Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Teenage boy kills 7-year-old girl to pay for his video game addiction

A 15-year-old Vietnamese boy has been arrested, accused of killing his seven-year-old neighbor in order to sell her earrings to pay for his video game addiction.

According to Police Capt. Kha Van Hoi from central Nghe An province, the boy, unnamed due to his age, used rocks to beat the girl in the head. He then fled with her gold earrings.

The girl died of brain injuries four days after the beating incident. Capt. Hoi said that the 15-year-old told authorities he had planned to kill the girl in order to pay for computer games.

WHO categorizes cell phone radiation as 'possibly carcinogenic to humans'

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday issued a statement which changes its stance on cell phone radiation. Prior to the statement, the WHO had assured end users that of the safety of cell phones. Now, the WHO said that it has found enough evidence to categorize exposure to cell phone radiation as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

This does not mean that cell phone radiation will cause cancer. The question of cell phone radiation safety has never been fully answered, with correlation between cell phones and increased brain activity and behavioral issues in children, but correlation does not mean causation. Most of these studies have ended with the sentence that "more research is needed."

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That, of course, is the issue. Cell phones really only took off in the last 10 - 15 years. It took decades for the health hazards of cigarette smoking to reach a scientific consensus, so it is likely that the same will happen here, meaning a long period, either way: safe or non-safe.

In the case of the WHO, a team of 31 scientists from 14 countries, including the United States, made the decision to categorize cell phone radiation differently after reviewing already peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety.

Cell phone radiation is of a type known as non-ionizing. It similar to a very low-powered microwave oven.

Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told CNN that
"The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences. What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain. So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones."
Results from the largest international study on cell phones and possible links to cancer was released in 2010. It showed those participants in the study who used cell phones for 10 years or more had double the rate of glioma, a type of brain tumor. However, there have been no long-term studies on the effects of cell phone radiation on children. Black added,
"Childrens' skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are dividing faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger."
The WHO's statement was a cautionary one, but the wireless industry association, the CTIA, was quick to discount it. Their statement, coming from John Walls, vice president of public affairs for CTIA, said:
“Today, an International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) working group in Lyon, France categorized radiofrequency fields from cellphones as ‘possibly’ carcinogenic based on ‘limited evidence. IARC conducts numerous reviews and in the past has given the same score to, for example, pickled vegetables and coffee.”
It is, however, much harder to accept a statement from an organization that has a vested interest in revenue based on cell phone sales, and one that has no such reason to promote, or discredit, cell phones.

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It's also been noted, in the past, that cell phone manufacturers all have warnings in their user guides about distance from cell phones to bodies when being used. An example is that buried deep in the Motorola Droid X manual is a note to have the phone 1 inch away from your body while using it. Meanwhile, the iPhone's "Important Product Information Guide" (.PDF) states:
iPhone’s SAR measurement may exceed the FCC exposure guidelines for body-worn operation if positioned less than 15 mm (5/8 inch) from the body (e.g., when carrying iPhone in your pocket).
SAR stands for specific absorption rate, and basically is a measurement for how much radiation is emitted by a device. The higher the number, the higher the dosage.

All a marketing ploy? 'Leaked' red band 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' trailer believed a 'fake'

The "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" leaked red band trailer that emerged over the weekend has received over a million views already, yet it hasn't been taken down. You'd expect a leaked trailer to be taken down ASAP, but distributor Sony hasn't done so. Perhaps instead of being a leak, it's now being theorized that the video was a marketing ploy.

In this age of viral marketing, it wouldn't be a surprise. After all, the video, although it appeared to be shaky cam footage recorded by some sort of video recorder, was excellent in both its sound and video quality.

What do you readers think? Clever marketing campaign or leaked video? As we said, it sure seems to be better quality than you might expect from true bootleg; judge the video for yourself, below.

Click here for the Best Buy Electronics[For those not aware, a red band trailer is approved to be screened only for "restricted" or "mature" audiences. Such trailers may only be shown before R-rated, NC-17-rated, or unrated movies. Red-band trailers may include nudity, profanity or other material deemed inappropriate for children.

More commonly, viewers of trailers will see a green band at the beginning of a trailer, showing that the the trailer is appropriate for all audiences, in what is called a "green-band trailer."]

Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 5/31/2011: Plants vs. Zombies

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

[Popcap Games had promised Plants vs. Zombies in Amazon's Appstore before the end of May, and it just made it.]

Plants vs. Zombies, as Popcap Games' second Android game, is exclusive to the Amazon Appstore for its first two weeks (just as Chuzzle, its first was). It is normally priced at $2.99 in the Amazon Appstore.

Plants vs. Zombies is described as follows:
Plants vs. Zombies: Exclusive Launch at the Amazon Appstore
Get ready to soil your plants! The hit PopCap® game comes to Android at last. Forget shotguns, flamethrowers, and cricket bats. A well-tended garden is your best defense against a rampaging horde of undead. Keep the zombies at bay with an array of deadly plants and well-aimed lawnmowers. With Plants vs. Zombies, the fun never dies!
  • Enjoy a horticultural new twist on tower defense gameplay
  • See the undead shamble across your lawn with charmingly gruesome graphics and animations
  • Upgrade your army with the help of Crazy Dave
  • Cultivate your garden for a yield of killer crops
Please note: a Wi-Fi connection is required to download this app.

Stem a Zombie Attack on Your Android Device
A mob of fun-loving zombies is about to invade your home, and your only defense is an arsenal of 49 zombie-zapping plants. Use peashooters, wall-nuts, cherry bombs, and more to slow down, confuse, weaken, and mulchify 26 types of zombies before they reach your front door.

