Sunday, July 31, 2011

U.K. releases name of LulzSec's 'Topiary': Jake Davis, 18

U.K. authorities have released the name of the suspect they believe to be "Topiary," the second-in-command of the hacker group LulzSec. He is reported to be 18-year-old Jake Davis, whom police arrested last week in the Shetland Islands.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2012While Scotland Yard has yet to post any new information about the case since they arrested Davis last Wednesday. However, in a Sunday blog post, Sophos' Graham Cluley detailed the five charges that Davis has been charged with:
  • Unauthorized access to a computer system, contrary to Section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
  • Encouraging / assisting offenses, contrary to S46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007.
  • Conspiracy with others to carry out a Distributed Denial of Service Attack on the Web site of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) contrary to S1 Criminal Law Act 1977.
  • Conspiracy to commit offencss of section 3 Computer Misuse Act 1990, contrary to S1 Criminal Law Act 1977.
  • Conspiracy between the defendant and others to commit offenses of section 3 Computer Misuse Act 1990 contrary to S1 Criminal Law Act 1977.
Ironically, SOCA is a national law enforcement agency of the United Kingdom which assigned to investigate cybercrime. All right, it's not ironic; instead, it was obviously LulzSec's intent to target SOCA just for that reason.

Since Davis' arrest, there have been rumors floating about that the U.K. had arrested the wrong man. In posts to pastebin and other locations, some, including rival hackers, have purportedly outed Topiary, stating his actual identity is one Daniel Ackerman Sandberg, 23, a Swede.

However, prior to the arrest of Davis, the Twitter account of Topiary was wiped clean, save for one Tweet that said "You cannot arrest an idea." At the same time, LulzSec's website went offline. Neither has seen any activity since Davis' arrest.



Both Apple and Samsung overtake Nokia in global smartphone market share

As anticipated, Nokia has been dethroned as the global leader among smartphone manufacturers, but it was Apple, not the expected Samsung, that took the prize.

A report issued Friday by market research firm Strategy Analytics said that Apple sold 20.3 million iPhones during Q2 of 2011. Considering the iPhone is already a year old, that's particularly amazing. This quarter might be different: rumors are that the next-generation iPhone will launch in September or October, and one would expect consumers to slow their buying if they are paying attention.

Also during Q2, analysts estimated Samsung sold 19 million smartphones in the quarter, based on the strength of its Android-based devices such as the Galaxy S II and others. That figure was well ahead of Nokia's 16.7 million smartphones sold.

GoldMedalWineClub.com-Great Wines Delivered-250x25Nokia had held the rank of No. 1 global smartphone manufacturer since it "invented" the category with its Communicator back in 1996.

In addition to the upcoming launch of the iPhone 5, Samsung is expected to launch the Galay S II smartphone to the U.S. in August. Samsung recently stated it had sold 5 million units of the follow-up to its best-selling Galaxy S smartphone in only 85 days.  Some analysts are predicting that Samsung will take the lead in overall cell phone, as opposed to smartphone, sales in 2012.

Nokia, meanwhile, is struggling while awaiting the fruits of its partnership with Microsoft to emerge. The company is shifting away from its own platforms and focusing on Windows Phone devices, the first of which may arrive later this year.

Download the latest version of WinRAR


Airbrb (lack of) response a cautionary tale for businesses

The drama that is the tale of "EJ," Airbnb, and #ransackgate continues, but as it continues to unfold we are struck by the poor response of Airbrb. It's not because they didn't initially try to help after the matter; instead, it's because of how they turned one person's issue into a national PR FUBAR.

Livedrive Simple, Secure Online BackupFor those not aware, "EJ," who it turns out is a corporate events planner, used Airbnb's service to rent out her place for a short period to a "guest" she'd connected with through the online rental agency. She returned to find her place ransacked (hence the trending Twitter hashtag #ransackgate).

