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Monday, July 30, 2012

Mouse Gestures for Windows 8

Apple in 2008 started the gesture craze for traditional point-and-click PCs, but gestures will be more important than ever for PC users when Microsoft rolls out the touch-centric Windows 8 in October.
Sculpt Touch MouseWedge Mouse To prepare its customers for the touch-based revolution, Microsoft on Monday unveiled a new set of gesture commands and associated hardware designed to make it easier to get around Windows 8 with a mouse. The navigation techniques will work with the new keyboard and mouse peripherals that Microsoft developed specifically for Windows 8 devices. The software drivers for some older input devices may be updated to also support the gesture commands.
If you are already using Microsoft's Touch Mouse, introduced for Windows 7 in 2011, the new Windows 8 gestures should feel somewhat familiar; however, there are a few changes that may take some getting used to.

Fingering Windows 7

2011 Touch Mouse If you've never used Microsoft's Touch Mouse for navigating Windows 7 here are the basics: one finger lets you scroll up and down or side to side. Two fingers up maximizes a window, two fingers down minimizes, two fingers to the right or left snaps the current window to that side. Three fingers up shows you all your open windows similar to Mission Control in OS X, and three fingers down shows the desktop. You can also use a thumb gesture to move backward or forward through applications--a handy feature for going back and forth between Web pages.
If you are already own the Microsoft Touch Mouse, Microsoft previously announced that your device will be getting a software update later this year to work with the new gestures for Windows 8 systems.

Touching Windows 8

Charms bar Windows 8 gestures follow the same basic principles as Windows 7 finger movements: one finger manages content and two fingers manage apps (formerly windows). Similar to Windows 7, a one finger slide lets you scroll in any direction. A one-finger flick lets you scroll more quickly--a good way to get to the next screen of app tiles in the Start Screen. You can also use the thumb to move backwards or forwards through an app just like in Windows 7.
Microsoft's new set of gesture commands (click to enlarge) A two-finger slide to the left displays the Windows 8 Charms Bar that includes quick access to Settings, the new Share feature, connected devices, search, and the Start Screen. A two-finger slide to the right lets you switch through open apps.
Sliding two fingers up or down shows an app's commands. Presumably, sliding two fingers up in the Metro version of Internet Explorer 10, for example, would bring up the address bar and the open tabs menu.
The biggest change for gestures in Windows 8 is the three-finger slide to zoom. Instead of using three fingers to show all your open windows or show the desktop (neither of which makes much sense in the full screen Metro UI), three fingers up zooms in and three fingers down zooms out. It's not clear if this behavior is system-wide or if the three-finger slide in the traditional desktop will behave the same as it did in Windows 7. It's also not clear if there will be a snap feature using gestures as Windows 7 had.

Touchy History

Apple's Magic MouseSince Apple introduced the Magic Mouse in 2009 (and touchpads before that), supporting touch-based gestures in the traditional point-and-click mouse has become more important. But users have generally either loved using gestures or absolutely hated them.
I'm predicting Microsoft's new touch gestures for Windows 8 will become very handy for most of us, largely because the alternatives for switching among apps or getting to the Charms Bar require you to rely on finicky hot corners or learn a bunch of keyboard shortcuts. Given the alternatives, gestures will be your best friends for navigating Windows 8.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Project Meshnet

Imagine an Internet without censorship, an Internet built out of like-minded peers and secure connections. Born out of the r/darknetplan Reddit community's dream of developing a truly free Internet, Project Meshnet may sound like something straight out of a science-fiction novel but it's actually an idea that is slowly coalescing into reality.
The idea behind Project Meshnet is almost unexpectedly simple. In fact, there's an introductory video that explains the concept in just a few short minutes. For those interested in a slightly more technical explanation, however, here's a quick rundown: Project Meshnet works because of CJDNS, a routing engine that forwards "packets" to nodes--that is, devices on the network--for further processing instead of asking nodes that have an ID similar to that of the target's.
According to the Project Meshnet Wiki, CJDNS was designed "so that every node is equal; there is no hierarchy or edge routing." Sounds a lot like a peer-to-peer network, doesn't it?
It continues:
"Although nodes are identified with IPv6 addresses, cjdns does not depend upon having IPv6. Currently, each node connects to a couple other nodes by manually configuring links over an IPv4 network (The Internet). The ultimate goal is to have every node connected directly by physical means; be it wire, optical cable or radio waves."
Funky, huh? It gets better. While still very much in the alpha stages, an experimental network by the name of Hyperboria, a network that apparently bears a resemblance to the "internet of the late 1980s," is already in place and currently supports services like Uppit (a Reddit clone) and even a Minecraft server.
If you want to learn more, you can check out the Project Meshnet site.