Each zombie has its own special skills, so you'll need to think fast and plant faster to combat them all. But be careful how you use your limited supply of greens and seeds: as you battle the fun-dead, obstacles like a setting sun, creeping fog, and a swimming pool add to the challenge.

Game Features
Send the undead back to their graves by pummeling them with an army of fearsome flora. Earn achievements and cash, then save up to buy new upgrades for your defenses. Don't wait too long, though: these unexpected houseguests are demanding to be fed, and brains are on the menu...
  • Conquer all 50 levels of Adventure mode--through day, night, and fog, in a swimming pool, and on the rooftop
  • Battle 26 types of zombies including pole-vaulters, snorkelers, and bucket-heads
  • Earn 49 powerful perennials and collect coins to buy lawnmowers, rakes, and other deadly gardening implements
  • Open the Almanac to see all the plants and zombies, plus amusing "facts" and quotes
  • Collect 10 fun-dead achievements
  • Hilarious graphics, great soundtrack, and a bonus music video
Reviews for Plants vs Zombies
Voted Game of the Year by more than 30 publications including PC Gamer, USAToday.com and the Chicago Sun-Times

"It has that elusive 'special something' that gets its hooks in you and convinces you to forego food, sleep, and other essentials just to see what the next level has in store."
-- IGN.com

"Everything about Plants vs. Zombies is high-quality, start to finish; the music is excellent, the art is charming and adorable, and the game's sense of humor will really have you grinning."
-- Escapist Magazine

"It's just the sort of hyper-addictive game that you'd expect from indie publisher PopCap, whose other smash hits include Peggle and Bejeweled."
-- Wired.com
Plants vs. Zombies has a rating of 4-stars in the Amazon Appstore. Sadly, the game will not run on certain devices, as listed in the game blurb:
  • Motorola DROID (works fine on Motorola DROID 2 and some DROID X's), Devour, Flipside
  • Samsung Transform, Intercept
  • HTC Aria, MyTouch 3G
  • Sony Ericsson X8
  • Sanyo Zio
  • Kyocera Echo
  • LG Ally
The list sounds a great deal like the one for Chuzzle, when it was released.

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.

Security firm discovers phishing sites hosted in Google Docs spreadsheets

It's bad enough when Google's search results point to malware-infested sites (as the search engine had been doing in the Mac Defender outbreak). This is much worse.

F-Secure has found that Google Docs servers are hosting malware in the form of phishing documents. Worse, they see them quite often, with the security firm saying, "we regularly see phishing sites via Google Docs spreadsheets and hosted on spreadsheets.google.com."

These sorts of phishing sites are given credibility by their domain. By being hosted on google.com, they gain a valid SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate.

At the same time, it appears the folks at F-Secure aren't sure about all of their findings. They seemed to think this spreadsheet was a phishing scam, yet it was linked to by Gina Trapani, Lifehacker founder, and also Hannie, a Google employee.

Given that, and the fact that commenters report using it successfully, we think it's legit. But heck, if the experts can't figure it out, how are we supposed to?

The answer is: use common sense, and proceed with caution.

PBS' Newshour site hacked after WikiSecrets documentary aired

PBS aired a Frontline episode focused on Wikileaks on May 24, and received retribution as a result. Its site was hacked, late Sunday, by the hacking group LulzSec. Remnants of the site defacing were still around on Monday.

Protect your Important Computer FilesThe episode, titled "Wikisecrets," didn't sit so well with the hacking group LulzSec. As a result, they hacked PBS' main news site, the PBS NewsHour site, which temporarily reported that Tupac Shakur was alive and well, living in New Zealand some 15 years after he was actually killed.

[To be clear, rapper Tupac Shakur died from wounds suffered in a drive-by shooting in 1996.]

The following is LulzSec’s "confession" to the hack.
“Greetings, Internets. We just finished watching WikiSecrets and were less than impressed. We decided to sail our Lulz Boat over to the PBS servers for further… perusing. As you should know by now, not even that fancy-ass fortress from the third… Pirates of the Caribbean movie (first one was better!) can withhold our barrage of chaos and lulz. Anyway, unnecessary sequels aside… wait, actually: second and third Matrix movies sucked too! Anyway, say hello to the insides of the PBS servers, folks. They best watch where they’re sailing next time.”
LulzSec was quick to remind people, however, that they are not affiliated with another highly publicized hacking group, Anonymous.

AlibrisMeanwhile, PBS later published a story on the hacking itself, reassuring readers that no personal data was accessed.

Frontline made the following statement (which is likely to result in its own site being hacked):
FRONTLINE Executive Producer David Fanning called the attack "irresponsible and chilling."

"We see it as a disappointing and irresponsible act. We have been very open to publishing criticism of the film, and the film itself included multiple points of view. Rather than engaging in that spirit, this is an attempt to chill independent journalism."
You can watch all five segments of the WikiSecrets Frontline report below.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Samsung president shows no concern over the Apple lawsuit

Don't worry about the Apple lawsuit, Samsung said on Monday in a Wall Street Journal article, "we aren't." The firm, which has been sued by Apple over similar look-and-feel in some of its smartphones and tablets, is set to go "all in" with Android, ready to introduce a number of Android devices, while hoping to duplicate the success of its Samsung Galaxy S smartphones.

Samsung President J.K. Shin told the Wall Street Journal "We didn't copy Apple's design. We have used many similar designs over the past years and it [Apple's allegation] will not be legally problematic." That said, Shin "suggested the scale of the lawsuit could grow," but he didn't elaborate on what that meant.

Meanwhile, Shin covered the future of Android at Samsung. Although the firm has not ended its development of its own platform, Bada, it is focusing on Android now. Younghee Lee, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Samsung said, "Android is the fastest-growing platform and the market direction is headed toward Android so we're riding the wave. When there is a market need for our own software, we will consider it but that's not our plan at the moment."