It really turned into #ransackgate when "EJ" posted a blog post about the matter, which eventually went viral. While the Airbnb's customer service department was initially "all over" the incident, once the blog post went live, things went cold.

That was Airbnb's biggest mistake, perhaps, especially since "EJ" posted a second blog entry that revealed that an Airbnb co-founder (not Brian Chesky, who has been the most visible company face among the media) spoke to her and asked her to take the initial blog post down, as it might hurt a round of funding Airbnb was trying to complete.

Expedia.comLong story short, the funding completed, but the fact that the company placed money over the health and safety, and current condition, of "EJ" came across as callous and selfish (and that's putting it mildly).

"EJ" has spoken to some sites since then, including both USA Today and the San Francisco Chronicle. Sadly, some are playing the "blame game" with her, much as is often done with rape victims, and some have even gone so far as to imply the event was simply a stunt by the hotel industry to hurt Airbnb's business.

Reportedly, someone was arrested in the "EJ's" case. However, 19-year-old San Francisco resident Faith Clifton is no longer in San Francisco custody and the authorities could not confirm whether Clifton had been released or instead transferred to a nearby county where she faced a warrant for related charges.

Meanwhile, the incident is still hanging over Airbnb, and it will for some time. Robert Scoble had an excellent post on Google+ about lessons that could be learned from #ransackgate. Notably, none of the suggestions were directed toward the victim.

We would differ in our response to the incident by moving No 4, Fix the freaking problem (Make it completely go away) to the No. 1 position. Airbnb got its funding, good for them. However, the crime against "EJ" and Airbnb's response, which still comes across as selfish and callous, may create an opening for competitors Roomorama and Couchsurfing.com, among others.

At the very least, it should serve as an example of "what a company should not do" in a crisis situation.

Cash Back Coupon!


Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 7/31/2011: Car Locator

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

Car Locator is normally priced at $3.99 in the Android Market. Meanwhile, it is normally priced at $3.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we noted previously, prices sometimes differ between the two stores.

Car Locator is described as follows:
If you've ever gazed out at a sea of parked cars and realized that you have no idea where yours is, Car Locator is here to help. This GPS-based app for your Android device remembers your car's location and leads you right back to it. It also keeps track of how long you've been parked, lets you know if you need to feed the parking meter, and more.

Park, Save, and Go
Setting Car Locator to remember your car's spot is easy. When you park your car, just open the app (or use the handy widget straight from your home screen). You'll see your current location on Google Maps, along with a cool-looking radar display that signifies your car with a red dot. Just double-tap the location of your car on the map (or simply shake your phone) and Car Locator will remember where it is.

When you want to find your car again, just open the app and follow the cues. Choose between a map screen, which shows your progress on Google Maps as you get closer to your car, or a radar screen, which puts your car's location in a simple visual graph to help you orient as you get closer. You can also opt for a split-screen option, which shows both map and radar signals at once. It's also easy to link to Google Maps' step-by-step directions, as well.

Along with the visual help, Car Locator features a "sonar" function that emits a beeping sound: The closer you get to your car, the faster it beeps. This can be very useful in a crowded parking lot (or if you want to pretend that you're piloting a submarine).

Helpful Touches
By touching the Details tab at the top of the screen, you'll see (in big, clear numbers) the amount of time your car has been parked and how many feet away it is from you right now. There's also a directional helper at the bottom of the screen, which uses an arrow to illustrate what direction to walk in order to get closer to your car.

The app's timer and alarm are a nice touch. If you parked in a spot that has a time limit, just set the timer and your phone will alert you when you need to go feed the meter or find another spot.

Many other useful features round out this simple tool. If you park in the same area frequently, you can save that location for future use. You can also send your car's location to another phone that has Car Locator installed on it--this can be very helpful when meeting friends in an unfamiliar place, for example, or if you need someone to pick your car up for you.