By Cassandra Khaw, PCWorld    Jul 27, 2012 10:10 AM

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Google Unveils Superfast Internet

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Encouraging residents here to rally each other, Google on Thursday unveiled the highly anticipated details of its new ultrahigh-speed Internet network, which is supposed to run 100 times faster than typical broadband connections.
The service, known as Google Fiber, will offer residents in selected parts of the metropolitan area in both Kansas and Missouri the option of purchasing the gigabit Internet service for $70 a month or both the Internet and a television service for $120 a month. The TV service, Google said, comes with a Nexus 7 tablet that serves as a remote.
The announcement, made in a plaza on the Kansas-Missouri state line, is Google’s venture into a world of broadband providers who have looked skeptically at the company’s effort. Some have branded it a publicity stunt that will do little to advance the country’s broadband agenda. Typical broadband providers undertake the costly task of providing service to millions of homes, while Google’s prototype will reach far fewer customers – the initial round here is available to about 170,000 homes.
But Google executives said they were hoping to bring Internet speeds up to date with existing technology, noting that the current average household broadband speed was only slightly faster than it was 16 years ago when it was first introduced in homes.
“The next phase of the Internet, the next chapter of the Internet is written here today,” Patrick Pichette, Google’s chief financial officer, said in an interview after a presentation that included video demonstrations.
Mr. Pichette and other Google executives were noticeably coy about whether the model announced on Thursday would be expanded nationwide. Instead, they said they were focusing on maximizing the product in Kansas City.
“We believe the Internet should give these high speeds to everyone in the U.S.,” Mr. Pichette said. “It’s about making it available. Our showcase is here.”
Milo Medin, the company’s vice president of access services, said the technology and technical capacity were available to create this product on a global scale, but economics, such as the cost of constructing the fiber network in communities, presented a barrier. Asked whether the company planned to expand to other communities, Mr. Medin said, “Stay tuned.”
The new network will operate at speeds of one gigabit per second, Google said, which means that downloading a full-length movie or sending 3-D medical images will take only a few minutes.
Analysts say Google wants to provide such high-speed Internet to flex its muscle in Washington, where policy makers have been criticized for being slow to deliver national broadband, and for the simple business reason that the more people use the Internet, the more people use Google.
Google has divided parts of Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., into various “fiberhoods,” and asked people in each of those areas where the service will be available to register, and pay a $10 deposit, if they are interested in acquiring it. The areas that draw the most registrants over the next six weeks will be the first to have access to the service in the fall. All fiberhoods that get enough homes (generally between 40 and 80) to register will get the service by the end of next year.
The hope is to create grass-roots excitement, with residents encouraging their neighbors to register for the service so that they can be among the first to get it. Google has said it will also wire community hubs such as hospitals, schools and libraries in the neighborhoods that register the most people.
The company also has offered people in wired areas the option of obtaining a free 5-megabit-per-second broadband connection, but they will have to pay a $300 construction fee.
Fiberhoods are currently in Kansas City, Kan., and central Kansas City, Mo. They will eventually be expanded to northern and southern Kansas City, Mo., Google said, but a timeline has not yet been announced.
To illustrate the difference between typical broadband and Google Fiber, Mr. Medin said that if two cars left Kansas City for New York at the same time, the one traveling 100 times faster would reach New York before the other car even left Missouri.
The details were unveiled more than a year after Google announced that Kansas City had beaten about 1,100 other cities that applied to be the first to be wired with the new broadband service. The contest set off a flood of gimmicky efforts to attract the company’s attention – from Topeka, which changed the name of its city to Google for a month, to Madison, Wis., which created a “Google Fiber” ice cream flavor.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Malware Invades Apple's App Store for iOS

Windows users can't catch a break with viruses, even when they're getting software for their Apple device. An app called "Instaquotes Quotes Cards for Instagram" was found to contain a worm called "Worm.VB-900," which isn't a threat to iOS itself or any other MacOS platform. However, users who tend to their apps with a Windows machine are susceptible to the baddie -- also known affectionately as Mal/CoiDung-A. Any antimalware should detect it since it's been up to no good since 2009, but Cupertino has already pulled the app and the vendor is working on a virus-free version. Just goes to show -- if you're on a PC, it pays to watch out for worms when you bite into a strange Apple.

By posted Jul 25th 2012 10:29AM

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lenovo IdeaTab S2110

Lenovo's 10-inch IdeaTab S2 was one of the belles of its CES ball in offering a distinctly Transformer Pad-like experience for those not beholden to ASUS' view of the world. While there wasn't much attention given to the Android 4.0 tablet outside of the FCC filing we saw last month, it's getting its time to shine at last: the device is now sitting on Lenovo's virtual shelves as the S2110. The 10.1-inch slate's selling point remains its (strictly optional) keyboard dock, which supplies a trackpad, an SD slot, USB and 10 extra hours of battery life to keep that movie marathon going. Even if you have no intention of constructing the Gobot to ASUS' Transformer original, though, the S2110 is still a big leap over the so-so S2109 from the spring. A 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon APQ8060A, a rear 5-megapixel camera and a landscape 1,280 x 800 screen are all incentives to pay the premium over the S2110's budget predecessor. Not that there will be much of a premium to pay -- despite setting a $449 official price, Lenovo is already discounting the S2110 to as little as $343. That's low enough to lure the cost-conscious away from the Transformer Pad elephant in the room, even if it reminds us of relatives that always bought us the cheaper robot toys when we were kids.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mega Spam-Spewing Grum Botnet Finally KO'd

Security researchers have dealt a knockout blow to Grum, one of the most prolific spam-distribution botnets.

