Friday, September 14, 2012

Tech news and business reports by CNET News. Focused on information technology, core topics include computers, hardware, software, networking, and Internet media.

CNET News - Apple

9/14/2012 4:12:10 PM
Albeit small, one of the defining accessories to go with Apple's new iPhone and iPods will require a wait for new buyers.
9/14/2012 3:41:31 PM
Early buyers of Apple's latest iPhone once again some slammed online stores, and the first batch of iPhone 5 models sold within an hour were sold, pushing delivery times back for later customers.
9/14/2012 2:42:07 PM
Apple has taken its sweet time with LTE on the iPhone. Apple says it has good reasons.
9/14/2012 12:55:58 PM
The new device isn't capable of supporting simultaneous voice and data on 4G LTE in Sprint and Verizon's networks, but it would be if it had another antenna.
9/14/2012 12:04:37 PM
Apple's online store is offline as it apparently retools the site for its much-anticipated next-generation smartphone.
9/14/2012 11:28:35 AM
For the first time, the world's largest retailer is taking preorders on Apple's newest smartphone; it's also giving a $10 discount.
9/14/2012 10:55:45 AM
However, consumers after a carrier-unencumbered configuration will likely have to wait a few weeks for their new smartphone.
9/14/2012 10:06:08 AM
New cloud services Web portal open to all users and features revamped Find My Phone and Mail We apps.
9/14/2012 9:11:42 AM
If you're eyeing the Apple iPhone 5, which now has 4G LTE capabilities, check out CNET's breakdown on the offerings of each of its three carriers.

Originally posted at iPhone Atlas

9/14/2012 8:05:00 AM
Apple's A6 chip is big step up from the A5, according to analysts. Qualcomm's newest 4G LTE silicon is a major improvement too.

T3 News

9/14/2012 5:55:00 PM

The iPhone 5's RRP price was announced at launch, but what tarrifs and deals are the UK networks offering? We round 'em up

9/14/2012 5:30:00 PM

The iPhone 5 was launched this week and Apple has made sure you can get hold of one in a matter of days with a September 21 release date

9/14/2012 12:30:00 AM

Apple has confirmed social network service Ping will be omitted from iTunes following the update next month

9/13/2012 11:07:00 PM

T3 Magazine is launching a new access-all-areas subscription, giving you the latest and greatest gadget news, reviews and features each month

9/13/2012 10:45:00 PM

Nintendo's next-gen Wii U console will arrive in Europe on November 30th

9/13/2012 9:55:00 PM

Pricing details for Sony's new flagship handset have started to arrive as online retailers have begun taking pre-orders for the new phone

9/13/2012 7:25:00 PM

Intel has kicked off its Developer's Forum in San Francisco with a wide-ranging keynote detailing the company's plans for our computing future

9/13/2012 6:15:00 PM

Nintendo has revealed pricing for its next-gen Wii U console in Japan will start at 26,250 yen, pricing it higher than the PS3 and Xbox 360

9/13/2012 6:05:00 PM

The Nikon D600 is the world's smallest and lightest full frame DSLR, says its maker, and will offer an affordable alternative to the D800

9/13/2012 2:55:00 AM

Apple has announced brand new versions of its iPod Touch, Nano and Shuffle music players alongside the iPhone 5 handset

9/13/2012 2:45:00 AM

Apple's iOS 6 is smarter, faster and more simple to navigate

9/13/2012 1:14:00 AM

Apple has officially announced the iPhone 5 handset

9/12/2012 11:00:00 PM

iPhone 5 logic board pictures show A6 and LTW Qualcomm modem

9/12/2012 11:00:00 PM

iPhone 5 launch live blog: discover everything about Apple’s new handset here in this very post, updated reguarly throughout the day

9/12/2012 10:25:00 PM

The rumoured 19 pin dock connector that may debut on the iPhone 5 tonight has apparently been dubbed "Lightning", a name that could become the official title

9/12/2012 8:09:00 PM

Search string on links to press release for iPhone 5, iPod Touch and Nano

9/12/2012 7:35:00 PM

Google has announced its Android operating system has hit 500 million golbal device activations with 1.3 new handsets added every day

9/12/2012 6:43:00 PM

Specifications for Nintendo's Wii U that have been leaked online show that the next-gen console will only boast 8GB of internal storage

9/12/2012 5:34:00 PM

Vodafone UK has confirmed a stockpile of 500,000 nano-SIMs ready for the iPhone 5 launch in a blog post that has aleady been pulled down

9/12/2012 12:15:00 AM

Google has announced a new YouTube iPhone app to pre-empt the omission of YouTube from Apple's iOS6 devices

9/11/2012 10:25:00 PM

Sony has announced a Japanese price tag of 70,000 yen for its HMZ-T2 personal 3D headset

9/11/2012 9:45:00 PM

Rihanna shines in Hitman: Absolution-inspired gear in London

9/11/2012 8:48:00 PM

Web publisher Blue Toad has debunked claims by the hacker group Antisec that it stole millions of Apple user IDs from an FBI laptop

9/11/2012 7:55:00 PM

Olaf Swantee, CEO of EE, took to the stage this morning to announce the UK's first 4G network, then dropped an intriguing hint about the iPhone 5

9/11/2012 7:55:00 PM

Olaf Swantee, CEO of EE, took to the stage this morning to announce the UK's first 4G network, then dropped an intriguing hint about the iPhone 5


9/14/2012 6:03:00 PM

As Techdirt has reported, open access (OA) is scoring more and more major wins currently. But the battle to gain free access to academic research has been a long one. One of the key moments was the launch of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) ten years ago, which saw the term "open access" being defined for the first time:

By "open access" to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.
To mark that first decade, the BOAI site has published a series of further recommendations for the next ten years, with the aim of making "open" the default for peer-reviewed research literature.

The first is that:

Every institution of higher education should have a policy assuring that peer-reviewed versions of all future scholarly articles by faculty members are deposited in the institution’s designated repository.
This is to ensure that copies of research, including theses and dissertations, are always available from some independent online collection or database of articles, and not just from publishers, for example. The first guideline also comes out against
the use of journal impact factors as surrogates for the quality of journals, articles, or authors. We encourage the development of alternative metrics for impact and quality which are less simplistic, more reliable, and entirely open for use and reuse.
The question of whether to pay attention to impact factors -- an attempt to gauge influence in the academic world -- is a vexed one: most people agree it's a dreadful way to measure someone's achievements, but institutions keep on using them anyway when handing out jobs and money. It would be a real achievement if the new BOAI guidelines helped bring in better ways of measuring academic quality.

The second recommendation is that "the optimal license for the publication, distribution, use, and reuse of scholarly work" is CC-BY – that is, attribution. It's a bold move, since CC-BY gives users a lot of freedom that authors are sometimes reluctant to grant. Here's a good explanation of why that's a sensible position to take; it's from a blog post about the new recommendations by Peter Suber, one of the key figures in the open access movement:

The purpose of OA is to remove barriers to the scholarly uses of scholarly literature, without harming scholars. There’s no legitimate scholarly need to suppress attribution to the texts we use. And in any case, suppressing attribution would hurt authors. If they don’t get paid for their articles, at least they should get credit. Their impact and careers depend on that.
The third recommendation picks up on the first, and goes into some detail about how institutional repositories should work. That's a reflection of the fact that such repositories are widely accepted now, so the issue is more a question of optimizing their use.

Finally, there is a recommendation on advocacy and coordination that includes the following:

The worldwide campaign for OA to research articles should work more closely with the worldwide campaigns for OA to books, theses and dissertations, research data, government data, educational resources, and source code.

We should coordinate with kindred efforts less directly concerned with access to research, such as copyright reform, orphan works, digital preservation, digitizing print literature, evidence-based policy-making, the freedom of speech, and the evolution of libraries, publishing, peer review, and social media.
That clearly touches on many of the key issues covered here on Techdirt, and represents a radical and welcome extension of ambitions by proponents of open access. That they feel in a position to make this move is a measure of just how much they have already achieved in the ten years since the Budapest Open Access Initiative was announced.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and on Google+

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9/14/2012 2:57:00 PM
The idea of holding service providers responsible for the actions of their users is pretty absurd. Mostly because a website owner or ISP has very little control over what their users do, and to hold the providers responsible for potentially harmful or illegal actions of users would be akin to holding a hammer manufacturer or hardware store responsible when someone kills someone else with a hammer.

Of course this hasn't stopped people from attempting to drag service providers into legal complaints. For instance, we have the occasions when Twitter is sued for the actions of its users because it is mistakenly thought to be the publisher of the tweets. Or when the entertainment industry wants to hold Google responsible for Android apps that may allow for file sharing. There are many many more stories like these. Luckily, courts and most law makers understand that service providers cannot or should not be held liable for the actions of their users. Most, anyway.

Jeffrey Nonken Has alerted us to a recent law passed in Malaysia that would hold everyone from the website to the ISP to the coffee house with open wifi to the owner of a borrowed computer responsible for the online postings of a single person.
Section 114A of the bill seeks “to provide for the presumption of fact in publication in order to facilitate the identification and proving of the identity of an anonymous person involved in publication through the internet.” In other words, the section makes it easier for law enforcement authorities to trace the person who has uploaded or published material posted online.

