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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Younicorn: turn anyone into a unicorn with your iPhone

by Jay Hathaway

Of all the novelty photo apps we've seen on the iPhone, Younicorn might be the weirdest. It turns anyone into a glowing, psychedelic unicorn, and it's based on the simple philosophy that everyone looks better with a long, pointy horn growing out of their head. Younicorn is to photos what Cornify is to websites, but better.

There are several backgrounds to choose from, including sparkles, rainbows, and an array of space-themed scenes. You can place anyone - even your dog, which I find totally hilarious - into one of these backdrops, and position a glowing horn on their forehead. All this magic can be yours if you have enough rubies for 99 cents in the app store!

For extra Younicorn fun, check out a video of the Younicorn team enacting a real-life version of their app, after the jump.


Original here

Iranian hacker attack: What will it cost Twitter?

Hacker attacks cost public companies $1.6 million in lost share value. For Twitter, it's the firm's reputation that's at risk.

After a hacker attack in August, college student Joy Troy checked a Twitter page at the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles. A new attack by hackers Dec. 17 redirected users to a page from a previously unknown group called the Iranian Cyber Army.

By Laurent Belsie Staff writer

Thursday night's cyber attack against the Twitter microblogging service was no routine assault to bring down a website. It was a sophisticated online blitz –perhaps part of an online Iranian cybercampaign – that could prove costly for social media networks.

Skip to next paragraph

Why It Matters

As cyberspace becomes militarized, cyberattacks against social-media websites are expected to escalate. Find more of our stories on Twitter.

Unfortunately, such attacks are expected to escalate around the globe.

"There is an arms race in cyberspace occurring today," writes Ron Deibert, a cyberwarfare researcher at the University of Toronto, in an e-mail. "The United States, Russia, and China all have adopted operational doctrines in cyberspace that include computer network attacks such as these. In such a climate of intense militarization, I believe attacks such as these are going to become more common. Services and platforms like Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook will be regularly targeted for filtering, denial of service attack, defacement, and targeted espionage – as they have already with increasing frequency from China to Iran to Russia and Pakistan."

Most computer attacks are relatively straightforward denial-of-service attacks, where computers overwhelm a website with data to bring it down. Thursday night's attack against Twitter was more serious because the hackers gained access to part of Twitter's network and were able to redirect users to a page with a photo of a flag with Farsi script. Near the top of the page ran a bold red headline in English: "This site has been hacked by Iranian Cyber Army."

Hackers for several days have attacked the websites of opponents of Iran's regime and posted the same image. The opponents have used social-media sites like Twitter to organize street protests this year. (For a look at the breadth of those cyberattacks, click here.)

But hacking a site as large as Twitter is an embarrassing setback for the fast-growing social-media network.

"Attacks are very damaging to a social-network company like Twitter because they cripple its main function, the exchange of messages among members, its reputation, and its future profitability," writes Nicholas Economides, an economics professor at New York University's business school. And "the ability of hackers to get inside the company's computers is alarming and it raises privacy concerns for its members."

If Twitter were a large public company, news of a security breach would bring down its market value by an average 2.1 percent – or about $1.65 billion within two days, calculates Huseyin Cavusoglu, an information-systems professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. Since Twitter isn't yet public, the main risk is damage to its reputation.

"Attacks like this can definitely raise concerns about the security of Twitter, which in turn, can reduce the prospects for a successful IPO," Professor Cavusoglu writes in an e-mail. "This is more of a concern for Twitter because it suffered from similar service outages and interruptions in the past."

It's not clear that the attack was officially launched by Iran's government. Professor Deibert notes "a disturbing pattern of 'privateering' occurring in cyber conflicts today, whereby authorities contract out or otherwise encourage acts of 'patriotic' hacking. There is a potential in such encouragement for escalation to occur – a kind of cyclone in cyberspace – whereby bystanders and outsiders are drawn into the conflict and take it in unexpected directions."

For Web-based networks based on trust and friending, this is a chill wind in cyberspace.

Original here

Where in the world are Apple's 78 million handsets?

Posted by Philip Elmer-DeWitt

Mostly in the U.S., but Japan, France, Australia and China are coming on fast, says AdMob

Click to enlarge. Source: AdMob

By the end of December, according to Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, Apple's (AAPL) will have sold 78 million iPhones and iPod touches worldwide.

So where, exactly, are those devices?

A report issued Friday by AdMob, the world's leading supplier of mobile ads, tries to map the location of Apple's handsets country by country based on the number of users who requested at least one of its ads in November — a number that increased 150% in 2009.

Among the highlights of its findings:

  • In November, 50% of unique Apple visitors were located in the United States. The next four biggest markets were the U.K., France, Canada and Germany.
  • In total, 23 countries had more than 100,000 unique Apple visitors.
  • 50% of unique Apple users were located outside of the US, up from 39% in January 2009.
  • The iPhone accounted for 71% and the iPod touch 29% of the total unique Apple users in November. In raw numbers: 18.0 million iPhones; 7.3 million iPod touches; 25.2 million total.
  • The fastest growing countries between January 2009 and November 2009 were Japan, France, Australia and China. See the bar graph below.

Source: AdMob

AdMob describes itself as the world's largest mobile advertising platform, serving banner and text link ads on 15,000 mobile Web sites and iPhone and Android applications. Its reports are based on handset and operator data on nearly 138 billion impressions. They do not, however, measure mobile markets in the traditional sense of number of handsets sold. And they have a bias toward devices like the iPhone and Droid that visit ad-supported websites and also run ad-supported apps.

Original here

Thursday, September 17, 2009

10 Worst Tech Product Releases

Have you ever witnessed first hand a product flop so severe that you have to wonder – “what the heck were they thinking?” Chances are you have seen at least one that makes you wonder about the intended market. And you’ve seen the product go down in a flaming meltdown that makes the Hindenburg seem like a practical transportation idea.

While we hate to point fingers and laugh at someone else’s misfortune… here are 10 of the worst product releases (or at least our favorites). As a warning to others – be more sensible than trendsetting, else you may end up as an example.

1. Vista – How could they get this one wrong?


windows_vista-19-logo
Vista was the heir apparent to the XP kingdom. When you are the largest Operating System provider in the world, with hardware basically designed for your wares, how could you do wrong in the latest and greatest? You just had to keep doing what you were doing, and make it nicer. Seemingly simple, right?

Well, Vista proved to be none of that. Instead it was marketed as a revolution in computing. Now, why would Microsoft need a revolution? Everything was working great up to that point, and the market was already theirs. Instead, the battle was almost lost, and driver problems along with hardware incompatibilities left way too many users out in the cold.

By the time the dust settled Microsoft was peddling upstream in yet another confusing ad series featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates himself. At least I think it was a commercial – I really couldn’t tell if it had any real point. I would have written someone to ask what was going on, but my printer was not compatible with Vista.