Command-and-control servers in the Netherlands were taken out on Monday, but that still left zombie control nodes in Russia and Panama up and running. According to security researchers, pressure was applied on a Panamanian ISP hosting a botnet-linked server to clean up its act or risk losing upstream connectivity. The tactic worked by Tuesday, apparently, but that still left the Russian motherlode as well as secondary command servers hosted in Ukraine, a country that's been something of a safe haven for cybercrime in the past.

According to researchers, after some lobbying, the plug was pulled on the Ukrainian hosted servers. Meanwhile, action by an upstream provider null-routed the Russian-hosted node, despite a reported unwillingness to heed complaints by GazInvestProekt, the local ISP.

"All the known command and control (CnC) servers are dead, leaving their zombies orphaned," Atif Mushtaq, a researcher at network security and malware intelligence firm FireEye, announced on Wednesday. FireEye worked with other security researchers at Spamhaus, the Russian Computer Security Incident Response Team and elsewhere on the takedown operation.

Grum was the world's third-biggest botnet and responsible for 18 per cent of global junk mail around the time of its takedown, or 18 billion spam messages a day. The zombie network has been around for around five years and most often associated with rogue pharmacy and fake Rolex spam. Estimates vary but the number of infected drones on its network may number 800,000 or more. The stream of crud is rapidly drying up, according to FireEye.

"According to data coming from Spamhaus, on average, they used to see around 120,000 Grum IP addresses sending spam each day, but after the takedown, this number has reduced to 21,505," Mushtaq writes. "I hope that once the spam templates expire, the rest of the spam will fade away as well."

The Grum takedown operation follows similar exercises against other junkmail distribution networks such as Srizbi, Rustock, Ozdok and Cutwail. The latest case is noteworthy because it showed that even ISPs within Russia and the Ukraine can be pressured to end their cooperation with bot herders. "There are no longer any safe havens," Mushtaq concluded.

 By John Leyden

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Microsoft Launching Windows 8 on October 26th

The title says it all, folks -- Microsoft's newest operating system will hit the masses starting on October 26th, nearly three years to the day after the launch of Windows 7. Just days after the company previewed Office 2013, we're now told that Steven Sinofsky has affirmed the date at MS's annual sales meeting, but it's not clear if that's a global date or one reserved for the US market. Customers will be able to grab Win8 as an upgrade or in new, unmolested form on that date, and you can bet we'll have a review out to coincide. For now, our in-depth look of the Release Preview will have to tide you over.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Microsoft Office 2013 Customer Preview

Microsoft provided PCWorld with two Windows 8 tablets (no, not the Surface) and access to the customer preview versions of both Office 2013 and the cloud-based Office 365 ahead of the formal announcement.

We'll be publishing our first impressions of the software this week, kicking off the series with this look at how the software suite runs on laptop, desktop touchscreen, and tablet platforms.
In this story, PCWorld Senior Editor Michael Brown first gives his impressions of working with Office 2013 and 365 on a laptop and a desktop PC. Contributing editor Tony Bradley then writes about his tests of the new products on a tablet PC.

Office 2013, Office 365 on a Laptop and a Desktop PC

I spent most of my time with Word and Excel on a laptop and on a desktop all-in-one equipped with a touchscreen. As expected, Microsoft is tying Office 2013 and Office 365 tightly to its SkyDrive cloud-storage service.
You're free to use other services, but I suspect that this integration will lure plenty of Office users away from their paid accounts on Google, Dropbox, and SugarSync. If you buy a version of Microsoft's new software and sign up for a Microsoft Live account, you'll get 20GB of free storage in SkyDrive.
Ofiice 365 Preview: settings screenThe Ofiice 365 Preview settings screen.
Both Office 2013 and Office 365 offer largely the same user experience, but Microsoft is clearly steering its customers toward the cloud-based version. The company is also marketing Office 365 to consumers for the first time, rather than strictly to businesses.
Purchase the traditional boxed copy of the software, and you get a license to install the software on one device. You can also use Office 365 on any computer or tablet, but that won't be very useful if you find yourself somewhere without your usual computer and without Internet access.
Buy a subscription to Office 365, and you get licenses to download and install Office 2013 on up to five devices (right now, the list of compatible devices is limited to PCs and tablets running Windows 7 or Windows 8, though Microsoft says Office 2013 for Mac will be available by the time the final software is released).
And, as with the boxed copy, you can stream Office 2013 to any PC or tablet running Windows 7 or Windows 8. Microsoft has not yet announced pricing for either product.