According to the amended law, however, the originators of the content are those who own, administer, and/or edit websites, blogs, and online forums. Also included in the amendment are persons who offer webhosting services or internet access. And lastly, the owner of the computer or mobile device used to publish content online is also covered under section 114A.
This language had the internet-using public in Malaysia in an uproar, and they protested this law in much the same fashion as the protests over SOPA and ACTA. When these protests were finally heard, the Prime minister had the law reviewed, but to no avail.
When the petition was ignored by the government, netizens and media groups organized an online blackout on August 14, which succeeded in mobilizing thousands of internet users. The global attention which the action generated was likely what convinced the Prime Minister to agree to have the cabinet review the controversial amendments. Although this announcement was initially welcomed by opponents of the amendments, the Cabinet ultimately upheld the amended law.
As we know, these kinds of laws have a strong potential for abuse -- one of the primary reasons US citizens opposed SOPA and CISPA. Giving a government the ability to prosecute a whole string of people only tenuously connected to a potential crime is a recipe for disaster. It will open up the ability for the government to stifle free speech even if it doesn't have to lift a finger. What will happen is that sites will now over-filter comments to avoid liability. Businesses that offered free wifi will potentially cut the service in an effort to avoid prosecution. This law will cause damage to the ability of Malaysian citizens to communicate freely over the internet.

This move to apply such harsh secondary liability is nothing surprising from a nation that supports internet filters which it promises will not be used to punish political dissent. Or the country whose courts, as part of a sentence for defamation, ordered a man to post his apology 100 times on Twitter. With the record that Malaysia has on internet freedom, it is no surprise that the outcome was what it was. However, we hope that the citizens of Malaysia continue their protests, and that those who support and passed this law will repeal it. 

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9/14/2012 10:58:00 AM
Unless you have been living under a rock the past few days, you're likely aware of the violent protests in Egypt and Libya on American missions which have resulted in several deaths, including that of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. The apparent flashpoint for these protests was a movie trailer on YouTube for what is by all accounts a horribly offensive and insensitve film about Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. We've seen similar stories in the past over website content, but this incident takes things to a whole new level.

Today we learned that YouTube has taken the step of restricting access to the video in question in both Egypt and Libya. When asked about it, YouTube responded with the following statement.

"We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions," YouTube said by e-mail. "This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere.

This video -- which is widely available on the Web -- is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries."

While I understand why YouTube is doing this, I think it's misguided for two reasons. First, stupid and hateful as the video in question reportedly is, blocking access (potentially seen as taking it down in Egypt and Libya) can be interpreted to mean that the fault for what's happening is in part with the video itself. It isn't. The guilt for this violence is not in some stupid video. It isn't even in the massive protests in the Muslim world against the video (though I'd probably suggest they learn about the Streisand Effect). The guilt for the violence and death belongs on the thugs and murderers who committed it. End of story. This is especially true when the company has acknowledged itself that the video does not violate YouTube's terms of service.

The EFF agrees.

It is easy to understand why YouTube might feel compelled to act in response to the rioting over this video, especially after three U.S. embassy employees were killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi, but the blame for the violence lies not with the video, but with the perpetrators. Once YouTube has made the decision to pro-actively censor its content, they start down a slippery slope that ends in YouTube Knows Best moral policing of every video on their site. It is disappointing to see YouTube turn its back on policies that have allowed it to become a such a strong platform for freedom of expression. We hope that this new-found enthusiasm for pro-active censorship is a temporary aberration rather than a sign of things to come.
The second reason is that YouTube's move is almost certainly equal parts too late and ineffectual. As the company's statement itself noted, this video is and already was all over the internet. Censoring the video now is a bit like covering your ears and eyes as your house burns around you. The problem of religious intolerance and violent reactions to it is going to exist whether you acknowledge it's there or not. Nobody is served by trying to pretend the hateful attitudes in the video don't exist. And it isn't like the protests have ceased now that YouTube has restricted access in those countries. The cat is already out of the bag. All you've done now is open the door to blocking videos based on people deciding to be offended with little to no effect on the violence at hand. So what was the point?

I'll be clear again: every description of the video in question suggests that it is cartoonishly crafted and inflammatory bigotry. But it doesn't violate YouTube's TOS, it is speech, and taking it down was a poor decision made in fear. That isn't the way I expect a company like YouTube to behave.

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9/14/2012 8:00:00 AM
Just like any other business-people, farmers face the global economy, armed with technological advances and innovative strategies to target customers. If farmers don't invest in new tools and learning skills like genetics and marketing, they risk falling behind their competition. Robots are already a pretty significant part of modern farming nowadays, and here are just a few interesting links on robots doing our agricultural bidding. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post.

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9/14/2012 6:54:00 AM

Earlier this week, I complained that the Department of Justice seemed to be stonewalling a Freedom of Information Act request I’d filed seeking copies of mandatory semi-annual reports to Congress on the National Security Agency’s compliance with the procedures and civil liberties safeguards of the FISA Amendments Act--which the House voted yesterday to reauthorize for another five years. After sitting on the request for two months (the statutory deadline is 20 business days), DOJ had finally replied with a letter claiming they could "neither confirm or deny the existence" of reports that were required by federal law. I thought this was a little ridiculous. Fortunately, there were officials at the Justice Department who thought so too.

Having appealed the denial of my request, I got an impressively prompt reply on Tuesday evening from the director of the Office of Information Policy at DOJ, assuring me that she recognized the agency's initial response had been "incorrect," and that a new one would be forthcoming immediately. By Wednesday morning, their stance had changed entirely: They had found the reports I sought, and were forwarding them to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for review to determine what would need to be redacted before release--with a request that ODNI seek to expedite its analysis to compensate for their own delay.

Now, to be sure, I'd rather have had this response a month ago, and the documents before the House vote, but at this point DOJ appears to be doing exactly what they're supposed to and making a good faith effort to facilitate the redaction and release of these important assessments. So it seemed appropriate to follow up on my initial blog post to acknowledge that--and in particular Office of Information Policy director Melanie Pustay, who straightforwardly acknowledged the error and acted quickly to correct it. We'll see soon enough whether a similar spirit of transparency reigns at ODNI.

Cross-posted from Cato-at-Liberty.

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9/14/2012 5:34:00 AM
We've been writing about the patent troll Eolas for about a decade at this point. It's a trolling operation connected to the University of California, and used to take some ridiculously broad patents and try to shake down companies who actually innovated and did incredibly obvious things on the internet. Eolas' various lawsuits had gone back and forth over the years, and finally, earlier this year, a jury in East Texas (surprisingly) invalidated some of the key patents.

This summer, the judge in the case agreed that the key patents were invalid. Eolas had ridiculously tried to argue that the fact that some other companies had previously licensed the patents should have been shared with the jury to prove the "validity" of the patents. Of course, that's ridiculous on its face as trolls often convince companies to license bogus patents because it's cheaper to settle and license than to fight a bad patent lawsuit (even if you win). Of course, the judge blasted Eolas over this desire... because earlier in the case, Eolas had specifically argued that the jury shouldn't be allowed to know of Eolas' previous "business success or failure." Basically, Eolas didn't want the jury to know it was a troll without any real business. However, as the judge realized, Eolas can't hide that bit of info and then want the jury to have this other bit of info from its past.

Thus, for all intents and purposes it seemed that those two key patents -- 5,838,906 and 7,599,985 -- were effectively dead.

So it was a bit of a surprise to find out that Eolas/University of California has now sued Facebook, Disney and Wal-mart over those same patents (and a couple others). Apparently, Cal and Eolas figure that if they just keep suing, maybe one of these times they'll win.

What's really amazing is that this scorched earth, anti-innovation effort hasn't created more backlash for the University of California, and Berkeley in particular, given its proximity to Silicon Valley. You'd think that alums of the University who work at the various innovative tech companies that keep getting sued would speak out against their alma mater. It's pretty sad to see the University of California trying to set up a tollbooth on innovation by using such ridiculous patents.

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9/14/2012 4:34:00 AM
A few years back, we wrote about the brouhaha concerning Facebook banning photos of women breast feeding their babies, under a strict "no female boobs" rule. Rather than learn from that mess, and realize that not all images of breasts are created equal, Facebook seems to have become even more ridiculous over time. Witness the hilarity of the situation that The New Yorker's cartoonists were put in -- when Facebook blocked one of their cartoons by Mick Stevens:
As a joke (though some people took it seriously), they had Stevens "redraw" the cartoon with clothing. I won't post it here and ruin the joke (or, non-joke, which makes it a joke) but go check it out. In trying to figure out why the original got blocked, they were eventually directed to some "rules" concerning images, noting that on the forbidden (fruit) list where:
Naked 'private parts' including female nipple bulges and naked butt cracks; male nipples are ok.
Yeah. So, as the folks at The New Yorker pointed out, it appears that this (zoomed in) part of their image (according to Facebook, NSFW, but according to pretty much everyone else, probably fine) is "the problem":
Meanwhile, this other part meets Facebook's okay-o-meter:
The good folks at The New Yorker argue that they really don't think the first pair of dots above legitimately fit the criteria for being banned, but they've chosen not to fight it:
Now, we could have fought the ruling on technical grounds, because, let’s face it, these female nips, by any stretch of the imagination, no matter how prurient, are just not bulging...

But rather than fight the battle of the bulge, let’s point out, that while female nipple bulging, or F.N.B. for short, is a potentially serious problem, with as yet no known cure, it also has no known victims. That is, unless you count freedom of expression, common sense, and humor.
Now, this is all just a bit of a humorous reaction* to silly overblocking by Facebook, but it does actually raise some legitimate concerns, considering how central Facebook has become in our lives. For many people it is a key platform for expression, and as such, it takes on greater meaning and importance. Yes, as a private company, they have every right to set the rules that they want to set, no matter how arbitrary or asinine. But, you begin to worry about so many people relying on Facebook as the most important way in which they communicate, when they can run afoul of such obviously ridiculous "rules."

