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Apple's Woes on New iPhone Models

posted Saturday Oct 5, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Apple's Woes on New iPhone Models

The recent launch of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c have not been without the infamous Apple disasters. From the iPhone 4 antenna issues, Apple Maps overall inaccuracy and the myriad of iPhone 5 issues, including camera and in-box scratching, Apple has not had a good phone launch in a while. For once, Apple has launched 2 new handsets together, and both are having their own individual problems.

iPhone 5s

The iPhone 5s' problem is one that will affect the end-user, so let's start there. As it turns out, the hardware sensors in the new flagship phone might very well be wrong. Users have posted on the Apple forums complaining of issues with their sensors, especially the level, motion and acceleration sensors. Gizmodo decided to put these claims to the test and have confirmed the reports.

To duplicate the issues, all you have to do is load any level app and set an iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s side-by-side on the same surface. The problem is unlikely to be caused by software, as iPhones of previous versions running iOS 7 and testing in the same applications return expected data, leaving the problem specific to the new model.

If I had to take a wild stab in the dark, I would say that there is something wrong with the new sensor co-processor installed in the phones. So, if the problem is with the hardware itself, how do you solve it? The easy answer is, you can't without a complete hardware recall. Of course, Apple, who has been pretending to be a premium brand, loses the ability to make those claims if they recall an entire generation of devices over a hardware defect.

Apple has not commented on the issue.

iPhone 5c

The problems with the iPhone 5c are not in the same realm - instead of hardware failures, the iPhone that breaks all of the rules of what makes an Apple product is seeing sales failures. Apple announced opening weekend iPhone sales of 9 million handsets, but refuses to break out the two models individually. A refusal of this type usually indicates data the company doesn't want to admit to, like incredibly poor sales.

To corroborate that theory, we are seeing some massive price breaks in the iPhone 5c starting this weekend. Target has discounted the phone to $79.99, while RadioShack and Best Buy are offering a $50 gift card with purchase, and Wal-Mart is down to $45 after initially discounting the phone to $79 on launch day.

I had suspected that launching a new handset that went against all of Steve Jobs' philosophies would not pan out for the company, and it appears that the suspicion was correct. Maybe Apple can learn something from BlackBerry and stick to what you know.

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France to Illegalize Free Shipping

posted Saturday Oct 5, 2013 by Scott Ertz

France to Illegalize Free Shipping

France has a difficult relationship with reality. They have, in the past done crazy things like prevent Yahoo from purchasing Dailymotion because the government didn't want it sold to an American company, and then they go and do rational things, like challenging Google over its universal privacy policy. Defending them or being mad at them is definitely a moving target.

Recently they have moved more to the dark side, however, with a new bill that would ban free shipping. Yes, you read that right - a retailer would no longer be able to set the price of its own products and services as they see fit. Shutting down the free market has always worked well in the past, especially for the target market that is trying to gain the upper hand, and if you can't sense the sarcasm in that statement, it might be time to move to the next article.

Who is France trying to help, and who are they trying to hurt, with this new law? They are trying to hurt Amazon and help local bookstores. Brick and mortar stores believe that they have no way of competing with online pricing and, therefore, are unable to provide any value to their customers, since price is the only reason anyone ever shops anywhere (sarcasm again). So, teaming up with the government to essentially outlaw Amazon's business model makes perfect sense, if you know nothing about business.

In the States, there are physical bookstores in a lot of places. While Borders might not have succeeded, local and chain stores everywhere do. Why? Not because they offer lower prices than Amazon, but instead because they offer better SERVICE than Amazon.

So, why not offer personal service to your customers instead of attacking Amazon? When the government already dislikes your foe, it is easier to team up than to have a good business model. Amazon reports its European income through Luxembourg, because tax rates are lower, so France sees none of the money from their own currency. Again, rather than encourage sales in the country with tax incentives, they will just remove a large company from doing business there at all.

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SimCity Finally Getting Offline Consideration

posted Saturday Oct 5, 2013 by Scott Ertz

<i>SimCity</i> Finally Getting Offline Consideration

Ever since the initial launch disaster, Maxis has been trying to show that it cares about players. At first, they offered free games to those who were affected by the server shutdown, but have recently taken to the SimCity forums to talk with the community.

This week, Patrick Buechner, General Manager of the Maxis Emeryville studio, posted an article on the forum talking about their internal commitment to feedback.

First, I want you to know that we are listening to your feedback. We dig deep into the forums, Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds every day to see what players are talking about. There is a lot of feedback and there is a clear passion for SimCity. That's great to see. And while we appreciate positive feedback, we take very seriously the players who have criticisms. Players have high expectations of what goes into our games and we have an obligation to deliver.

We continuously review this feedback alongside in-game telemetry to help us decide where to focus our game tuning and development efforts. We've formed dedicated teams to explore specific features. Some player requests, such as a tool to raise and lower roads, were straightforward challenges. Some of the larger asks, such as bigger city maps and an offline mode, have required more thought and exploratory work.