The New User Interface

Word 2013
The Office 2013 user interface isn't markedly different from the one in Office 2010: The ribbon remains front and center, though the text and the icons inside it are a bit larger and are spaced farther apart. These changes take better advantage of large monitors and touchscreen displays. Nevertheless, the ribbon isn't too big for an average laptop display, even with the addition of two new tabs: Design and Developer (actually, the Developer tab is present in Office 2010, but it's hidden by default).
If you're familiar with the ribbon user interface from Office 2007 and Office 2010, you’ll feel right at home with Word 2013.
Though I've used a number of all-in-one computers with touchscreens over the past few years, I don't use the touch interface very often. Perhaps I'm just a creature of habit, but it doesn't feel natural to take my fingers off the mouse to stab them at icons on the screen (or maybe my fingers are just too fat to be accurate). In any event, though I tried hard to use the ribbon with my finger, I kept returning to the mouse. The UI delivers more benefits on tablet platforms, but it doesn't feel any less natural when used with a mouse.

New and Cool Word Features

Microsoft has made a number of cool, interesting, and very useful improvements to Word 2013.
The Embed PDF feature in Word; click for full-size image.
The Embed PDF feature in Word.On the usefulness front, you can now import a PDF directly into Word, edit it as a Word doc, and then save it as either a Word doc or a PDF. Not only do imported files retain all of the original documents' formatting--including headers, columns, and footnotes--but elements such as tables and graphics can be edited in Word as such.
Import a PDF file containing a table, for example, and you can edit the table just as though you had created it in Word from scratch. You can also embed a PDF file in a Word doc.
Microsoft expects that people will want to save all of their files to the cloud. Your SkyDrive account is listed first, then Another cool feature is the ability to connect to online resources and bring them inside your documents. For example, you can use Bing to search the Web for videos, without leaving Word, and then embed the HTML code for that video in your document.
Saving files to the cloud; click for full-size image. Link your SkyDrive account to your Flickr account, and you can jump to your online photo collection and embed photos directly in the document--again, without ever leaving Word.
Embedding a screenshot from an app running on your PC is even easier: Click Insert > Screenshot, and a window with thumbnails of every window open on your desktop will become visible. Click the image you want, and it will appear wherever your cursor is.
When you embed an image or a video in a document, you can grab that element and move it around the document and watch as your text automatically reflows around it in real time.

Word Collaboration Features

When you're collaborating with other people on a document, being able to track the changes that each person makes is critical. This becomes much easier to do in Word 2013, thanks to a new feature called simple markup view.
A red vertical line in the left margin indicates that changes have been made to the document, while a word balloon in the right margin indicates the presence of a comment. Click on the vertical line to reveal both the edit changes and the comments; click on the word balloon to show just the comments.
Microsoft has also added a new viewing mode, called Reader. When you view a document in this mode, each paragraph has a small triangle in front of it. Click the triangle after you've finished reading its associated paragraph, and the paragraph will collapse so that more text will appear, without your having to scroll to another page.
I haven't had time to explore every new feature of Word 2013, but I like what I've seen so far. It looks as though Microsoft has significantly improved the application, adding some great new features without mucking anything else up in the process. Nevertheless, my opinion at this stage is based on very limited time with the product.

Excel 2013

Excel's Flash Fill; click for full-size image.Like the new version of Word, Excel 2013 feels fresh yet comfortingly familiar. Microsoft has added several new whiz-bang data-analysis tools, including one called Flash Fill. When you take an element of data that you've already entered in one column and enter it in a second column, Flash Fill will predict that you intend to do that for every value in the second column, and will offer to fill in the second column for you accordingly.
Excel's Flash Fill feature will notice patterns in your data entry, predict what you intend to do next, and then offer to fill in the rest of the data for you.
Microsoft provided a sample two-column spreadsheet to demonstrate how this feature works. The first column contained email addresses in which each person's address was formatted as first-name.last-name@domain-name. The second column was to be used to store each person's first name.
Though that isn't the most realistic scenario imaginable, it works. You establish the reference example by typing the first name of the first person in the email address column; then, as you begin typing the second person's first name, Excel predicts that you want to do the same for every other value in the first column and offers to do just that automatically. Press the Enter key, and the second column automatically fills with first names.
Excel’s Quick Analysis tool.Colors and symbols can help you analyze data more quickly, and Excel 2013's new Quick Analysis tool uses these elements to identify and highlight trends and changes. Select the rows and columns that you wish to have analyzed, click the icon that appears in the bottom right corner, and choose the conditional formatting that suits your needs. Instead of looking at rows and columns of gray numbers, you'll instantly see a spreadsheet formatted with color scales, bars, and icons.
Excel’s Quick Analysis tool automatically suggests conditional formatting that will help you visualize data locked in your spreadsheets.Charts and graphs provide another easy way to visualize data, and spreadsheet software has long permitted users to generate charts and graphs based on the data they enter into its rows and columns.
Excel 2013's new Quick Analysis tool will automatically suggest the most appropriate types of graphs--bar, pie, scatter, and so on--based on the data set that you select.
My early impressions of Excel 2013 are about as favorable as my corresponding impressions of Word 2013. Microsoft seems to have introduced some solid new features without imposing a difficult learning curve. Take that, ribbon haters.
We'll take a closer look at Outlook, Powerpoint, OneNote, and the rest of the suite soon.
--PCWorld Senior Editor Michael Brown