* Random aside: a few months back I got to see three New Yorker cartoonists host a discussion/speed drawing contest, in which they talked about what life was like as a New Yorker cartoonist, and it may have been one of the funniest things I've ever seen -- by far beating most, if not all, of the stand up comedy acts I've seen over the years. If you ever have a chance to see these guys speak, do not miss it.

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9/14/2012 3:36:00 AM
Amazon's recently-announced tablets are interesting for a variety of reasons, including that Jeff Bezos made it quite clear that he's taking a very different approach to the market than the one Apple has taken. Lots of attention was (quite reasonably) paid to Bezos' key line:
"We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices."
It's a great line in so many ways, because it highlights the different philosophies of Amazon and Apple. John Gruber's summary of those differences is a really worthwhile read (you should read the whole thing). His take on that particular line is dead-on:
Bezos's we want to make money only when you use it framing works two ways. First, it explains the Kindle Fires' noticeably lower retail prices in a way that doesn't make them seem cheaper, only less expensive. It frames Apple's prices -- and profit margins -- as greedy. Second, it works as a sort of guarantee -- if you don't actually use it, we won't even make any money on it.
Later Gruber made a second point that got me thinking (and rethinking...)
Apple's goal is to sell as many iPads as it can. Amazon's goal is to sell as many Kindle Fires as it can to a specific audience: active customers.
I've talked in the past about how Apple's digital goods sales have really been about being the "low margin" leader (if not the loss leader) to drive more sales of the hardware. The digital goods -- content and apps -- make the hardware much more valuable and help drive up the amount people are willing to pay. And that tends to fit with the basic economics I believe in: focus on using the "abundant" (digital) to make the "scarce" more valuable, for which people will pay a premium, especially since that "scarce" can't be "pirated." Apple has, in many ways, put that particular economic concept at the center of how it does business, even if I'm uncomfortable with the closed nature of its overall setup around that.

Amazon, however, has flipped the equation. Their "low margin leader" is the hardware, and they basically appear to want to make their money up on the digital goods purchases. Just as Apple doesn't lose money on selling digital goods (it just makes a very little amount), it appears that Amazon will be making only a little bit on the hardware, but hopes to make the big money on selling the abundant: digital goods via the Kindle store.

I will admit that I struggle with this a bit. I find it hard to bet against Bezos, because on an awful lot of things I think he makes the right bet. Plus, frankly, I'm a lot more comfortable with Amazon as a platform than with Apple. Finally, from a consumer standpoint, I think Apple's hardware seems really overpriced, but Amazon's new prices are really compelling. But economically speaking, there's a voice in the back of my head that says that Apple has this right and Amazon has this wrong. Apple is betting on using the abundant to increase the value of the scarce and then selling that. Amazon is betting on using the scarce to increase the ability to sell the abundant. Perhaps it works because of Amazon's closed Kindle platform and its dominance in the market allows it to make this counter-economical bet. Artificial limitations allow for such things, and Amazon's got the power to control a large segment of the ebook market, which really helps the company out.

In the long run, though, if a competitive market is truly created, it seems more likely that there will be more pricing pressure on Amazon's bet than on Apple's. But, in the short term, Amazon's flip-flopped market certainly could make a lot of sense.

Of course, if you really want to make this fun, just add Google to the equation. It, like Amazon, seems to be focusing on cheap, barely profitable hardware, a la the Nexus 7. It's also put a big effort (recently) into selling digital goods via the Android "Play" store. But Google's business has always been about ads, so it actually adds a third factor to how it views the world, and which part of the business subsidizes which other parts of the business.

In the end, you're left with three big bets on tablets, with very different underlying business models*:
  • Apple: High margin hardware (scarce); make just a little on digital goods (abundant).
  • Amazon: Low margin hardware (scarce); make the real margins on digital goods sales (abundant)
  • Google: Low margin hardware (scarce); make some margins on digital goods (abundant), but cross subsidize both with the ad business.
* Yes, there's also Microsoft Surface tablets. For the life of me, I can't figure out where they place in this particular chart. Which may say something all by itself.

Which strategy works in the end may say a lot about how you view the world economically.

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9/14/2012 2:37:00 AM
Apple is very protective of its Apple name and logo trademarks. We have noted in the past that it seems to think that no company can use a logo that even remotely resembles an apple. So it really should be no surprise to learn that Apple is going on the offensive, double time, in order to stop a Polish online grocery store from receiving a trademark for
"Apple brand is widely recognised and the company says that, by using the name that sounds similar, is using Apple's reputation," patent office spokesman Adam Taukert said.
There also seems to be a dispute over a logo trademark sought by for its site You can see the logo in question below.
Or how about this side by side comparison:
Last time I checked, Apple had no business endeavors in online grocery sales, so it would seem to be a stretch to think that consumers would be confused and think that was an offering by the electronics company. Additionally, and seem to be regional and limited to Poland at this time. So there would be limited harm if any to Apple's global brand. In the end, this just ends up looking like a bunch of trademark lawyers on Apple's payroll looking to keep busy and gain billable hours.

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9/14/2012 1:35:00 AM
Maybe you're like me and you thought that trademark stories didn't get much crazier than apparent confusion between products like ice cream and hardcore pornography. Or maybe you thought that dead half-chef, half-spy zombies crying foul over facts would win the nutso championship. Well, my sweet little innocent lambs, I give you the following story about a comic book author suing threatening to sue book review websites for reviewing a book by another author that had the same title.

Jazan Wild, comic book creator, is suing both Harper Collins for publishing Carnival Of Souls by Melissa Marr as well as a bunch of websites that reviewed her book. Not for copyright, mind you, but trademark, because Wild released a comic book called Carnival of Souls in 2006. Wild is claiming that the publisher is intentionally trying to cause confusion between a new fantasy novel and a comic book released six years ago. If you think this sounds crazy, The Digital Reader agrees.
Any sane person would have put a few minutes thought into the matter and realized that such an obvious phrase as Carnival of Souls would likely have been used as a title many times before. In fact, Bookfinder turned up at least a couple dozen different books, movies, TV episodes, and more – some of which dates back to 1962. And if you look inside books, Google says that it found the phrase no less than 5600 times (with some duplication, obviously).
Now, if that were the end of the story and Wild was only bringing suit against Harper Collins, we could all sit back, take a sip of our coffee and have a nice guffaw at the silly guy waving his arms around needlessly. Unfortunately, Wild is on a mission here to break the record for most wrong thoughts over a single issue. That's the only explanation I have for why he would then send cease and desist letters to websites that reviewed Marr's novel, claiming they were infringing on his trademark as well. Just to be clear, these sites are only posting reviews, no mention of Wild's works (why would they?), no exerpts from the novel or the comic book. Just a review of a novel with an apparently common title.
To whom it may concern,

This is a cease and desist. “Carnival Of Souls” is a trademark owned by Jazan Wild and Wild alone has the exclusive right on the United States of America to use the mark in classes 16 and 41 of which a novel is included. Posting a chapter from a novel using this mark is a willful and malicious infringement of Wild’s mark. Please remove.

The Trademark Infringement:
Hypothetical time. Let's say I broke into your house, tied you up to a chair, put a gun to your head, and told you that you had to come up with the perfect way to derail an argument about customer confusion of the title of a fictional work in the next thirty seconds or I was going to kill you. Could you come up with a better way than including in your C&D letter the URL of the supposed trademark infringement when that URL mentioned that the damned book was by a different author? I don't think you could.

More to the point, pissing off sites that review creative works when that's the business you're in is treachorous ground. But, at least it's entertaining. So here's to you Jazan Wild. May your crazy never cease to entertain us all.

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9/14/2012 12:31:00 AM
The Daily Dot's Kevin Collier has a detailed article about his experience as a journalist at the latest TPP negotiating round. He talks mainly about the various "stakeholder" presentations, which are the only access concerned groups have to the negotiators. As we've already noted, the USTR made sure to limit access to the stakeholder presentations, giving them 8 to 10 minutes (reduced from a promised 15) and then scheduling a bunch to run concurrently -- and during a time when many negotiators would likely be out to lunch. From Collier's report, we also learn that the rooms where these presentations were held only had about 20 seats in them -- and there are more than 400 negotiators. He attended the EFF's presentation, but also noted that "Attendees from a nearby presentation exited their conference room and loudly spoke outside the open door to [the EFF's Carolina] Rossini’s room, drowning out her message."

But, perhaps more interesting was Collier's encounter with Michael Schlesinger, a lobbyist for the IIPA (the International Intellectual Property Alliance -- a sort of "super group" of lobbying organizations, including both the RIAA and the MPAA, among others). The IIPA presentation immediately followed the EFF presentation, and involved Schlesinger promising to debunk the "myths" being spread by folks like the EFF. Key among them? That TPP would mandate disconnecting people from the internet. Myth, myth and more myth, Schlesigner declared: there are "no mandates to kick legitimate users off the Internet." Note the weasel word "legitimate."

However, Collier wasn't born yesterday. So he went and found the leaked draft of the IP section that was revealed back in February of 2011. And he noted that it does seem to include mandates for kicking people offline, such as saying that "effective action against any act of copyright infringement" would include things like "removing or disabling access... [and] terminating specified accounts." So, Collier went and found Schlesigner to bring this up, and Schlesinger made a remarkable admission: he claims he hasn't seen the text:
I asked him whether he stood by his presentation's claim that "TPP will result in 'kicking people off the Internet'" was a myth.

"It is," he said.

I showed him a printed-out copy of the section of the TPP leak that referred to "terminating specified accounts" of copyright infringers.

He visibly stiffened. "I'm not commenting on a leaked draft," he told me. "From what I know, the TPP framework would not force anyone off the Internet. I don't know anything about the TPP draft."

