Monday, April 30, 2012

Woman's Facebook image shows up on porn site after photo-jacking

If you haven't heard of photo-jacking, listen up. Photo-jacking is when photos are scraped from Facebook and other Internet services, then placed in ads or even on porn sites. In the case of Jules Lyn Rahim of Singapore, a picture of her in a bikini ended up in both locations.

The image above is her current profile image from her Facebook account.

The photo, which she had posted to her Facebook account three years ago, showed up in two unauthorized locations. She was tipped by a friend to one location, on a dating site called sgGirls.com. It was captioned with a telephone number to call and how much it cost to chat (with a hot girl, presumably).

Another friend tipped her to a second location. That was even worse: her photo was featured on a pornographic website.

Rahim, 32 and a mother of four children in Singapore, aged one to 10 has filed two police reports, one for the porn site and the other for the dating site. She said, “People I know may think wrongly of me.”

There are at least two other women in Singapore whose social media photos showed up on the same sites where Rahim's picture appeared. However, it's difficult for anyone victimized in such a way to pursue any legal action, as photo-jacking exists in a grey area in Singapore - and even in the U.S.

An example in the U.S. occurred just this February. Police in a small Massachusetts town, Charlton, asked the FBI for assistance after photos of at least 17 high school girls were found on pornographic websites. The images were taken from Facebook and other social networking sites, and for the most part, the girls were fully clothed in the images.

Rahim said the photo of her in the bikini was taken shortly after she had her second child. “It was taken after I had a dip in the pool for relaxation. I’m angry something casual and normal has been taken and used in the wrong context.”

These are just more examples of why people need to put the brakes on anything shared on social networking. Your privacy settings should be as high as possible, and you should only share things with your friends (and we mean real friends, not faux Facebook friends).



50 million downloads in 35 days: Angry Birds Space in uncharted territory

The latest "status report" on Angry Birds Space shows that the game has reached 50 million downloads within 35 days. Rovio says that breaks all the company's prior records and makes Angry Birds Space the fastest growing mobile game of all time.

You can do the math. 50 million downloads in 35 days means 1.43 million downloads a day, or 59,500 downloads an hour, or close to 1,000 a minute (991.7, to be exact). That's actually slowed down, though: it hit 10 million downloads or more then 3 million a day in the first 3 days.

Still, it's amazing, and available on iOS, Android, PC and Mac. Eventually, it will make it to Windows Phone, as well, it's been confirmed by Rovio CEO Mikael Hed.

Considering how many downloads the app series has had overall, 50 million is chump change. Angry Birds in its earlier forms (the original, Angry Birds Seasons, Angry Birds Rio) along with Angry Birds Space has been downloaded 750 million times.

Extrapolating those values (which of course, isn't really valid), in less than half a year, downloads of Angry Birds Space could lead to the series passing the 1 trillion download mark. In a blog post, Rovio said,

“This has been simply amazing, and the whole Rovio team is thrilled to see such a fantastic reception for the game. We extend our deepest gratitude to all fans of Angry Birds everywhere. While numbers like this certainly say something about the popularity of Angry Birds, for us the main goal is to keep creating fun new experiences that everybody can enjoy! We just launched the first free update for Angry Birds Space, with plenty more surprises in stock.”

By "first free update for Angry Birds Space," the company was referring to a "pack" of 10 new levels, which have been released for iOS and Android.

Rovio added the someone cryptic comment, “There’s only one conclusion to draw: something even bigger is on its way! Stay tuned and keep flinging those Birds!”

What could that mean? We already know the franchise is heading into animation. Where else could it go?



Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 4/30/2012: Daily Leg Workout

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

Find or Create Hilarious Merchandise at CafePress
Daily Leg Workout is priced at $0.99 in Google Play, and it is normally priced at $0.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted before, there are sometimes differences in pricing between the two marketplaces.

Daily Leg Workout is described as follows:
If you think your lower body could use some strengthening--or you just need a good excuse to grunt more often--try Daily Leg Workout. This exercise app for your Android device could be just the thing to get your legs toned, stronger, and feeling more fit.

Strengthen Your Lower Body

Daily Leg Workout contains two 5- to 10-minute daily leg routines that guide you through 20 great lower body exercises. This workout is developed and demonstrated by a certified personal trainer. Spending just minutes a day can strengthen and tone your legs.

The routine's simple interface, complete with video and timer, allows you to easily follow along and understand each exercise. This full version includes two workouts, landscape mode, randomized features for different daily workouts, and is ad-free.

If you're looking to get your lower body into better shape, give Daily Leg Workout a shot. The only thing you have to lose is the old you!
Daily Leg Workout is rated at 4.7 stars in Google Play. It is rated at 3.5 stars in the Amazon Appstore.