Samsung managed to sell 10 million units of the original Galaxy S last year. Thus far, since its April launch, the Samsung Galaxy S II has sold 1 million Galaxy S II phones in South Korea alone. That makes it the fastest-selling smartphone ever in South Korea, with the original Galaxy S taking 70 days to reach the same number.

Samsung has been fairly conservative in its forecast for the Galaxy S II, saying it expects to ship 10 million of the devices in 2011. Since the Galaxy S itself, a great but underhyped ... compared to the S II ... device sold 10 million itself, it would seem a low ballpark figure.

At the same time, Shin added that the company expects to release the Galaxy S III in the first half of 2012. That falls in line with the fact that the Galaxy S II was launched in April, and could mean consumers could expect a Galaxy S of some type annually.

Meanwhile, Samsung is close to releasing 8.9-inch and 10.1-inch versions of its Galaxy Tab tablets. The initial 7-inch versions were decently received, but lacked the tablet-optimized OS that the new versions will be running (Honeycomb).

During the first quarter, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics, Samsung was the world's second-largest tablet vendor behind Apple, but world's No. 1 Android tablet maker. That's not saying Samsung sold huge numbers, however, and tablets running Honeycomb (meaning, the Motorola Xoom) did not launch until late in Q1.

Neil Mawston, director of Global Wireless Practice at Strategy Analytics said, "Samsung is not going to overtake Apple for the foreseeable future because its volumes are considerably smaller, but Samsung can continue to maintain its leadership of the Android tablet market by enlarging its retail presence in numerous countries world-wide, expanding the range of models across multiple price tiers and spending heavily on marketing to raise awareness among tablet buyers of Samsung's devices and app store."

Indeed, no one single tablet will dethrone the iPad, just as in the smartphone segment. Eventually, many believe Android tablets will overtake the iPad, but it will be a combined effort. The iPad itself will probably be the market leader in terms of a single device for a long time to come.

NVIDIA shows off tablet, gaming demo, using quad-core Kal-El SOC

And here we were just discussing whether or not the quad-core NVIDIA Kal-El SOC (system-on-a-chip) will make it into the Asus Padfone. NVIDIA has released a demo video, showing gaming on Kal-El, and it's impressive.

The Glow Ball tech demo will eventually make it into an actual game. When? Of course, when Kal-El makes its way into devices. Earlier, NVIDIA said the quad-core SOC would be available for tablets in August, with smartphone versions coming later, but at Computex, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said tablets with Kal-El would not go on sale until September.

The Glow Ball demo shows the first example of true dynamic lighting on mobile devices. Not only will Kal-El give developers more power for their games, it will use less power ... the new SOC will be more energy-efficient. Huang said that with all four cores in use, the sample tablet showed off at Computex can run developer MadFinger's game for four to six hours on a single charge.

Huang said Kal-el will be the first quad-core chip for mobile devices to reach the market. It was first introduced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. At the same show, Qualcomm announced an upcoming quad-core Snapdragon chip. While it said the new chip will consume 65 percent less power than its current CPU cores, it still hasn't said when that chip will go on sale, which means it is probably a decent amount of time behind NVIDIA.

However, both Qualcomm and Texas Instruments have press conferences scheduled later this week at Computex where they're expected to discuss new products.

Watch the Glow Ball demo below.

Asus unveils Padfone hybrid smartphone / tablet; to sport Ice Cream Sandwich at launch?

As expected, Asus unveiled the Padfone at Computex 2011 on Monday. The device, as noted earlier, can be docked into a "tablet dock," turning it from smartphone to tablet, similar to the Motorola Atrix 4G, which can be docked and turned from smartphone to laptop.

Unlike the Atrix 4G, however, the Asus Padfone is "swallowed up" by the dock (as you might hope, for a tablet). Just like the Atrix 4G, this sort of arrangement will mean any extended batteries will have to be removed in order to dock the device (the laptop dock for the Atrix 4G has an edge that prevents that sort of docking). The Padfone, we are sure, will be charged by a battery in the dock itself while docked, but if you are using an extended battery in "smartphone mode," this could prove annoying.

The mockup ASUS demo'ed on Monday included a 4.3-inch smartphone and a 10.1-inch tablet dock. However, the company said it hasn't yet determined the final dimensions of the eventual retail product.

It's expected that the Padfone will ship sometime around Christmas. Although Asus isn't showing all the cards in its hand yet, it looks like the Padfone will sport Ice Cream Sandwich, which will unify the user experience for smartphones and tablets.

It makes sense, as Asus' Benson Lin noted that you can't launch a smartphone with Honeycomb as the OS. On the other hand, you don't want this tablet running Gingerbread.

As far as other technical specifications, Asus was quiet, but we'd expect at least a dual-core processor, perhaps a Tegra 2, in the Padfone. After all, by the time it launches, there will be tablets launched with NVIDIA's Kal-El quad-core SOC. In fact, Amazon.com is expected to launch a Kal-El tablet before the end of 2011.

Could the Padfone sport Kal-El? It's possible, as NVIDIA said smartphone variants will hit the market in the holiday timeframe, while tablets will see it in August. It's unclear if a smartphone version of Kal-El will be available early enough for the Padfone's ship date, though.

You can watch several videos of the Padfone below.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 shows up on Best Buy's website

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 has just appeared on Best Buy's website. Although it has the very vague "coming soon" date attached to its page, the fact that it's there at all is a signal that date is not far off.

In addition, the site offers a lot more detail on the device, including the fact that it will ship with Android 3.1, rather than 3.0.1. The site also lists the full specs (below).