Had Schlesinger actually read the TPP, either the leaked chapter or the current draft? I can't say for sure. Legally, he can't have read the latter, because he's a federally registered lobbyist, which would bar him from seeing the text.
Got that? (1) He's not allowed to see the text. (2) He gets upset when someone points him to the leaked text. (3) He... also insists he knows, absolutely, what will not be in the text. How is that even remotely credible?

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9/13/2012 11:16:00 PM

Well, here's a nice contrast: just when a judge in the US has ruled that users there have no obligation to lock down their wifi connections, a court in France decides the exact opposite. What makes the story even more significant is that the individual concerned is the first person to be convicted under France's 3-strikes law, generally known as HADOPI.

Not all of the facts of the case have been released, but we do know that he received and apparently ignored the statutory three warnings from HADOPI, and then was summoned to court, where things started to get interesting. As TorrentFreak reports:

the man told the court today that he is incapable of downloading and did not commit the infringements. Supporting his claims he brought into court the person actually responsible for the file-sharing.
That person turned out to be his wife (actually, soon to be ex-wife), who admitted that she had downloaded some Rihanna songs. But as Guillaume Champeau of Numerama pointed out to TorrentFreak, ironically this did not get him off the hook -- on the contrary:
"By saying he knew she was downloading infringing content, but didn’t prevent her from doing so, he self-incriminated."
That's because under the HADOPI law, it is the owner of the Internet connection who is held responsible for any infringement committed with it, so it's the husband, not the (ex-)wife who has ended up being fined 150 euros (about $200) for negligence. That's admittedly less than the 300 euros ($400), with 150 euros suspended, that the French prosecution wanted, and far less than the maximum possible 1,500 euros ($2000) fine. But it's still a stiff price to pay for something he didn't do.

Indeed, he seems to have taken the judgment hard: Guillaume Champeau points out that HADOPI's first victim has now said that he intends to cancel his Internet subscription completely (original story in French). It's hard to see how this kind of result is going to help the growth of digital music in France, and the whole episode is a neat encapsulation of all that is wrong with HADOPI's approach.

Moreover, this case must reinforce the view that HADOPI is a colossal waste of money. In two years of existence, HADOPI has sent out 1.15 million first warnings, 102,854 second notices, and 340 "third strikes". And yet all French government has to show for the 12 million euros it costs to run HADOPI each year is the conviction of one innocent man.

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9/13/2012 10:04:34 PM
Swedish developer Frictional Games is celebrating two years of success with its sleeper hit "Amnesia: Dark Descent." In a lengthy blog post (via Rock, Paper, Shotgun), the developers run down the continued success of their very niche horror game, along with praising the communities that have grown around the game.

[If you're not familiar with the sphincter-clenching scariness that is Amnesia, take a look at the following video, which will allow you to hilariously enjoy someone else's complete hysteria. NSFW.]

Frictional Games attempts to run down the sales figures on Amnesia, a problem somewhat complicated by its inclusion with a Humble Indie Bundle. Long story short, though: sales were unexpectedly good.
The biggest reasons for the uncertainty is that Amnesia was part of the Humble Indie Bundle (HIB) earlier this year and Potato Bundle last year. Both of these account for quite a lot of sales. Without counting the units bought there our total lands at 710 000 units. Adding all HIB and Potato Sack sales gets us to 1 360 000 units in total, which can be called the optimistic figure. This means that, optimistically speaking, Amnesia has sold almost 1.4 million units!
Frictional adjusts for the Humble Effect by providing a "pessimistic" estimate based on the assumption that ⅔ of all bundle purchasers already owned a copy of the game:
This gives us about 920 000 units in total, pessimistically speaking. So saying that we have sold a million units seems fair. Wait... a million units! Oh shit!!
Not a bad total at all, especially for a non-AAA studio whose game featured combatless horror and whose advertising was mostly word-of-mouth. Even more surprising, the two-year-old game continues to sell at a brisk pace, even at full price:
Not counting any discounts, the monthly full price sales lie at over 10 000 units. This means that less then every 5th minute someone in the world is buying a copy of Amnesia.
Why are sales still so strong? Frictionless credits two very active communities:
This success is due to many factors, some of which are the uniqueness of the game (horror games without combat do not really exist on PC), the large modding community (more on this later) and the steady flood of YouTube clips (which is in turn is fueled by the modding community output).
Opening up your game and letting your fans build on your foundation is one of the best ways to rack up sales months (or years) after the release date. Just ask the developers of Arma, whose Arma 2 (another 2-year-old niche game) continues to sell very well, thanks to a strong modding community, including one of its own employees who developed the amazing "Day Z" zombie survival mod.
The output of modding community has been quite big as well. Amnesia is as of writing the 2nd most popular game at ModDB and sports 176 finished mods. Not only do this amount of user content lengthen the life of the game, it has also increased the amount of YouTube movies made with an Amnesia theme. There are lots of popular Let's Play channels that have devoted quite a bit of time with just playing various user-made custom stories. As mentioned earlier this have probably played a large role in keeping our monthly sales up.
It is quite clear that allowing users to create content is a feature worth putting time into. I also think that we managed to have a pretty good balance between having simple tools and still allowing a lot of possibilities.
When you give your fans a toolbox and invite them to not only create, but share the results openly, they become your advertisers. Without spending a cent on promotion, a developer can turn hundreds of individuals into a street team that shamelessly plugs your product because they love it. Respecting them enough to allow them to build on your original creates the sort of loyalty that locked-down software never will.

Oh, and as for piracy, the supposed bane of PC developers' existences? Here, in total, is all the developers have to say on that subject:
It has been over a year since we even thought about piracy. With sales as good as above we cannot really see this as an issue worth more than two lines in this post, so screw it.
Make great games. Extend the life of your software by opening it up to modders. Support your community. These simple steps (well, the last two are much simpler than the first) have allowed a small developer (11 employees) to command the attention of PC gamers and critics, resulting in Amnesia earning back over 10 times its cost. Who needs to worry about "lost sales" when so many people are clearly willing to pay?

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9/13/2012 8:01:34 PM
Some of the folks filing mass copyright infringement lawsuits have tried to claim that merely having an open WiFi connection on which someone else infringes on copyright-covered works is a form of negligence. Basically, they're suing based solely on limited information -- an IP address -- and when those pursued point out that they have an open WiFi, the lawyers insist that this, alone, is a form of negligence. However, the courts aren't buying it. In July, we wrote about a district court in New York rejecting this argument quickly, noting that the position was "untenable."

And now a California district court has ruled similarly, completely rejecting the negligence theory on three different points. First up, there is no negligence because negligence requires a relationship and a duty to protect, but no such relationship exists between the copyright holder, AF Holdings, and the defendant in the case:
AF Holdings has not articulated any basis for imposing on Hatfield a legal duty to prevent the infringement of AF Holdings’ copyrighted works, and the court is aware of none. Hatfield is not alleged to have any special relationship with AF Holdings that would give rise to a duty to protect AF Holdings’ copyrights, and is also not alleged to have engaged in any misfeasance by which he created a risk of peril.

The allegations in the complaint are general assertions that in failing to take action to “secure” access to his Internet connection, Hatfield failed to protect AF Holdings from harm. Thus, the complaint plainly alleges that Hatfield’s supposed liability is based on his failure to take particular actions, and not on the taking of any affirmative actions. This allegation of non-feasance cannot support a claim of negligence in the absence of facts showing the existence of a special relationship.
Even ignoring that, the court is skeptical. Noting that even if there was a negligence claim it would be unavailable in this case, because of copyright "pre-emption" (basically, federal copyright law wipes out any state statutes that seek to do the same work).
AF Holdings is seeking to protect its “exclusive rights” from “copying and sharing.” Simply recharacterizing the claim as one of “negligence” does not add a legally cognizable additional element.... Thus, because AF Holdings alleges that Hatfield’s action or inaction constituted interference with its “exclusive rights in the copyrighted work,” the negligence claim is preempted by § 301 of the Copyright Act.
And then the court goes even further, and says that even if the first two theories don't kill the negligence claim, there's also Section 230 of the CDA, which we've discussed for years. While the Section 230 safe harbors (protecting a service provider from liability concerning the actions of their users) technically does not apply to intellectual property issues, the negligence claim is not an IP law issue, and thus gets wiped out thanks to Section 230 immunity.

Basically, the idea that you're negligent if you leave your WiFi open and someone else uses it to infringe seems dead in the water.

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9/13/2012 6:04:34 PM
Justin Levine points us to the news that a revival of Ira Levin's famous play Deathtrap has been canceled because Levin's estate doesn't approve of very slight modifications in the play -- including one character disrobing and showing his naked rear for about 30 seconds, as well as this version of the play making it clear that a relationship between two males was a gay relationship (something not explicitly stated in the original, though many other interpretations have assumed the same thing). Either way, after the estate demanded changes to the staging, the LA Gay & Lesbian Center who was putting it on decided to cancel the show altogether, rather than having the estate give them creative notes.

Now, this may be entirely legal, but does that make it reasonable? One of the great things about plays is seeing how different companies interpret them -- sometimes in very different and creative ways. It seems overly controlling and silly to seek to block certain showings because they don't conform to the way the estate wants the play performed.