Daily Leg Workout has 82 ratings in Google Play, so its 4.7 star rating is has a solid sampling. Daily Leg Workout Free has over 1,000 ratings and a 4.6 star rating.

Why, then, the much lower, though not egregiously lower, rating in the Amazon Appstore? If you look at the ratings, there are only 11 reviews overall at the time of this writing. All of the 1-star ratings appear to be joke ratings. At the very least, superman75's, and he 1-star rates every FAOTD, is. The other two complain that this is a "woman's app" because men need work on their belly ... and seem to be joke reviews, too.

Remove those, and the average rating rises to 4.5. Interestingly enough, the FAOTD for March 1 was Daily Ab Workout.

Daily Leg Workout is also in the App Store, selling for $0.99 with a 4.5 star rating.

MindManager Free 30 Day Trial
Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to 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.



Apple's tax avoidance schemes save the firm billions annually

The New York Times has taken on Apple, once again, with an investigative report detailing how the world's most valuable company by market capitalization avoids not millions, but billions in taxes annually.

Many on the right like to say that America has high corporate tax rates. What they often miss, or perhaps omit, is that those are the "advertised rates." Once all the loopholes are exercised, the U.S. has among the lowest corporate taxes in the world. And that is what Apple does, by, as the NYT says, taking "advantage of tax codes written for an industrial age and ill suited to today’s digital economy."

In this, Apple is not the exception, but rather the rule, as least for technology giants. Others, such as Google, Amazon.com, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, among others, exploit the same loopholes.

Of course, there's nothing criminally wrong with any of this, as corporations by law must attempt to maximize profits for their shareholders. It is, of course, another example of how corporations can take advantage of loopholes that do not exist for the common man.

Examples of Apple's tax dodging include an office with just a handful of employees in Reno, NV, 200 miles away from its corporate headquarters in Cupertino, CA. The office collects and invests the company’s profits, allowing Apple to vaoid state income taxes on at laest some of its gains. California's corporate tax: 8.84 percent. Nevada's: none.

Apple has also created subsidiaries in low-tax locales such as Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands. Some of these "subsidiaries" are little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office.

Save up to 90% every Saturday night 12am - 3am at SmartBargains.com!
One example of a letterbox-based anonymous office is an Apple "subsidiary" in Luxembourg. This office leverages the sales of digital goods through iTunes. Since Apple has that Luxembourg presence (iTunes SARL), it can record iTunes sales to people across EMEA as having been sold in Luxembourg.

Taxes that might otherwise have gone to the governments of the U.S., U.K., France, and elsewhere go to Luxembourg instead, which has promised low, low tax rates to corporations to do this sort of routing.

Robert Hatta, who helped oversee Apple's iTunes retail marketing and sales for European markets until 2007 said, "We set up in Luxembourg because of the favorable taxes. Downloads are different from tractors or steel because there's nothing you can touch, so it doesn't matter if your computer is in France or England. If you're buying from Luxembourg, it's a relationship with Luxembourg."

In this way, not only has Apple led the way with technological advances, it's led the way with tax-dodging strategies, as well. It was the first to take advantage of the complex scheme now called the "Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich."

That technique, now practiced by hundreds of other corporations, reduces taxes by routing profits first through Irish subsidiaries and the Netherlands and then the Caribbean. Some of the other companies that use this technique admit that they have directly imitated Apple's methods.

The majority of Apple's executives, product designers, marketing team, research and development, and retail stores are in the U.S. Despite this, these schemes mean that Apple can to "allocate about 70 percent of its profits overseas." These are the schemes that progressives and liberals say are "robbing" the U.S. of valuable tax income. These are also the schemes that conservatives want to stay in place, or even increase.

Despite facts like the above, they trumpet falsehoods about the U.S. tax system, and many uninformed Americans believe them. And it's not just the U.S. that is "robbed," but other countries, as well. To put things in concrete terms, Apple paid taxes of $3.3 billion globally on its reported profits of $34.2 billion in 2011, a tax rate of 9.8 percent. Compare that to Walmart, which in 2011 paid global taxes of $5.9 billion on its booked profits of $24.4 billion, or a tax rate of 24 percent (about average for non-tech companies).  Compare that to your own income tax rate, as well.

There is a downside to all these schemes: when money is sent overseas, it cannot be returned to the U.S. without incurring a new tax bill. That, of course, is why Apple and other companies are urging Congress to pass a “repatriation holiday” that would permit U.S. businesses to bring money home without incurring large taxes. It's also one of the reasons Apple gave for its first-ever dividend, coming later this year: money that cannot be repatriated, at least not yet.