There are two very important issues raised here: offline mode and larger maps, both of which are topics which have been a primary point of contention for most players.

Offline Mode

Buechner claims that it is being considered.

Right now we have a team specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode. I can't make any promises on when we will have more information, but we know this is something that many of our players have been asking for. While the server connectivity issues are behind us, we would like to give our players the ability to play even if they choose not to connect. An offline mode would have the additional benefit of providing room to the modding community to experiment without interfering or breaking the multiplayer experience.

In the past, Maxis has confirmed that offline was an option, but they decided not to pursue it. Instead, they implemented a required "always on" system because of global economy and other major calculations that just could not run locally.

The only problem with that theory is that offline mode is an option right now with a "very minor and easy" tweak. So, what could possibly be taking so long? EA's concern over piracy is my guess. So, while it is "being considered" publicly, my guess is we won't be seeing it any time soon.

Bigger Cities

Every person I know that did purchase the game outgrew their city plots within days. This left them wondering what to do? Maxis' official position is to play multiple cities side-by-side and explore the interconnection between communities. The problem with that, of course, is that once you leave one city and enter another, time stops for the first. That means no material collection, making it damn near impossible to explore those capabilities.

Buechner has news for those of you wanting to expand your maps, though.

After months of testing, I confirm that we will not be providing bigger city sizes. The system performance challenges we encountered would mean that the vast majority of our players wouldn't be able to load, much less play with bigger cities. We've tried a number of different approaches to bring performance into an acceptable range, but we just couldn't achieve it within the confines of the engine. We've chosen to cease work on bigger city sizes and put that effort into continuing to evolve the core game and explore an offline mode. Some of the experiments we conducted to improve performance on bigger cities will be rolled into future updates to improve overall game performance.

I know, that was misleading, but I just couldn't resist. Maxis claims that it is physically impossible to expand the cities. If they were to do it, your computer would explode. I have no idea if that reasoning is some sort of a prank being played by the development team or if they actually believe that expanding the cities would truly over run your computer's processing capabilities; either way, wow.

Good news, though: their experiments have led to a slight performance improvement in the game core. Now you can outgrow your cities slightly faster than before!

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Adobe Says Almost 3 Million Accounts Compromised in Illegal Access to Source Code

posted Saturday Oct 5, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Adobe Says Almost 3 Million Accounts Compromised in Illegal Access to Source Code

We could go on and on and on about websites and companies getting hacked, compromising millions of customers' data, seemingly ever three months or so. One of the more notable cases was in 2011, when Sony's PlayStation Network was hacked, taking the service down for a very long time and causing stress and identify theft to customers everywhere. This week is no exception, as Adobe is in the news for a breach that's put 3 million accounts at risk.

At first, an Adobe blog post explained some of what happened, which involves illegal access to source code for various Adobe products.

Adobe is investigating the illegal access of source code for Adobe Acrobat, ColdFusion, ColdFusion Builder and other Adobe products by an unauthorized third party. Based on our findings to date, we are not aware of any specific increased risk to customers as a result of this incident.

Adobe thanks Brian Krebs, of KrebsOnSecurity.com, and Alex Holden, chief information security officer, Hold Security LLC. holdsecurity.com for their help in our response to this incident.

We are not aware of any zero-day exploits targeting any Adobe products. However, as always, we recommend customers run only supported versions of the software, apply all available security updates, and follow the advice in the Acrobat Enterprise Toolkit and the ColdFusion Lockdown Guide. These steps are intended to help mitigate attacks targeting older, unpatched, or improperly configured deployments of Adobe products.

At the time of the post, it seemed like everything could have been contained. However a blog post a few days later revealed that customer data was indeed compromised, but Adobe believes that decrypted credit card numbers were not removed from its systems, but encrypted numbers have been put at risk. Chief Security Officer Brad Arkin explains,

Our investigation currently indicates that the attackers accessed Adobe customer IDs and encrypted passwords on our systems. We also believe the attackers removed from our systems certain information relating to 2.9 million Adobe customers, including customer names, encrypted credit or debit card numbers, expiration dates, and other information relating to customer orders... We're working diligently internally, as well as with external partners and law enforcement, to address the incident.

So, now that almost 3 million customers have had some sort of data compromised, Adobe is taking action. Any "relevant" customer password have been reset to stop unauthorized access to their Adobe ID accounts. An email should be in any affected customers' inboxes with instructions on how to reset the password. For those customers who may have had their credit card numbers put at risk, Adobe will be in contact with those people and will be offering one-year of credit monitoring services for free. Adobe has also let any banks know about the breach and are working with card-issuing banks to protect customers' accounts. Anyone with concerns should visit Adobe's customer support page, where agents can be of assistance.