After it was all over Microsoft basically had two things to say – It wasn’t as bad as Windows ME, and Windows 7 will be out soon. But at least Microsoft had done something that Apple had not been able to – they sold a lot of Mac computers to hardcore Windows users as frustrated people abandoned the platform.

2. Virtual Boy – 30 minutes of fun at a time.

Virtual_boy

Nintendo was the king of portable gaming at the time when it launched its latest darling, Virtual Boy. Obviously aimed at the Gameboy market, the device was to deliver exciting 3d virtual games for the masses. How could you miss this market, especially since the man behind it was legendary developer Gunpei Yokoi (he had a hand in Donkey Kong and Mario Bros, as well as the Gameboy itself).

By the time the expensive (for a Gameboy market) Virtual Boy hit the market, it had a meager lineup of games for it. While this in itself may have been corrected in time, users complained of headaches from using the device. Nintendo released a warning to consumers that they should take 15 minute breaks after using the device for 30 minutes. This raised an alarm to the parents of potential younger buyers, and it proved to be enough fodder to avoid the expensive purchase.

The outcome? Virtual Boy was a flop. And after 30 years with Nintendo, Gunpei Yokoi was forced out of the company only to die in an automobile accident a year later.

3. Gizmondo – the portable gaming unit that was ahead of its time

gizmondo-4

Sometimes a product comes along that seems to be a herald of the future. Tiger Telematics seemed to have hit a winner when you read the spec sheet of the new gaming wonder – including a 128-bit processor, digital camera, music AND movie player, and even a built-in GPS. How could you miss?

The product suffered from being too much with too little. The battery life was simply too short to make it worthwhile and the screen was small for its overall size. On top of that, the marketing was askew, with two versions being sold, without ads or with. That is, if you took the lower price unit you would get small ad spots on the screen downloaded via the unit’s GPRS radio. The ad system, named Smart Adds, failed to materialize, and it served to confuse the market even more.

Tiger Telematics also blew the launch with an announcement of a forthcoming wide screen model, so buyers that were interested held off for the larger screen version (which never made its way to production).

When the smoke cleared, the device failed to get a foothold, and Tiger Telematics went bankrupt. However, in 2008 the Gizmondo 2 was announced from the newly reformed company, and a launch date of May 2008 was announced. As of this writing (September 2009), there is no new solid information on the device and it has not been released.

4. Motorola ROKR E1 – Apple Testing the iPhone Waters?

motorola-rokr-e1

Before Apple had the iPhone, it had a little experience with cell phones. That is, Motorola released the ROKR E1 that was fully supported by iTunes, including downloading music directly. Given that iTunes was the largest computer distributor of music, and there was no other compatible phone at the time, it should have been a perfect fit. But the marriage didn’t work out, and the ROKR fell to the wayside.

What was wrong? Well, the ROKR simply did not have the PDA pedigree to keep the relationship strong. The phone could only hold a paltry 100 songs, forcing the power iTunes user to have to do some serious debating about which tunes to take with them. Downloading to the phone was such a slow process that they had plenty of times to reconsider their choices (as well as to run a few errands), which did not help. On top of that, when the phone played music it was so sluggish with other operations that it was a pain to use.

The ROKR E1 was soon abandoned, but it may have been a catalyst in Apple eventually producing the iPhone. Lessons learned taken to heart?

5. Nokia N-Gage – A case of mistaken identity

Nokia_N-Gage

If anything, recent history has shown us that cell phones and gaming are a strong combination. People like to carry one device that can do many things, and the rise in pocket(able) horsepower makes this a reality. So when a giant of cell phones such as Nokia releases a combination early on, it should get attention.

Well, it did get attention – perhaps of the worse kind. The phone offered the gamer a way to talk on their Gameboy replacement, but the taco shape proved to be very unfriendly to anything but game playing. To hamper the gaming, the buttons were designed for a cell phone. The device did not excel at either gaming or talking.

Add to that a very weak game library, and the N-Gage device soon went the way of the Betamax. The N-Gage name itself did not, and it evolved into a gaming download service for many cell phones starting in 2008.

6. Apple Hockey Puck Mouse – Even Less Mighty than the Mighty Mouse

AppleHockeyPuckMouse

Apple is no exception when it comes to releasing turkeys, and they have yet to deliver a quality mouse product in my opinion. However, the Mighty Mouse’s shortcomings look rather nice when compared to the Hockey Puck disaster.

The original iMac mouse, round in shape that all too well resembled a hockey puck, fit the hand about like, well, a hockey puck – not well at all. Any attempt to actually get comfortable with an awkward hand position was cut short by a cord that was way too short.

To sum it up, it looked nice, but it did not work well with actual human hands.

7. QuickTake – Early Digital Camera That Did Not Deliver

Quicktake200

While we are talking about Apple products, let’s mention one that missed its mark for the simple reason that the mark had not been defined yet – The Apple QuickTake.

Apple’s strategy, at least with their latest products, seems to be simple enough – let the market get established, and then release a more refined, easier to use product. This is the case in the iPod and the iPhone. When Apple tries to establish the market (Newton), it fails. And so it was with Digital Photography.

The Apple QuickTake, actually manufactured by Kodak, featured an under-whelming 0.3 megapixel image. But even with this small pixel count, the unit could only hold 8 of these pictures in its memory. It was hardly a replacement for any kind of real camera, unless you planned on taking very few pictures on your vacation. But given the picture quality produced with the 640×480 resolution, we could not blame the end user for keeping it to a few pictures.

Fixed focus and a complete lack of zoom helped to bury the camera in the eyes of consumers, and not even an enhanced 200 model built by FujiFilm could salvage the product. When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 he wasted no time in pulling the QuickTake from the Apple shelves.

8. CueCat – Forced upon the Masses

cuecat

Back before typing in WWW was commonplace, someone came up with the ideal of linking the printed magazine to a website with a piece of hardware. Enter the CueCat.

The ideal was that the reader would buy the magazine, read an article, and then take the article to the computer, swipe the CueCat wand on a special slanting barcode within the article in question, and it would read the special barcode and take them to a website about said article.

Obviously the ideal of simply typing in a printed URL was considered to be beyond the magazine reader. (I wonder what they would think about the reader doing a little quick Google research on the topic at hand?)

CueCat mailed literally hundreds of thousands of these devices to subscribers of popular magazines, free of charge and branded by the magazine. In fact, about half a million were sent to Wired subscribers alone.

Now, let me ask you this – if the user is savvy enough to hook up the device and install it on their computer, don’t you think that they would be more than capable of typing in a URL if they wanted more information? Apparently that was the case, and today, if you dig deep enough in any major landfill, you will probably unearth a few hardly used CueCats.