Woz: iPhone still his favorite, but recommending WP over Android

Although he uses an iPhone as his primary smartphone (really, two of them for battery reasons), Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also uses - and loves - Android. Now he has yet another smartphone platform he carries: Windows Phone.

In an interview with Dan Patterson and the co-author of his autobiography, Gina Smith, Steve Wozniak lauded praise on Windows Phone, saying that using Microsoft's smartphone platform is like being "with a friend, not a tool."

The interview is embedded below.

While the iPhone is still his favorite phone, Wozniak loved the Windows Phone user interface, saying that "Compared to Android, there's no contest." In that, he didn't mean Android was superior, but WP. That was clarified in a post-interview comment.

Wozniak added, "Just for looks and beauty I definitely favor the Windows Phone over Android. I'm just shocked, I haven't seen anything yet that isn't more beautiful than the other platforms."

The interviewers did have the misconception that the Nokia Lumia that Steve Wozniak was carrying, and thus Windows Phone, was his favorite of the three (really, four if you include the second iPhone) he was carrying (he also had a Motorola Droid RAZR and an iPhone 4S). A comment left Wozniak corrected that error:

"Wrong. iPhone is my favorite phone. I did give my opinion that the Windows 7P phone had superior visual appearance and operation cues that were also more attractive. In my opinion, it sets the mark for user interface. I would recommend it over my Android phones given that it doesn’t yet have the breadth of apps. I surmise that Microsoft hired someone from Apple and put money into having a role in the UI and appearance of some key apps. I also surmised that Steve Jobs might have been reincarnated at MS due to a lot of what I see and feel with this phone making me think of a lot of great Apple things."

The statement that his friend and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs may have been reincarnated and helped in the making of Windows Phone is high praise for Microsoft.

Indeed, the iPhone's closed garden is both a boon and a bane. The fact that the device comes from only one vendor means there's no "fragmentation." Android is definitely not that way.

One might assume that fragmentation will exist - if not now, eventually - with Windows Phone, too, with multiple vendors. Nokia is known to have made its own tweaks to the platform, different from other OEMs. In addition, Windows Phone 8 is "advertised" to allow more customization by OEMs, as well.

How this all shakes out remains to be seen. As we've speculated before, however, it would seem to be common sense that for every app downloaded the likelihood that a user would switch to a different platform is less likely. Initial reports that a high number of AT&T WP users switched from Android AND iPhone after the launch of the LTE-supporting Lumia 900 and the HTC Titan II seem to belie that assumption.





Sunday, April 29, 2012

Apple, Samsung CEOs to meet May 21-22 for lawsuit settlement talks

As their love-hate relationship continues - Samsung is a key supplier of components for iDevices, but the companies are at war over patents, iOS, and Android - Apple CEO Tim Cook and his Samsung counterpart, Choi Gee-sung, are scheduled to meet on May 21-22 for settlement talks.

It's not totally unexpected. The companies had been pressured U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California, to meet for court-moderated settlement talks. Apple and Samsung agreed to this in mid-April, with the meeting made at the level of CEOs and their top lawyers, with Koh wanting the meeting to occur within 90 days.

A separate judge will oversee the settlement meetings, Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. The talks will begin each day at 9:30 a.m. PDT, in a San Francisco courthouse, while the litigation itself continues to be held before a San Jose division of the court.

The companies have been at loggerheads for about a year, beginning in April of 2011. According to Foss Patents' Florian Mueller, the dispute now encompasses some 50 lawsuits across 10 countries.

ClamCase All-in-One Keyboard Case & Stand
Unlike his predecessor, the late Steve Jobs who, angry at Google over Android, promised to "go thermonuclear" on the issue, current Apple CEO Tim Cook recently signaled the possibility of a settlement between the two companies when on an analyst conference call he admitted that he “hates” litigation and that he’d “highly prefer to settle than to battle.”

It seems unlikely that two days will be enough to reach a settlement for something so complex, convoluted, and contentious. Still, the possibility exists that Apple and Samsung may be able to at least start down the path of settlement.



Blizzard releases 'Family Guy' Diablo III trailer early; 'Evil is back'

Amazon.com
Just a couple of days ago, Activision Blizzard announced that tonight's "Family Guy" episode would feature Diablo III trailer / commercial that sported "a few juicy bits of never-before-seen Diablo III cinematic footage." Well, in case you're not a fan of Seth MacFarlane's animated comedy, wait no longer; the company has released the ad on its official YouTube channel.

In reality (ironic since this is a action fantasy RPG), the ad has little new to offer. Still, it does a good job of reminding people that the game launches on May 15 (fans who haven't been paying attention or even pre-ordered are now, we believe, rushing to their PCs to order - Standard, Collector's).