The home screen widget is a quick and useful way to save your location without opening the app. Just one touch to the widget will set your location and you'll be ready to go.
Car Locator has a 4.6-star rating in the Android Market, and 3-star rating in the Amazon Appstore.

There are plenty of competitors in the Android Market, including Carrr Matey, which is free and highly rated. However, Car Location won 1st place in Verizon's Power Your App Contest. Additionally, there is a free plug-in that saves your car's location whenever your phone disconnects from your car's Bluetooth (the obviously named Car Locator Bluetooth Plugin).

It doesn't appear that the Plugin is available in the Amazon Appstore, however, and it's unclear if you can "mix-and-match" between the two Markets.

Why the big difference between the two markets, in terms of reviews? Among the reasons are negative ratings because of comparisons with other free apps (which isn't really a valid reason to downgrade an app, IMHO), and permissions.

Amazon.com 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. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.



iPhone 5 cases now 'everywhere in China'

More cases, and more speculation about the upcoming fifth-generation iPhone 5. Although earlier rumors said that the next-generation iPhone would be minimally changed, making it easy to understand it being called the iPhone 4S (like the iPhone 3G to 3GS update), the cases we are seeing don't seem to point in that direction.

Get a SquareTrade WarrantyAmong the changes noted by 9to5 Mac are the mute / vibrate switch position, which was moved to the opposite side of the volume buttons.

These seem confirmed by Asian site M.I.C. Gadget, which reports that the iPhone 5 cases are already "now everywhere" in China. The site has a gallery of these case designs, which also show the mute switch moved to the opposite side of the device.

The designs are also said to be slightly larger than the existing iPhone 4. The case is 5 inches tall and 2.8 inches wide. Designed to be snug-fitting, these cases would point to iPhone 5 dimensions only slightly smaller. The iPhone 4, for comparison, is 4.5 inches tall and 2.31 inches wide. The cases have a slight tapering in thickness from top to bottom, which is reminiscent to the MacBook Air's taper.

In addition, the case bottoms show holes for a separate speaker, the main microphone, and the same old USB dock connection we know and love (?).

Case designs have always been a favorite way for new iDevices designs to be leaked. It's small wonder that so many cheap Chinese cases are always available for iDevices so quickly.

In December of 2010, three Foxconn employees were arrested for allegedly leaking the iPad 2 design to Chinese accessory manufacturers. In June, two former Foxconn employees and a manager at an accessory manufacturer were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms.

Court documents state that the employees were paid 20,000CNY (about $3107) to for leaked digital images of the second-generation iPad.

All signs still point to a September / October launch for the next-generation iPhone. The device is expected to include the new A5 processor from the iPad 2, a dual-mode baseband chip and an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera.



Social networking 'friendships' between teachers, students banned by new Missouri law

Wikimedia Commons
If you are a teacher, and want to be friendly with your students, that's fine. Just don't be their friends, especially not on a social networking service. That type of "friending" is now banned by a new Missouri law that goes into effect on August 28.

160 x 600Missouri Senate Bill 54 bans direct social networking contact between teachers and students. It's designed to better set boundaries on the relationships between the groups.

It's not just about Facebook, although Facebook would be the first service that comes to mind. Obviously, one can see the reasoning behind this move, but one has to wonder how it would be policed.

In part, the bill says (SECTION 162.069):

"Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child's legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian. Teachers also cannot have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student."

There's some language in there that's a bit vague. For example, "former student." Would that mean that a teacher couldn't communicate with a former student who was say, 25? There are those words "exclusive access," and perhaps that is the key.

Turn Your Everyday Spending into College Savings!However, while on Facebook you have to approve a Friend, on Twitter, people just "follow you," without your explicit permission. On Google+, they can just add you to their Circles, although you don't have to add them back.

Dubbed the "Amy Hestir Student Protection Act," Senate Bill 54 isn't just about social networking relationships.