Office 2013 and Office 365 on a Tablet: First impressions

Microsoft is betting heavily on the idea that tablets are the future of PCs. Like Windows 8, Office 15 was built from the ground up to take advantage of a tablet's unique features, while at the same time addressing the limitations of the touchscreen interface for creating content.
I ran Office 15 through its paces on a Samsung Series 7 Slate PC running Windows 8 Consumer Preview to see how well it performs on a tablet. Bear in mind that this tablet runs Windows 8 Pro, not Windows 8 RT, and that Office 2013 and Office 365 differ from the Office for RT apps that will be available on ARM-based Windows 8 tablets.
Microsoft has done a great job of making the tools and functions of the various Office applications accessible from a touchscreen interface without lessening the capabilities. For example, holding your finger on a misspelled word will pull up Office's list of possible corrections; and holding your finger on virtually anything brings up the options you'd normally find by right-clicking a mouse.
Word's functions on a tablet screen.Microsoft did a nice job of fitting all of Word's functions into the screen space of a tablet.I did sometimes find that the options on the ribbon interface were hard to tap. The buttons are a bit small for my fingers, and you can't pinch-to-zoom to enlarge the ribbon in Office 2013. On the other hand, you can make the ribbon bar disappear to maximize the area available for your document--in both Office 2013 and Office 365--which is nice.
The Office 2013 suite I installed on the tablet included Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access, Lync, and a couple of bit players. The only apps available within Office 365, however, are Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Outlook exists in Office 365 as well, but the option was grayed out on the software I worked with.
One thing that I like about working with Office on the tablet is more a function of Windows 8 and/or the hardware its running on than of Office itself. The touchscreen virtual keyboard is sensitive and fluid enough to allow me to type at very nearly full speed. Also, tapping the symbols and numbers button brings up an actual number pad, which is much more efficient for entering figures in an Excel spreadsheet.
That said, it was a little annoying to have to tap the keyboard icon at the bottom of the display to open the virtual keyboard. It would have been nice if Office applications had recognized when I tapped on a text field, and responded by automatically opening the virtual keyboard. Perhaps, though, Microsoft wanted to respect the limited screen real estate of the tablet and let users navigate documents without having the keyboard pop up all the time.
Overall, the experience is solid. Using it differs from using a mouse and keyboard with a traditional PC, but it's a functional arrangement. Microsoft has obviously invested a lot of thought and effort in ensuring that the tablet experience that Office offers is worthy of the Microsoft Office name.

By Michael Brown, Tony Bradley, PCWorld

Friday, July 13, 2012

NBC Goes for the Gold

Olympics aficionados, rejoice. NBC Olympics—the broadcast network’s sports division handling coverage of the London 2012 Olympic Summer Games—rolled out two free mobile apps on Thursday aimed at helping you enjoy the Games, either independently or on a second screen.
Of the two apps, NBC Olympics Live Extra is the more compelling and noteworthy release: It’s your passport to bringing the Games right to your mobile device. You’ll be able to live stream more than 3,500 hours of content, encompassing the opening and closing ceremonies, all competitions in each of the 32 Olympic sports, and all 302 medal events.

According to NBC, the “majority” of the coverage is only available to cable, satellite, and telecom customers who subscribe to television services that include both CNBC and MSNBC, so if you’ve already cut your cable cord, you’re out of luck with the NBC Olympics Live Extra app. NBC uses Adobe Pass to validate your TV subscription service, so you can use its app and online-based Live Extra service. (Both of NBC’s Olympics apps, in fact, were created in partnership with Adobe.)
More than 200 cable operators support the authentication technique used by NBC Olympics Live Extra, including Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox, DirectTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. You’ll only need to sign in once throughout the Games on a given device, but you’ll need your account username and password from your provider to use this service. (For reference, WatchESPN, a live sports streaming app from cable network ESPN, handles sign-in in a similar manner.) The same thing goes for using NBC Olympics Live Extra services through its Web streaming coverage, which will be another way to see the same live coverage of what’s going on in London without waiting for the primetime “packaged” broadcasts.
One of the coolest aspects to Olympics Live Extra will be the ability to see multiple concurrent streams for some sports, such as gymnastics, track and field, and tennis. Want to watch what’s happening with Team Russia on the uneven bars rotation instead of Team USA on the floor exercise? No problem. You’ll also be able to choose different camera angles, though NBC’s initial announcement doesn’t mention which sports will get this multistream treatment.
Live streaming is great, but what if you want to relive that golden moment, time and again? Sadly, we’re not quite at a point where we can record the content for future viewing directly on our mobile devices. However, in addition to supporting pause and 30-second rewind on the live streams, Adobe says NBC’s app will also have cloud-based video-on-demand content. Each event has specific rules for when recordings will be made available, and for how long these events will be available for viewers. Not every event will be archived in its entirety, though, and NBC Sports is still making the determination about what content is available. It’s not the holy grail of digitally preserving Olympics coverage, but it is a start.
You’ll be limited to enjoying the content on your smartphone or tablet; output control for TV is not enabled in the app, likely due to rights issues. NBC Olympics Live Extra, and its companion app NBC Olympics, will work on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch for iOS, and on “select” Android phones and tablets. (You can find NBC Olympics and NBC Olympics Live Extra on Google Play.) NBC did not specify the requirements for the apps to work on Android, but we're working on getting a list from Adobe. We can report, though, that the apps do not work right now on the new Google Nexus 7 tablet, and we've seen reports of other tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, not working either.
The other app released Thursday—NBC Olympics—aims to be your up-to-the-minute multitasker’s backstage access to all things Olympics. This app complements what you’ll see on NBC’s nightly primetime broadcast, with supplemental information, Facebook and Twitter integration, and a Primetime Companion with slideshows, polls, trivia, videos, and athlete bios that are synced to what’s on air. The app will also offer standard fare like live results, event schedules, TV and online listings, and news.
The two apps are tightly interconnected and immersive, so you can switch seamlessly among the two.
As presented, the NBC Olympics Live Extra app sounds terrific, even if it falls short of what the ultimate Olympic junkie’s ideal may be for viewing and capturing the action. It also sounds like it will deliver on many of the promises that didn’t quite come to fruition four years ago with NBC’s ambitiously planned Silverlight-based Web coverage of the Beijing Olympics.
Once the Games get underway, I’ll follow up with a report on how the apps work in practice, as opposed to theory.

