Archive for September, 2010

Seesmic for iPhone Gets an iOS 4 Makeover (Mashable)

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Seesmic for iPhone Gets an iOS 4 Makeover
(Mashable)

Seesmic has released a new update for its iPhone app, bringing some much-needed iOS features and UI updates to the iPhone version of the social platform.

The updated version of Seesmic for iPhone adds a few new features to the mix. The biggest change is support for Retina Display in iOS 4. It brings tweets into sharper focus on iPhone 4 and the new iPod touches. Seesmic also finally supports multitasking, which lets the app run in the background and quick-launch from the multitasking menu.

The app also makes some UI improvements. Loading new tweets used to require clicking the refresh button, but now Seesmic for iPhone supports the very popular "pull-down to refresh" interface that Twitter for iPhone (formerly Tweetie) popularized. A new threaded conversation view for @replies and direct messages has also been included in the updated app. The app adds Twitter List support as well, specifically the ability to add friends to lists.

The list of updates to Seesmic for iPhone goes beyond Twitter and bug fixes, too.

Facebook improvements include an updated News feed UI, messages support and the ability to see a list of friends and friends’ profiles. Finally, Seesmic for iPhone now includes integration with Instapaper and ReaditLater, allowing you to select articles to read later in Seesmic.

Seesmic is betting on its multiplatform strategy as a selling point for its myriad of apps. Not only is Seesmic available on Android, iPhone, desktop, the web, and soon Windows Phone 7, but it also supports Facebook and a range of other social services. Being able to update your Facebook and Twitter statuses from the same app sounds useful, but whether it’s a big enough differentiation point remains to be seen.

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Microsoft Security Essentials: Soon Free for Small Businesses

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Microsoft Security Essentials: Soon Free for Small Businesses

Starting early next month, Microsoft Security Essentials, Redmond’s anti-malware service for Windows PCs, will be free for small businesses to install on up to 10 PCs.

Of course, Security Essentials, which replaced Microsoft’s One Care suite last year, has been free from the start. What’s new is that the program’s licensing agreement has been altered to allow a small business to legally run the security software on up to 10 computers.

For small shops struggling with tight budgets, free malware protection is a plus.

“Many consumers and an increasing number of small businesses are either unwilling or unable to pay the ongoing subscription costs for the security suite solutions that come on their PCs,” Microsoft’s Eric Foster wrote recently on the Windows Security Blog.

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) uses the same core anti-malware engine found in the company’s enterprise software. It has received favorable reviews from independent security software testing agencies, and from computer publications such as PCWorld.

As Infoworld’s J. Peter Bruzzese noted in a recent blog, MSE has performed well in tests conducted by AV-Test.org, an independent agency that rates the speed and effectiveness of leading security products. Security Essentials’ usability score was very high–slightly better, in fact, than that of AVG Internet Security 9.0 and Panda Internet Security 2010. Its protection and repair rankings, however, were a notch below those of AVG, F-Secure Internet Security 2010, Kaspersky Internet Security 2010, Panda, and Symantec Norton Internet Security 2010.

“The bottom line: Microsoft Security Essentials has me protected,” Bruzzese wrote.

You can download MSE for free here.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter: (@jbertolucci or at
jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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RIM's PlayBook Will Offer Business Features Not on iPad (NewsFactor)

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

RIM's PlayBook Will Offer Business Features Not on iPad
(NewsFactor)

Research In Motion has previewed a new PlayBook web tablet that represents the biggest potential challenge yet to Apple's red-hot iPad. The mobile device will offer support for capabilities unavailable on the iPad today, including enterprise-friendly features such as two-way video conferencing and the seamless pairing of the new tablet with BlackBerry smartphones, as well as providing access to web-based Adobe Flash and AIR multimedia.

The PlayBook will be equipped with a one-gigahertz dual-core processor and powered by the QNX Neutrino operating system that the BlackBerry maker acquired earlier this year. Though the tablet won't become available for purchase until early 2011, its feature set "looks to be strong relative to what the market will have in that time frame," said Al Hilwa, director of applications software development at IDC.


An Enterprise-Class Tablet

Beyond appealing to consumers, RIM thinks the PlayBook will gain traction in the enterprise space because of its out-of-box compatibility with BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which provides mobile workers at many companies with secure access to corporate data. The tablet also has two cameras for two-way business videoconferencing: A three-megapixel front-facing camera and a five-megapixel rear camera.