Here are the blurbs Best Buy put on the sale page:

Redefining High Performance
Adobe® Flash® Player-compatible Web pages and play games on a 10.1" screen.
  • Enjoy movies in beautiful HD clarity on the 10.1" widescreen (1280 x 800) display
  • Dual Core 1GHz Tegra™ 2 processor delivers vibrant colors and precise detail, fast
  • Transmit sharp video-chat images with 2MP front-facing camera; 3MP rear-facing camera with LED flash for pictures and video
Immerse Yourself in the World of Apps
Experience the power and speed of Android 3.1 Honeycomb OS.
  • Thousand of apps in the Android Market, the fastest growing app market
  • Android 3.1 Honeycomb OS enables you to multitask with multiple programs and applications such as optimized Gmail™, Google Maps™ and other apps
  • Immersive, lightning-fast Android-powered web-browsing experience
Amazingly Thin, Light and Stylish
Only .34" thin and ultra-light, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 travels well.
  • At only 1.25 lbs., this large-screen tablet is unbelievably thin and portable
  • Durable, easy-to-grip body fits comfortably in your hand
  • Feel free to choose – the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is available in metallic grey or pure white, and in 16GB or 32GB memory options
Full specifications:

Processor - NVIDIA Tegra™ 2, dual-core
Processor Speed - 1.0GHz
Battery Type - Li-Polymer
Battery Capacity - 7,000mAh
Display Type - TFT
Display Resolution - WXGA (1280 x 800)
Screen Size (Measured Diagonally) - 10.1"
Touch Screen - Yes
Memory Capacity - 16/32GB
TV Tuner - No
Built-in Webcam -  Yes
Built-in Digital Camera - Yes
Camera Resolution - 2.0MP FF front, 3.0MP AF rear with flash
Networking - None
GPS - Yes
Wireless Networking - Wireless-A+B+G+N
Bluetooth-Enabled - Yes
Modem - None
Internet/Email Capable - Yes
Mobile Hotspot Capable - No
S-Video Outputs - None
HDMI Output - Yes, with optional accessory
Blu-ray Player - No
Audio - Stereo
Speakers - Internal
USB 2.0 Ports - Yes, with optional accessory
IEEE 1394 FireWire Ports - None
Mobile Operating System - Android 3.1 Honeycomb
Product Height - 10.1"
Product Width - 6.9"
Product Depth - .34"
Product Weight - 1.25 lbs.

Twitter nearing launch of TwitPic rival, AdGrok acquisition

You'll recall that Twitter has said that developers shouldn't focus on anything already in Twitter's ecosystem. What it was talking about, at the time, were third-party Twitter clients, but based on a new report Twitpic and Yfrog should start looking over their shoulders.

5% - 15% Off Select TVsAccoding to the report, Twitter is very close to announcing its own built-in picture sharing functionality. As noted above, this is the domain of third-parties such as Twitpic and Yfrog, but as Twitter (specifically, Platform Lead Ryan Sarver) said earlier, third-parties need not duplicate core Twitter functionality.

The report cited cited multiple anonymous sources. It said the Twitpic rival could launch as soon as Tuesday.

Additionally, in a separate story, Twitter is close to acquiring AdGrok. Adgrok is a platform for bidding Google AdWords keywords, and the acquisition could take place for less than $10 million. This report, too, cites multiple anonymous sources.

Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 5/30/2011: Gaia GPS - Topos and Tracking

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Gaia GPS - Topos and Tracking.

In the Android Market, Gaia GPS - Topos and Tracking is named Gaia GPS (Topo Maps) and is priced at $9.99. It is normally priced at $9.99 in the Amazon Appstore (as noted previously, the two marketplaces sometimes have differing prices).

Gaia GPS - Topos and Tracking is described as follows:
Love to hit the trails? Enjoy discovering seemingly untouched hideaways? Gaia GPS is an awesome app companion when you want to take the road less traveled. Hiking, biking, trailblazing, or just getting lost in the urban jungle are all supported by Gaia GPS: a full-featured outdoor GPS app.

Before the Adventure
Before you go off-roading, search for and download a detailed map of that area. Choose as large of an area as you like, and pick from different map sources. A road map is perfect for urban adventures and Cloudmade Topo has several pretty awesome options for topographical maps. A combination of both will have you covered on long road trips. Use Gaia GPS to navigate anywhere you aren't connected!

Special Features
Notate your saved maps for reference; maps are available for many locations worldwide. Tell the app to record your tracks so you can find your way back, Hansel and Gretel style. Mark waypoints and save locations for later. This app also features a built in compass and offers distance, bearing, and ETA support. Choose from UTM/MGRS/DMS/DDM or decimal coordinates, and between metric or imperial units of measurement.

Please note, Gaia GPS - Topos and Tracking is not compatible with all tablets.
The reference to Android tablets refers to the latest round of Android tablets, Honeycomb. While Honeycomb or Android 3.x does not generally require optimization in terms of screen size, some apps run in smartphone-sized windows or crash. This will likely be fixed in future versions of this app.

Gaia GPS - Topos and Tracking has a rating of 4.5-stars in the Android Market. It has a 3.5-star rating in the Amazon Appstore. There is also a Lite version in the Android Market, which has a rating of 3.5 stars. That version includes ads and restricts downloads to 50 tiles at a time; the paid version allows caching of up to 10,000 tiles per download and removes the ads.

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.

Shaky-cam red-band trailer for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" leaks to the Web

A shaky-cam red-band trailer for the upcoming film "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (scheduled for December 2011) has leaked to the Web. It's unclear how long it will remain online, so view it now while you can. It appears to have been simply recorded during a movie screening.

For those not aware, a red band trailer is approved to be screened only for "restricted" or "mature" audiences. Such trailers may only be shown before R-rated, NC-17-rated, or unrated movies. Red-band trailers may include nudity, profanity or other material deemed inappropriate for children.