Thursday, July 12, 2012 3:30 PM

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Yahoo Confirms Server Breach

Online account security breaches are seemingly commonplace these days -- just ask LinkedIn or Sony -- and now we can add Yahoo's name to the list of hacking victims. The company's confirmed that it had the usernames and passwords of over 400,000 accounts stolen from its servers earlier this week and the data was briefly posted online. The credentials have since been pulled from the web, but it turns out they weren't just for Yahoo accounts, as Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, Comcast, MSN, SBC Global, Verizon, BellSouth and login info was also pilfered and placed on display. The good news? Those responsible for the breach said (seen below) that the deed was done to simply show Yahoo the weaknesses in its software security. To wit:
We hope that the parties responsible for managing the security of this subdomain will take this as a wake-up call, and not as a threat. There have been many security holes exploited in Web servers belonging to Yahoo Inc. that have caused far greater damage than our disclosure. Please do not take them lightly. The subdomain and vulnerable parameters have not been posted to avoid further damage.
In response, Yahoo's saying that a fix for the vulnerability is in the works, but the investigation is ongoing and its system has yet to be fully secured. In the meantime, the company apologized for the breach and is advising users to change their passwords accordingly. You can read the official party line below.
At Yahoo! we take security very seriously and invest heavily in protective measures to ensure the security of our users and their data across all our products. We confirm that an older file from Yahoo! Contributor Network (previously Associated Content) containing approximately 400,000 Yahoo! and other company users names and passwords was stolen yesterday, July 11. Of these, less than 5% of the Yahoo! accounts had valid passwords. We are fixing the vulnerability that led to the disclosure of this data, changing the passwords of the affected Yahoo! users and notifying the companies whose users accounts may have been compromised. We apologize to affected users. We encourage users to change their passwords on a regular basis and also familiarize themselves with our online safety tips at

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ouya's $99 Android-Based Gaming Console

The gaming public at large has spoken. In less than 12 hours, Yves Behar's Android-based Ouya gaming console has reached its lofty funding goal of $950,000 on Kickstarter. To refresh your memory, the $99 system (which was only $95 for 1,000 swift early adopters) packs a Tegra 3 CPU, 8GB of storage, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, a USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot -- that price also grants you a single controller with a touch sensor. Most notably, the system is aimed at being extremely developer-friendly, having open hardware and software with a push for free-to-play content. There are only about 5,000 units (out of 10,000) left at the $99 price, so feel free to check out our in-depth chat about Ouya with Behar himself here before you head over to Kickstarter. It appears that the traditional business model for gaming consoles just got rocked, and we can't wait to see the final results.

By   posted Jul 10th 2012 4:59PM

Monday, July 9, 2012


Alt-week peels back the covers on some of the more curious sci-tech stories from the last seven days.