Both cameras will be capable of recording high-definition video at a maximum resolution of 1080p, while Apple's iPad does not have a camera. Additionally, the PlayBook will sport an HDMI output for connecting to external high-definition displays and recorders.

By pairing the PlayBook with BlackBerry smartphones, users will be able to access work documents, calendars, spreadsheets and other sensitive files over a secure Bluetooth connection. The link also will enable the PlayBook to serve as a bigger monitor for small-screen BlackBerry phones.

This would give BlackBerry users a far better reading and browsing experience when surfing the web or accessing e-mail, documents and other files, Hilwa observed. Additionally, BlackBerry owners will be able to use their tablets and BlackBerry smartphones interchangeably without worrying about syncing or duplicating data. "It is a novel idea," but "much will depend on how conveniently and reliably it works," he said.


A Vision for Developers

Measuring 5.1 by 7.6 inches and less than an inch thick, the PlayBook will be svelte enough for users to hold comfortably, as opposed to the iPad's larger 9.5 by 7.5 inches. Additionally, RIM's tablet will be a half-pound lighter than Apple's iPad.

The PlayBook's biggest comparative shortcoming is that it will only come with Wi-Fi, at least initially. By contrast, Apple's iPad can be ordered with both Wi-Fi and 3G wireless capabilities.

Moreover, software availability will be a major concern for businesses and consumers considering the PlayBook. "Though pricing and battery power are crucial, applications will make or break" RIM's tablet, Hilwa said. "Right now, the application-development story is not fully rolled out."

RIM provided no concrete timing for when the Java environment crucial to PlayBook app developers may become available, Hilwa observed. Moreover, the WebWorks technology that will bring low-level device features into HTML APIs also has no timing attached, he added.

"The tools for both these approaches to develop applications still have to be fleshed out better," Hilwa said. "However, the bright spot for the device is the availability of Flash and Adobe AIR."

On the other hand, RIM did offer developers a vision of an expanding market by introducing the new mobile tablet in a credible way, Hilwa observed. "Perhaps most importantly, RIM has put together an application-development vision that leverages the energy behind the web to generate full-featured apps without relying on the intricacies and complexities of its two incompatible operating systems for phones and tablet," he said.

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China Unicom Sells 100,000 IPhone 4s in First Four Days

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

China Unicom Sells 100,000 IPhone 4s in First Four Days

China Unicom has sold close to 100,000 iPhone 4s in the four days since the device was launched in China.

China Unicom, which is the mobile carrier for the iPhone 4 in China, has basically sold out of its first shipment of the device, company vice president Li Gang told reporters on Tuesday. Earlier in the week, the mobile carrier reported that 200,000 users had pre-ordered the product. China Unicom has already stopped online reservations for iPhone 4, and is instead asking users to come directly to retail stores to sign up for the device.

The massive demand for the product outpaces last year's official launch of the iPhone 3G and 3GS in China. During that period, it had taken over a month before China Unicom had announced it sold 100,000 iPhone units.

The iPhone 4 was officially launched in China last Saturday, with the popularityof the device causing retail outlets in the country to sell out of the product.

Apple has said more iPhone 4s will be made available in China soon and that customers should check back with their local store for updates. China Unicom expects the second shipment of the iPhone 4 to arrive in China Oct. 1, during the country's National Day Holiday, Li added.

The high sales figures for the iPhone 4 come as China Unicom reports it now has 10 million 3G users.

More people in China want to buy smartphones, especially the iPhone, because of all the media attention it has received said Liu Liang, an analyst with consulting group iResearch.

"The level of smartphone usage is hitting a new level in China," he said. "A lot of users no longer want to use these older phones with few features and instead want to buy the latest models like the iPhone."

Before the iPhone 4 went on sale in China, Apple held a 7.1 share of the Chinese smartphone market, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International. The company ranks fifth behind cellphone makers Nokia, Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson.

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TiVo, Roku to add Hulu Plus support

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

TiVo, Roku to add Hulu Plus support

Since the debut of the Hulu Plus preview back in June, those lucky enough to score an invitation to the service have been able to stream shows to their iOS devices, game systems, and Samsung TVs and Blu-ray players. Now, both Roku and TiVo have announced partnerships with Hulu to bring Plus content to their respective set-top media devices.

Announced separately on Tuesday, the companies revealed that Hulu Plus would be available in the coming months for both TiVo Premiere subscribers and owners of Roku’s media players. (If you’re not up to date on the latest in streaming media news, Hulu Plus—currently in an invite-only beta—is a $10 monthly subscription to Hulu’s larger collection of current network and cable television shows and full series runs of past programs.)