More commonly, viewers of trailers will see a green band at the beginning of a trailer, showing that the the trailer is appropriate for all audiences, in what is called a "green-band trailer."

Dubbed the "Feel Bad Movie of Christmas," [at least, in the red-band trailer] "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is the first in the trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson. The other two books in the trilogy are "The Girl Who Played with Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest."

Amazon.com's review of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" follows:
Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there's no turning back. This debut thriller--the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson--is a serious page-turner rivaling the best of Charlie Huston and Michael Connelly. Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.
The music in the trailer is Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" as performed by Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Karen O (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs).

The movie, scheduled to release on Dec. 21, stars Rooney Mara (who also appeared in "The Social Network") as Lisbeth Salander, Daniel Craig, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Joley Richardson, and Christopher Plummer.

Update: Since this hasn't been taken down, the theory is this is a clever marketing ploy by Sony and Columbia Pictures.

A number of popular video game emulators get booted from the Android Market

Android gamers have made emulators such as N64oid, Ataroid, Gearoid, Nesoid, Snesoid, Gensoid, and Gameboid popular on the Android Market. However, that seems to be past tense, at least for now, as all of those emulators, written by Yong Zhang (yongzh) have been pulled from the Market.

According to Zhang, his developer account has been removed and his apps pulled without warning. Fortunately for Android users, the Android Market is not the only place to buy apps.

Even without rooting, most phones can sideload, which means install from non-Android Market stores (we use the term most until AT&T completes pushing out its updates to enable the functionality on its phones). Thus, Zhang has already migrated his apps to alternative store SlideME.

To ensure already existing customers don't have to pay for a second time, the apps are free for now. However, he's reportedly not too optimistic about how SlideME will work for him, vs. the Market.

Why the app pull by Google? Well, it all started with a complaint from Sega. It's the same argument frequently made over emulators of this type. Although it's really the video game ROMs that are pirated, the emulators "foster" piracy.

That said, that doesn't mean we necessarily agree with the move, either by Google or Sega.

Twitter unmasks anonymous U.K. user in local council spat, but it's not as landmark a case as some believe

Twitter has released the user information for a Twitter user accused of libelling councillors and officials at a local U.K. authority, South Tyneside. The South Tyneside council went so far as to take the fight to a California Superior Court, as Twitter is based in San Francisco.

Although some are calling this the end of free speech on the Internet and blasting Twitter for the move, reportedly, Twitter didn't casually hand over the details. Instead, it does what it always does in cases like these: contacted Ahmed Khan, the user involved and gave him the opportunity the fight the court order, which he chose not to do.

Khan Tweeted a number of details on the case, including his reasons for not challenging the court order: "I had no knowledge of US law and was wary of the costs involved. I would have had to fund any action myself."

Meanwhile, he Tweeted that the South Tyneside council is using taxpayer funds to pay for the legal battle in California.

Whether or not this result affects the Ryan Giggs case against Twitter or not remains to be seen. In that case, Giggs, who had a super-injunction against any discussion of an alleged affair with a reality TV star, Imogen Thomas, found the story being Tweeted around, eliminating any anonymity. Of course, all was gone when British lawmaker John Hemming identified Giggs in Parliament.

To be clear, Twitter didn't just cave in the matter, as the Guardian story seemed to imply it did. If you recall, in 2010, the company was subpoenaed for information and records on users associated with Wikileaks.

However, in that incident, the subpoena also said that Twitter was not to tell the users of the subpeona. As that clearly went against Twitter's ToS, the company fought back, and won the right to tell the affected users of the subpoena. In that case, at least some chose to fight back.

Via: Guardian

Lockheed Martin confirms repelling a May 21 cyber attack on its systems

Lockheed Martin has confirmed it has been under “significant and tenacious attack” by hackers over the past several days. The confirmation comes shortly after an anonymous report that not just Lockheed Martin, but other defense firms as well, have seen their security systems breached as a result of data acquired during the attack against RSA in March.

Lockheed Martin is the only defense contractor to publicly acknowledge the cyber attacks, however. The source of the earlier report had direct knowledge of the attacks, but was anonymous as he was not authorized to speak on the incidents.

RSA (parent company EMC) provides “SecurID” tokens that are used as part of "two-factor" authentication. Basically, the tokens, whether hardware (like an electronic key fob) or software- based (perhaps as an app on a smartphone), provide an oft-changed code that must be entered along with a person's credentials to allow access to a network or system.

Of course, it's not clear that the new attacks were performed by the same hackers as those who breached EMC, but it would not be unreasonable to suspect they are. That would mean that the attack against RSA was not a random crime, but rather a targeted attack intended to obtain the "keys to the kingdom," information that could be used to attack the real target: Lockheed-Martin and other defense contractors.

It's unclear exactly what attackers were after in the May 21st attack, but in a press release Lockheed Martin released on Saturday, the company claimed no information was stolen.
The company's information security team detected the attack almost immediately, and took aggressive actions to protect all systems and data. As a result of the swift and deliberate actions taken to protect the network and increase IT security, our systems remain secure; no customer, program or employee personal data has been compromised.
That said, it's unclear who the other contractors mentioned in the earlier report were, or if the attacks on their systems were successful or not.  What is clear is this would, taken at face value, appear to  be an attack by a governmental agency, not mere cyber-criminals looking for a buck.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Asus PadFone images emerge, but pricing of tablet dock will be all-important

The Atrix 4G with its laptop dock was seen as an exciting idea, until its price was revealed, whereupon it more or less fell flat on its face. Now comes the Asus Padfone, which is being introduced on Monday at Computex (in Taiwan), a Android-based smartphone that can be slipped into a dock, turning itself not into a laptop but instead a tablet.

Pocketnow managed to snag images of the set-up, one of which is shown above.  You can see the rest at Pocketnow's site.

