a tersely worded email to an end user, one he made a few days ago, when he said the same thing. However, that is in direct conflict with a letter that Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell (.PDF) sent to U.S. Representatives Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) in 2010. In that letter, Sewell said that Apple does collect location information, and sends it back anonymized "intermittently," if location services are enabled.

This is a sort of marketing-ized response. Yes, Apple is tracking the location of your iPhone. If all goes well (no bugs), the data is de-personalized so no one can tell it's you. But saying it is not tracking your location, but that Google is, is misinformation.]


2. Then why is everyone so concerned about this?
Providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information while preserving their security and privacy has raised some very complex technical issues which are hard to communicate in a soundbite. Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date.

[Indeed, this is true. Apple should make it clear, however, that by simply buying the iPhone and accepting the Terms of Service, users have agreed to let it capture location information.]

3. Why is my iPhone logging my location?
The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it’s maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested. Calculating a phone’s location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data to quickly find GPS satellites, and even triangulate its location using just Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data when GPS is not available (such as indoors or in basements). These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple.

[Once again, this is marketing-speak. By tracking the location of hotspots and cell phone towers, it is essentially tracking you. If anyone were to get your phone or the database off your iTunes install, they would be able to track your behavior. In addition, maximum range for a cell tower, according to Wikipedia, is not "more than 100 miles." It is about 35km, or 21.7 miles. That is an ideal situation, and not one for New York City, say. For wi-fi, it's even smaller. A wi-fi hotspot set up outside, not inside a building like a Starbucks, has a maximum range of about 300 feet. Finally, both of these are affected by obstacles (buildings, walls, foliage) and interference.]

4. Is this crowd-sourced database stored on the iPhone?
The entire crowd-sourced database is too big to store on an iPhone, so we download an appropriate subset (cache) onto each iPhone. This cache is protected but not encrypted, and is backed up in iTunes whenever you back up your iPhone. The backup is encrypted or not, depending on the user settings in iTunes. The location data that researchers are seeing on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone’s location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone. We plan to cease backing up this cache in a software update coming soon (see Software Update section below).

[Obviously they can't store the entire database. So the cache is stored on the iDevice instead, and it may not apply to a user's personal locations.]

5. Can Apple locate me based on my geo-tagged Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?
No. This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data.

6. People have identified up to a year’s worth of location data being stored on the iPhone. Why does my iPhone need so much data in order to assist it in finding my location today?
This data is not the iPhone’s location data—it is a subset (cache) of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database which is downloaded from Apple into the iPhone to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location. The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below). We don’t think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data.

7. When I turn off Location Services, why does my iPhone sometimes continue updating its Wi-Fi and cell tower data from Apple’s crowd-sourced database?
It shouldn’t. This is a bug, which we plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below).

8. What other location data is Apple collecting from the iPhone besides crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?
Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

9. Does Apple currently provide any data collected from iPhones to third parties?
We provide anonymous crash logs from users that have opted in to third-party developers to help them debug their apps. Our iAds advertising system can use location as a factor in targeting ads. Location is not shared with any third party or ad unless the user explicitly approves giving the current location to the current ad (for example, to request the ad locate the Target store nearest them).

10. Does Apple believe that personal information security and privacy are important?
Yes, we strongly do. For example, iPhone was the first to ask users to give their permission for each and every app that wanted to use location. Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy.

Software Update
Sometime in the next few weeks Apple will release a free iOS software update that:
  • reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone,
  • ceases backing up this cache, and
  • deletes this cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.
In the next major iOS software release the cache will also be encrypted on the iPhone.

The software update will probably be numbered 4.3.3, which means it is a minor revision from teh current 4.3.2. Verizon iPhone 4's carry 4.2.7, so they will either finally be updated to 4.3.3 or receive 4.2.9.

By next major release, Apple is probably speaking of the iOS 5 release that they plan to discuss at WWDC later this year. That could mean the file will be unencrypted on the device for months. A recommendation for now, at least, is to make sure that the iTunes backups that are made when you sync your iDevice is encrypted.

To do so, once you have plugged in your device and allowed it to sync:
  • Click on your iOS device in the sidebar on the left in iTunes, and ensure you are in the “Summary” section.
  • Scroll down the screen displayed on the right to the bottom until you see a section entitled “Options.” From there you can check the checkbox that says "Encrypt iPhone [iPad] backup." This may be somewhat different from device to device and from iTunes version to iTunes version.
This furball began when two researchers publicized the hidden configuration.db file. While they said they believed it was new to iOS 4 and later, another researcher said he had detailed this file in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released.

The unencrypted nature of the file, along with the fact that it seemed to have no limit to its size, were among the greatest issues described by the researchers.



Verizon confirms LTE network offline; Thunderbolts limited to 1X data mode (Updated)

Verizon LTE services nationwide are currently out, the company has verified with a Tweet. The service has been out for hours, and the outage began on Tuesday night.