Turn Your Everyday Spending into College Savings!
It also warns gamers of the obvious: "Evil is back." As the YouTube blurb says,

"The Lord of Terror has begun his demonic crusade to shackle YouTube viewers into unholy slavery. Watch it now, and prepare for the end of days to begin on 05.15.12." Get yourself ready, Diablo fans.

Watch the ad below.





Teenage girls expelled over Facebook 'hit list'

In this age of cyberbullying, why anyone would assume that something like this could possibly be considered a "joke" is beyond us. That said, the American Civil Liberties Union is defending three Northwest Indiana girls who were expelled for a Facebook "conversation" which has been said to resemble a school "hit list."

The lawsuit, filed against Griffith Public Schools by the ACLU on the behalf of Sabrina Munsie and Kennedy Fortier, both 14, and a third unnamed girl, says that the Facebook conversation was "clearly meant to be humorous, as evidenced by their repeated use of emoticons such as ;)..." The suit also said that the school district violated the teens' free speech rights.

The girls were suspended and later expelled in January for the remainder of the school year after Griffith Middle School officials were alerted to the Facebook posts by a classmate's mother. The suit said that school officials told the girls they had violated school policy against harassment, intimidation, and bullying.

Sabrina Munsie said "It was just very dumb, and I wish I could take it back," while Kennedy Fortier said "We were just joking around. It hurts me that they thought I would really do something like that, because I would not. I regret everything I did."

Still, there have been instances of cyberbullying that have been very serious, and which have resulted in dire consequences for those facing the brunt of the activity.

Among the posts in the exchange:

Girl 1: "Lets kill the girl were talking about right now?"
Girl 2: "IM DOWN. its about time..."
[...] Girl 1: "I wanna kill people."
Girl 2: "ii wish uu wouldn't get caught, cos (expletive), half thee school would be gone by now..."

Classmate Courtney Tinsely, 14 was mentioned in the Facebook exchange. "I felt really hurt and upset, and I started to cry," she said, adding "There's no reason why there should be a lawsuit against the school. They did nothing wrong, except for try to protect me."

All three of the girls have been told the expulsion only lasts through this school year. All have been invited back for the ninth grade, but only one plans to attend that school.




Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 4/29/2012: Link

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

Find or Create Hilarious Merchandise at CafePress
Link is priced at $0.99 in Google Play, and it is normally priced at $0.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted before, there are sometimes differences in pricing between the two marketplaces.



Link is described as follows:
Spanning a Continent

Link is a modern take on a classic bridge-building game from the 1980s. Build bridges using wood and steel girders, and in more advanced levels, with stone blocks and rope cables. With 100 levels, Link will provide you with days of enjoyment and frustration.

As a 19th-century industrialist, you're building trains across the great West. The expansion of America depends on the delivery of coal, lumber, crates, animals, and of course passengers across a variety of valleys, ditches, waterways, and canyons.

Decisions, Decisions

Link uses principles of civil engineering to create stable structures. Creating bridges using randomly-connected materials will probably result in a lot of casualties. Instead, you'll need to think like a designer. Will a rectangular or triangular girder structure provide less strain on the girder joints? Does it make more sense to attach cables near the ends, or near the middle? If there is no place to attach cables, what type of structure can you build on which to attach cables?

Choose Wisely

You should also consider the physical properties of wood vs. steel. Steel is heavier and sturdier, while wood is lighter but probably not able to handle as much stress. Concrete is the heaviest and sturdiest of all construction elements, but you have a limited number of blocks to use and a limited number of places to put them. Cables provide some additional support from above, but they are also limited, and in some cases you will need to build a support structure for them.

In each level, you have a limited number of construction elements and structural anchors. On levels with concrete blocks, the tops of blocks also provide additional anchor points. Use these blocks carefully though! An improperly placed anchor can make all the difference between success and failure.

Tools of the Trade

Several user controls are available, including zoom in and zoom out, grid overlay toggle, show or hide bottom controls, reset the entire level, undo, and delete (the "X" icon). This should be fairly obvious based on the icon. At the far right, bottom corner is an up and down arrow to toggle the bottom control bar display.
Link is rated at 3.9 stars in Google Play. It is rated at 3.4 stars in the Amazon Appstore.

We'd say Link is a solid mid- to high-3 star app. Some of the negative ratings relate to its similarity to another construction game, X Construction.

MindManager Free 30 Day Trial
Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to 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.



Poor working conditions prompt Brazilian Foxconn workers to threaten strike

When most think of Apple's primary manufacturing partner Foxconn, they think of China. However, Foxconn has sites in other countries, including their recently opened Brazilian factory, which builds the iPad, and which is now giving them headaches.

The report comes from the Brazilian tech site, Tech Guru (Google Translation). At a Foxconn plant in JundiaĆ­, Brazil, over 2,500 Foxconn employees have complained about conditions at the factory. Workers met with company officials last Monday to raise their concerns, and have given the company 10 days to address them.