9. The Original DIVX Disc – A very Non-Green Solution to Digital Distribution

OriginalDIVXDisc

The now-defunct Circuit City thought they had a winner with the Digital Video Express. The ideal was simple – you rented a DIVX disc for $4 (which resembled a DVD), and you could watch it for 48 hours. After the 48 hours the disc was rendered inoperable, and instead of returning the disc you could simply chuck it in the nearest landfill where it would linger for any number of years.

But it wasn’t the disposal of the disc that caused its demise – rather it was the product itself. To use the disc you needed a special DIVX player that connected to the mother ship via a telephone line.

The title selection was also rather limited, and the quality was not great. Many titles were available in only pan-and-scan, and special features were often limited to a single trailer. Paying more for less did not gel with the consumer base, and soon the experiment became a 114 million dollar write off for the (then) electronics giant.

10. Cuil. The search engine that was not to be.

cuil_front-500x310

Okay, technically Cuil is not a “product”, but was so bad it deserves to be here.

The PR on this one was strong. Even such big blogs of the time as Huffington Post was speaking its praises. So what went wrong – outside of perhaps a name that was rather irksome?

Well, it takes more than buzz to have a good product. You actually need a good product to provide some form of service. On its launch day Cuil was down throughout the day. Many excited users would see only a sign about overloaded capacity. So, maybe the PR was a little too good? Or maybe the PR and the tech guys lived on different planets, and the tech guys were completely out of touch with the demands? Little word of advice here – if you plan on taking on Google, have the capacity to handle even a small percentage of their user base.

Not to mention Cuil also had erroneous search results – not the thing you want from your search engine. And the name had issues all around it. People were not sure how to spell the “cool” sound-alike and if you accidently typed in culi.com you landed on an Italian porn site.

So there you have it – ten product releases that didn’t measure up.

There are many products that we enjoy in our everyday life. But for each one that is successful, you can find many others that fail. Whether it is a fickle public or lack of research on the part of the producer, one thing is certain – there will be new products all the time, and many of these products will not survive the test of time. And some will be doomed from the start.

What do you think is one of the worst tech product releases ever? Do you have one that’s not on our list? Please share it with us.

Original here

Opera Mini 5 Beta Brings Tabs, Speed Dial, Better Performance


by Stan Schroeder

Opera Mini, the Java-based mobile browser from Opera (Opera) (which means it can run on any phone, regardless of platform, that runs Java ME), has a new version out: Opera Mini 5 Beta.

It brings a number of improvements compared to the previous major version, Opera Mini 4.2; if your phone is not an iPhone (which uses the fantastic Safari (Safari) for web browsing), you should try the new version out, as it blows away most built-in mobile browsers.

The most important new feature is tabbed browsing; I’ve tried it out on my Sony Ericsson P1i, and it looks really slick, taking cue from the way it’s done on the iPhone. Fans of Opera’s Speed Dial feature (which lets you quickly open your favorite websites from a grid of thumbnails) will be happy to see that it was included as well. I’ve never used that feature before, but I have to admit that on a phone like the P1i, being able to quickly access 9 sites that you often use is great.

Other important new features include password management, and better optimization for touchscreen phones, meaning that at the bottom of the screen you now have larger icons for important commands: back, forward, refresh, tab management and settings. There’s also a very functional virtual keyboard for entering text, something that was sorely missing in the previous version.

What everyone probably wants to know is: are the web pages displayed better, and is it faster than the previous version? The answers are yes, and yes. When it comes to web page rendering, although Opera Mini 4.2 was already miles ahead of the built-in mobile IE, it still wasn’t the perfect browsing experience. On the new version, it’s comparable to the iPhone, which is pretty much the highest praise I can give it. As far as speed goes, it feels snappier, although not drastically faster than before. But, when it comes to speed, any improvement is very welcome.

If you want to try Opera Mini 5 beta out, visit the address m.opera.com/next using your phone’s default Web browser.

Original here




Friday, August 14, 2009

Judge: Microsoft Banned from Selling Word in the US


by Pete Cashmore

Welcome to the world of surprising patent lawsuits. A Texas judge ruled Tuesday that Microsoft cannot sell Word – yes, Microsoft Word, the cornerstone of Microsoft Office – in the United States.

Toronto-based i4i Inc won an injunction against Microsoft regarding the company’s XML patents. In the words of i4i, the injunction “prohibits Microsoft from selling or importing to the United States any Microsoft Word products that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML”. Microsoft has been given 60 days to comply, reports Seattle PI.

The injunction reads:

Microsoft Corporation is hereby permanently enjoined from performing the following actions with Microsoft Word 2003, Microsoft Word 2007, and Microsoft Word products not more than colorably different from Microsoft Word 2003 or Microsoft Word 2007 (collectively “Infringing and Future Word Products”) during the term of U.S. Patent No. 5,787,449:

1. selling, offering to sell, and/or importing in or into the United States any
Infringing and Future Word Products that have the capability of opening a .XML,
.DOCX, or .DOCM file (“an XML file”) containing custom XML;

2. using any Infringing and Future Word Products to open an XML file
containing custom XML;

3. instructing or encouraging anyone to use any Infringing and Future Word
Products to open an XML file containing custom XML;

4. providing support or assistance to anyone that describes how to use any infringing and Future Word Products to open an XML file containing custom XML;

and

5. testing, demonstrating, or marketing the ability of the Infringing and Future
Word Products to open an XML file containing custom XML.

This injunction does not apply to any of the above actions wherein the Infringing and Future Word Products open an XML file as plain text.

Needless to say, Microsoft won’t pull Word off the market. The company has said it plans to appeal, and i4i actually sells XML products for Word, making that company reliant on the ecosystem. An agreement will be reached: probably one involving Microsoft signing a big check.

Original here

Apple, AT&T sued for lack of MMS capability

By Mike Magee

A class action started in a Louisana district court alleging that Apple and AT&T touted the iPhone as supporting MMS (multimedia messaging service) but have not as yet provided the service.

The plaintiffs allege that Apple "advertised heavily that the new version of iPhone, the 3G, as well as the even newer version the 3G-S would allow MMS. Apple's print and video advertisements in and on television, the internet, the radio, newspapers and direct mailers all touted the availability of MMS." AT&T advertised the same functionality, the filing says.

But since the launch, in the USA, such functionality is not yet available. The court filing says the AT&T Answer Center page said: "Customers who are sent a MMS message and own a non-MMS capable device will receive a text message instead of an actual MMS message."


But, the filing alleges: "AT&T is not a carrier which offers MMS! Of course, AT&T is the only carrier in the United States used by the iPhone. In other words, AT&T's towers do not support MMS."