The bill is named after a Missouri public school student who was repeatedly molested by a teacher several decades ago. It strengthens rules against schools that fail to report sexual abuse of students by employees, but also adds other requirements, including the above social networking requirement.

Join Upromise 728x90


Company Photoshops retail box images to imply products much larger than reality

Photobucket
Most people know what the term Photoshopping mean. It's a term used to describe digital editing of images, using the name of the popular Adobe program Photoshop as a verb. In this case, we have a company that Photoshopped an image of a product to make it appear much larger than it is in real life, a sad way to enhance sales.

The product in question is the Banzai Slide N'Splash Whale Pool, but in reality it seems to apply to all Banzai products.

Looking at the image above, the left side is the portrayal of the product as it would be on the box, and the right side of the image is the product on Amazon.com. It appears that the image on the left side would only be correct if the kids using the pool were "The Incredible Shrinking Kids."

Apparently, as well, a brief scan of Banzai products around the Web and Amazon.com indicate that the company is a multiple offender, when it comes to using Photoshopping on its boxes.

Strangely, one comment on Amazon.com indicated that one of the products had so many bad reviews that rather than pulling the product from its "virtual shelves," Amazon.com relaunched a product page afresh with zero reviews.

The lesson here: don't buy any Banzai products unless you understand that the images on the box are grossly overstated.



AT&T vacation blackouts point to the iPhone 5 in late September

More seeming confirmation about a possible iPhone 4S / 5 (or both) release in the September / October timeframe is coming via vacation blackouts. It's something that Apple, AT&T and Verizon have done in the past when prior iPhones have released.

Online Backup - 5 PC's - 20% Off - 20% Off  One example from earlier this year was the Verizon iPhone launch, when Apple and Verizon were reported to be instituting a vacation blackout. The new report cites an email claiming to be from an AT&T employee which states:

"I'm an att employee and my boss just announced that vacation requests for the end of september will be denied due to an "event blackout". Historically the only time they've done this was for an iphone release. So we're looking at the last two weeks of september."

Naturally, all this has to be taken with a grain of salt. The timeframe, however, does coincide well with other reports and rumors. The rumor mills huge pile of grist has been pointing to a September or October launch of the iPhone 4S or 5 around then.

It's still unclear if Apple will release a minimally changed iPhone 4S (much like the iPhone 3G to 3GS upgrade), an iPhone 5 with the "normal" year-over-year changes, or even both. It's also been rumored that Apple may continue to sell the iPhone 3GS, for free on contract.

As usual, the number of rumors increases to staggering proportions as an iPhone release nears, so we can be reassured by the near-daily deluge of info that it's coming soon. That's about the only thing we can be sure of.



AT&T Samsung Galaxy S II to be keyboardless, after all

No, Virginia, it turns out the hardware-keyboarded device seen recently wasn't an AT&T Samsung Galaxy S II after all. BGR earlier said it had exclusively determined that the image above was the AT&T version of Samsung's 5 million-selling (and without U.S. carriers) Galaxy S II, but they backtracked quickly on Friday.

Instead, a new source has come forward, saying that the keyboarded Samsung device wasn't a Galaxy S II, but some other Samsung device, also coming to AT&T. BGR was fooled, the site said by the fact that an image showing the device ID had it listed as the SGH-i927, which was previously reported to be the Galaxy S II's device ID ahead of launch.

It's rather unusual for an OEM to re-use a device ID, even in unfinished form, so we're still scratching our heads, though. At any rate, the Galaxy S II exists un-keyboarded globally, so the keyboard had already thown us for a loop, although it is true that the same thing happened on the Galaxy S, where one carrier, Sprint, had a keyboarded version (the Epic 4G).

One other unusual thing is that the kernel version for the device, via ROM images, appears to be a Honeycomb kernel version.  That's extremely strange since the device is clearly sporting Android 2.3.4 or the latest Gingerbread build, unless this device is perhaps further out and will eventually run Ice Cream Sandwich.