In addition, Verizon has previously said that LTE devices would switch to CDMA mode if they were in an area with no LTE coverage. In this case, HTC Thunderbolt users (the only handhelds on Verizon's network supporting LTE, until the Samsung Droid Charge launches on Thursday) are seeing 1X mode, not 3G, Verizon has admitted in a later Tweet.

Voice on Thunderbolts is apparently working fine, but that should be no surprise. Verizon's current LTE implementation uses CDMA for voice, though that should change in 2012.

Verizon's LTE network is nascent, and thus an issue like this should not be unexpected. The 1X data mode is probably unexpected, however. AT&T's LTE network won't enter testing until mid-2011.

Update: Verizon says it has "determined the cause of 4G LTE issue & are working with major vendors to restore connections."

Update: The launch of the Samsung Droid Charge, Verizon's second LTE handset, has been postponed due to the outage.

Update: shortly after 8AM PST on Thursday, Verizon Tweeted that LTE is back. Testing showed that it is, but you may have to power-cycle the radio.



Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 4/26/2011: Business Calendar

Amazon.com has promised a free app every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Business Calendar.

Business Calendar is $5.81 in the Android Market, and normally is priced at $4.99 in the Amazon Appstore (as noted previously, the two marketplaces sometimes have differing prices).

Business Calendar is described as follows:
Your Android Secretary
Business Calendar is a complete calendar application that synchronizes with your Google calendars. Features include smooth scroll- and zoom-in multi-day view (1-14 days), graphical and textual presentation, and quick fade in/out calendars using the favorite bar.

Streamlined Appointment Setting
With Business Calendar on the job, you'll never forget another appointment. This app includes drag and drop functionality, search function, easy switching between time line bars, and event titles in month view. This app also has an intuitive new handling option: just swipe your finger over any days of interest in the month view and open them in the multi-day view.

Widgets and More
Set configurable widgets in different sizes for day, month, week, and agenda view. (Please note: because of the limitations of the Android OS, do not move Business Calendar to the SD card if you wish to use the widgets). View a quick day overview as your add a new event. Set up recurrent events in any format (such as having events occurring every other week). The context-sensitive help system allows you to optimize your work with Business Calendar.

Please note that Business Calendar is not optimized for Android 3.0.
"Not optimized for Android 3.0" means the app will work on Honeycomb, but isn't optimized for the larger screen size. On the Android Market, the developers say those changes are coming.

Based on the reviews, Business Calendar is far superior to the stock Android calendar app. It fails to add one important features that competing app Calengoo adds: the ability to set SMS and email reminders through the app.

Business Calendar has a 4.5-star rating in the Android Market. In the Amazon Appstore, it has 4-star rating.

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.



South Park to create HumancentiPad by splicing together iPad, 'The Human Centipede'

South Park isn't the first series to take on Apple, Steve Jobs, and iDevices, but this lampooning of Apple adds in a connection to the movie, "The Human Centipede."

In the new episode, Steve Jobs introduces the new device, the "HumancentiPad." It takes an iPad, and ... well, you have to watch it.

Only in context with the real movie can the true horror be known. "The Human Centipede" is a tortuous movie, and not just for the characters in the movie. It's near torture to watch.

Anyway, watch the South Park trailer below, and below that, "The Human Centipede" trailer. Be warned that the THC trailer is not for the faint of heart.

The episode will air at 10 p.m. on Wednesday on Comedy Central.






YouTube nears full rollout of video rental service; some studios still holding out

YouTube is close to a full rollout of video rentals, something it has been testing since late January, according to a report. Only now is it launching the service in an all-out manner, however.

One potential holdup to the whole matter is a number of studios that have not signed onto the deal with Google. Those studios include Paramount and Fox and perhaps Disney, whose status is unclear. Meanwhile, Warner Bros., Sony, Lionsgate and Universal are among those who already signed deals to participate in the new YouTube rental service.

A senior executive at one of the Hollywood studio that has inked a deal with YouTube said,
"We think it will start with VOD, but broaden to include sell-through over time. We are pretty excited because we are happy to see new entrants come in transactionally rather than a subscription model."
The holdup is reportedly unrelated to YouTube per se, but rather its parent company, Google. Those studios that have still refused to sign are upset that Google about its treatment of pirate says. they want Google to take further steps including halting advertising on them, and no longer linking to them in search results.

Despite this, the service could launch as early as this week. Titles will be available on YouTube the same day that they appear on iTunes or video stores, and before subscription services like Netflix.



At least some personal data compromised in PSN hack: Sony

Sony has confirmed what was feared: personal information was stolen during the hacking incident that led to the company shutting down both the PlayStation Network (PSN) and Qriocity.

Earlier, on Monday, Sony said the services would be down indefinitely. On Tuesday, the company finally gave a more verbose explanation about the outage.