Apple, says the filings, has revealed that AT&T has never upgraded its towers so as to support MMS functionality. "The only excuse offered by AT&T and Apple is a mouseprint disclaimer on the website, in barely readable font, which reads 'MMS Support from AT&T coming in late summer'".

The class action suit alleges the Louisana suit will consist of at least 10,000 individuals. The action is brought both under the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act and other Louisiana civil codes.

Original here

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Yooouuutuuube Puts YouTube on LSD

YouTube LogoThere are some pretty cool add-ons and tools for YouTube: in fact we wrote about more than 100 of them in our YouTube Toolbox. Some are fun, some useful and some - like the tools to download YouTube videos - aren’t necessarily legal.

But the YouTube tool that’s got people buzzing this week is just plain out of this world. Yooouuutuuube.com lets you put tens, even hundreds, of YouTube videos into rows and columns, creating an utterly trippy experience. Just enter a YouTube (YouTube reviews) video ID and frame width for each “piece” of the mosaic, and Yooouuutuuube will generate a video grid.

The best example: view this 36 by 36 column Alice in Wonderland masterpiece…and be warned that either your computer, mind, or both may be pushed to the max.

See also: Top YouTube Videos


youtubealiceinwonderland

Original here

Report: AT&T to cut iPhone service plan by $10

by Marguerite Reardon

AT&T may slash the price of its iPhone service plan by $10 when a new version of the touchscreen smartphone is launched this summer, according to a story on TheStreet.com.

The article cited analyst Michael Cote of Cote Collaborative saying that there is a "strong possibility" that AT&T will drop the entry-level price of its service plan to $59 from $69. Apple is expected to unveil the latest iPhone on June 8 during the company's World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

(Credit: Apple)

AT&T declined to comment for this story, and Michael Cote did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview.

The price cut would likely help make the iPhone, which now retails for $200 with a two-year service plan with AT&T, more appealing to more mainstream customers. I've been saying for quite some time that the biggest hurdle to widescale adoption of the iPhone or any other smartphone in the mainstream market is the high price tag of the service contracts.

Consumers have shown that they are willing to pay anywhere between $100 and $200 for a sophisticated smartphone device. But the monthly service charge, which starts at $69 for the iPhone, is much harder to swallow.

It puts the real cost of the iPhone 3G over the life of the two-year contract at a whopping $1,856, which includes the price of the 8GB phone and 24 months of the most basic iPhone voice and data plan. It doesn't include the activation fee or taxes and other fees associated with the account. For subscribers who need more voice minutes or unlimited texting, the price tag is even higher.

Still, a $240 reduction in the overall cost of the phone over the life of the contract could entice some cost-conscious consumers.

AT&T and Apple have slashed the price of the iPhone twice already. The first version of the device introduced nearly two years ago was originally priced at $599 for the 8GB version. A couple months after the release, Apple reduced it to $399. When the new iPhone 3G was introduced, AT&T subsidized the cost of the phone and offered it for $199 with a two-year contract. The price cut likely helped the companies sell about 17 million iPhones last year, compared to about 4 million devices in 2007.

For the most part, Apple and AT&T have managed to keep the subsidy and sale price of the iPhone constant over the past year, while other carriers and smartphone makers have been forced to slash prices to attract customers.

Only a month after it hit the market, T-Mobile's G1 started selling for $148 from Wal-Mart. And three months after it launched the Storm, Verizon Wireless started offering a special buy-one-get-one free promotion that allowed customers who bought any BlackBerry device, including the Storm, to get another one free.

But as competition heats up in the smartphone market, AT&T and Apple could be forced to address the affordability issue to gain new customers. This is especially true as Research In Motion's consumer-focused BlackBerry Curve surpasses the iPhone in sales. And with the Palm Pre also set to launch in early June on Sprint Nextel's network, Apple and AT&T will face even more competition.

Marguerite Reardon has been a CNET News reporter since 2004, covering cell phone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate, as well as the ongoing consolidation of the phone companies. E-mail Maggie.

Original here

Pirate Bay Founder Devises DDo$ Attack



Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm (aka anakata) recieved a bill for the 30 million SEK that he, along with Peter Sunde (aka brokep), Fredrik Neij (aka TiAMO), and Carl Lundstrom, was fined in the verdict of the Pirate Bay trial just over three weeks ago. The bill inspired anakata to devise a plan involving sending money to Danowsky’s law firm, but not to pay the fine of course which they say will never be payed. Anakata’s clever plan is called internet-avgift, internet-fee in English. Anakata encourages all Internet users to pay extremely small sums around 1 SEK (0.13 USD) to Danowsky’s law firm, which represented the music companies at the Pirate Bay trial. The music companies will not benefit from this, instead it will cost them money to handle and process all the money.

The plan can be called a Distributed Denial of Dollars attack (DDo$). The plan is an away-from-keyboard DDoS attack. DDoS attacks involve lots of users overloading the victim with internet traffic damaging their ability to provide services. Money, instead of Internet traffic is used in this case. The victim is Danowsky’s law firm which represented the IFPI at the Pirate Bay trial.

A friend of anakata told Blog Pirate that the bank account to which the payments are directed has only 1000 free transfers, after which any transfers have a surcharge of 2 SEK for the account holder. Any internet-fee payments made after the first 1000, which includes the law firm’s ordinary transfers, will instead of giving 1 SEK, cost 1 SEK to the law firm. Since Danowsky & Partners Advokatbyrå is a small firm, all the transactions are handled by hand. Handling all payments will be time consuming, costing the law firm in productivity. Maybe it will even affect their success in other cases.

Make direct payments to
Danowsky & Partners Advokatbyrå KB. Plusgiro 79 31 21-5.

Additionally if after paying the internet-fee you determine that your payment was erroneous, Swedish law states that you can request the money back, putting an additional load on Danowsky’s law firm.

Since the Pirate Bay crew was provided with such clear, logical, and well explained methods for calculating the damages in the trial, an explanation on how the internet-fee was calculated is provided. Use the formula below, substituting anything anywhere, to check that the internet-fee really is 1 SEK.formel

The name internet-avgift, as well as the layout of the site is based on tv-avgift and they layout of its site. Radiojanst, a state owned company, is responsible for collecting TV license fees in Sweden.

Original here

10 Free Linux Ebooks For Beginners



Last time we did a free book collection 2 years ago it was a hit among Linux users and rightfully so, who doesn’t like free books? No matter how experienced you are with Linux systems, there is always something new you can learn from a good book that focuses on specific aspects of a Linux system. While our old list was an ‘OK’ list, it wasn’t structured properly and most of the links are broken by now. This time we tried to make a list of free books by categories. “Beginners”, “Advanced” and “Administrators”.

This is the first part of the series, in the near future we will have a list for “Intermediate and Advanced Linux Users” and “Linux System Administrators”. If you have any suggestions feel free to share them with us in the comments.

1) Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide

Author: Machtelt Garrels
Format: HTML

2) Bash Guide for Beginners

Author: Machtelt Garrels
Format: HTML

3) Rute User’s Tutorial and Exposition

Author: Paul Sheer
Format: HTML

4) The Linux Starter Pack

Author: Paul Hudson
Format: PDF

5) FLOSS Manuals

Author: FSF
Format: HTML & PDF

6) The Easiest Linux Guide You’ll Ever Read

Author: Scott Morris
Format: PDF

7) Linux Knowledge Base and Tutorial

Author: James Mohr
Format: PDF

8) Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference

Author: Keir Thomas
Format: PDF

9) Linux Newbie Administrator Guide

Author: Peter and Stan Klimas
Format: HTML

10) Slackware Linux Basics

Author: Daniël de Kok
Format: HTML

Original here

15 things you need to know about Windows 7

windows-7-uac

Windows 7 provides various ways to help reduce the number of UAC alerts

Windows 7 has been making headlines for a few months now. If you've read one or two of the stories and reviews dedicated to it, you might think that you know about all that it contains: new touchscreen features, a revamped taskbar with larger thumbnail previews, Internet Explorer 8, easier networking and so on.

While that sounds reasonable enough, it's not exactly exciting. It might even have given you the impression that Windows 7 isn't very different from Vista. That assumption, however, would be a mistake.

The reality is that Windows 7 is packed with new developments – it's just that most people aren't talking about them.

Would you like to be able to defrag multiple hard drives at the same time, or create a sandboxed PC user account for your kids so that they won't be able to mess up your Windows or program settings any more?

What about working with – and even booting from – virtual hard drive (VHD) files, the ability to encrypt USB flash drives to protect the data you're carrying, and tools for calibrating your display to ensure that you're seeing accurate colours and crisp, clear text? Windows 7 has all these features, and a whole lot more.

Security

1. Keep your PC clean

If you share your PC with less experienced computer users then you'll know the problems that can arise as they mess up your settings and unknowingly install dodgy software. Windows 7 can help you to avoid these problems.

Enable PC Safeguard on the kids' account and they'll be able to log on and play as normal – but when they log off , any settings they've changed are reversed, files they've saved are deleted and your hard drive is returned to its original state.

2. Restrict other users

If Safeguard isn't enough, try AppLocker. It gives you even more control, restricting users to only the programs you specify. It's able to automatically create rules for your installed programs, and other rules can be added in seconds.

3. Action Center

Windows 7 replaces the Security Center with the more all-purpose Action Center, which warns you of PC maintenance and back-up issues as well as potential security problems. It's prone to complaining if your security settings don't meet its approval, but at least now there's an effective solution.

If you regularly see messages telling you that you've turned the Windows firewall off , say, then you can choose to disable just those while leaving the more useful alerts active.

4. Tone down UAC

User Account Control irritated many Windows Vista users with its constant warnings that 'Windows needs your permission to continue'. Windows 7 improves the situation by displaying fewer warnings and providing additional UAC tweaks.

Tell the system not to raise warnings if you change Windows settings and you'll be able to use the Control Panel without any prompts. Alerts will only appear if a program tries to perform a similar action.

5. BitLocker to go

Encryption isn't just for hard drives anymore: the Windows 7 version of BitLocker can protect removable (and easily lost) devices such as USB flash drives, too.

Right-click the device in Explorer, select 'Turn on BitLocker' and then enter and confirm a password to protect your data from snoopers.

6. 'Run as' returns

Right-click a program in Windows XP and you'll see a 'Run as' option that allows you to run the program as a different user. This is very useful if you'd like to run an app that requires different privileges to your current account.

The option disappeared in Vista, but Microsoft has relented: hold down [Shift] while right-clicking a shortcut and you'll see that the 'Run as' option has returned.

7. Find and fix problems

Windows has always had plenty of troubleshooting tools, but they've been scattered around many different places. Windows 7 brings order to this situation by placing all of the most important troubleshooters in the new Find and Fix Problems applet, located in the Control Panel.

These fix common problems, check for incorrect settings, clean up your PC and more. Developers can create additional troubleshooters, too. You can read more about that at Within Windows.

8. The Problem Steps Recorder

As a knowledgeable PC user, it's likely that you're called upon to troubleshoot friends' computer problems, which can be tricky if they find it difficult to describe what's going on. Windows 7 has a handy tool to solve this problem.

If an application is misbehaving under Windows 7, all the flummoxed PC user needs to do is launch the Problem Steps Recorder, click 'Record' and work through whatever task they're trying to complete.

Every click and keypress that they make will be recorded, packaged up with screen grabs and saved into a single zipped MHTML file, ready for emailing to you. It's a simple tool that's going to save many people hours of time.

9. Extended System Restore functionality

System Restore has always been a very handy troubleshooting tool, and Windows 7 extends it in a couple of useful ways. A single click will now tell you exactly which programs and drivers will be restored or deleted if you choose a particular restore point, and there's now an interface that lets you configure the amount of disk space allocated to System Restore.

You can also decide not to back up Windows settings. This means that only files will be backed up, so you'll be able to squeeze more restore points into the available disk space.

10. Discover bottlenecks

If your Windows 7 PC seems sluggish, the new and extended Resource Monitor should help you to sort things out. It's like a more powerful version of Task Manager that not only shows you the processes running on your PC, but also reveals how they're using your CPU, RAM, hard drive and network.

A couple of clicks can show you who the biggest resource hogs really are.

11. DIY system discs

Windows 7 includes a new option to burn a bootable system repair disc. If your PC won't start, pop in the repair disc and it'll do its best to restore normal operations. There's no new technology involved – it's just a CD version of the Start-up Repair tools on your Windows Vista disc – but this functionality will be useful for people who never get a full Windows 7 DVD.

It's also safer to carry one of these around with your laptop rather than risk damaging or losing your original Windows disc.

12. Faster IE startups

Some heavyweight Internet Explorer add-ons can take a while to start. IE8 can help you spot the worst off enders.

Click 'Tools | Manage Add-ons', peruse the Load Time column and you'll immediately see which extensions are putting a brake on your browsing.

13. Simultaneous disk defrags

Ever wondered why you can't defrag both your hard drives at the same time? There's no reason why not – and now in Windows 7 you can through the command-line defrag tool. Other new switches run the defrag at a higher priority and provide regular progress reports. Enter 'defrag /?' in a command-line window to fi nd out more.

14. Multithreaded Robocopies

The command-line Robocopy tool also sees new optimisations, including an '/MT' switch that can improve performance by carrying out multithreaded copies (you can specify up to 128 threads).