Whither the actual Galaxy S II? Since Samsung just erected a "sign-up" page for information about the U.S. launch of the Galaxy S II, we know it's coming soon. Most rumors currently point to an August release on at least three (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon) carriers.



Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bank accounts drained as Apple, PayPal charge multiple times for OS X Lion purchases

Some folks who ordered Mac OS X 10.7 Lion from the Mac App Store have discovered to their dismay that they were charged multiple times for the app. The problem seems to affect only those having PayPal connected to their iTunes account, but has effectively drained the accounts of some customers.

iPad CasesInitially, the reports, which appeared on Apple's support forums among other places, said that Apple was blaming PayPal and PayPal was blaming Apple. It's hard to determine exactly who made the mistake, but it actually have been both. This recent post on the Apple support forums says:

"So I am on the phone with apple now - it appears that the app store treated my paypal account like a credit card - getting authorizations, and were not answered back like a credit card auth - so, it kept asking. Paypal took each of these "auth" attempts as a sale.

You heard it here folks....meanwhile - I wait for them to give my money back....UGH"

Another post said PayPal would be refunding his money. It would, however, take 3 - 5 business days. Considering what's coming up at in a couple of days, meaning the beginning of the month and rent and mortgage payments, it's got to be particularly upsetting for these folks.

20% off iPad WarrantyOne person even said he had nearly $4,000 in charges applied to his account. Another had $599 taken out.

Admittedly, the folks in trouble appear to be those who used PayPal to do a transfer from their bank account. We'd expect that those who would have used a credit card to make the payment via PayPal would have seen one of their card companies reject the charges, if they were done over and over again, as in this incident.

What's worse is that some of these folks are facing overdraft charges and the like. Some are reporting, as well, that PayPal has been refusing to directly return the funds to their bank accounts, instead refunding it to customers' PayPal account, which would mean a still further delay of 2 - 3 days to transfer from PayPal to a bank account by EFT.

Personally, when we use PayPal, we always use a credit card associated with with the account, and only use our bank account if we need to transfer funds from PayPal to our bank. The reason for this is more because of the credit card rebates than anything else, but this case shows still another reason to not pay directly from your bank account.

Back to school savings on computers & electronics


Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 7/30/2011: Golf Frontier GPS

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

Golf Frontier GPS is normally priced at $4.99 in the Android Market. Meanwhile, it is normally priced at $4.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we noted previously, prices sometimes differ between the two stores.

Golf Frontier GPS is described as follows:
Get your game on with this fully functional golf range finder and course map. Golf Frontier GPS provides accurate course detail for nearly 15,000 downloadable golf courses, and the best part--no subscription fees and every coarse download is free, always.

Your Golf Game with an Improved View
The feature-rich interface indicates carry and reach distances for the current hole. Distance arcs are placed at 100, 150, and 200 yards (or meters), however, you can calculate distance from anywhere on the map by adding new map points: Just long tap anywhere on the screen in map view. The one-touch interface makes marking and measuring shot distances simple. Does it make the actual shot simple? Well, that's up to you.

GPS Conveniently
Auto hole transition moves to the next hole without being prompted. As you approach, GPS adjusts with you. It's there to aide you, not burden you. Go on with your golf game seamlessly. The GPS sensitivity adjustment allows you to configure your settings for optimum accuracy. Additionally, adjust the battery life setup to get the most from your battery for those long days on the course. Use the Most Frequent mode for ultimate accuracy.

Any Course Can Be a Golf Frontier GPS Course
If you can't find your desired course, you've got options: First, check the course library. Golf Frontier is always adding new courses. If they haven't added it yet, send an e-mail and make a request. Don't want to wait? Feel free to add it yourself. Golf Frontier GPS allows you to create your own GPS course map using their robust online map editor.