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9/13/2012 3:19:00 PM

The negotiations behind closed doors of major treaties like ACTA and TPP, and the refusal of participants to release official drafts or to engage in any kind of substantive dialog, has meant that activists and observers have been obliged to seize upon even the smallest signs and hints emerging from those talks in an attempt to guess what is going on. In a way, we are witnessing the birth of a new form of Kremlinology, which Wikipedia explains as follows:

During the Cold War, lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to "read between the lines" and to use the tiniest tidbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for parades in Red Square, the choice of capital or small initial letters in phrases such as "First Secretary", the arrangement of articles on the pages of the party newspaper "Pravda" and other indirect signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics.
Via Guillaume Champeau, we learn that PCInpact (original in French) has spotted a treasure trove of such subtle hints about what's happening within the EU on the copyright enforcement front. It's a document entitled "Report on the online distribution of audiovisual works in the European Union", drafted by the Committee on Culture and Education, and submitted to the European Commission.

It's couched in an apparently interminable sequence of deadly dull clauses beginning "having regard to..." and "whereas...", before launching into a long list of mostly reasonable ideas for making more cross-border digital content available in the EU. But hidden away amongst these are some breathtaking suggestions.

Here, for instance, is Section 39:

Calls on the Commission to afford internet users legal certainty when they are using streamed services and to consider, in particular, ways to prevent the use of payment systems and the funding of such services through advertising on pay platforms offering unauthorised downloading and streaming services;
That may sound familiar, since it's identical to one of the core ideas of SOPA: cutting off all funding to sites accused of permitting unauthorized downloads.

Here's Section 42:

Recognises that, where legal alternatives do exist, online copyright infringement remains an issue and therefore the legal online availability of copyrighted cultural material needs to be supplemented with smarter online enforcement of copyright while fully respecting fundamental rights, notably freedom of information and of speech, protection of personal data and the right to privacy, along with the 'mere conduit' principle;
This, by contrast, is straight out of ACTA, where Section 27 says:
Each Party shall endeavour to promote cooperative efforts within the business community to effectively address trademark and copyright or related rights infringement while preserving legitimate competition and, consistent with that Party’s law, preserving fundamental principles such as freedom of expression, fair process, and privacy.
Note the same empty promise to respect various rights that is completely undermined by the other part requiring copyright enforcement that ignores them. The only real change is that "effective" has been upgraded to "smarter".

This trick of mixing contradictory demands is repeated in Section 59 of the EU report:

Calls on the Commission to consider ways to encourage network operators to standardise their technical tools and reverse the current trend of removing responsibility from these operators regarding consumer protection, implementation of intellectual property rights and ensuring Internet privacy;
So, on the one hand, network operators are supposed to protect consumers and maintain their privacy, while on the other, they will be forced to become responsible for enforcing intellectual monopolies -- losing that "mere conduit" status that was invoked in Section 42 above -- and turn in accused customers to the authorities.

All-in-all, this is an extraordinary document, in part because of its repeated call for contradictory actions, but mostly for the way it asks the European Commission to bring back some of the worst ideas in SOPA and ACTA. New Kremlinologists will obviously need to keep a close eye on missing portraits or the re-arrangement chairs in order to glean further information about the secretive plans that are being discussed deep within the bowels of the EU machine.

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9/13/2012 11:16:00 AM
For years now, I've talked about the importance of some sort of startup visa for immigrants starting companies in the US. Lots of people in the government agree with this idea, but they haven't passed it because it's about "immigration." And no politician wants to take on immigration as a whole, because then it turns into nationalism about how those crazy foreigners are taking our jobs -- even when that's empirically not true. Canada, however, has now put in place a new startup visa that is somewhat similar to the various proposals floated down here in the US: entrepreneurs can get a visa if they have funding from a venture capitalist.

While I think that such a law would be a step forward in the US, in Canada it seems like it might actually be a step backwards. That's because Canada already had very open borders to job-creating immigrants. Its old rules allowed an immigrant a visa if they opened a business that would hire one person for one year. But those visas are no longer being offered. And that seems like a problem. My big complaint over plans for a startup visa that require venture capitalist investment is that it assumes that entrepreneurs require venture capital. But that's not true. Yes, for certain types of business, including capital-intensive, high-growth businesses, it often (though not always) makes sense to raise venture capital, but for many other successful types of businesses there are alternative sources of funding -- including (these days) things like crowdfunding and (*gasp*) revenue funding.

Imagine a couple of entrepreneurs want to build some new gadget, so they put it up on Kickstarter and it raises $1 million. Does it then make sense to also require them to get a VC to "bless" them by giving them money... and taking a ton of equity and control? Or does it make sense to just say "hey, these guys are likely to have a legitimate business that will create jobs, let them in." My other fear with linking a startup visa to VC funding is that it gives that much more control and power to VCs in negotiations. They now know that their money and investment isn't just a ticket to funding the company, it's a ticket into the country where they want to live. They can extract much more favorable terms under those conditions. While I'm not in the camp that thinks VCs are "bad," there are some who clearly take advantage of entrepreneurs, and a startup visa linked to venture money only makes that more possible.

So, yes, we need a startup visa, and Canada should have one too. But it seems like Canada is going backwards with its efforts, taking away from a visa plan that works for all kinds of companies, and instead giving venture capitalists the ability to choose who gets into the country.

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9/13/2012 8:00:00 AM
Wearing glasses can be annoying at times -- especially when wearing them in inclement weather as they fog up or get wet. But it's also nice to see clearly. Sure, contact lenses and LASIK (and other eye surgeries) can correct a lot of vision deficiencies, but for some people, wearing glasses is the best solution. Here are just a few other kinds of glasses that could be worth wearing -- even for people with 20/20 vision. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post.

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9/13/2012 7:28:56 AM
A few years back, we noted an ethics opinion in Florida that stated that judges cannot be Facebook friends with lawyers who may appear before them in court. As we noted at the time, this seemed to go pretty far, as Facebook friends didn't mean "personal" friends, and there are lots of people who use Facebook just to connect with anyone they know. Furthermore, there are plenty of reasons why judges and lawyers might know each other through other paths as well. Either way, because of that opinion, a judge in Florida has been disqualified from a case for being Facebook friends with the prosecutor. The other party in the case sought to disqualify the judge claiming that on his Facebook, his "friends" were "only [his] closest friends and associates, persons whom [he] could not perceive with anything but favor, loyalty and partiality."

Oddly, as Venkat Balasubramani notes in the link above, the ruling to disqualify the judge did not focus on the facts around friendship, but around the claim that it's sort of announced publicly. As Venkat notes:
I'm still struggling to see how this is different from other forms of social interaction between lawyers and judges. Social interaction between judges and lawyers happens all the time and is not a basis for disqualification. I think there may be a bit of Facebook exceptionalism going on here.
Related to this, and at the same link, Eric Goldman points out that if we're weighing two different issues: (1) having a judge that understands Facebook and how social interaction commonly works today and (2) the "small possibility of apparent impropriety" it seems that having judges who understand social networking is a more important goal in today's society.

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9/13/2012 6:35:36 AM
As was expected, despite not knowing the details of how the feds interpret the FISA Amendmens Act, which grants massive spying and surveillance power to the feds -- in fact, while proactively stopping any efforts to find out more about the interpretation, the House of Representatives today approved Lamar Smith's FISA Amendment's Act by a vote of 301-118. You can see which representatives voted which way at that link. The bill would extend the current rules (and the secret interpretation) for another five years. Republicans, who are supposedly against bigger government, only had 7 members vote no, while the remaining 111 no votes came from Democrats.

There had been an attempt to introduce amendments, but that was shot down procedurally. And an hour debate did little to get to the heart of the matter. Rep. Zoe Lofgren fought the good fight, pointing out that "I think the government needs to comply with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution all the time... We can be safe while still complying with the Constitution of the United States." However, Rep. Dan Lungren -- who previously had insisted that there was no evidence that the NSA was abusing its powers, while refusing to even ask the NSA for basic info on how it was using the powers -- insisted based on absolutely nothing that "this is critical to the protection of the American people."

Even worse, Rep. Terry Gowdy made a ridiculously ignorant statement in response to Lofgren's highlighting of the 4th Amendment:
”Intelligence is the lifeblood of our ability to defend ourselves,” he said. Moments later, he added: “Are we to believe that the Fourth Amendment applies to the entire world?”
But, uh, the concern isn't with the rest of the world. Even without the FISA Amendments Act, the NSA already had the right to seek info on foreign communications. They have no 4th Amendment rights, so that's not even an issue. The issue is that the FISA Amendments Act appears to include some weasel words that have been twisted by the government to suggest that it can spy on Americans too. But Gowdy misleads the public by pretending, falsely, that this is about foreigners? It's not. Has he asked the NSA how many Americans it's spied on? Even the NSA has admitted that it's violated the 4th Amendment under the act in spying on Americans... but Gowdy pretends this is just about foreigners? How do you stand up and call yourself a "Representative" when you can't even get the very basics right?

Of course, House approval is just one step. The Senate version remains on hold thanks to Senator Wyden, who is one of the only elected officials who is actually asking the NSA and the Obama administration to (a) reveal the secret interpretation and (b) disclose how many Americans are being spied on under the rule.

As Julian Sanchez explained recently a former DOJ official has basically revealed part of the secret interpretation, which more or less says that if the target is al Qaeda, then anything goes:
For example, an authorization targeting “al Qaeda”—which is a non-U.S. person located abroad—could allow the government to wiretap any telephone that it believes will yield information from or about al Qaeda, either because the telephone is registered to a person whom the government believes is affiliated with al Qaeda, or because the government believes that the person communicates with others who are affiliated with al Qaeda, regardless of the location of the telephone.
Take that and expand it, and you've basically given the feds and the NSA a blank slate to spy on Americans by claiming that if it believes the spying will yield information about a threat, then it's fine. And our "Representatives" are standing up and -- either through ignorance or straight-up dishonesty -- are pretending that this is about spying on foreigners only. Shameful.