This week we swing by some superhero news, look at how solar panels might shape up in the future, explore a Lego forest and see how to grab dark matter just using some household gold and strands of DNA. Not only that, we discover how the sun likes to celebrate the fourth of July with its own firework display. This is alt / week
DNP Altweek 772012
While the majority of the science community had its eyes firmly fixed on one elusive atomic unicorn, small steps were being made in finding another -- dark matter. Scientists have hung a lot of theory on this invisible peg, and its very nature is also what makes it hard to find. After all, how do you find something that neither emits nor absorbs light? Well, as it happens many great minds are trying to figure that out, and one of the latest approaches comes with a bunch of cunning.
The coordinated effort involves University of Michigan's Katherin Freese and Harvard's George Church, along with some DNA and some gold. Obviously. The gold is laid out in a thin sheet, with the DNA hanging below it in threads, and the idea is that the clumsy dark matter will collide with the gold atoms, forcing it out of the sheet and cutting through the DNA like grass. As each strand of DNA has an identifier, this also means the trajectory can be worked out. Simple.
DNP Altweek 772012You know who else's DNA got messed up? That's right, Spider-man. With the latest installment in the movie franchise hitting cinemas this week, we were pleased to find out that directors have been consulting scientists directly to sharpen up their in-film academia. What now? In short, rather than have a theater full of tutting students, directors are consulting people like James Kakalios (author of The Physics of Superheroes no less) to make sure they create "a believable fake reality." Want to know exactly what that entails? Well the short answer is entertaining on-screen physics based on laboratory truths. For the slightly longer, yet no less interesting answer, tune your spidey sense to the video below.
Us mere mortals might never get radioactive powers, but we can distil energy from the sun, and that's pretty heroic. This week we saw a new study come to light that could lead to the improvement of photovoltaic (PVT) solar systems. Although PVT panels can provide both heat and power, they're much better suited to the latter. To address this imbalance, Joshua Pearce from Michigan Technological University, along with Michael Pathak and Stephen Harrison outlined a solution that uses amorphous -- or thin film -- silicon. Despite being lighter, cheaper and greener, this type of silicon suffers from the "Staebler-Wronski" effect, where efficiency declines in light. No good for solar panels obviously.
The new study, however, discovered that by heating the thin-film silicon to about 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit) which is the solar-thermal operating temperature, the Staebler-Wronski effect was largely negated. A further 10 percent increase in efficiency was achieved by spike annealing -- essentially baking -- the cell once a day. This means that the thermal energy created by PVT panels is improved, and it also means that, in the future, they could be used for both purposes, meaning less roof-top real estate, and a happier planet (and possibly wallet).
DNP Altweek 772012
From one hot topic, to another: solar flares. This week, of course, many of us were enjoying fourth of July celebrations. reports that the sun has been putting on its own fireworks display, with impressive flares being seen firing off from sunspot AR1515. The eruptions registered in as a class M5.3 solar storm (with X being the only class higher). The sunspot responsible is about 100,000 kilometers long (roughly eight times the earth's diameter,) and the flares come at a particularly active phase of the current 11 year solar cycle, -- which is expected to peak next year. So, compared to that, San Diego's "display" this year might look relatively tame.
DNP Altweek 772012
DNP Altweek 772012While the sun's energy is generally considered good for most trees, we're not sure the ones you see below will react in quite the same way. Broken Hill -- a small mining city in Australia -- has suddenly found itself surrounded by forest. Not just any old arboreal collection either, these trees are of the rare "life-size Lego" variety. All part of Lego's Festival of Play celebrations, the jumbo plastic installation will be in place between July 2nd and the 12th. The models are "1:1 replicas" of the stuff you buy, but "super-sized by a factor of 66" says Lego. The group of 13-foot tall pines are accompanied by 15 flower sets, and cut a distinctive contrast against the baron red soil of the outback. Most impressively, it's reported that locals were surprised to see the new synthetic landscape upon awaking one morning, and were apparently unaware of the stunt.

By posted Jul 8th 2012 4:30PM

DNP Altweek 772012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

DNSChanger Malware

Thousands of PCs worldwide may be unable to access the Internet beginning July 9 unless those machines are rid of the pernicious DNSChanger malware that first surfaced in 2007. The Federal Bureau of Investigation helped shut down the criminal ring responsible for DNSChanger in late 2011. The federal agency then briefly handled the Internet Domain Name System routing for all infected Mac and Windows systems.
Since early 2012, the Internet Systems Consortium, a nonprofit corporation, took over DNS routing responsibilities from the FBI. But that courtesy is coming to an end Monday, and if your computer is one of the thousands still infected, you need to fix your machine so you can keep getting online.

What did DNSChanger Do?

DNSChanger rerouted infected computers through servers controlled by a criminal ring based in Eastern Europe. The malware did this by taking advantage of the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS) service. Think of DNS servers like phone books for the Internet. These servers turn the plain text Web address that you enter into your browser, such as, into a string of numbers. These numbers are known as Internet Protocol addresses (PCWorld's is and computers use them to connect to one another and get around the Internet. IPs are assigned to home and business Internet connections and every website you visit.
DNSChanger Malware Set to Knock Thousands Off Internet on MondayIt should be pretty clear that DNS is not something you want to have intercepted by criminals. Any time they want, criminals who control how your computer uses DNS can do malicious things such as reroute your computer to fraudulent websites. Once there, the sites can try to download more malware to your computer or attempt to harvest data such as login credentials.
DNS changing was only one of the malware's functions, according to the DNSChanger Working Group, a consortium of companies, universities and other institutions helping to deal with the impact of DNSChanger. The group says it's also possible DNSChanger could have also been capturing keystrokes (known as keylogging).
As of June 11, the group detected DNSChanger infections from more than 300,000 unique Internet Protocol Addresses worldwide. Nearly 70,000 of those unique IPs originated in the United States. An Internet Protocol address counts as one main connection to the Internet, but can include multiple PCs behind one IP.