The complaints range from overcrowded buses to poor food and lack of water. If the issues are not resolved by May 3, the employees have threatened to strike.

A representative for the employees was hopeful that a resolution to the issues could be reached without resorting to a strike.

The report did not specifically say whether the workers threatening strike are working on iPad or iPhone production lines. iPhone 4 units produced in Brazil reached the Brazilian market in February; Brazilian plants have only been manufacturing the last-generation 8GB handset model.

Meanwhile, in early April, it was noted that Apple had been given approval to begin selling Brazilian-made iPads in the country, as well. To this point, not even Chinese-made "new iPads" have been available in the country. This is expected to change by the second or third week of May.

Initially, officials in Brazil began pushing for Foxconn manufacturing in their country in the hope that Apple's products could then be priced lower. Manufacturing Apple's products in Brazil could, they noted, bypass the high import taxes the products otherwise face.

At the same time, Foxconn, Apple, and other technology firms considering building products in Brazil see the same possible advantage. They also hope that Brazil could be a "jumping off" point for shipments to other Latin American countries.



Parents' online bucket list for baby dying of spinal muscular atrophy goes viral

This is not the first online bucket list to go viral; we've written about others before. However, it's an online bucket list for a baby dying of spinal muscular atrophy, written by her parents, as opposed to the actual person.

Avery Canahuati suffers from the rare and incurable spinal muscular atrophy. Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disorder that attacks spinal neurons and see muscle function debilitate. There are three severities, and Avery’s is Type I, the most severe kind. SMA type I is also called Werdnig-Hoffman disease

Doctors told her parents Laura and Mike Canahuati, of Houston, that their infant girl has only about 18 months to live. The news came, ironically, on Good Friday this year.

A bucket list is a list of things a person wants to do before they die. In this case, Laura and Mike Canahuati created the blog, Avery's Bucket List, and it has gone viral. One can watch the view counter on the page rapidly go up as viewers check into the site, and it rises rapidly. It's already over a million views.

Avery also has a Facebook page, here, with over 55,000 likes.

The blog isn't just a bucket list of things they would like Avery to experience before she dies, but it also chronicles the world from Avery’s perspective. The blog tracks the family's activities, and checks off things from Avery's bucket list as they go.

A survey in the sidebar shows the rarity of spinal muscular atrophy and knowledge of it. Asking if visitors knew aboutSMA prior to Avery's story going viral, 88 percent have voted no. Ironically, spinal muscular atrophy is the No. 1 genetic killer of children under the age of 2 in the U.S., but most people are unaware of it.

“I have a lot of living to do in just a little bit of time,” Avery “wrote” on the blog. “In everything I do, the two most important things are that I’m spending time with my mommy & daddy, while at the same time spreading awareness for SMA.”

You can read the section of the blog devoted to Avery's bucket list here, and see how she and her parents are doing at crossing out goals.

You might think a number of items on the list are not doable, due to Avery's age. You'd be surprised, though. For example, she's already scored her first kiss. Avery "writes":

“His name is Cooper and he’s 19 months old (I just love older men, they’re so much more mature than 3 & 4 month olds). My mommy and daddy said this might be the best kiss since Ryan Gosling & Rachel McAdams in The Notebook.”

Cooper also has SMA.

The last thing on the bucket list: to overcome her illness. That is unlikely, as the research is too far off to save Avery. Instead, the intent of the blog and bucket list is to raise awareness for the disease and help find a cure. Laura Canahuati said, “No one should have to go through this.”



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Google Cube serves as both a game and advertisement for Google Maps

Only a couple of months late, Google has delivered the game Cube, a Google maps-based game that was teased in January, and scheduled to be released in February. It's only now been released, without much fanfare at all. The website went live in the past 24 hours.

To play the game, you navigate a marble by using your cursor. In reality, if you watch the cube, it's actually tilting the game landscape. It's similar to those old games where you would try to move a marble through a maze without falling into any holes in the maze.

Your time is recorded each time you finish a level.

The game is split up into eight levels.

There are eight levels in the game.

In Level 1 has you make your way through Manhattan to reach your friends at the Brooklyn Bowl.

In Level 2, you're in San Francisco, riding a bike to four different landmarks, and - Google recommends - using the Google Maps biking layer as the safest route.

Level 3 puts in in Paris traffice, making your way to the Eiffel tower. Here, Google recommends you use the traffic layer find the fastest route. A busy road will slow your marble. You can see how Google is using the game to teach you about Google Maps features.

On Level 4, you’re in the London Underground (subway) trying to get to Big Ben, during rush hour, no less. You need to find the fastest combination of subway lines to get to Big Ben as quickly as possible.