The phone will power the tablet in terms of CPU power, but we'd expect that, just like the Atrix 4G's laptop dock, the tablet portion of the system will include an additional battery which will charge the Padfone when docked.

It will be interesting to see how well the two work in concert. To be honest, though, the smartphone portion itself, doesn't seem to be a game-changer in terms of external appearance.

It will also be interesting to see how much the set up costs. If priced aggressively, it could sell well, but that's what they said before the Atrix 4G's laptop dock price was announced.

Motorola, by the way, has said a number of their upcoming devices will have similar laptop docks. The question is whether or not Motorola will set things up so that the docking ports are aligned "just right" for Motorola to require a new laptop dock for each smartphone.

It would seem silly, but remember the days of a new charger for each device?

Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 5/29/2011: Cardio Trainer Pro

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

In the Android Market, Cardio Trainer Pro is priced at $9.99. It is normally priced at $9.99 in the Amazon Appstore (as noted previously, the two marketplaces sometimes have differing prices).

Cardio Trainer Pro is described as follows:
WorkSmart Labs' CardioTrainer Pro, which builds upon the features included in the popular CardioTrainer app, turns your Android phone into a detailed and customizable personal fitness tracking device. Keep an eye on your workouts, track your progress en route, and share your results with like-minded exercise aficionados. By recording and tracking all your workout details, CardioTrainer Pro is a handy and popular tool to keep track of each of your workouts.

Pro Features
CardioTrainer Pro's additional features help you stay active and make fitness and exercise more fun and thus more productive.
  • Adds six levels of interval training
  • Includes 20 levels of difficulty
  • Provides audio and video feedback during workouts
  • Free upgrades for life
Starting your workout
When you first open the app, the green Start Workout tab invites you to get moving. CardioTrainer Pro's auto-mapping feature automatically tracks where you are, along with the day and time your workout begins. CardioTrainer Pro prompts you to select the kind of workout you're doing. The list includes running, biking, aerobics, and racquetball among more than 40 entries. You can select Custom if your workout isn't on the list.

Personal trainer
The Trainer tab provides ways to set goals to customize your workout. You can set time goals, distance goals, and calorie goals, and later compare how you did against the targets you set for yourself.

Workout complete
CardioTrainer Pro maps your training route and keeps a running total of your steps, the distance you've traveled (if applicable), your speed, and the calories you've burned. When you've completed your workout, touch the red End Workout button. The app prompts you to save your workout for future reference or discard it if you wish. You can also share your workouts on Facebook or via e-mail.

CardioTrainer Pro provides a wealth of setting choices so you can tailor the app to suit your needs. Among them are selecting your conversion units, adjusting or disabling the live map, setting your weight for the calorie counter, and controlling the way you share your workout information. If you wish, the app's voice feature will notify you about the distance you traveled, your route, and the calories you burned.

CardioTrainer Pro includes a built-in music player and provides a personal access code so you can view your workouts online on the WorkSmart Labs website. The site tracks your workouts anonymously--you won't be personally identified if you choose to track your workouts online. CardioTrainer Pro also seamlessly interacts with other WorkSmart Labs' paid fitness apps such as Race Against Yourself and Move Your Bot!

Note that CardioTrainer Pro requires having previously installed CardioTrainer on your Android device in order to work.
Cardio Trainer Pro has a rating of 4.5-stars in the Android Market. It has a 4.5-star rating in the Amazon Appstore. There is also a free Cardio Trainer app in the Android Market, which has a rating of 4.5 stars. That version does not include interval workouts or a number of other features, as listed above.

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.

In legal battle with Apple, Samsung files discovery motion to see iPad 3, iPhone 5

Last week, Apple was granted the ability to see some of Samsung's current and upcoming products, although to protect IP, only Apple's outside lawyers can see any previously announced but unreleased products. On Friday night, Samsung fired back in a rather clever manner: it asked to see prototypes of the iPhone 5 and iPad 3, as part of the discovery process.

First, Samsung doesn't even know if there is an iPad 3 and iPhone 5, although they cite "internet reports" and "Apple’s past practice." In truth, we all know they are coming, but unlike Samsung's prototypes that Apple has the right to see (the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Galaxy Tab 8.9, and the Galaxy S II), which have been announced and even demo'ed, the same is not true of those Apple iDevices.

Of course, Samsung agreed to abide by the same rules as Apple. Any disclosure of these products would be limited to Samsung's outside lawyers. The filing requests disclosure of the products by June 13, 2011.

Samsung says it needs to see Apple's future products because current devices like the Droid Charge and upcoming devices like the Galaxy Tab 10.1 will probably be in the market at the same time as the iPhone 5 and iPad 3. Samsung's lawyers say they want to evaluate any similarities in order to prepare for possible legal action from Apple.

Why even ask for this? After all, there are many ways that Apple could block this request, including filing for a preliminary injunction against Samsung device sales. It's not just a "I'll show you mine, if you show me yours" type of move, although reading of this motion does make us ROFL.

iPad CasesInstead, it seems like this is an effort to put heat on Apple, and try to get negotiations over this issue of product similarity back in motion. As TIMN says:
Apple and Samsung held negotiations for a year before giving up and heading to the courts, and I'm reliably informed that there haven't been any substantive settlement discussions since Apple first filed its complaint. That means talks have been at a standstill for a long time now, and I wouldn't be surprised if Samsung was trying to put some additional heat on Apple to try and kick negotiations back into gear.
As we said before, it's hard to understand why Samsung made the Galaxy S smartphones so similar to the iPhone in the first place. It certainly wasn't so they could come up like moves like this to amuse us.

Via: This is My Next

Microsoft airs first Gears of War 3 Campaign Trailer

As promised, Microsoft has aired the first single-player campaign trailer for Gears of War 3. It aired, as expected, at the end of the Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United (won by Barcelona).