To take advantage of the new channel, TiVo users must be enrolled in one of the company’s two Premiere subscription plans (which start at $13 a month) in addition to paying for Hulu access, while Roku users aren’t required to pay any additional fees beyond the monthly Hulu Plus plan.

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Lawyer: NJ ticket scam defendants didn't break law

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Lawyer: NJ ticket scam defendants didn't break law

NEWARK, N.J. – The upcoming trial of four California men accused of illegally buying more than a million sports and concert tickets online could set new rules for prosecuting computer fraud if it’s allowed to proceed, an attorney for one of the men argued in federal court Monday.

Or not, according to federal prosecutors, who characterized the case as a garden variety fraud.

"We see cases like this in federal court all the time," Assistant U.S. Attorney Erez Lieberman said during a motion hearing before U.S. District Judge Katherine Hayden.

Lieberman said the defendants "lied, lied and lied some more" when they purchased tickets using hundreds of fake Internet domain names and created a method of bypassing safeguards meant to limit the number of tickets available to individual buyers.

"Each and every step of the way it was a traditional fraud," Lieberman said.

The judge heard arguments on the defense’s motion to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that federal law doesn’t cover what defense attorney Mark Rush, representing defendant Kenneth Lowson, said were merely violations of the terms of use on Internet sites including Ticketmaster.com.

According to a 43-count indictment unsealed in March, the four men and their company, Wiseguy Tickets Inc., used a nationwide network of computers to flood sites such as Ticketmaster and Major League Baseball and developed a program that could automatically get past Web pages that require purchasers to manually type in sample words before they can proceed.

The group focused on highly coveted premium tickets to high-profile events such as concerts by Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews and Hannah Montana and sporting events such as the baseball playoffs, the 2009 Sugar Bowl and the 2007 BCS college football championship game, federal authorities said. Prosecutors have estimated their profit at $29 million.

The case is being prosecuted in New Jersey because many of the events were held at Giants Stadium, Izod Center and Prudential Center; others were spread across the country at venues in New York City, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Tampa, Fla., according to the indictment.

Lowson, Kristofer Kirsch and Faisal Nahdi, all of Los Angeles, and Joel Stevenson, of Alameda, Calif., face charges that include conspiracy, wire fraud and unauthorized computer access. The wire fraud counts are the most serious and carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years per count upon conviction. Lowson, Kirsch and Stevenson have been free on bail since their arrests, while Nahdi is a fugitive and is believed to be overseas.

On Monday, Rush argued that while the defendants’ actions may be deemed unsavory they didn’t rise to the level of criminal activity but should more appropriately be taken up as a civil matter.

"This isn’t Ticketmaster versus Wiseguy, but perhaps it should be," he said. "But it shouldn’t be the United States of America versus Wiseguy. Congress has not criminalized ticket brokers or ticket scalpers.

"What if they hired 100,000 people to all get on the site at the same time — would we be here?" he asked. "Or was it because it was a computer? If we are struggling to figure out if this is a violation of federal criminal law, then the indictment should be dismissed."

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The next iPad: thinner, built-in camera, same screen size? (Ben Patterson)

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

The next iPad: thinner, built-in camera, same screen size?
(Ben Patterson)

It’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll be seeing a new iPad sometime early next year. How big it’ll be and how many we’ll get are open questions.

Rumors in the past few months have hinted at the possibility of a 7-inch iPad to go along with the current 9.7-inch model, and based on my brief hands-on time with the recently announced 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, a smaller, easy-to-hold iPad with a 7-inch screen might be a smart addition to the iPad line (although I personally prefer the 9.7-inch display).

But analysts at Goldman Sachs are pouring cold water on the 7-inch-iPad rumor, claiming in a recent note to investors (via Bloomberg) that the supposed smaller iPad "hasn’t been finalized," and that a new iPad slated for the second quarter of next year will retain the 9.7-inch display of the current model.

In addition, say the Goldman Sachs analysts (who are presumably basing their claims on anonymous sources and the usual industry "supply-line checks"; Apple, as usual, is keeping its lips sealed for now), the iPad 2 will be "thinner and lighter" than the original, with a built-in camera (for FaceTime video chat, one would hope) and a mini USB port — an addition that would address users’ annoyance with the current iPad’s single 30-pin (and proprietary) connector.