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9/14/2012 3:39:41 PM

Any talk of space exploration in the future will always reference Curiosity’s mission to Mars and that awesome descent known as the seven minutes of terror. The fact that NASA recorded video of that descent and landing was just the icing on the cake, even though it was only four frames per second. Ever since [...]
9/14/2012 6:15:04 AM

Apple stores, with all those expensive electronic gizmos just feet from the large glass doors, are seemingly the perfect targets for thieves. Well, 22 year-old Equonne R. Howard allegedly thought the Temecula, CA Apple Store looked like a great place to pick up some free goods. Howard drove his 2003 BMW X-5 through the massive [...]
9/14/2012 5:40:03 AM

It’s not that we’ve been on a storage kick lately, it’s just that the storage deals keep rolling in! Today we found a great deal on Seagate’s FreeAgent GoFlex 2TB USB 3.0 external hard drive. We’re all bad about backing up our data like we should. It’s okay to admit it, we’re all friends here. [...]
9/14/2012 5:01:33 AM

Ubisoft’s hyped Wii U game ZombiU was of course featured during today’s Nintendo preview event, with a new trailer highlighting the specific use of the touchscreen GamePad controller. The title was not confirmed as available on launch day, but it was confirmed as one of the launch window games we covered earlier today. That means [...]
9/14/2012 4:25:30 AM

You have to love stores like Brookstone. It is the champion of selling products you never heard about before and now suddenly can’t see yourself living without. Enter the pocket-sized “Virtual Keyboard,” the latest addition to the retailer’s already expansive line of Bluetooth keyboards. The problem the Virtual Keyboard tries to solve is giving you [...]
9/14/2012 3:32:58 AM

Even though its parent company is a major cable service provider directly competing with Netflix and its rivals, Warner Bros. is working on new programming specifically tailored to video streaming services on the web. At a confernece in Beverly Hills, California this week, Warner announced that it is actively developing content that will be made [...]
9/14/2012 2:29:03 AM

So what games will you be able to get after you wait several hours in line to pick up your Wii U on November 18? Within the first few months, the selection is set to grow to around 50 titles. Nintendo provided a list of games during the preview event today that will be available [...]
9/14/2012 1:33:37 AM

This is the future, and exercise is for chumps. A new Kickstarter seeks to get funding for an electric vehicle so light, that it can go with you wherever you go. Boosted Boards has designed an efficient motor that makes a standard 12 pound longboard into the world's lightest electric vehicle. The Boosted Board is [...]
9/14/2012 12:46:42 AM

Microsoft’s digital crimes unit has put the clamps on yet another massive botnet. This time, the company has taken over the command and control domain for the emerging Nitol, It wasn’t alone on the domain, either: in total, there were more than 500 different malware strains found linked to some 70,000 subdomains. With a [...]
9/14/2012 12:02:50 AM

The next time you download a pirate copy of the latest Hollywood flick, chances are you won’t get arrested, but you might receive a nice warning from your Internet service provider. It’s part of a new initiative spearheaded by the US government and ISPs throughout the country. Last year, a new entity called the Center [...]
9/13/2012 11:05:56 PM

As part of the Wii U preview event Nintendo has unveiled a surprising new service and feature for the Wii U. It’s called Nintendo TVii, and it can be summed up as TV made social. What Nintendo has done is allowed you to use the Wii U as your gateway device to all your TV [...]
9/13/2012 10:23:37 PM

Nintendo has already revealed the details of the Wii U price and release date for Japan early this morning. It will be available to buy from December 8 and cost $300 and $400 depending on whether you select the standard (white) or premium (black) edition. But now the details of the US launch have been [...]
9/13/2012 9:45:20 PM

Own a Medfield-based smartphone? Probably not, but in other corners of the world there are surely a few people who picked up a Xolo X900. If you count yourself among that select group, there’s some good news from Intel today: the company has completed its Android 4.1 Jelly Bean port for the x86 smartphones. That’s [...]
9/13/2012 9:00:48 PM

The browser war is far from over, and Mozilla’s ready for the next round. The foundation’s developers have just finished bolting on the new IonMonkey JavaScript engine to Firefox 18, and it’s going to ensure that Mozilla’s browser keeps pace with the likes of Chrome and Internet Explorer 10. The big change IonMonkey brings to [...]
9/13/2012 8:14:16 PM

Every closed beta I have ever participated in has asked the same thing of me: that I wait until they feel like the game is ready to share opinions and screenshots. In many cases, I sign agreements that say I will keep quiet until I am told. That’s the price you pay for getting to [...]
9/13/2012 7:30:18 PM

In February next year Metal Gear Solid fans can expect to get a new, albeit different game to play in the series. Platinum Games is currently working on Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance with production being overseen by Kojima Productions and publishing rights inevitably falling to Konami. The game was originally called Metal Gear Solid: Rising [...]
9/13/2012 6:35:37 PM

Of the many leaks that came before Apple’s iPhone 5 launch yesterday, the power adapter was a constant. Every leak suggested a new adapter was on the way, and now it is here. The Lightning power adapter is undeniably more useful than most phone connectors out there today, but with all the existing iPhone owners [...]
9/13/2012 5:21:30 PM

Nintendo has just announced the release date and price for the Wii U in its home territory of Japan. The Wii U will launch on December 8 with two versions of the console being available. The budget model will be white and ships with 8GB of internal storage and a Wii U GamePad tablet controller. [...]
9/13/2012 4:57:35 PM

Alongside the iPhone 5 and iPod touch announcements yesterday, Apple unveiled a brand new iPod nano that was a radical departure from the previous generation nano. It incorporates a widescreen display and is the thinnest nano yet at just 5.4mm. It’s only been a few weeks since Apple’s victory over Samsung for copying its designs, [...]
9/13/2012 6:04:08 AM

Solid State Drives are easily one of the hottest PC components of 2012. While we’ve known about their performance benefits since they hit mainstream PCs in 2008, the cost has been prohibitive for most people until this year. When the Apple MacBook Air and Lenovo ThinkPad X300 first came out, SSDs were a $1,000 option [...]

NewsFactor Network

9/14/2012 5:25:50 AM
Microsoft is taking a bow for saving the public from potential malware infection through counterfeit Windows software by taking over a domain that hosted as many as 70,000 malicious subdomains.

The digital drama unfolded earlier this week when the cyber-sleuths at the tech giant's Digital Crimes Unit acted on research that showed that crooks were using fake software to infect computers with malware connecting to the Nitol botnet. The botnet activity via the domain, dated back to 2008.

A botnet is a system of computers that has been compromised by hackers.

'Eyes and Ears' for Hackers

"We found malware capable of remotely turning on an infected computer's microphone and video camera, potentially giving a cybercriminal eyes and ears into a victim's home or business," wrote Richard Domingues Boscovich
, assistant general counsel of Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit, on Microsoft's official blog Thursday. "Additionally, we found malware that records a person's every keystroke, allowing cybercriminals to steal a victim's personal information."

As part of its Project MARS (Microsoft Active Response for Security) program, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, seeking a temporary restraining order against an individual named Peng Yong, his company and other unnamed individuals, which was granted on Monday. Yong denies any wrongdoing.

That order allowed Microsoft to take control of the domain through a new domain system that allows the company to block Nitol and nearly 70,000 other malicious sites while keeping traffic to legitimate sites flowing normally.

"In an operation like this, you are trying to take the servers that are botted offline once you identify them," explained technology consultant Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group. "Once you identify the IP address, you isolate the machines so they can't talk to anyone else, which effectively shuts them down. It's like what you would...

9/14/2012 3:39:34 AM
Sure, Lego blocks can create cool mini-forts and clunking robots. But how about a supercomputer?

A team at computational engineers at the University of Southampton in the U.K., aided by the 6-year-old son of one of the team members, has done just that. The team used 64 Raspberry Pi computers, held together by the Lego blocks, and they've now published a do-it-yourself, step-by-step guide in case you'd like to build your own supercomputer.

Biggest Problem

Raspberry Pi is a credit card-size, single-board computer that was developed in the U.K. by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in order to teach basic computer science in the schools. It features a Broadcom system-on-a-chip, with an ARM 700 MHz processor, VideoCore GPU, and 256 MB of memory. An SD card is used for booting and storage. The Raspberry Pi Foundation is supported by the University of Cambridge Computer Lab and Broadcom.

The design was developed by Professor Simon Cox and his son James, and the machine is constructed in two Lego towers. Cox and Cox had been testing the Raspberry Pi over the summer, programming it using Python and Scratch languages.

The control code was written in Python using Microsoft's Visual Studio. Scratch is a programming language developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and it's intended to help children learn to create their own interactive stories, animations, games and art. The entire system was built for a bit more than $4,000, excluding the Ethernet switches.

Professor Cox said in a statement that, "as soon as we were able to source sufficient Raspberry Pi computers, we wanted to see if it was possible to link them together into a supercomputer." In fact, getting enough of the $35 Raspberry Pi's was the biggest challenge, since the Foundation regularly sells out of them shortly after each batch is created. The entire Lego-linked...

9/14/2012 3:00:25 AM
Like AT&T, Verizon Wireless will have the iPhone 5 in stock on Sept. 21. But one little line in Verizon's iPhone 5 announcement has the data package pot stirring.

Some are pointing to what they say are dramatic differences in how A&T and Verizon will handle FaceTime over cellular, while analysts argue the two approaches are nearly identical. Keyword: nearly.

Customers purchasing an iPhone 5 can sign up for Verizon's relatively new Share Everything Plan, with prices beginning at $40 monthly that includes unlimited voice, unlimited text, picture and video messaging, and a data plan that can be shared with up to 10 devices on a single account.