This first full trailer opens by basically re-hashing the earlier released teaser trailer featuring protagonist Marcus Fenix and his father Adam. The new trailer goes on to show action between COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) and Locust forces, as well as the new enemy variant, the Lambent (mutated members of the Locust).

Special musical guest for the trailer is Black Sabbath performing "War Pigs."

In addition to the new enemy, for the first time in the series, Gears of War multiplayer will feature four-player co-op gameplay. Gears of War 3 will be the final game in the current story arc.

Pre-orders are available here. The game will be shipped in Standard, Epic, and Limited editions, and ships on Sept. 20th.

Watch the trailer below.

Alaska Airlines saves lots of precious trees, first to replace paper flight manuals with iPads

Alaska Airlines has announced it's switching from 25 pounds of hefty paper flight manuals to 1 1/2 pounds of Apple iPad 2s. The only question we have is: why do the rest of us have to shut down our smartphones when you guys have an iPad 2 in the cockpit?

Microsoft Store
[The answer to that, of course, is that the iPad 2 is probably in flight mode during the flight, as it is pre-loaded with all the software and PDF files necessary for the crew, but we couldn't resist that snarky question. In addition, we're sure they lock down the connectivity anyway, as we wouldn't want the captain and co-pilot playing that Angry Birds game they just downloaded, would we?]

iPads are currently being distributed to all Alaska Airlines pilots. The proces will be complete by mid-June, the airline said. The full roll-out follows a successful iPad trial by 100 line and instructor pilots and Air Line Pilots Association representatives during the past winter and spring.

Alaska Airlines calls the iPads "electronic flight bags."

Here's what Alaska Airlines' press release says about the changes:
The iPads contain an app called GoodReader that is loaded with PDF versions of 41 flight, systems and performance manuals, reference cards, and other materials. The electronic manuals include hyperlinks and color graphics, enabling pilots to find information faster and easier. Updating these reference materials can now be accomplished with one tap on the iPad screen instead of the former, labor-intensive process of replacing individual pages with new ones. The iPad is considered a Class 1 electronic device, meaning it is stowed during takeoff and landing under Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

In conjunction with replacing paper manuals, Alaska Airlines is exploring the replacement of paper aeronautical navigation charts with electronic versions on the iPad, eliminating the need for every pilot to carry their own copy. The two initiatives, dubbed "Bye, Bye, Flight Bag," will save about 2.4 million pieces of paper.
While reducing paper use, it does mean the crew needs to remember one more thing: keeping the flight manuals charged.

Microsoft Store

Study shows men spend 9x more than women on in-game virtual goods

The idea that women love shopping more than men has never applied to video games (come on, be honest), and it doesn't apply to virtual goods bought for mobile video games, either. This is news?

It may not be new news, but it's the result of a study by MocoSpace. [MocoSpace is a mobile social network which features games, chat, instant messaging, photo and video sharing, as well as forums.]

Mocospace studied the behavior (anonymized) of 1,500 social gamers to determine how the genders behave when it comes to games. It found that 53 percent of MocoSpace mobile social gamers are male while 47 percent are female. Men average 21 minutes per day gaming, slightly more timethan women, who spend about 19 minutes a day gaming.

However, it's the virtual goods sales that show a major difference. 69 percent of men buy virtual goods, while only 31 percent of women do. In fact, MocoSpace found that 90 percent of virtual goods sold-in game are bought by men. [Examples of such MocoSpace games include Moonbase, Crime City, Stage Hero, Happy Farm, and Street Wars.]

MocoSpace CEO Justin Siegel said,
"Our research shows that from a business perspective both genders demonstrate high levels of engagement, which is good for advertisers - but men and male-dominated titles tend to drive bigger revenues for mobile social game developers."
Men spend more money on games? Once again, not really news.

iOS 5 to revamp notifications, add widgets, but Nuance integration out: report

Although Electric Pig earlier wrote that it felt that the fact that British journalists are being urged to attend WWDC 2011 by Apple's iPhone PR department meant that new iPhone hardware would be introduced, we were skeptical. So is TechCrunch, which thinks that the push for attendance is because the iOS and Mac OS X 10.7 announcements will be huge.

As we indicated earlier, simply urging journalists to attend is hardly enough reason to believe that iPhone hardware will be introduced. iOS and Mac OS X are both about to receive major upgrades. Additionally, it's widely believed that Apple will discuss the cloud, whether that is simply about MobileMe, some other proposal, or (if deals can be in place by then), iCloud.

With that said, the focus will center on software, and some of the tidbits outlined in the report include a claim that the Nuance's voice technology, widely rumored to be deeply integrated into iOS 5, will not make its way into the Voice Control component of the platform. That info is based on current test builds, so things could change between now and the final release of iOS 5, though it would seem difficult to integrate something that complex between now and then.

Additionally, the report goes further and states that notifications will be revamped, and iOS 5 will include widgets, something Android has had for a long time, and a major advantage of that platform.

An example of a widgets might be a weather widget. Let's say you have a weather app. If it has a widget, you can add that to your homescreen, and that widget doesn't just sit there as a static icon. Rather, it could update to show you the weather report for the coming day.

An email widget could, once again, not just sit there as a static shortcut, but show you your inbox, actively updating.

A few days ago, designer Jan-Michael Cart released a concept video demonstrating his vision of widgets on iOS. You can view that and a video explaining apps, icons, and widgets on Android, below.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How much money did Amazon.com lose from its Lady Gaga sales? Perhaps millions or perhaps nothing

How much did Amazon.com lose with its two (1, 2) Lady Gaga $0.99 promotional sale days? Maybe a lot, or maybe not much, if the promotion hit its intended target: not to sell Lady Gaga albums, but to promote Cloud Drive and Cloud Player.