Of course, these latest iPad rumors are still way preliminary. I’m guessing we’re still months away from the unveiling of a new iPad (or iPads, as the case may be), and I’m sure we’ll be getting a steady drip of iPad predictions in the meantime. Still, the Goldman Sachs report serves as a good jumping-off point for those of us pondering what we’d like to see in the next iPad.

A build-in camera for video chat, of course, would be a good start; one camera or two, though? Both the Samsung Tab and the just-unveiled BlackBerry PlayBook have two cameras, one in the front and one in back. But are dual cameras necessary in a tablet? I’d think that a single lens in front for video chat might be enough, considering that most of us already have cameras in our phones, but hey … that’s me.

Now, given the choice of a second camera and a tablet that’s thinner and lighter, I’d go for the thin and light option. The current 9.7-inch iPad weighs in at about 1.5 pounds — perfectly fine in terms of toting around in a carry-on bag, but a bit on the heavy side when you’re holding it in your hand, especially if you’re reading a lengthy e-book. If a new 9.7-inch iPad could shave a half pound or more off its overall weight without sacrificing too much of its (extraordinary) battery life, that would make for a major improvement.

I’d also like to see the next iPad screen come with a tighter pixel density, something akin to the Retina display on the current iPhone 4 and the latest iPod Touch. A display that’s easier to read in direct sunlight would also be a nice touch, but short of some breakthrough in e-paper technology (which excels at readability outdoors but is still pretty shaky when it comes to color or full-motion video) in the coming months, I wouldn’t get too excited on that front.

As for a 7-inch iPad … yes, I think it would be a good idea at some point. I’m a fan of the existing 9.7-inch display for its full-size on-screen QWERTY keypad and for watching HD movies, but a smaller iPad could be the perfect fit for those more interested in using the iPad as an e-reader than a movie viewer. (Then again, as far as e-readers go, it’s hard to beat the gorgeous new Kindle.)

In any case, it’s looking like the iPad will have to step up its game in the coming months given all the competition it’ll be facing from the likes of Samsung, RIM, Dell, Motorola and potentially even HTC. Yes, the tablet wars will be heating up very soon, and I can’t wait.

What would you like to see in the next iPad? Any interest in a 7-inch model?

• Bloomberg: Apple May Unveil Next iPad by June 2011, Goldman Says

— Ben Patterson is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.

Follow me on Twitter!

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Watchdog investigates porn-sharing leak claims

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Watchdog investigates porn-sharing leak claims

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain's privacy watchdog said on Tuesday it will investigate reports that hackers broke into a law firm's computers and leaked the details of thousands of Sky broadband customers alleged to have shared pornographic films.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it would check whether London-based ACS:Law breached the Data Protection Act by failing to protect its servers. Companies found guilty under the act can be fined up to 500,000 pounds.

"Any organization processing personal data must ensure that it is kept safe and secure," the watchdog said. "This is an important principle of the Act. The ICO will be contacting ACS:Law to establish further facts of the case and to identify what action, if any, needs to be taken."

ACS:Law specializes in music and film copyright cases, sending tens of thousands of letters to internet users suspected of illegally sharing files.

The company gathers IP addresses — a computer's unique number when accessing the internet — of people suspected of breaching copyright laws. It then asks internet service providers to give them their home addresses.

Hackers opposed to the law firm's anti-piracy work are thought to be behind the leak, according to the BBC.

Sky Broadband, part of Rupert Murdoch's pay-TV group BSkyB, said it believed the leaked data included the names and addresses of about 4,000 Sky customers.

"We are very concerned at the apparent security breach involving data held by ACS:Law," the company said in a statement. "Like other broadband providers, Sky can be required by court order to disclose information about customers whose accounts are alleged to have been used for illegal downloading.

"We only ever provide such data in encrypted form and we never disclosed credit card or bank details to ACS:Law."

The law firm declined to comment. However, its head Andrew Crossley was quoted by the BBC as saying that his company had been subject to a "criminal attack."

Privacy International, a campaign group, said the data breach could expose people named on the list to fraud.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Steve Addison)

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Appigo rolls out 4.0 update for Todo on iPhone, iPad

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Appigo rolls out 4.0 update for Todo on iPhone, iPad

Appigo has updated both the iPhone and iPad versions of its Todo task manager, adding secure passcode locking as well as support for a new cloud synchronization service for tasks. The version 4.0 update for the iPhone and iPod touch also adds full support for Apple’s iOS 4, which includes high-resolution graphics, background multitasking, and localized reminders of your to-dos. Todo 4.0 for both the iPhone and iPad arrived on the App Store Tuesday.

