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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Google Has Planted A Secret Surprise In Its High-End Chromebook

chromebook pixel google

An “Easter egg” is a hidden message or joke that software developers sneak into their projects.

Google has hidden one in its new, high-end Chromebook laptop, the Pixel. One of Google’s developer’s spilled the beans about it to reviewers at Wired.

Open the Chromebook and tap out this code using Pixel’s directional keys: up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right, then B, then A. That combination is actually a “famous” Easter Egg key called the called the “Konami Code.” It comes from old-school video games, and was often used to hide extra, secret features in the game. Read More

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NYPD creates task force specifically for stolen iPhones and iPads

i phone new york

If you’re looking to get your iPhone or iPad stolen, all you have to do is wave it around on a New York subway. The theft of these high-cost mobile devices has skyrocketed in the Big Apple, and now the NYPD are responding with a new special task force. Yes, there is now a team of NYC police that specifically track down stolen iDevices. Lost your Android phone? Keep walking.

When a phone is reported stolen, the police will ask the victim for the device’s International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) in the case of iPhones and 3G/4G iPads. This data is then passed along to Apple, which can report to the police the exact location of the device — even if it has been moved to a different carrier.

The police will then actually go and find the missing phone or tablet. Tracking WiFi-only iPads is considerable more difficult because they do not have GPS or an IMEI number tracked by carriers. Still, it’s interesting to see the police taking such an interest in recovering stolen gadgets.

According to the cops, this new initiative is not just about returning stolen devices to their owners, but to learn about the patterns of theft in New York. Often tracking down a single stolen device leads to much more stolen property.

A database for phones went live last last year, allowing carriers to block stolen devices via the IEMI number. There is not currently a unified system for tracking those devices, but integrating with law enforcement is another matter entirely. The police usually have more pressing matters to attend to — it’s just the volume of thefts in New York that led to the creation of this task force.  Read More

Microsoft’s Tough Friday: Software giant battles hackers, malware, and a cloud outage

While workers at many companies were ending their work week Friday, Microsoft techs were scrambling to put out operational fires.

Late on Friday afternoon, Microsoft discovered that its worldwide Azure cloud service had gone offline when an expired security certificate prevented users from accessing the network.

Meanwhile, the company also discovered that a malware infection already discovered on internal computers at Facebook, Apple, and Twitter had crept into its in-house systems, too.

Azure fails

All encrypted traffic on Azure was disrupted when an SSL certificate expired, Microsoftexplained at a company website. Unencrypted traffic was unaffected by the certificate snafu, the company added.

microsoft azure

Service was almost totally restored by Saturday morning.

While the outage caused lots of grumbling on Microsoft’s online forums, contributor Brian Reischl accepted the mishap with a wry sense of humor.

“Might want to fix that, ASAP,” he wrote after a “certificate expired” message appeared on his computer screen. “It also wouldn’t hurt to put a sticky note on someone’s monitor so they remember to update that before it expires next time.

Outages aren’t new to Azure users. A year ago, the system went down. A certificate was the root cause of that outage, too. In addition, Western European users lost service due to a configuration issues in July 2012.  Read More

Microsoft better than Facebook, Twitter; Android cooler than Apple, according to TECH survey.

Microsoft Inc. has a reason to smile. A Reuters/Ipsos poll has just revealed that under half of 853 respondents age (18- 29) thought that Microsoft is much better now than it was 1 or 2 years ago. Microsoft garnered 50 Percent votes. Only 42% of the youth thought that Facebook is better than it was in the past. On the same criteria Twitter scored 47%.  Microsoft has recently focused on its marketing and product images. Its Windows interface in Surface tablets has found its share of admirers. Most of the users were happy with the consumer oriented push of Microsoft.

Most of the users also reaffirmed the view that if Microsoft will continue to move up with the same pace, then it will challenge the hegemony of Apple. Microsoft Still dominates the personal Computing Industry but has lagged behind in almost all the other technological races with its rivals. If we exclude Xbox and Kinect then it has failed in other tech competitions. Windows smartphones now have 3%of the world market share but it still lags behind Android (70%) and Apple (21%).  Read More

Galaxy Note 8.0 Announced: The Just-Right Size for Samsung’s Pen-Equipped Tablet?