Enter 'robocopy/?' at the command line for the full details, though Robocopy newbies should be aware that there are an enormous number of switches to examine.

15. Search connectors

Windows 7 adds support for search connectors. These are small configuration files that extend the Windows Search tool to include online resources. To add Flickr support, for example, visit www.istartedsomething.com/flickr search to download and open the connector.

This will add a Flickr Search option to your Searches folder, and you'll be able to search the site from within Explorer.

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Researchers hijack botnet, score 56,000 passwords in an hour

By Jacqui Cheng

Researchers hijack botnet, score 56,000 passwords in an hour

Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara have published a paper (PDF) detailing their findings after hijacking a botnet for ten days earlier this year. Among other things, the researchers were able to collect 70GB of data that the bots stole from users, including 56,000 passwords gathered within a single hour. The information not only gave them a look at the inner workings of the botnet, they also got to see how secure users really are when it comes to online activities. (Hint: they aren't.)

The botnet in question is controlled by Torpig (also known as Sinowal), a malware program that aims to gather personal and financial information from Windows users. The researchers gained control of the Torpig botnet by exploiting a weakness in the way the bots try to locate their commands and control servers—the bots would generate a list of domains that they planned to contact next, but not all of those domains were registered yet. The researchers then registered the domains that the bots would resolve, and then set up servers where the bots could connect to find their commands. This method lasted for a full ten days before the botnet's controllers updated the system and cut the observation short.

During that time, however, UCSB's researchers were able to gather massive amounts of information on how the botnet functions as well as what kind of information it's gathering. Almost 300,000 unique login credentials were gathered over the time the researchers controlled the botnet, including 56,000 passwords gathered in a single hour using "simple replacement rules" and a password cracker. They found that 28 percent of victims reused their credentials for accessing 368,501 websites, making it an easy task for scammers to gather further personal information. The researchers noted that they were able to read through hundreds of e-mail, forum, and chat messages gathered by Torpig that "often contain detailed (and private) descriptions of the lives of their authors."

(Comically, the report notes that 0.1 percent of Torpig victims love "exchanging insults" online, with another four percent spending their time looking for sex online. The rest are doing relatively mundane things like worrying about grades, looking for advice from doctors and lawyers, looking for jobs, and playing video games.)

Of course, the primary goal of Torpig is to steal financial information like credit card numbers and bank logins. In just ten days, Torpig apparently obtained credentials of 8,310 accounts at 410 financial institutions, including PayPal, Capital One, E*Trade, and Chase. The researchers noted, too, that nearly 40 percent of the credentials stolen by Torpig were from browser password managers, and not actual login sessions, and that the Torpig controllers may have exploited these credentials for between $83,000 and $8.3 million during that time period.

Interestingly, a large number of the financial institutions that had been breached required "monumental effort" in order to notify the victims, according to the report. In fact, financial institutions weren't the only ones—interacting with registrars, hosting facilities, and law enforcement were all "rather complicated," indicating that there's a long way to go in order to make notifying botnet victims easier.

Not becoming a victim in the first place is the most ideal situation, however. The researchers concluded that victims of botnets are usually those with poorly maintained machines and who choose "easily guessable" passwords. " This is evidence that the malware problem is fundamentally a cultural problem," reads the report. "Even though people are educated and understand well concepts such as the physical security and the necessary maintenance of a car, they do not understand the consequences of irresponsible behavior when using a computer."

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Firefox to get Multi-process Support?

Firefox to get Multi-process Support?

Firefox, the world's second most used browser, by the looks of it will soon receive an update that will add multi-process support.

By multi-process support we re talking about the similar feature seen in Google Chrome and IE8 that runs multiple, separate processes for each tab, which allows the browser to function without issues even when one tab has stopped responding or has crashed. This method of splitting processes increases stability and offers performance improvements as well.

As for why the speculation regarding multiprocessor support arose, that is because of a recent project that the Mozilla has initiated. The project is being co-coordinated by Benjamin Smedberg, who is a long time supporter of Mozilla. While little is known abut the project itself, we have a roadmap which suggests that we should be seeing a simple implementation of this in action by July this year.

That being the first phase, there will be three other phases post this, which will deal with the interactions between process types. The third phase will comprehensively test APIs for extensibility, accessibility, and performance. The fourth phase will deal with the final implementation and sandboxing.

Looking at how things are moving now, it would be at least an year from now when we would see a final release version of Firefox with multi process support.

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Windows 7 RC1: 10 Things You Need to Know

By matt buchanan

Windows 7's about ready to come out of the oven, and now everybody can shove their hands in the warm OS pie. And really, you should. Here's everything you need to know to dive in.

1. Where Do I Get It?
Right here! If you're at work, don't worry, you have until July to download it. From there, you'll need to burn the disc image to a DVD or copy it to a flash drive. From there, you can follow our guide to installing Windows 7 pain-free (or Lifehacker's, though I hear they smell like nerd feet). There's a guide for doing it on a Mac too.

2. Will It Run on My Computer?
Probably. It's run fantastically on netbooks for us, if that tells you anything. But here are the hard minimum specs:

• 1 GHz processor (32- or 64-bit)
• 1 GB of RAM (32-bit); 2 GB of RAM (64-bit)
• 16 GB of available disk space (32-bit); 20 GB of available disk space (64-bit)
• DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

3. Wait, Can I Upgrade My Current Windows Install?
If you're running Windows Vista, you sure can—it's designed to be easy to go from Vista to Windows 7, actually. It's a little more complicated with other types of Windows. You can upgrade your Windows 7 Beta install if you've got one, but it's not recommended, and takes a bit of skunkwork. You're out of luck with XP and any other older version of Windows, which is how it's gonna be with the retail version of Windows 7 too—though Microsoft has some tools to make it less painful, or you could take the long way around, just to say you did it.

4. Is It Safe?
It's very safe. Unlike Google, Microsoft seems to be using product cycle terms in their traditional sense, so the designation "release candidate" means it's a version that's got the potential to go final—as long as nothing majorly FUBAR is discovered—with just a few little bugs left for squishing. Besides, the Windows 7 Beta was pretty damn solid to begin with. And if you follow one of our guides to dual-booting it, then you've really got nothing to worry about.

All of your hardware should work just fine, especially if it worked alright on Vista, since we're talking mostly the same OS guts here, and Microsoft bent over backward to make stuff backward compatible with Vista. It's possible you'll need to grab drivers for your hardware or gadget straight from the manufacturer—or in the case of graphics cards from Nvidia or ATI, you'll want to for the best possible performance—but you should be able to just plug and play.

Still, back your stuff up! That's just common sense.

5. How Long Can I Keep It?
Depends on what you mean by that! It goes completely poof on June 1, 2010. But on March 1, it becomes basically unusable—it starts automatically shutting down every two hours like a dbag.