Verizon's news release pointed out that, "customers wanting to use FaceTime on their iPhone 5 can do so using any Verizon Wireless data plan allowance." Verizon still has some customers on old plans that can use FaceTime over cellular on an unlimited basis. But AT&T is only letting customers on its new shared data plans access FaceTime over cellular.

AT&T's Bad Rap

AT&T opened up a net-neutrality can of worms last month when it said it planned to offer FaceTime only to cellular customers on shared data plans. Customers have historically used the video chat application over Wi-Fi, but Apple's latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 6, offers mobile broadband capabilities using FaceTime. The new iOS will be available for download Sept. 19 and will come pre-installed on the iPhone 5.

Groups like Public Knowledge are coming together against AT&T's moves in light of the mobile OS updates. John Bergmayer, a senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge, insisted that by blocking FaceTime for many of its customers, AT&T is violating the FCC's Open Internet rules.

AT&T's Bob Quinn said calling the move a violation is "another knee-jerk reaction," and said "those arguments are...

9/14/2012 1:28:02 AM
IBM has unveiled version 4 of its IBM Connections social software platform. The company said the new version uses more sophisticated analytics capabilities and real-time data monitoring, and adds other features to extend its usefulness.

Connections provides collaboration, communication and communities between employees, and outside to clients or vendors, and is available in either on-premise or cloud-based versions. The platform, which IBM said is being used by more than 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies, integrates activity streams, calendaring, wikis and blogs.

Activity Stream Content

The new version of Connections provides several new capabilities. An activity stream offers a more consolidated and customizable view of the social connections, such as instantly available status and content updates. Users can now utilize content directly inside the Activity Stream without switching between applications.

There is also a broader support of mobile devices, including geo-location tagging. IBM gave the use case example of an insurance agent out in the field who can take a photo, tag it with geo-location data, and then upload that photo along with the data to Connections, for use throughout the network.

A new e-mail capability offers a simplified access to e-mail within the environment. The landing page can now feature content from any outside source, which can be utilized alongside the company's own content, e-mail and calendar. Content can include Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, weather data, videos, Web pages or log files.

Connections' expanded analytics includes a view of what's trending at a given time, so that users can see the most popular topics being discussed.

Standards Support

Suzanne Livingston, senior product manager for IBM Social Business, told us that the new version expands on the analytics layer that was introduced in version 3, with additional business intelligence. She also pointed out that Connections is supporting OpenSocial and Activity Streams standards, enabling better integration...

9/14/2012 1:01:29 AM
Cisco has rolled out a new set of security products to better protect data centers against the threats they face as they move toward more consolidated and virtualized environments. The solutions also let businesses leverage new cloud-based models and secure mobile devices.

The solutions include: the Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance line; virtualized ASA for multi-tenant environments; a data-center-grade intrusion prevention system; and new improvements to the Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client to meet the requirements of a more mobile and productive workforce.

"For enterprises to confidently seize the business benefits offered by data center virtualization and the cloud, security must be seen as the art of the possible, not as a hindrance," said Christopher Young, senior vice president and general manager of Security and Government Group at Cisco. He notes that the solutions let administrators deliver IT as a service with security without compromising network performance.

Forcing Profound Shifts

As Cisco sees it, the virtualization and cloud mega trend is forcing profound shifts within data centers -- and those shifts affect everything from IT services to business models to architectures. If addressed properly, Cisco said, these trends offer business benefits such as reduced capital investments, new revenue growth and the greater efficiency, agility and scalability demanded by globalization.

With its new security solutions, Cisco is working from the principle that security has to be integrated across the network to ensure protection of unified data centers. Cisco believes network policies should be unified across physical and virtual worlds, intra-virtual machine communication should be secured, and access to applications by wired and mobile clients must be protected.

"Security is measured by levels of trust. It's about global authority and access. There has been a true shift in the realm of security," said Nick Schmidt, senior manager, Information Technology at CDW. "Cisco's security solutions play a key...

9/13/2012 5:50:43 AM
Get ready, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint. An ocean of 4G data usage is headed your way, now that Apple has unleashed the iPhone 5 with long-term evolution high-speed data capability.

Long anticipated, the 4G LTE iPhone -- a data hog's delight -- reaches consumers' hands Sept. 21, less than 10 days from now. Verizon's LTE network has been up since the end of 2010, and ATT launched its network a year ago, announcing last week that it would reach 100 markets by the end of the year.

Better than Wi-Fi?

Sprint Nextel, the third major carrier to get the iPhone, began rolling out its new LTE network in June, and on Monday announced a major expansion of its network to an additional 100 cities in the next few months, with full implementation expected by the end of 2013. (Sprint's unlimited plans could even further entice heavy data use.)

In announcing the new iPhone, an Apple executive noted that LTE data speeds can be faster than home Wi-Fi connectivity, thereby inviting users to discontinue connecting to Wi-Fi if they have an unlimited plan.

So it's safe to say all three carriers, which have relatively few devices now using LTE as compared with 3G (Verizon has the most) will be virtually bombarded with iPhone data surges.

"The carriers, of course, want customers to use LTE as much as possible, given the better user experience and likelihood they will exceed data plan minutes," said Kirk Parsons, a wireless analyst at JD Power and Associates, after the product launch.

"I suspect this will be even more pronounced for iPhone owners as they tend to use data applications and service more often in general, and now having an LTE-capable device will only increase their data usage opportunities."

But can the wireless carriers handle the surge? After all, Verizon has suffered from...

9/13/2012 3:44:05 AM
AMD is making a push on the data center technology front this week with its SeaMicro SM15000 server. The new server extends fabric-based computing across racks and aisles of the data center to connect to massive disk arrays supporting over 5 petabytes of storage capacity. AMD also announced a new generation of compute cards for its micro servers based on AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon processors.

Andrew Feldman, general manager and corporate vice president of the Data Center Server Solutions group at AMD, said the rise of virtualization, cloud computing, and Big Data require a new generation of compute in which networking and storage are equal partners in the solution.

"This does not fit the mold of traditional servers," Feldman said. "We are at the beginning of a new wave of computing that requires data centers to become pools of computing and storage resources with the flexibility to expand in both dimensions."

The Intel Connection

AMD is pitching that the SM15000 system removes the constraints of traditional servers and allows data centers to expand compute, networking and storage independently. Does the pitch hold water? First, more facts.

Micro servers are dense, hyper-efficient systems in which the compute, storage, and networking are linked by a fabric that lets them share common infrastructure components. The SeaMicro SM15000 micro server uses patented Freedom Fabric. That, AMD said, makes possible the disaggregation of data center infrastructure.

With the new AMD Opteron processor, AMD's SeaMicro SM15000 provides 512 cores in a 10-rack unit system with more than 4 terabytes of DRAM and supports up to 5 petabytes of Freedom Fabric Storage.

AMD's SeaMicro SM15000 server is the first micro server to support the latest generation of Intel Xeon processors based on the "Ivy Bridge" micro-architecture. A SeaMicro SM15000 server configured with 64 Intel Xeon E3-1265Lv2 CPUs provides 256...

9/13/2012 1:35:38 AM
Someday, a new iPhone may just be another product release -- but that day is not yet on the horizon. On Wednesday, at the much anticipated Apple press event, CEO Tim Cook introduced the iPhone 5 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

Apple's head of marketing Phil Schiller called the new product the "most beautiful device we've ever made." It's taller than earlier incarnations, but 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than the iPhone 4S. The new height provides four inches for the Retina display, allowing another row of icons on the home screen.

The new iPhone goes on sale Sept. 21, with pre-orders starting this Friday, Sept. 14.


In addition to a new row of buttons, Schiller also demonstrated that Calendar can now show a full five-day workweek, and that the iWork suite of applications has similarly been revised to take advantage of the additional screen size.

Connectivity includes 4G LTE, HSPA+ and dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, and the A6 chip doubles the processing speed while being 22 percent smaller. Schiller said the new speed allows, for instance, Pages to be launched twice as fast as on the iPhone 4S and iPhoto to save an image 1.7 times as fast.

The front camera records 720p HD video, the rear camera does 1080p HD with improved stabilization, and there's a new, smaller dock connector with a new connector cord, called Lightning.

Apple said the faster CPU and 4G will not adversely affect battery life, but that, in fact, battery life will exceed that of the 4S. Image capture is 40 percent faster, and a camera app built into the new iOS6 supports panoramic photos.

Revised Siri, New Mapping Service

Apple has sold nearly a quarter-billion units of the iPhone since its launch in 2007, and the smartphone now accounts for...

9/13/2012 1:06:06 AM
Global spending on public cloud services for IT will grow at a rate of more than 26 percent over the next four years -- five times faster than the IT industry overall. That's the projection of a new forecast Tuesday from research firm International Data Corp.

The study, Worldwide and Regional IT Cloud Services 2012-2016 Forecast, projects that spending in 2012 on public clouds will reach more than $40 billion, and will hit $100 billion by 2016. This reflects a general trend by companies to increasingly move their operations to cloud services.

'Transformative Period'

Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC, said in a statement that the IT industry is in the "midst of an important transformative period," as companies invest in technologies such as cloud computing and storage. "By the end of the decade," he said, "at least 80 percent of the industry's growth, and enterprises' highest-value leverage of IT, will be driven by cloud services" and other technologies.

Gens said that the forecast, the fifth annual one on this topic since 2008, marks the transition of cloud investment priorities from "simply improving IT operations to delivering business innovation."