Golf Frontier GPS is dedicated to producing the highest quality Android GPS application possible, and they're happy to respond to your comments and concerns.
Golf Frontier GPS has a 4.4-star rating in the Android Market, and 3-star rating in the Amazon Appstore.

Why the big difference? Looking through the reviews, one negative review was obviously meant to lower the rating of the app: it criticized it for not help with his bowling. Another was critical of Amazon.com, not the app itself, for posting a golf app.

Since the Amazon Appstore has far fewer reviews than the Android Market, and since you don't need to buy the app to rate it, these faux reviews hurt Amazon Appstore developers.

Amazon.com 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. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.



Verizon 3G FaceTime may be limited to tiered data customers

We noted earlier that it seemed that AT&T Wireless' move toward data throttling for its highest 5 percent of end users could, in fact, act to push some of those grandfathered unlimited users to data tiers. Here's another move that could do so, if true.

The new report concerns Apple's FaceTime video calling service. Reportedly, despite its slower version of 3G (vs. AT&T's), the FaceTime experience on Verizon's 3G network appears to be just fine, but we may not see it anyway. Apple wants to maximize the number of people who can have access to 3G FaceTime, but Verizon wants only tiered data plans to have access.

It's not a new sticking point for some time. We reported in mid-June that Apple and Verizon were at odds over 3G FaceTime.

hotels.comThe reasoning seems to be similar to AT&T's decision to throttle only unlimited data plans. It could "encourage" those on legacy unlimited data plans to move to tiered data, if they want to use FaceTime. And after all, if they used a lot of data because of FaceTime, that's what those overage fees are for, right?

It's already known that there are flags in iOS 5 that could let Apple disable FaceTime 3G support for specific carriers. Remember how iOS 4 tethering support was disabled on AT&T for so long? It's just another reason to jailbreak.

Shop Abe's Televisions


IE users less likely to win on Jeopardy!; their IQs are lower: study

We've long said that folks would be smart to use Google's Chrome browser or Mozilla's Firefox. We've never gone so far as to say that Internet Explorer users are stupid, but someone else has gone and done it for us.

Usenet Binaries: downloads at DSL SpeedAptiQuant, which is a Vancouver-based "psychometric consulting company," has released a report (.PDF) on a study it called "Intelligence Quotient and Browser Usage: Measuring the Effects of Cognitive Ability on the Choice of Web Browser. The study was designed to compare IQ between users of different Web browsers.

AptiQuant offered free online IQ tests to over 100,000 people over a four week period. The results are pretty telling. Individuals using Opera and Camino scored slightly higher than the others. Also scoring higher was Internet Explorer WITH Chrome Frame (Chrome Frame is a plug-in designed for Internet Explorer that allows suitably coded web pages to be displayed in Internet Explorer by Google Chrome's versions of the WebKit layout engine and the V8 JavaScript engine. In other word, it's not really IE).

Meanwhile, the middle ground in terms of IQ was taken up by those using Chrome, Firefox and Apple’s Safari, who showed no significant difference in their IQ scores. On average, however, those using Internet Explorer (6 - 9) scored lower than all of the other Web browser users.

To be succinct (you're not using IE to read this, are you?), the study found that if you are using Internet Explorer, you probably have a lower IQ that someone using Firefox, Chrome, etc. etc. Opera users were, according to the study, the ones with the highest IQs. [Ironically, the slogan on Opera's website is "Smarter Browsing."]

Also of note is the fact that as the IE version went up, so did the IQ of the users. Thus, Internet Explorer 9 users were the smartest of all IE users.

The researchers concluded that the reason behind this is that users with lower IQs tend to stick to outdated software. The researchers said, "From the test results, it is a clear indication that individuals on the lower side of the IQ scale tend to resist a change/upgrade of their browsers. This hypothesis can be extended to any software in general, however more research is needed for that, which is a potential future work as an extension to this report."