Both mobile versions of Todo now feature passcode locking. Users can enter a four-digit code that prevents anyone else from seeing their task data. In addition, the iPhone and iPad versions of Todo let users add multiple reminders for tasks; each reminder can be customized for specific times.

Users who want to sync up tasks between their assorted mobile devices and their desktop have a new cloud-based service that they can use. Todo Online is a $20-a-year subscription service that offers synchronization over both 3G and Wi-Fi as well as access via a Web browser. Appigo is offering users a chance to try out the service for free in a 14-day trial.

It’s the iPhone and iPod touch version of Todo that probably sees the most substantive changes with the 4.0 update. That version offers full support for the iOS 4 update released by Apple this summer. Leading the iOS 4-friendly changes is multitasking support—now, users syncing tasks can jump to another application, and Todo finishes the synchronization in the background.

Todo already supported push notifications, but the 4.0 version adds support for local notifications on the iPhone and iPod touch. That allows the app to continuously keep the badge count on the iPhone home screen updated with the number of tasks due according to the current time. Appigo also says that the 4.0 version of Todo on the iPhone supports better graphics to take advantage of the iPhone 4’s Retina display technology.

iPad users shouldn’t feel left out in the cold. Once Apple releases the iOS 4.2 update in November, Appigo plans a subsequent update to the iPad version of Todo that will incorporate full support for iOS 4.

Todo 4.0 is available as a free update to both iPhone and iPad users. The app costs $5 on either device.

While Todo will grab the headlines, it’s not the only app to get an update from Appigo on Tuesday. The app maker also rolled out a new version of Corkulous, its $5 brainstorming and idea organizer for the iPad.

Corkulous 1.6 adds a board-sharing feature that lets users share ideas via e-mail. With board sharing, users can either select an entire board, just the current view, or a selection of items before mailing their selection as an e-mail attachment. Recipients can tap the attachment to import the board into Corkulous. Appigo says that users can also make shared boards available for download via the mobile version of Safari on the iPad by placing them on any standard Website.

The latest version of Corkulous also features board templates to allow users to turn to the same designs over and over again. The update is free to existing users; Corkulous says it plans to raise the price of Corkulous from its current $5 as it adds more features to the iPad brainstorming app.

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Iran says Bushehr nuclear plant not damaged by Stuxnet

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Iran says Bushehr nuclear plant not damaged by Stuxnet

A general view of the Bushehr main nuclear reactor

TEHRAN (Reuters) – A computer virus that experts said may have been created by a state did not affect Iran's nuclear plant or government systems, but did hit computers of staff at the plant and Internet providers, officials said on Sunday.

A senior official at U.S. technology company Symantec told Reuters on Friday that 60 percent of the computers worldwide infected by the so-called Stuxnet worm were in Iran, prompting speculation that the nuclear power plant may have been targeted in an attempt at sabotage or espionage.

Some Western cyber security companies suggested the attack could only have been conducted "with nation-state support," indicating industrial plants in the Islamic state were the target.

The head of the Bushehr nuclear power plant said the virus had only affected personal computers of staff.

"A team is inspecting several computers to remove the malware … major systems of the plant have not been damaged," Mahmoud Jafari told the official IRNA news agency.

Russia was fiercely criticized by the West for involvement in completing the long-mothballed plant. Moscow says the plant is purely civilian.

GOVERNMENT SYSTEMS

Iran's Telecommunications Minister Reza Taqipour said the worm had not been able to "penetrate or cause serious damage to government systems," the state-run newspaper Iran Daily reported.

Authorities said Iran had identified some 30,000 Internet providers infected by the Stuxnet worm, blaming Iran's "foreign enemies for creating the virus."

Diplomats and security sources say Western governments and Israel view sabotage as one way of slowing Iran's nuclear work, which the West fears is aimed at building bombs. Tehran says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

The malware attacks software programs that run Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, or SCADA, systems. Such systems are used to monitor automated plants — from food and chemical facilities to power generators.

"The Stuxnet spy worm has been created in line with the West's electronic warfare against Iran," the newspaper quoted Mahmoud Liayi, secretary of the Information Technology Council of the Industries Ministry, as saying.

Israel, which is assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, has hinted it could attack Iran's nuclear facilities if international diplomacy fails to curb the country's program. Iran refuses to recognize Israel.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Alison Williams)

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