6. How Is RC1 Better Than the Beta?
Lots of stuff, actually. Just for starters, Aero Peek is better, and works with Alt+Tab now when you're flipping through programs. Windows Key shortcuts are more logical, so pressing Windows Key + [number key] switches between apps pinned to the taskbar, rather than just launching 'em. And things just feel smoother—more fade transition effects sprinkled throughout, for instance, and there seems to be a bit more snap to everything, like a carrot. If you like carrots.

7. What's This I Hear About XP Mode?It's true, Windows 7's secret new feature is XP Mode. It's a virtual Windows XP machine—complete with a fully licensed copy of Windows XP SP 3 installed on the virtual machine—that you can download which runs seamlessly in Windows 7, so you can do crazy things like run IE6 side-by-side with IE8. It's meant for businesses who need compatibility for mission critical XP-only apps.

Really, don't get too hung up on it—it's only for the Enterprise, Professional and Ultimate versions of Windows 7, not the Home Premium version you'll probably be running one day. (The release candidate is Ultimate, so you can toy around with it after downloading it here.) You also need a processor with either Intel Virtualization Technology or AMD-V and 2GB of RAM. And you can't really do anything intense like gaming inside of it. Oh, and fair warning, it's also probably one of the release candidate's glitchiest features. Image via Wikipedia.

8. Holy Crap, Microsoft Is Tripping on Acid!Yes.

9. What's Still Glitchy?
Uh, the aforementioned Windows XP Mode, for one. Some of our Steam games are still acting a little bit weird, notably with audio. Coming out of sleep can be wonky for OpenGL with UAC turned on. Occasional taskbar weirdness if you play around with the positioning. But all in all, fairly minor stuff, so far.

10. Why Should I Go Through All This Trouble?
Simply put, Windows 7 has been awesome. Whatever bad things you felt toward Vista—hate, fear, rage, apathy, bi-curiosity—Windows 7 probably solves your issue. The UI's evolved more than it has in years, you don't need to download a bunch of stupid codecs, it makes plugging in gadgets kind of fun, it's more secure and generally, life's just a lot better for anyone on a PC. While Microsoft says a pre-release shouldn't be your main OS, we're pretty sure it will be, almost instantly.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Deconstructing Apple's Tiny iPod Shuffle

By Arik Hesseldahl

When the first iPod graced store shelves almost eight years ago, it could pack about 1,000 songs into roughly the same space as a deck of playing cards. A new iteration of the digital music player called the shuffle packs the same number of songs into a space that's about the same size as your pinky finger.

There's not much else to the shuffle, released in March. There are no buttons, for instance—only a power switch that also controls whether songs are played in sequence or "shuffled," as the name implies. Other controls for playing and changing the volume have been moved off the device entirely and into the wire running from the headphones.

Nor is there much on the inside of the shuffle, as a teardown analysis of the device by market research firm iSuppli has found. Privately held iSuppli takes consumer electronics apart in order to estimate how much they cost to build. And while a teardown doesn't account for the costs of design, software, manufacturing, or shipping, these cost estimates help fill in the blanks toward estimating the profit on each device sold.

All told, the cost of the shuffle's components, the headphones, and the packaging it ships in comes to $21.77, according to iSuppli's estimates. That's about 28% of the device's retail price. The smaller the component cost as a percentage of price, the higher the potential profit. This suggests the per-unit profit margin on the shuffle is higher than on other iPod models. The component cost for the first iPod touch released in 2007, for instance, amounted to about $147, or about 49% of its $299 retail price. The component cost of the third-generation iPod nano, also released in 2007, amounted to about 40% of its retail price.

Who the Suppliers Are

Analysis by iSuppli also helps determine the makers of the components inside electronics devices. The big winner in the shuffle, says iSuppli analyst Andrew Rassweiler, appears to be South Korea's semiconductor giant Samsung. ISuppli examined the insides of the four-gigabyte shuffle, which goes for $79. The main application chip used in the device, controlling music and other functions, comes from Samsung and costs $5.98, Rassweiler says.

Samsung remains the king of Apple's silicon suppliers, at least for the iPod and iPhone family. It supplies the main applications processor on the iPhone 3G as well as for the iPod touch. And like the other Samsung chips used in Apple devices, the one in the shuffle is based around a core design licensed from ARM Holdings (ARMH), a British chip designer in which Apple used to be an investor.

Samsung also supplied the four gigabytes of flash memory, used primarily to store music, at a cost of about $6, Rassweiler says. Apple is likely to be using other suppliers in addition to Samsung for flash memory, including Japan's Toshiba (6502.T) and South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor. "It's almost like six dollars worth of flash memory tied to some flash and a battery and not much else," Rassweiler says. "It's very basic and downsized." Other suppliers of various parts include On Semiconductor (ONNN), NXP Semiconductor, and Texas Instruments (TXN).

From Tiny to Minuscule

The device contains a tiny lithium ion battery that costs $1.20, and that Rassweiler describes as "the smallest we've ever seen." And for a company that doesn't ignore the tiniest of details, the most mundane of components are the most advanced available. The device's so-called passive components—capacitors and resistors—are unusually small. Known by their numeric label 01005, which in electronics shorthand describes their dimensions in thousandths of an inch, they're about the size of a grain of salt and cost fractions of a penny each. But they're half the size of what had previously been considered the smallest device of their type, those labeled 0201.

It's just one of many ways that Apple continues to differentiate its products from the rest of the pack. "Until recently we didn't see passive components quite this small," Rassweiler says. "Here you see them working on the cutting edge, even on the passives." They also help save space inside.

The components themselves are too small to give even a hint of who made them, but typical suppliers include such companies as AVX (AVX), Vishay Intertechnology (VSH), Kemet, and Rohm (6963.T), Rassweiler says.

There are other costs in addition to components for which a teardown can't account: The time and efforts of software engineers and designers, industrial designers, manufacturing, distribution, royalties paid on patents owned by other companies, and so on. When it last reported earnings on Jan. 21, Apple said its gross margin, a key indicator for profitability that takes into account costs to make all its products, was 34.7%. The company also said it expects a gross margin of 32.5% in the quarter ended Mar. 30, for which it will report results on Apr. 22.

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Apple Privately Admits White MacBook's Notorious Crack Problem

By matt buchanan


And lo, the winged horse of the Apocalypse bounded through the sky: Apple is acknowledging the white MacBook's legendary hairline cracks along the bottom enclosure, and will actually fix it, regardless of your warranty.

An internal bulletin reportedly circulated last month to service providers points out four specific areas of the case that are especially to hairline cracking: the front, under the palmrests and trackpad, around the I/O ports, near back rear corners, and around the rear vents.