Admittedly, we promptly went to the Opera website and downloaded the current version, 11.5. We also discovered that since the last time we tried Opera, they added extension support, including a LastPass version for Opera and Opera AdBlock as well. Hmm. We'll have to give it a shot.

iSave.com


'What's New in Google+,' new release note section on Google's social networking service

Google+ has something that its users have been asking about for some time: a centralized section to find out about new features.

Since Google has said since the first day of release of Google+ that the project is still a work in progress, a number of things will change, and possibly change quickly (like Google starting to learn that they are indeed making mistakes, such as with their naming policy).

AmericanGreetings.com Free TrialThe "What’s new in Google+" section is basically a list of release notes. However, instead of just a dry list of x, y, z were changed in this release, the updates are often YouTube posts explaining the changes.

Of course, no one really wants to go and chase and read a Web page to see what has been changed on Google+. Instead, how about creating a specific blog for Google post, and then we Google+ users can subscribe to the updates via (what else) Google Reader.

At any rate, here's a (what else) YouTube post by Google+ Community Manager Natalie Villalobos below, explaining the What's New section.



SquareTrade Warranty


AT&T's new data throttling aims to push users out of 'grandfathered' unlimited data and to tiered plans

AT&T has confirmed something we just wrote about: the company will begin throttling the data speeds for some of its customers.

That throttling program will begin on October 1st. Those customers with unlimited data plans will find them unlimited, but if they are in the top 5 percent of AT&T's data users, they will see throttling. According to AT&T, those customers will have multiple warnings, including a grace period. Their speed will also be restored at the start of the next billing cycle.

This program is similar to T-Mobile's throttling plan. T-Mobile advertises unlimited data, but will begin throttling speed once a user reaches 5 GB of service.

That said, AT&T offers its unlimited data customers an interesting choice. The company said that if you want to use more data at full speed, you should join a tiered data program on their network. That's right, to use more data, don't go unlimited. Instead, join a tiered data program, because there you are restricted in terms of data use, but you can BUY more data, and not be throttled.

That explains it all, doesn't it? This throttling program is a way to "encourage" those people who are grandfathered in with an unlimited data plan to move to a tiered data plan, where AT&T can make more money.

Cynics that we are, we have to wonder: who judges who the top 5 percent of AT&T's data users are? Ah, that would be AT&T, right? Could some (ahem) programming error suddenly extend this "category of user" to the top 30 percent of AT&T users? After all, how could you challenge it?

"Oh, you are in the top 5 percent of AT&T users. Yes, you only used 1GB of data, but that's still in the top 5 percent of our users."

Even without this, eventually cellular data use will continue to rise until the outliers in terms of data use becomes the typical data user. Or am we TOO cynical?

It seems to us, this is a rate hike, without a rate hike.

It also almost certainly points to an iPhone 4S / 5 release either in September or October.

Official Shop of Cartoon Network


Finally near? Samsung opens Galaxy S II sign-up page for U.S. customers

U.S. smartphone buyers are still waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the Samsung Galaxy S II, and although multiple leaks continue to occur, there's still no real information on a specific date for the hot device on any U.S. carrier. That said, Samsung has put up a teaser page where you can sign up for updates.

Click link and get 20% off on Hooked on PhonicsThe Samsung Galaxy S II, the company's follow-up to its best-selling Galaxy S smartphone, is equipped with a 4.3-inch, 540 x 960 Super AMOLED Plus display, a dual-core 1.2GHz Exynos processor, a 2MP front-facing camera, a rear-facing 8MP camera (capable of 1080p video capture), 1 GB of RAM, along with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).

For better or for worse, depending on your opinion of the stock Android user interface, the Galaxy S II also sports a Samsung's customized user interface via TouchWiz 4.0.

The latest rumors have been that the Samsung Galaxy S II will hit U.S. shores sometime in August. Despite a lack of U.S. sales, the smartphone has sold over five million units in the first 85 days after it was launched.

AT&T Free Phone