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AT&T Sues Three Former Employees, a Company, for Illegal Unlocking Scheme

posted Sunday Sep 20, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

AT&T Sues Three Former Employees, a Company, for Illegal Unlocking Scheme

The ability to unlock your smartphone may be beneficial to some people who want to switch carriers and take their device with them. But what would happen if your phone was being illegally unlocked, without your permission, using malware on AT&T's computers? Well, if you're AT&T, those actions have resulted in a lawsuit against the offending parties.

AT&T has filed suit against three people who formally worked for the company, along with a business that paid the employees to install malware on AT&T's computers that allowed them to unlock thousands of phones without consent of AT&T or the customer. Marc Sapatin, Nguyen Lam and Kyra Evans were all served this week with the suit papers, as well as Prashan Vira, who owns the company Swift Unlocks. AT&T alleges that the four conspirators were involved in the illegal operation in 2013 when the three employees were working at an AT&T call center in Washington.

AT&T says in the filing documents that by unlocking all of these devices, the employees have cost AT&T a ton of money from the disabling of pre-installed software.

"Unlocking" a phone disables certain software pre-installed by the phone manufacturers, which is designed to limit the activation of the phones exclusively to AT&T's network. Once a phone is unlocked, it can be used on multiple carrier systems rather than exclusively with AT&T.

The software is vital to AT&T's business because it allows AT&T to subsidize the cost of the phone to consumers while protecting AT&T's investment in the phones through term contracts. The software also protects AT&T's goodwill with respect to phones that carry AT&T's brand, because some of the phones' functionality may not work as effectively on non-AT&T networks.

Whether or not you believe that unlocking a phone disables a phone's functionality, the fact of the matter is Evans was paid $20,000 and Sapatin paid over $10,000 for the unlocking of the devices by Swift Unlocks. AT&T did not accuse Lam of receiving money but did accuse the employee of installing the malware to the workstations. Lam was fired by AT&T. Evans and Sapatin both quit.

AT&T clarified that the individuals involved in this did not access customer information not did their actions impact customers other than having their phones unlocked.

We're seeking damages and injunctive relief from several people who engaged in a scheme a couple of years ago to illegally unlock wireless telephones used on our network. It's important to note that this did not involve any improper access of customer information, or any adverse effect on our customers.

The accused parties will have 21 days to respond to the summons issued this week, with AT&T demanding a jury trial.

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Xbox Stays Committed to the 360, Launches Handful of New Updates

posted Saturday Sep 19, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Xbox Stays Committed to the 360, Launches Handful of New Updates

Even though the Xbox One is well past its freshman year, Microsoft is still committed to the Xbox 360. With new preview programs, free games and other enhancements, both the current-gen and old-gen consoles are well worth their value. The Xbox team is looking to add to that value by giving Xbox 360 users more abilities and linking the console to the Windows 10 world.

First, one of the frustrations when using the 360 was that you were unable to see what your Xbox One friends were doing. That's no longer the case as a new 360 update will allow you to see what your friends are up to on Xbox One or in Windows 10.

The 360 also had its Cloud Storage featured upgraded. Major Nelson announced that the 512MB limit has been lifted to 2GB this week. That great benefit comes along with the ability to now redeem codes from messages, access Microsoft Movies & TV, play music from Groove Music and other minor improvements.

However, that's not where it ends. Xbox's Mike Ybarra took to Twitter to talk about more of the features that Xbox 360 users would see in the coming weeks. On that list is the ability to gift your friends money for their Microsoft accounts. His tweet, while naturally short, said,

Full flow for gifting $ to friends via 360 will be turned on soon. Not yet!

This is a huge deal as it is the first time we have seen the ability to give money to friends on consoles. And while there is no word if it will show up on the Xbox One, it would seem like a natural extension and fitting for the current-gen device to also sport the cash-gifting feature. Still, all of these updates to the 360 certainly extend the life of the console and further cement Microsoft's commitment to the console. Plus, an older but still very popular console is a nice testing ground for features that may be considered for the Xbox One. Microsoft has a captive audience and it makes sense for the company to use its loyal user base to test out future concepts and ideas.

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Original Star Wars Films Tipped for Re-Release

posted Saturday Sep 19, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Original <i>Star Wars</i> Films Tipped for Re-Release

It has been a long time since the original Star Wars films were available to the public. Because Lucas cannot leave a good thing alone, it seems like every few years he releases another special edition, with changes to the graphics, the characters, the environments and, in one annoying case, the story of the film. Well, it appears that Lucas, or possibly Disney, in their infinite wisdom, are considering re-releasing the original theatrical cuts of the films.

Director John Landis, a friend of George Lucas, has apparently suggested the importance of re-releasing the films before the next film releases. This would give a new generation of fans the ability to experience the films the way they were originally intended to be seen, not in their remastered, or bastardized depending on your views, versions.

Let's be clear - there is no official confirmation from either company about this topic. There is, however, a Q&A with Landis himself, speaking at the opening night of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort. Oblivious of the importance of the words being spoken, Landis discusses his conversation with George Lucas, documented on Twitter by Empire Magazine.

There will be issues before this potential becomes reality. First, George Lucas no longer owns Lucasfilm, the company that is responsible for the franchise. Disney would be responsible for approving the rerelease. However, Disney isn't the only company involved. Like with several portions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 20th Century Fox would have to be involved as well, as they have the distribution rights to Episode IV: A New Hope. Unfortunately, the two companies have not been working well together, with Fox preventing the inclusion of the X-Men and Fantastic Four from joining the primary storyline, so it is a longshot to get them onboard, assuming Disney is event interested.

As this rumor is beyond shaky, it is completely probable that absolutely nothing will come of this. However, the possibility of seeing Han shoot first on Blu-Ray is enough to get the Star Wars fans excited.