Level 5 puts you into Japan, and Tokyo. Visit all the necessary tourist spots while navigating Tokyo's complicated streets.

On Level 6, you're in Las Vegas. No, no shows or gambling, but you get to visit the six reviewed restaurants in central Las Vegas in the smallest time possible.

Level 7 puts you into the Mall of America, where you must collect all of the Google Offers on each of the four floors (Cube advertises more than just Google Maps, obviously).

On the final level, Level 8, you use your knowledge of the previous levels to find your fastest route to your objective in an ever-changing cubic city.

Cube is as much an advertisement, of sorts, for Google Maps, as it is a game. As an example, after we completed the first level, a congratulatory message came up that also contained the blurb "Google Maps makes it easy to get from Point A to Point B with step-by-step directions and GPS tracking."

Don't worry, non-Chrome users. As long as you have a modern browser that supports WebGL, it will run this advertisement, er, game just fine.

Watch Google's teaser video from January, below.





Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 4/28/2012: Zen Hopper

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

Find or Create Hilarious Merchandise at CafePress
Zen Hopper is priced at $0.99 in Google Play, and it is normally priced at $0.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted before, there are sometimes differences in pricing between the two marketplaces.





Zen Hopper is described as follows:
A Zen Master... of Hopping?

Welcome to the Cave of Transcendence, where Zen masters apply their skill and training. Prove yourself worthy of the title Zen Hopper.

Move Without Moving

The concept is simple. Hop across a series of wooden pillars over a bottomless pit. Don't miss any; try to touch the center of each pillar as it passes for a perfect score. The poles move faster and faster, increasing the challenge. See how far you can go in Endurance Mode or find out if you can complete the Belt Mode challenges from white belt to black belt--achieve your black belt for a special ending.

Focus Without Looking

A dragon slides gracefully up the left side of your screen, marking the time until the end of your current challenge. Meanwhile, your sense of balance is marked by the lotus flowers on the right. If you close all of the lotuses, you've missed the pillars too many times, and you must repeate your training for the current level.

Reviews

"I think that part12studios have done a fantastic job of capturing the essence of making a captivating game that will entice users to carry on playing to their hearts delight." - RGC Mozza (Renegade Gaming)

"All I have to say is this app gets my two thumbs up!!! Zen Hopper is no doubt my new favorite game to play...." 9/10 - Daily Appetizer
Zen Hopper is rated at 5.0 stars in Google Play. It is rated at 3.4 stars in the Amazon Appstore.

The reason Zen Hopper has a 5.0 rating in Google Play is because at the time of this writing it has one, count 'em one, rating. However, there are 25 ratings in the Amazon Appstore, so we'd go with a mid-3s rating for this game.

The game is also available in the iOS App Store, where it is also $0.99, and also seems to have had trouble with getting attention. It has a 5-star rating overall, but only 6 ratings, total.

MindManager Free 30 Day Trial
Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to 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.



Will Apple become the first trillion-dollar company?

Apple stock is flying high, although since its boffo fiscal Q2 2012 (calendar year Q1 2012) earnings results the stock has been pretty stagnant (the stock had fallen some 70 points a peak of $636.23 on April 9 before the earnings release, and now sits slightly above $600). With a market cap of $564.38B as the world's most valuable company, Apple is far below where Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White believes it will end up: a trillion dollars sometime in 2013.

White already shocked the business world when, in early April, he set a price target of $1,001 for Apple (AAPL, NASDAQ) stock. Now he's gone still further, setting a target of $1,111 per share after the Apple earnings release earlier this week.

Since a price of $1,072 a share would value Apple at $1 trillion, by setting his price target even higher, White has predicted that Apple’s market capitalization will hit a trillion dollars sometime in 2013. That would be an unprecedented value for a company.

In his research note earlier this month, White said,

"Driven by an ever expanding portfolio of innovative products, a growing integrated digital grid, unmatched aesthetics and a brand that is able to touch the soul of consumers of all backgrounds, Apple fever is spreading like a wildfire around the world and we see no end in sight to this trend. As such, we believe the Apple story still has a long way to play out in the coming years and we expect the next 12-18 months to be particularly exciting for the Company on multiple fronts."

Now that Apple's fiscal Q2 2012 results were released, with the company making over $12 per share in net income, White has raised the bar still further, and said,

“Apple’s performance once again demonstrated how quickly Apple fever is spreading around the world, and this trend continues to drive meaningful upside in the company’s financial results. We believe the negative vibes that have held back the stock over the past couple of weeks will now be replaced with the fear of missing the next leg up in the stock price that we are forecasting will reach $1,111 over the next year.”