How to Know if You're Infected

If your computer is infected with DNSChanger and you've recently visited Facebook or Google, then you've probably seen warnings about your system being infected with DNSChanger. Both services are posting notices to systems infected with DNSChanger and offering advice about what to do about the infection. Your Internet Service Provider may have also notified you about an infection.
DNSChanger Malware Set to Knock Thousands Off Internet on MondayAnother way to find out if you're infected is to visit one of several detection websites set-up by the DNSChanger Working Group. These sites will not require you to download any extra software or scan your hard drive. If you are infected, the site will be able to immediately detect it and notify you.
The bad news is that DNSChanger doesn't just go after PCs, but can also infect your router. That means you may visit a malware detection site from any PC in your home and all will register as being infected even though your router is really the culprit.
If you want to be absolutely sure your computer is clean, you can check your PC's DNS settings without relying on a third-party website. PCWorld's tutorial “Protect Yourself From DNSChanger” has detailed instructions on how to do this for PCs and Macs.

What to Do if You're Infected

If you've determined that your PC is running DNSChanger malware, there are several things you can do. The DNSChanger Working Group has a list of free removal tools from major computer security firms including Kaspersky, McAfee, MacScan, Symantec and Trend Micro, as well as a Microsoft tool.
Before you use any of these tools, you need to backup your personal files. The DNSChanger Working Group also suggests that infected users might be better off switching to a new PC if they were already thinking of upgrading their current system.
Another option, and perhaps the safest bet if you're sticking with your current PC, is to backup your files, reformat your hard drive and reinstall your OS. Check out PCWorld's guide to reinstalling Windows for more information.
If you determine that your router is infected, contact your Internet Service Provider for help.
DNSChanger may not be that widespread anymore (this year infections were detected at half of all Fortune 500 companies). But if you've got DNSChanger on your system, you have to deal with it this weekend before the Internet goes dark for you Monday.

By Ian Paul, PCWorld    Jul 5, 2012 7:08 AM

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Windows 8 Upgrade Push

Microsoft is offering users running Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 an offer to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99.
Microsoft officials shared details about the latest promotion on July 2 on the Windows Team blog.
That's substantially cheaper than Microsoft traditionally charges for "upgrade" versions of Windows. With Windows 7, Microsoft charged users roughly $119 to $219 (estimated retail prices) to upgrde from comparable versions of Vista to 7.
The coming offer, available through, is good in 131 markets, according to today's blog post. Windows Media Center can be added for free to this bundle through the "add features" option after the upgrade. (Microsoft officials have said previously that Windows Media Center would be a low-priced add on to Windows 8 Pro.)

Those purchasing the Windows 8 Pro upgrade through also will have the option of purchasing a backup DVD for $15 plus shipping and handling.  Those preferring to buy from a local store will be able to purchase a packaged DVD version of the upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $69.99 during this promotion period.

This upgrade promotion for Windows 8 Pro both online and at retail runs through January 31, 2013. It commences as of the general availability of Windows 8, confirmed a tweet from a Microsoft public relations rep.

Microsoft officials announced recently another Windows 8 upgrade promotion -- the $14.99 Windows 8 Upgrade offer available to those purchasing new Windows 7 PCs between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013.

Microsoft officials also disclosed officially the supported upgrade paths for Windows 8 in a fairly general way in today's post (thanks @TheRackow). I posted late last week more complete information that has been shared privately with select individuals about the upgrade options available to XP, Vista and Windows 7 users for Windows 8.
Microsoft officials have not said publicly when Windows 8, in its four or so various flavors, will be generally available. The latest rumored release-to-manufacturing dates for Windows 8 are now centering around July 2012, with the rumored general-availability date expected by many to be in October 2012.

Update: By the way, upgrades are not the main way most users get the latest version of Windows. Far from it. Most -- both consumers and business users -- tend to wait until they are getting new PCs preloaded with a new version of Windows, rather than take the time and trouble to upgrade their existing PCs.

By Mary Jo Foley for All About Microsoft |

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sony S-Series XQD Memory Cards Hit Speed Record at 168MB/s

Sony's new S-Series XQD memory cards will be the fastest you can buy when they arrive on the Japanese market July 11th, with a transfer speed of 168MB/s -- a boon if you're shooting continuous raw photos or high data rate HD video. The company claims that you'll need a Thunderbolt connection on your computer to take advantage of all that speed, which comes via the PCI Express Gen interface used for the memory cards. The 32GB and 64GB models will also have plenty of space to put all that media, but you'll need to pay for the privilege, to the tune of $503 and $754, respectively. Of course, those prices may not be an issue if you've already plonked down the coin for one of the few devices that support them.

By posted Jul 2nd 2012 7:59AM