This serves as an unfortunate reminder that no account is safe anywhere, and two use two-step verification systems, online-only debit cards with limits and other security measures whenever possible. Do constant security breaches like this deter you from putting your information online and trusting said information with any company? Why or why not? We want your thoughts in the comments section below.

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LightSquared Assests Up for Auction on Nov 25th with DISH as Lead Bidder

posted Thursday Oct 3, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

LightSquared Assests Up for Auction on Nov 25th with DISH as Lead Bidder

I feel like I'm repeating myself - maybe because I am - but if you thought the LightSquared saga was over, think again. The company was going to revolutionize the 4G industry, but that was before the FCC became confused by the technology and blamed LightSquared for GPS interference. So, the company filed bankruptcy in August of last year and now it has put all of its assets up for auction.

LightSquared mainly owns a bunch of spectrum licenses, but all of the company will be pieced apart and auctioned off on November 25th. So far, L-Band Acquisition Corp is the lead bidder, who wants to buy all of LightSquared, including 40 MHz of wireless spectrum, for $2.2 billion. That company, interestingly enough, is tied to DISH Network, a corporation that has been wanting to get into mobile for quite some time now. It is also intriguing to note that this is the same spectrum that the FCC initially blocked, causing LightSquared to go into business. It seems that the government agency has had a change of heart now that someone else has entered the picture. The FCC allowed this spectrum to be auctioned under the premise that it could be used for any purpose.

Analysts have said that the DISH pickup seems likely, as there might not be any other bidders for this particular spectrum, especially if LBAC is offering over 2 billion in cash for the entire company. In addition, DISH already owns two ranges of 40 MHz S-band spectrum, which they grabbed from TerreStar Networks for $2.9 billion, when that company went under. DISH also has a slot of 700 MHz spectrum. Those three acquisitions along with this potential buyout sets up DISH Network to execute a wireless network perfectly.

And, they already have the experience. When Sprint was acquired by Softbank, putting DISH out of the race, they teamed up with regional MVNO NTELOS to rollout broadband services to the countryside of Virginia, running on 2.5 GHz spectrum.

We'll know what happens by November 25th, however if DISH does in fact get the bid, this would put the satellite TV company in charge of a lot of spectrum in order to roll out their own mobile offerings. This could put DISH toe-to-toe with T-Mobile and Sprint, if the rollout is nationwide. That move could be beneficial for all cell phone users across the country, as another contender in the ring will bring more competition, which means more innovation in the marketspace, and hopefully, lower prices for consumers. Or, it could put someone else out of business.

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FAA Advisory Panel on In-flight Electronics Usage Votes on Recommendation to Ease Restrictions

posted Sunday Sep 29, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

FAA Advisory Panel on In-flight Electronics Usage Votes on Recommendation to Ease Restrictions

Three months ago, we covered the FAA's advisory panel that would hopefully lighten up restrictions on electronics usage during flights, and on takeoff and touchdown. This week, we finally have an update on what was decided behind those closed cabin doors.

The 28-person FAA advisory committee voted to suggest to the FAA that the Administration reconsider not allowing passengers to use mobile devices, MP3 players and e-readers during takeoffs and landings. Of course, this is only a recommendation, and now the FAA will have to decide if the advisory panel's input makes sense or not. The good news is that if the FAA does go along with the recommendation, air travelers in the US will no longer have to follow the silly rule of turning anything with batteries off when the door of the plane is shut.

As of right now, even Airplane Mode doesn't suffice for your device, nor does leaving your e-ink reader in standby, even though it isn't drawing power. Yes, the government as a whole is still unsure of how technology is used. Hopefully this recommendation will change all of that. However, it is worth noting that some devices may actually have to use that Airplane Mode feature, as you will still not be able to transmit data over a radio network, surf the Web or talk on the phone. Basically, using your 4G LTE, WiMAX or 3G networks - anything that can send or receive outside data that isn't using the plane's WiFi - will still not be allowed.

As one analyst, Henry Harteveldt, put it so simply,

You will be able to read or work on what's stored on the device. You want to edit that PowerPoint? Great. You want to watch Breaking Bad and you have it downloaded to your smartphone or your tablet? You can continue to do that.

Luckily, our elected officials in the Senate have been hard at working doing something other than play poker, and even some of them understand that listening to your music isn't going to blow up the plane (I can safely say that because I'm not on a plane right now). Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri stated it slightly better, and less explode-y. "These devices are not dangerous. Your Kindle isn't dangerous. Your iPad that is on airplane mode is perfectly safe," she said.

We could see restrictions lifted as early as 2014, however it will be up to the airlines to put these policies into place, which could take as long as they feel necessary to "review" the information. Senator McCaskill said she would create a law that would essentially force airlines to comply if they don't move fast enough on making the changes. My hopes are that by E3 of next year, if the event is still a bit relevant, I'll be able to mix down some last-minute audio clips on the plane while Scott finishes up our graphics for the convention coverage.

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