PHOTO: Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.0 has an 8-inch screen and a stylus.

Feb. 23, 2013

 

The 10.1-inch Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet too big? The 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2 too small to be your tablet but too big to be your phone?

The Galaxy Note 8.0 might be just right. Or at least that’s what Samsung is hoping. The company has announced its new 8-inch, Android tablet today at Mobile World Congress, a large mobile tradeshow in Barcelona, and it hopes its new software features and the portable size will make it standout, especially against Apple’s iPad Mini.

A Notebook Size 
The tablet is slightly wider than the 7-inch tablets on the market, including Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7, and is meant to be easier to operate in one hand.

“We have seen through consumer research people like the one-handed experience,” Shoneel Kolhatkar, Samsung’s director of Product Planning, told ABC News. “The Note 10.1 is more of a lean back experience and this is really about the lean forward, you are actively engaged with your notepad and the content you are editing.”

Samsung’s first Android tablet introduced in 2010 — the Galaxy Tab — had a 7-inch display and the company has since made tablets with various different screen sizes. Apple introduced a smaller, 7.9-inch version of the iPad — the iPad Mini — in late 2012. Shoneel and other Samsung executives stressed to ABC News that it had smaller tablets long before Apple came out with the Mini.  Read More

Google to launch music streaming service to rival Spotify?

Google is reportedly working on a music streaming service to rival Spotify.

The search giant will offer users free unlimited listening supported by adverts, alongside ad-free subscription options, the Financial Times reports.

Google Logo
Spotify

Google is apparently in talks with major record labels to provide users with access to a library of millions of songs.

The launch of the new venture is said to be “impending”, with Google looking to pre-install the service on all Android devices.

The company launched Google Music in the US in 2011. Since rebranded as Play Music, it is also available in a few European countries and allows users to purchase songs and stream existing tunes to Android devices.

Google has had a difficult relationship with the music industry in recent times. The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents US labels and distributors, criticized it for linking to piracy websites.  Read More

Huawei pleads global brand ambition, and a softer side

Jessica Dolcourt

 February 24, 2013 6:50 AM PST

Huawei Ascend P2

It’s a vow we’ve heard many times before: Huawei will be a top global brand.

Here at Mobile World Congress, Huawei used its press conference as yet another opportunity to plead its softer side.

Addressing a room full of journalists at Mobile World Congress, Huawei’s director of global brand management, Amy Lou, passionately shared Huawei’s philosophy for aggressively pursuing its dream of becoming a major mobile heavyweight. Sweeping imagery of Earth and dust, and powerful language like “visionary” and “spirited” signaled a new step for Huawei, one that’s far more philosophical and emotional than its usual clinical presentation (that played a role, too.)

Huawei is a brand that “we believe will be as familiar, appealing, as powerful as any name you will see this week in Barcelona,” Lou said, voice filled with idealistic fervor. “Building a global brand “takes time, investment, and consistency,” she added.

2013 is Huawei’s 10th anniversary year with consumer devices, and Lou wants you to know it’s bee quite a journey. Huawei is shifting from an ODM, a nameless original device manufacturer, to an OEM, an original equipment manufacturer with a distinct brand identity.

In addition, 2013 sees Huawei making a more aggressive push bringing premium smartphones to market. In the U.S., for example, Huawei smartphones are still seen as more entry level and midtier devices. Huawei has been yearning for years to change that, and if the company has its way, this year will be the one where it breaks through.  Read More

S.& P. E-Mails on Mortgage Crisis Show Alarm and Gallows Humor

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced the civil fraud charges against S.&P. in Washington on Tuesday.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesAttorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced the civil fraud charges against S.&P. in Washington on Tuesday.

The executive at Standard & Poor’s was clear: “This market is a wildly spinning top which is going to end badly.”

That sober assessment of certain mortgage-related investments, delivered to colleagues in a confidential memo in December 2006, is now part of a trove of internal e-mails and documents that have come to light in a federal suit against S.& P., the nation’s largest credit ratings agency.