Sony said the following types of personal data was compromised:
  • name
  • address
  • email address
  • birthdate
  • PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login
  • handle/PSN online ID
In addition, the company says it is "possible" that the following was compromised:
  • profile data, including purchase history and billing address
  • PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers
  • If you have authorized a sub-account for a dependent, the same data with respect to that dependent may have been obtained
  • credit card data
With regards to credit card data, Sony isn't sure that data was compromised, but they said "we cannot rule out the possibility."  They recommend that users monitor their credit card statements closely, and also add information about the annual free credit report U.S. residents are entitled (under U.S. law) to, as well as giving out the information for the three major credit bureaus.

What they didn't do is offer free credit monitoring, which is something that some other companies or even government agencies have done in the past when credit card information has been lost in an incident like this. However, Sony did say it cannot confirm that credit card data was stolen. Still, it would have been a nice touch.

Of course, that would have cost Sony a pretty penny.



Android eclipses iOS as most desired smartphone platform (barely): Nielsen

Until now, while Android has been outselling iPhones in the U.S., whenever Nielsen did its surveys, the "most desired" smartphone has still been an iPhone. That is no longer the case (barely).

Nielsen's surveys for January 2011 – March 2011 show Android on the upswing for desirability, while iPhone was on the downswing. During the July 2010 to September 2010 timeframe, 25.5 percent of those planning to get a new smartphone indicated Android would be their choice, while 32.7 percent of those surveyed said they planned on buying an iPhone.

The latest figures show that 31 percent of consumers who plan to get a new smartphone cite Android as their preferred OS. iOS has slipped slightly in popularity to 30 percent. RIM's Blackberry is down from 13 percent to 11 percent. Windows Phone is down from 7 percent to 6 percent. And webOS is down from 2 percent to 1 percent. Nearly 20 percent of consumers are unsure of what to buy next, up from 18 percent.

Short-term, 50 percent of those surveyed in March of 2011 who said that they had purchased a smartphone in the past six months said they had chosen an Android device. That number was double iPhone purchases (25 percent); 15 percent said they had picked a RIM Blackberry phone.

In terms of the installed base of consumers Android claimed 37 percent of smartphone consumers as of March 2011, while Apple’s iOS had a 27 percent market share. BlackBerry is down to 22 percent of the market.

Android certainly is extending its lead over iOS, but that only applies to smartphones. When iPads and iPod touches are added into the total, iOS slams Android. While many believe that Android will eventually overtake the iPad, it certainly hasn't made an impact in the tablet space yet.

If it does, things might really take off for Google in the Android vs. iOS competition.



Apple faces class action lawsuit over hidden location tracking file

As governments worldwide as well as the U.S. government investigate or mull the implications of the recently publicized hidden location tracking file in some iOS devices, consumers have jumped into the fray. A class-action lawsuit has been filed in Tampa, FL, seeking an injunction barring the data collection.

The suit, filed on April 22 by Vikram Ajjampur, a Florida iPhone user in Florida, and William Devito, a New York iPad owner, cites last week's report by researchers Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan, who said that iOS 4 devices appear to have data going back to when the owner purchased them, and that they believed it first appeared in iOS 4.

However, another researcher, Alex Levinson, said he detailed this file back in 2007, in the first iPhone. He said that instead, its location has changed over time.

Although Apple hasn’t officially commented on the matter since the April 20 report was released, Steve Jobs sent one of his tersely composed emails to an end user, saying that Apple does not track users, although Google does.

It's hard to understand that comment. In 2010 Apple's general counsel Bruce Sewell sent a letter to U.S. Representatives Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), and that letter stated that iOS "intermittently" sends data back to Apple, as long as location-based services are enabled.

Despite that stipulation that disabling location-based services also disables tracking, the Wall Street Journal tested the functionality, and even with location services disabled, the file is still updated. That said, the data in the file is not set back to Apple, but it is unencrypted, and backed up during iTunes sync, also unencrypted unless a setting in iTunes is modified.

Meanwhile, it's well-known that Google does track users, just as Apple does, but in their case, they do not store months and months of data, locally and unencrypted, on the device. Google also says that they do not track if the location-based services on Android are disabled.

Aaron Mayer is an attorney for the plaintiffs. He said that Ajjampur and Devito are seeking to represent a group of U.S. customers whose iPhones and iPads are affected by the hidden configuration.db file. About one-third to one-half of the country’s 60 million iPhone users could be part of the class action, he added.

If, in fact, Levinson's assertions that the file has been around since 2007 are correct, the lawsuit could cover many more. The plaintiffs are also asking for refunds, saying they wouldn’t have purchased the devices if they had been aware of the feature.

The lawsuit says the location collection violates federal computer fraud and consumer fraud laws, as well as and deceptive trade practice laws in many states. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages "for alleged negligent misrepresentation."

The plaintiffs added that they were unaware of the tracking system and never consented to it. That is a questionable assertion, since that consent is part of the Terms of Service that users have to agree with for iOS (and Android) devices. On the other hand, as many have commented before, almost no one reads those ToS agreements.

Both Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have sent letters to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, questioning him about the location tracking file.