When examining your cracked out MacBook, if the service provider can't find any signs it's all your fault, the bulletin advises them to bump it for coverage by Apple even if the one-year warranty is up. As AppleInsider notes, this effectively reverses their previous policy of not covering repairs for the MacBook's bottom casing, which could suffer from cracking even under normal use.

Hurray for plastic MacBook owners But really, you should just get a unibody enclosure, it's made out of adamantium or something like that. Duh. [AppleInsider]

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iPhone 3.0 video recording interface, compass support spotted? (Update: voice dialing, too)

by Nilay Patel


iPhone OS 3.0 is riddled with hints that video recording is on the way, and the latest is is this supposed screenshot of a revised camera app with a video toggle. MacRumors says it comes up when certain config files are edited to make it seem like a video camera is present, but it's not clear exactly what steps have to be taken, so we're treating this one cautiously until we can confirm it. Other secret features buried in the plists are said to include "auto-focus camera," "voice control," and "magnetometer," which is assumed to be a compass. Yep, all stuff we'd expect from an iPhone revision around, say, June, but nothing earth-shattering -- and if the video features are as mediocre as the current iPhone camera, we don't think the Flips of this world have too much to worry about.

Update: Boy Genius Report has scored some other 3.0-culled goodies, including what appears to be voice dialing ("Voice Control" as they're calling it), a digital battery strength readout, and further evidence of video support. Beta 3, where are you?

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Bluetooth 3.0 prepped for launch on April 21

By Jacqui Cheng

Bluetooth 3.0 prepped for launch on April 21

Right on schedule, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group is preparing to launch the Bluetooth 3.0 specification on April 21. A list of chip-makers who are on board with the updated spec has not yet been made public, but it's expected to be available when the formal announcement is made later this month.

Bluetooth 3.0 will bring with it dramatically-improved file transfer speeds by using 802.11 technology (not technically WiFi, which is a certified version of 802.11 standards) that will enable the transfer of much larger files. The previous spec was fine for the transfer of more bite-sized data, like contact info or calendar items, but as mobile devices evolve to become our entertainment centers on-the-go, a speed improvement will certainly be helpful for transferring things like video and music collections.

For those curious, the Bluetooth 3.0 + High Speed standard works by using two compatible Bluetooth modules that coordinate a switch to 802.11 (without having to join a WiFi network) to move the bulk files. Once a file-transfer is complete, the devices coordinate a switch back to the slower and backwards-compatible 3.0Mbps rate of earlier Bluetooth releases, which consumes less power and bandwidth.

Once the new standard is announced by the Bluetooth SIG, it likely won't be long before we see devices with Bluetooth 3.0 built-in. Of course, when you have battery-sucking phones like the iPhone that need to be plugged in and synced every day already, there seems like less of a need for such high-speed file transfers, but everyone else using Bluetooth to sync files will no doubt be happy with the improvements.

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CompUSA Comes Back From the Dead

By Priya Ganapat

Compusa1

About three months ago, Loretta Alkalay, a retired Florida resident, wanted to get a new HDTV. So she decided to give the CompUSA near her home a try.


Yes, CompUSA. The once-bankrupt electronics retailer is making a comeback, with about 30 new CompUSA stores nationwide and a new strategy that includes aggressive prices, remodeled stores, improved lighting and in-store web access for comparison shopping.

"We have invented this idea of retail 2.0," says Gilbert Fiorentino, chief executive of the Technology Products Group at Systemax, now parent company of CompUSA. Fiorentino is also the founder of Tiger Direct, a web only electronics retailer and another subsidiary of Systemax. "Every screen in every CompUSA store is now connected to the internet and making buying a richer experience for customers," he says.

It was price that brought Alkalay the store. She wound up buying a 32-inch flat panel TV for $200 -- a real steal, she says.

"I had never heard of the brand. But given the price and size, I thought this is a great bargain," says Alkalay.

Once part of the big three electronics retail stores in the country, CompUSA filed for bankruptcy two years ago. It was not alone: High overheads and the inability to compete with low online prices forced companies such as Circuit City and Ritz Camera into bankruptcy, too. Meanwhile, online players such as Amazon, Buy.com and NewEgg have been growing.

But after a reorganization and a buyout in January last year by Systemax, a major electronics retailer, CompUSA is back in business.

The in-store web access may be the biggest gamble, since it raises the possibility that you might use a CompUSA floor model to find a better deal on Amazon.com for the very computer you're using to get that information.

Say you are in a CompUSA store trying to decide if that big plasma TV is the one you want. Just tap the keyboard in front of the screen and go online to check out the specs and reviews an even the recommended mounting brackets. There's also custom information for that particular store, such as how many are in stock.

"We do the same thing with laptops, desktops and monitors," says Fiorentino. "We are using tech to change the retail experience for the customer and giving them access to all the information on the internet anytime they want during the buying process." And there are no restrictions. Users can surf the internet, check their Facebook or even Twitter if they want, says Fiorentino.

It may sound like a small change but it is quite different from how Best Buy, Office Depot or other brick-and-mortar stores display information to their customers, says Doug Fleener, president of retail consulting firm Dynamic Experiences and former director of retail for Bose.

“It’s an untested concept,” says Fleener. “We will have to see if customers like to spend their time gathering information while shopping rather than doing it at home.”

Systemax's Tiger Direct online shopping site has benefited first hand from the online shopping trend. But Fiorentino says customers still want to go stores to buy electronics.

Compusa2 And Fiorentino says CompUSA can keep its prices low despite the additional overhead costs associated with a physical store. CompUSA's inventory now ties into Tiger Direct and the company offers the same prices whether consumers buy a product online or in a store.

Customers such as Robert Oschler, a New York resident who runs a site for robotics enthusiasts, are seeing the difference.

About a month ago Oschler found a CompUSA store near him running offering 48-hour special deals. "They seem to be doing a lot of that," he says. Oschler bought a Novint Falcon gaming mouse for $99 that otherwise retails for $180.

He says he's also noticed the changes in the store’s layout, “They seem more organized,” says Oschler. “Earlier, their aisles used to cluttered, almost supermarket-like, where they wanted to shove as much stuff as possible in your face as you walked by. But now there are more categories and better displays.”

Still, the revived CompUSA is a shadow of its former self. At its peak about three years ago, CompUSA posted about $5 billion a year in sales and had more than 216 stores nationwide. Now it posts a fraction of that in sales and has just about a tenth of its former reach.

If CompUSA can survive through the recession and manage its costs—rent, salaries, inventory--the chain can hope for a future, says Fleener. As other big box retailers disappear, consumers are looking for alternative places to go to and the thrill of walking into a store and looking at products is not easily replaceable for shoppers.

“Stores like Circuit City going out does leave an opportunity in the market,” says Fleener. “With less brick and mortar competition around, people will give CompUSA a chance.”

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