Is that possible? Apple's forecast for its fiscal Q3 2012 (calendar year Q2 2012) was down quite a bit from last quarter, about a third in terms of net income.

For one, White noted that “Apple is trading at just 8.1x (ex-cash) our [Topeka Capital Markets] CY13 EPS estimate."

In addition, there are a number of reasons that one might think a trillion dollar value is not out of reach, including iCloud, iPhone 5 and an expected Apple TV. There are also rumors of an iPad mini, and if Apple gets a relationship with China's largest wireless carrier, China Mobile in place, it could rapidly ramp up iPhone sales in that country.

$1,111 seems a long way away. However, on April 27, 2011, Apple's stock price closed at $350.15. Since then it's risen about 72 percent. A rise of 72 percent from now would be a price of about $1,040. So, it's a stretch, but not impossible, based on past history.



Samsung passes Nokia as top global manufacturer of cell phones

Fourteen years is a good long run, but that doesn't mean a company that is on the downturn, as Nokia is, is happy with this news. In Q1 2012, Samsung overtook Nokia as the world’s biggest OEM of mobile phones overall, not just smartphones, according to an industry study by market research firm Strategy Analytics.

SA's data says that Samsung shipped 93.5 million handsets in Q1 2012, which is 36 percent more year-over-year. On the other hand, Nokia shipped 82.7 million handsets. Samsung also issued its financial statement for Q1 2012, saying it had Q1 2012 net income today of $4.5 billion (operating income of $5.2 billion) and sales of $40 billion, topping analysts’ estimates.

Nokia, meanwhile, had already reported a $1.8 billion first-quarter operating loss as its handset sales continue to slump.

Tom Kang, a Seoul-based research analyst at Strategy Analytics, said “Last year Samsung became No. 1 in Europe while Nokia retained the No. 1 position in most emerging markets. In the first quarter, we expect Samsung took a lot of market share from Nokia in Asia. China and India were the two biggest markets where Samsung gained.”

Buy.com
Apple is the world’s third-largest maker of mobile phones and the second largest maker of smartphones after its shipments rose 89 percent to 35.1 million last quarter, or 24 percent of the market, according to Strategy Analytics. Restricting data to smartphones only, Samsung shipped 44.5 million smartphones in Q1 2012, giving it 31 percent of the smartphone market. Nokia ranked third in the smartphone market.

Earlier this month, Nokia said that its new Windows Phone smartphone line amounted to sales of more than 2 million units in Q1 2012. According to SA, that's out of 11.9 million smartphones that Nokia shipped, meaning that the lion's share of Nokia devices is still Symbian or other Nokia-developed platforms.



Friday, April 27, 2012

Call of Duty: Black Ops II, launch date outed by leaked prepaid game card

On May 1st during the NBA playoffs, Activision Blizzard will reveal the details of the next Call of Duty game. You needed wait that long for more information, though: a leaked image of Target pre-order reservation cards indicate not just the title (Call of Duty: Black Ops II) but the date of release (Nov. 13, 2012).

The November part of the date was pretty much assured already. Activision has released a new Call of Duty game every November since Call of Duty 2 way back in 2006. That title was an Xbox 360 launch title.

Since then, developers Infinity Ward and Treyarch have taken turns handling the game entries in the series. The last game in the series was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which was released on November 8, 2011 on Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3,and the Nintendo Wii.

That game had a rather complex set of development details, with Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games doing the bulk of the work, with assists by Raven Software, Treyarch (Wii version), and Neversoft.

Based on the pre-order cards, we can see that this Call of Dutyn series entrant will be available at least on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. As noted, Activision Blizzard will reveal the full details on May 1.



Apple and Target sued for iPad Smart Cover patent infringement

Apple's iPad 2 / new iPad smart cover may not be so smart after all. A Colorado man has sued the company, saying that the design violates his 2005 patent for a “Portable Computer Case.”

Aspen, Colorado resident Jerald Bovino filed the lawsuit in federal court. It asks both Apple and mega-retailer Target to pay royalties for using his technology. The lawsuit places Target in the cross-hairs because the retailer sells the smart cover, but so do a number of other retailers.

In fact, a number of other smart cover knock-offs are available, too.

Bovino's patent was awarded in Dec. 2005; he filed for it in mid-2003. The summary of US patent 6,977,809 says that the design is for a ruggedized case, one that also includes a strap for carrying the device.

A look at the images from the patent (shown) would seem to point to the ribs on the Smart Cover as being the most obvious similarity. The patent says that the case has:

"... a plurality of resilient ribs positioned on said exterior surface of said case wherein said resilient ribs protects said computer from wear and tear during the transporting and use of the computer."

ClamCase All-in-One Keyboard Case & Stand
Aside from that, Bovino's case sounds significantly different from the Smart Cover, which protects only the screen side of the iPad 2 and new iPad, and attaches via magnets. As the cover is lifted off the front of the iPad, the tablet turns on.