According to Billboard, industry sources told them that Amazon.com sold about 440,000 downloads of the Lady Gaga album. Nearly all of them were the $0.99 version.

Doing the math, Billboard owes the music label and distributor about 70 percent of the purchase price. Using iTunes' price of $11.99, Amazon.com would owe $8.39 for each album, minus the $0.99 it received from buyers, so it would lose $7.40 on each sale. Based on that, and using a 430,000 unit total (440,000 minus 10,000 to account for estimated sales of the deluxe edition), Amazon.com lost about $3.18 million.

[Billboard used iTunes' price of $11.99 for its calculations, but Amazon is still selling the same Lady Gaga album for a much lower price than iTunes, $6.99, so using $7.40, Amazon.com could still be losing money on newer sales.]

Still, as we noted earlier, the Lady Gaga sale wasn't about the album so much as it was a way to use a hot artist to promote Amazon.com's Cloud Drive and Cloud Player services. After all, if you purchase an MP3 album at Amazon.com, your Cloud Drive storage is upped to 20GB for 12 months. Considering the upgrade price to 20GB is $20, even $6.99 for the current album price is a bargain.

So, did Amazon.com really lose anything? We'll see if Cloud Drive and Cloud Player remain relevant after iCloud is opened, and then we'll judge. If Cloud Drive remains free, we'd speculate it will still remain in the minds of consumers even with iCloud around, since iCloud is widely expected to be subscription driven.

Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, May 28, 2011: Yoo Ninja! (Ad-Free)

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Yoo Ninja! (Ad-Free).

In the Android Market, the only version of Yoo Ninja! is a free ad-supported version. It is normally priced at $0.99 in the Amazon Appstore.

Yoo Ninja! (Ad-Free) is described as follows:
Yoo Ninja is a fast-paced game that takes you into a strange world where gravity isn't quite what you're used to.

Constant Forward Motion
You're a brave little ninja, and you're on the move. Running, jumping, and flipping, you avoid obstacles. Constant forward speed is needed to throw off your pursuers and avoid darts. Make a mistake and you risk falling into the abyss, flying off into the sky (because gravity isn't reliable, remember?), or being killed by darts.

Multiple Levels and Worlds
As you run, you'll pass through four different worlds--a jungle, a village, the ocean, and a castle--and more than 30 different levels. Endless mode means you can keep going, well, endlessly, if you're good enough.

Track Your Progress
While you play Yoo Ninja, it keeps track of your successes with a scoreboard, listing your top 10 efforts. Make it through all four worlds and you'll be rewarded with an amazing ending. Until then, this addictive arcade game will keep you occupied for as long as you let it.

"Yoo Ninja oozes simplicity, but still manages to be good fun." - T3 App Chart

Please note: Yoo Ninja! (Ad-Free) v 1.3 is not compatible with all tablets.
The blurb about not compatible with all tablets generally means that the app is not Honeycomb (Android 3.x) compatible, which means it won't work with the latest generation of tablets, such as the Motorola Xoom, LG G-Slate, etc. This will, of course, be fixed eventually.

Yoo Ninja! (Free) has a rating of 4.5-stars in the Android Market. It has a 3-star rating in the Amazon Appstore.

Some of the bad ratings in the Amazon Appstore reflect the fact that the developer name is different between the two stores. We've seen this before, and believe it's got something to do with just that: the two stores. It's not fair to down-rate an app because of suspicions, rather than actual gameplay.

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.

Hackers breach security at several U.S. defense contractors

Hackers have managed to breach the networks of several U.S. defense contractors, Reuters reported on Friday. Reuters received the information from a source with direct knowledge of the attacks.

However, the source remained anonymous, as he was not authorized to discuss the security breaches.

The hackers breached network security by creating duplicates of "SecurID" electronic keys from EMC Corp's RSA security division. The hackers, in turn, learned how to create the duplicates using data stolen acquired during a successful attack on RSA that EMC publicly disclosed in March, the source added.

It is unclear what exactly the hackers accessed during their intrusions. It's also unclear what the full extent of contractors affected was, but Lockheed Martin was specifically mentioned in the report, although "several other" contractors were also hacked.

Speaking to Reuters, one contractor, Raytheon, said once the RSA attacks were disclosed in March, it took precautions to ensure its systems were secure. Boeing, too, addressed the report, saying the company had a wide-range of defensive systems in place to protect its network.

The RSA SecurID authentication mechanism consists of a "token," whether it be a piece of hardware or software (a "soft token") assigned to a user. The token generates an authentication code at fixed intervals. This code, along with the typical password or PIN must be entered to grant a user access to a system.

This is an example of two-factor authentication, wherein two different pieces of identification must be presented to access a system or network. In this case, the token gives the user a constantly changing code to use, and the PIN is the second factor in the authentication.

Rick Moy, president of NSS Labs, an information security company, said the current attacks were likely to have been carried out by the same hackers as in the original March RSA breach. "Given the military targets, and that millions of compromised keys are in circulation, this is not over," he said.

New iPhone app allows users to schedule SMS messages for later delivery

A new iPhone app, free in the App Store, allows users to schedule text messages for delivery later.

The new app, txtot, sounds like a text messaging app for toddlers, but the acronym stands for Text On-Time.  The app emerged in the App Store this week.

You set the time and date, and the app sends the text message then, more or less. It's not totally automatic because the only way to do that on the iPhone is to jailbreak it. Instead, txtot reminds the end user to send the text, and he or she simply has to confirm it.

It's not quite as good as fully automatic, and it could be a problem if you want to send the text, say, in the middle of the night locally to arrive in the daytime in some other country. For that, we suggest to the developer he look at Android (after all the app is free!).