The study envisions that small- to medium-size businesses will rise as a more critical customer segment, and that platform-as-a-service (PaaS), which IDC said had a slower than expected start this year and last, will become "the strategic foundation" of the new cloud services marketplace. In fact, the study projects that PaaS rollouts will accelerate over the next year and a half, and that this growth will be critical to the continuing momentum of cloud services.

IDC envisions that, by 2016, 16 percent of IT revenue will be based on public IT cloud services in five areas -- applications, system infrastructure software, platform as a service, servers and basic storage. By that year,...

9/12/2012 11:28:24 PM
In a welcome light month for IT administrators, Microsoft on Tuesday released two security bulletins. Both are rated important.

MS-12-061 fixes a vulnerability in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server. MS12-062 patches a vulnerability in Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager.

"Neither of the issues addressed is known to be under active exploit in the wild -- and, on another positive note, neither bulletin requires customers to restart their machines," said Angela Gunn of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing. "As always, we recommend that customers deploy all security updates as soon as possible."

Sign of Maturity?

Paul Henry, security and forensic analyst at Lumension, told us he hopes September's light Patch Tuesday is a reflection of the maturity of Microsoft's secure coding initiatives.

"Some vendors scrambled with repeated emergency patches last week just days apart and others seemed to just shrug off multiple day zero vulnerabilities," Henry said. "To the delight of IT pros everywhere though, Microsoft has given us the least disruptive Patch Tuesday we've seen in a long time."

Analyst Surprised

Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle, is surprised there are only two bulletins in this month's patch, because there's definitely a backlog of old bugs in addition to the new ones we already know about. He pointed to MS-CHAP as one example.

"This does make you wonder what Microsoft has planned for the October patch. Did Microsoft choose to deliver an extremely small patch this month because they have a monster patch in final testing for next month?" Storms asked. "This might be the first month Microsoft has delivered a set of patches that don't require a reboot. IT teams focused on uptime and availability metrics will be smiling for the rest of the month."

An Automatic Install

In other security-related news, Security Advisory 2661254, which tightens Windows certificate acceptance rules, deserves attention, according to Wolfgang...

9/13/2012 10:51:58 PM
Admitting Facebook's stock price has been "disappointing," a resolute Mark Zuckerberg assured a tech gathering [in San Francisco] that the social-networking company is still strong and ready to make a big mobile push.

"I think a bunch of people" are underestimating us, the CEO said in his first public remarks since Facebook's star-crossed IPO in May. He spoke for 40 minutes at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference. "Some days are hard, some days kick ass."

Zuckerberg has largely been invisible since Facebook went public. On Tuesday, he broke his silence. Investors seemed to like what they heard: Facebook shares rose about 3.5% in after-hours trading after closing the regular trading day at $19.43.

"Its performance has obviously been disappointing," Zuckerberg said of Facebook's stock, which is trading at about half its offering price of $38 a share. If Facebook "executes (its) mission, we think we will build value in the long term," he said. "The big question is how well we do with mobile."

Despite self-acknowledged "missteps" in shifting to mobile, Zuckerberg said the company is finding effective ways to reach its members with advertising and has upcoming mobile services that will take advantage of mobile ads. It's just a matter of time, he said, before that translates into significant revenue.

Market researcher eMarketer expects an uptick in Facebook revenue next year, after its mobile-ad services kick in. It predicts Facebook's U.S. mobile-ad revenue will jump to $387 million in 2013 from $72.7 million this year but that annual revenue will be about $5 billion, down from the $6 billion it predicted in February.

In a wide-ranging interview with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, Zuckerberg touched on:

A rumored Facebook phone. "Clearly, it is the wrong strategy for us. Our strategy is to build a system that is as deeply integrated into every device in the world."

Search. "It's obviously...

9/13/2012 10:39:07 PM
There's a running joke among those who play fantasy sports: No one wants to hear about your fantasy team except you.

But thanks to a company that provides instant, personalized recaps of fantasy matchups, the conversation no longer has to go in only one direction.

Automated Insights crunched the data from every Yahoo Sports fantasy football league to generate a 500-1,000 word analysis of each game -- including which team won and why.

Best of all, CEO Scott Frederick says, the company was able to do it all in less than three hours once the final game of the NFL's Week 1 schedule was complete.

With its data analysis technology, Automated Insights used more than 50 servers to produce the recaps at the rate of more than 500 a second. "It went tremendously well," Frederick says. "Better than we could have imagined or hoped."

He says the total number of stories produced for all of Yahoo's fantasy league matchups during the opening week of games is "more than the number of stories ESPN, Fox and CBS do for a whole year combined."

The recaps are a mixture of narrative and stats, which combine to read like a news story:

"S.C. Steamrollers 115.75, Wicked Weasels 111.65

"S.C. Steamrollers got the second-highest score of the week to sneak by Wicked Weasels 115.75-111.65. Even though both teams met their expectations, S.C. Steamrollers put up 18.1% more than their projected 98.05 points to secure the win. Wicked Weasels was led by Peyton Manning with 26.95 points and the Baltimore Ravens defense, who scored 18.00. S.C. Steamrollers (1-0) starts the season in second place while Wicked Weasels (0-1) debuts in seventh place."

Also included are sections titled "S.C. Steamrollers Smooth Moves," "Wicked Weasels Regret Tracker" and "What If" that highlight some of the sit/start decisions team owners made and how it might have turned...

9/13/2012 10:44:24 PM
David Reeves works in advertising in Atlanta, helping clients such as Baskin-Robbins, the Publix grocery chain and Dunkin' Donuts navigate the digital waters.

Right now, he's extremely excited about a new feature that will soon be available for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It's called Passbook, an app that will put all your digital coupons, tickets and loyalty cards in one place, and potentially, be a way one day to use the iPhone as a digital wallet.

"Every opportunity I have to get in front of a client, it's the first thing I talk about," says Reeves, vice president of the 22squared agency. "This is huge. Apple doesn't do anything halfway. This is a tremendous opportunity to revolutionize the way we use our wallets."

[Wednesday], Apple [was] expected to introduce the highly anticipated new iPhone, which will include Passbook and several other new features, such as Apple's take on mapping and seamless integration with Facebook and Yelp. The iPhone, as well as the iPod Touch and iPad, will have the new iOS 6 software that will drive the devices. For owners of many older Apple devices, such as the iPhone 4 and 4S, the new iOS 6 software will be available as a free upgrade to effectively modernize your existing device.

Apple hasn't announced a launch date for iOS 6, but it's expected by the end of the month.

Cards, Coupons, Cash in One Spot

There has been much talk in the past few years about turning phones into digital wallets -- letting people use their phones to surf the Internet, make calls and pay for lattes and muffins.

Visa, MasterCard, Starbucks, Google, Square, PayPal, Intuit and others have been working feverishly to make mobile payments a way of life, but the practice has yet to go mainstream, because businesses are waiting for it to become more...

9/13/2012 10:50:38 PM
Two months ago, I wrote that Google's Nexus 7 was the budget tablet to beat. But two months in the tech world might as well be two years in some other business. Now another worthy color tablet comes along to muddy the purchase decision. It's the brand new Kindle Fire HD from, and it poses a serious challenge to Google while representing a major improvement over the first-generation Kindle Fire model that went on sale in the U.S. in November. Amazon announced its latest tablets last Thursday at a Santa Monica, Calif., press conference.

The best thing about the original Kindle Fire was its then $199 price, $300 below the starting price of the iPad and subsequently matched by the entry-level Nexus 7. Fire was a decent, if imperfect, portable slate for Amazon's vast ecosystem of books, movies, music and other content, especially if you stream flicks and TV shows as a subscriber to Amazon's $79-a-year Prime service.

But while the initial Kindle Fire provided good value for the money, its appeal was tempered by its lack of cameras, Bluetooth, microphone, parental controls or any cellular options to complement Wi-Fi.

I've had a few days to test the Fire HD model that's coming Friday. It's the 16 GB, $199 version with an impressive 7-inch HD display ($50 more for 32 GB). I like it, despite encountering a few snags and not getting near the 11 hours of battery life Amazon touts for mixed use, under a much harsher test.

The 8.9-inch-display models that are slated to come out Nov. 20 fetch $299 for 16 GB, $369 for 32 GB or $499 for 32 GB plus speedy 4G cellular wireless to complement the onboard Wi-Fi. The $499 price (or $599 for 64 GB) is a veritable bargain next to the $629 starting price for...

9/13/2012 1:01:02 AM
In case you haven't heard by now, Apple is unveiling its latest iPhone [today]. That leaves the question: What should you do with your old one?

The new phones will join some 244 million iPhones sold since the first one launched in 2007. Some have been lost or stolen. Some of us are still hanging on to our old gadgets in some futile attempt to resist the constant upgrade cycle that technology companies are forcing on us.

But it's fair to say that millions of iPhones are languishing in desk drawers or gathering dust. Here are a few things to do with yours to keep it from meeting that fate once you buy the iPhone 5.

1. Give it to your kids, so they stop taking yours

Every parent, aunt and uncle knows that no toy in the history of toys has ever been as appealing to a kid as an iPhone. They are shiny, they have games and grown-ups use them for important things. More importantly, they are either off-limits or doled out in limited quantities as a reward for, say, sitting still for a minute. Load up your old iPhone with games and give it to a deserving child in your life.

2. Or to your mom, so she can finally see the light

Alternately, if a Luddite adult has been thinking of taking the plunge into the world of smartphones, your old iPhone may help him or her get over the hump. If you have an iPhone 4 or 4S, you might also find someone who's still hanging on to an earlier model and give them the gift of an upgrade. You may just buy a friend for life (or at least until iPhone 6 comes out).

3. Use it as a teeny-tiny iPad

You'll be able to watch videos, send email and search Wikipedia...

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