Interestingly, it was reported earlier this week that Apple had been awarded a design patent for the Smart Cover.



Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 4/27/2012: Recipe Guru Pro

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

Find or Create Hilarious Merchandise at CafePress
Recipe Guru Pro is priced at $1.49 in Google Play, and it is normally priced at $1.49 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted before, there are sometimes differences in pricing between the two marketplaces.



Recipe Guru Pro is described as follows:
Discover a World of Flavors

A world of sumptuous cuisines beckons you at Recipe Guru, where you can find practically anything and everything that your taste buds crave. Recipe Guru Pro comprises a database for thousands of professionally-tested recipes from famous cookbooks, magazines, and chefs.

Explore Your Palate

Recipe Guru offers more than 35 different cuisines, from southwestern U.S. flavors to Filipino delicacies, and from mouth-watering Greek dishes to heart-warming kimchi. Choose any cuisine, and the categories below--including breads, vegetables, soups, poultry, and 20 other categories--change according to what Recipe Guru offers for that cuisine.

As if all of these choices aren't enough, Recipe Guru Pro provides special sections, including:
  • Kids Recipes: healthier choices for tasty treats, plus dozens of baby food recipes
  • Pet Recipes: forget the fillers in commercial foods and serve up smarter kibble
  • Cocktail Recipes: shaken, stirred, blended, and poured for your next mixer
  • Diet Recipes: hearty healthy choices, diabetic alternatives, Weight Watchers options (with points), and much more
Widen Your Culinary Horizons

Explore the world of fine cooking and baking with Recipe Guru Pro, and try thousands of new things, from Hot Potato Salad with Bacon Specks to Miso Shiru (Japanese Miso soup with bean curd and spinach). Too exotic for your first taste test? Make your own English muffins--it's unbelievably easy--or try a quick and simple vegetable stir fry. Mark your favorites to make them again, and take note of the nutritional information provided for each dish.
Recipe Guru Pro is rated at 4.7 stars in Google Play. It is rated at 3.9 stars in the Amazon Appstore.   With those ratings, if you are a "foodie," buy it while it's free.

Don't get sucked in by the fact that Audubon Birds: A Field Guide to North American Birds is currently priced at $0.99 in Google Play. It's a limited-time sale based on John J. Audubon's Birthday with a Regular price of $19.99 - or twice that of the Amazon Appstore normal price.

The app is also available in the iOS App Store, where it is normally $14.99, but currently priced at $0.99 for the same reason as above: Audubon's birthday. That app has a 4.5 rating for the current version and 4 stars overall.

MindManager Free 30 Day Trial
Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to 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.



Apple to build offsite employee-only cafeteria, eliminate eavesdropping

Apple's level of secrecy over its projects and products has been called draconian, even to the point of inconveniencing (and that's putting it nicely) employees, and soon they won't even be able to leave Apple's facilities to have lunch, for fear of competitors overhearing their conversations. Admittedly, that's a little hyperbolic, but there is a measure of truth to that statement.

Apple has had a planning request approved by the Cupertino Planning Commission, one that will allow the company to build a two-story, cafeteria-style facility to accommodate employees that currently work out of the various Apple facilities along Bandley Drive on the west side of North De Anza Boulevard. The key: the facility will be Apple-owned, and private, with no public access.

This location is a short walk from Apple's current Infinite Loop headquarters.

Dan Whisenhunt, Apple's director of real estate facilities, said the following at Tuesday's meeting of the Planning Commision: "We like to provide a level of security so that people and employees can feel comfortable talking about their business, their research and whatever project they're engineering without fear of competition sort of overhearing their conversations. That is a real issue today in Cupertino because we've got other companies here in our same business."

The projected site is located on the northeast corner of Bandley and Alves Drives, near a hotel that is currently under construction. The majority of offices in the area are Apple-occupied.

The new cafeteria will encompass 21,468-square feet. In addition to the obvious eating facility, The cafeteria will have meeting rooms, lounge areas and courtyard space. The second floor will be used only by employees of the cafeteria only, and will include storage, staff locker rooms and restrooms, and more.

The facility will include an underground garage capable of housing 70 vehicles, with approximately 27,099 square feet of area. Apple, however, expects most employees to bike, walk or take company shuttles to the cafeteria.

In terms of those shuttles, Apple has committed to 228 passenger trips per hour during the mid-day lunch hour peak. If necessary, Apple told the Cupertino Planning Commission, it will have the ability to double that number of trips.

While this will obviously enhance privacy for Apple's employees, if the company really wants to ensure secrecy, it should have employees eschew bars, at least when they are carrying protoypes.