The correspondence, made public in court documents late Monday, provide a glimpse at the inner workings of an institution that the Justice Department says fraudulently inflated credit ratings, with dire consequences for the entire economy. In a series of e-mails, tensions appeared to be escalating inside the firm’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan as it publicly professed that its ratings were valid, even as the home loans bundled into mortgage-backed securities, or M.B.S., were failing at accelerating rates.

One comes from an S.& P. analyst in March 2007 borrowing from the Talking Heads song “Burning Down the House,” creating new lyrics: “Subprime is boi-ling o-ver. Bringing down the house.” S.& P. said prosecutors cherry-picked e-mails and that it would vigorously defend itself from “these unwarranted claims.”

In another 2007 e-mail, an analyst responds to a question about his new job: “Job’s going great. Aside from the fact that the M.B.S. world is crashing, investors and the media hate us and we’re all running around to save face … no complaints.”

Together, the documents show a portrait of some executives pushing to water down the firm’s rating models in the hope of preserving market share and profits, while others expressed deep concerns about the poor performance of the securities and what they saw as a lowering of standards.  Read More

Microsoft Surface Pro versus the competition

How does the Surface Pro measure up against other top tablets and laptop alternatives?

By some standards, the Microsoft Surface Pro is the best-ever hybrid of tablet and laptop, combining a full windows 8 OS with an Intel Core i5 CPU, and a best-in-class detachable keyboard cover.

But, at over $1,100 if you include a 128GB SSD and the keyboard, it’s also very expensive, especially if a slim Windows 8 touch-screen ultrabook, Atom-powered tablet, or something non-Windows-based would work for your needs.

The following is a quick survey of the major alternatives to the Surface Pro, from other Core i5 tablets to Apple’s new 128GB iPad.

Windows 8/Core i5 tablets (Example: Acer Iconia W700)

The closest competitors to the Surface Pro are other tablets and hybrids with Intel Core i5 processors — essentially full-featured ultrabooks squeezed down to tablet form. Acer’s Iconia W700 fits the bill, and includes a space-age-looking dock, as does Samsung’s new Smart PC Pro 700T.

Strengths: Mainstream power and performance

Weaknesses: High prices, shorter battery life

Windows 8/Atom tablets (Example: HP Envy X2)
Trading out the Core i5 for an Intel Atom processor gives you much-improved battery life (more than 10 hours in some cases), but also drops down the performance significantly. Prices for Atom tablets and hybrids are lower, but probably not low enough considering the difference between an Atom-powered system and one with a Core i5. Other current examples include theAcer W510, the Dell Latitude 10, and Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2. Prices generally run $500 to $800, with keyboards and docks included at the higher end of that range.

Strengths: Excellent battery life, lower prices

Weaknesses: Weak performance

 

Read More

Zynga at a Crossroads in Mobile Quest

By 

 Zynga has been on a monumental losing streak. Hits have been rare, profits nonexistent and crucial employees are fleeing.

The story of the company, which developed the notion of social gaming and persuaded tens of millions of people to try it out on Facebook, illustrates how suddenly the fortunes of hot Internet companies can shift. Two years ago, as Zynga was first being talked about for a public offering, it was said to be worth $20 billion.

By the time the offering took place, a little over a year ago, it was for about $7 billion. And Zynga has spent most of the time since then sliding downhill. The value of the company Tuesday, as it released mediocre but nevertheless better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, was about $2 billion.

In the next few months, Zynga faces a critical test that will determine if even that sum is excessive: can it successfully put its most popular Web games, starting with Farmville, on mobile devices?

“Do I wish that we would have gone all-in on mobile and made a bigger commitment to it earlier?” Mark Pincus, Zynga’s founder and chief executive, said in an interview after the earnings release. “Yes.”

Mr. Pincus called 2013 “a year of investment and transition.”

“While we are excited about the long-term growth opportunity on mobile, and the opportunity to make games even more accessible to people in more parts of their day, we need to build a compelling network around it,” he said.

That is because social gaming on mobile is not necessarily social.

“It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?” Mr. Pincus said. “You’re holding a phone, an inherently social device. Yet the experience we have is a more fragmented one.”

The pain accompanying Zynga’s transition to mobile was evident in the earnings report. Revenue was $311 million, flat with the year before. Daily users of the games were down 6 percent from the third quarter, a clear measure of flagging interest. More casual users dropped as well.  Read More

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