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Google Adds Another Country to Those Asserting Anti-Trust

posted Saturday Sep 19, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google Adds Another Country to Those Asserting Anti-Trust

In the technology world, it sucks to be on top. In the late 90s, when the Internet was just becoming popular with average consumers, Microsoft saw that the Internet was the part of computers people understood how to use, and decided to make Windows more Internet-y. Rather than writing new software for this task, they included Internet Explorer as part of the operating system. What would become the EU wasn't happy, and they sued Microsoft for the convenience.

Today, Google is at the top of the Internet pile, and some of their decisions have brought upon them the same response that Microsoft received in the 90s. Country after country has started investigations of filed antitrust suits against Google for a variety of reasons. From the US FTC to France, the European Union and beyond, everyone seems to want a piece of Google. Some of the topics have been ridiculous, but others have some merit.

Russia believes they have enough of merit at this point, having ruled that Google has violated antitrust laws in the country. Their point of contention with the company is that Google requires hardware manufacturers to include certain Google apps and branding in their phones and tablets if they want to access Google Play.

Interestingly, Russia did not get involved in the Microsoft situation in the 90s. This varies from Microsoft in one really important way - the Google apps are not essential to the operation of Android, but instead are supplementary, and are included as a matter of forced policy as opposed to necessity. On the other hand, Internet Explorer was included as a matter of inclusion in the operating system and computer manufactures were free to install additional browsers and set them as default.

Under law, Google could face fines of up to 15 percent of revenue generated within the Russian Federation as a result of the deceit. It is not certain what the exact details of the ruling will be, but it is likely that the clause requiring Google services will be removed for the market, and a steep financial penalty. The full draft of the ruling, and its result, will be available within 2 weeks.

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Siri Remote: The Biggest Limiting Factor for Gaming on Apple TV

posted Saturday Sep 19, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Siri Remote: The Biggest Limiting Factor for Gaming on Apple TV

When Apple announced its intentions for gaming on the new Apple TV, the thing that made for the biggest excitement was the usage of MFi controllers. The Siri remote might be okay for general navigation on the system, but it is definitely not the best input for gaming, and it was clear that Apple knew this. That meant that if you wanted to actually build a real game instead of just a casual nonsense game, you could.

Unfortunately, Apple has let the wind out of developers sails with a single clause in the tvOS developer guide:

Your game must support the Apple TV remote. Your game may not require the use of a controller.

That kind of rule might be a good way to ensure inclusion into your game store, but it doesn't encourage developers to build games that really rock. There was little hope that the Apple TV would see hardware sales because of its gaming capabilities at first, but there was some hope for them with full controller capabilities. Unfortunately, no full-scale games can be built to be playable with the equivalent of a single D-Pad and 2 buttons. That kind of input can only support small, casual-style games, and those games cannot sell hardware.

This rule is a change from the initial manual, which stated clearly,

Unlike iOS apps, Apple TV apps can require the user to own a full game controller that supports the extended gamepad profile, but requiring a full game controller is highly discouraged. When you restrict an app, only users who already have a full game controller will see your game.

It is always possible that Apple will reverse course on this decision if enough gamers and developers complain about the limitation, but the company is not known for bowing to customer demand. Maybe this will be the exception to the rule.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of iOS 9

posted Saturday Sep 19, 2015 by Scott Ertz

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of iOS 9

This week, the newest update to Apple's mobile operating system was released to the public, bringing iOS 9 to existing devices (iPhone 4S and higher). The update, which Apple says is mostly centered around stability and bug fixes, does have a number of enhancements that make it a good install, but it has not been all roses for Apple and its users. Let's cover the different aspects so you can make an informed decision.

The Good

One of the main complaints we hear about iPhones, regardless of the generation, is the battery life. With the new battery management software built into iOS 9, Apple promises to add an additional hour of life to the same device versus iOS 8. This could be a big benefit for heavy users who have to carry additional batteries on a daily basis. Apple also claims that the crash rate is lower on the new platform versus older versions.

Because of the way Siri is implemented into iOS, adding new features requires profound work, and updates on the server as well as the client. This update brings new features to Siri, including new questions that can be asked and new capabilities. Apple has implemented one of Cortana's best features: location-based notifications. All of this and it takes up less space on your device than iOS 8. It seems like it could be a no-brainer to upgrade.

The Bad

While Apple claims lower app crashes, users seem to be reporting a different experience. Users are reporting on social media issues ranging from single apps not launching to all apps failing after the upgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 9. This is not a new occurrence, as aspects of an operating system are subject to change in updates, and apps taking advantage of those features can see app crashes.

Under normal circumstances, however, professional developers will have tested their apps on a new platform before it launches to the public. This is why Microsoft, Apple and Google release developer builds well ahead of their public launch. The fact that these issues still exist can indicate one of a few things: lazy developers, a slow app release process from Apple or new bugs added after the developer preview. Hopefully these issues will be resolved quickly, no matter whose fault they are.

The Ugly

The of the things Apple customers were most excited about were the security enhancements. One security patch in particular has been around for a while and was expected to be solved in iOS 9. The problem surrounds a feature of AirDrop which allows enterprise customers to remotely install applications onto iPhones and iPads in their control. As it turns out, the feature was poorly implemented, allowing anyone with access to a publisher certificate to easily push malware to phones.

In iOS 9, Apple didn't exactly fix the problem so much as patch around it. Now, instead of AirDrop running at the system level, it runs sandboxed. This prevents anything AirDrop-related from access system-related data. Now, these surprise apps cannot steal data on their own. However, if they mimic other apps, or you open them for other reasons, they will still have access to your contacts, locations, etc.

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