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Friday, September 28, 2012

Rented computers captured consumers having sex

If you rented a computer, you probably should not have been blogging without your shirt on.
On Tuesday, seven computer rental companies agreed to a settlement with the federal government after it was discovered that they were unlawfully capturing photos of customers by using illicit software that controlled a computer’s webcam.
The Federal Trade Commission said the seven companies involved had worked with DesignerWare, a Pennsylvania-based software maker, to create a program that secretly captured “webcam pictures of children, partially undressed individuals, and intimate activities at home.” This included people who while engaging in sexual activities in their homes were being recorded on their rental computers.
The webcam software, called PC Rental Agent, had been installed on approximately 420,000 computers worldwide, according to the F.T.C., and as of August 2011 it was being used by approximately 1,617 rent-to-own stores in the United States, Canada and Australia.
In a news release issued by the F.T.C., Jon Leibowitz, the agency’s chairman, said the software had also captured consumers’ private e-mails, bank account information and medical records. In some instances the software was able to capture Social Security numbers, medical records and doctor’s names. Most disturbing, the webcam captured pictures of children.

The settlement agreed upon by the F.T.C. will ban the rent-to-own companies from using monitoring software of any kind and prohibit the companies from tracking a user’s location without that person’s knowledge or consent. All of the stores involved are also prohibited from using any of the information collected from the computers to collect outstanding debts. The companies will also be monitored by the F.T.C. for the next 20 years.

The companies involved in the settlement include: Aspen Way Enterprises; the Watershed Development Corporation, which operates under the names Watershed and Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership; Showplace Rent-to-Own; J.A.G. Rents, operating under the name ColorTyme; B. Stamper Enterprises, which operated under the name Premier Rental Purchase; and C.A.L.M. Ventures, which also operates under the public name Premier Rental Purchase. The full articicle can be read here: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2012/09/designware.shtm

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Windows on a stick (or ANY OS for that matter)


Windows To Go is a brand-new feature in Windows 8. It allows Windows 8 to be installed on a USB drive and run on any computer – just plug the USB drive into any computer, restart the computer, and you’ll be using your Windows 8 environment. Unfortunately, this feature is only available in Windows 8 Enterprise – even Professional edition users don’t get to use this. But... there is an alternative!

You can easily install Windows, Ubuntu or any other Linux distribution using UNetbootin. Installing an operating system to a USB thumb drive is simple using Unetbootin. Essentially it's a four step process, much faster, and saves you from burning the ISO image on a new DVD.












Before you begin, you need the following:
-USB Flash Drive (4GB minimum)
-Windows 7 ISO Image file
-UNetbootin

1. First download the Windows 8 ISO image here. (Sorry folks..this is only the Consumer Review version..not the full version)

2. Now insert the USB drive, run UNetbootin, and select Disk Image as ISO. Browse your local drive for Windows 8 ISO that you downloaded and click Open. Now Select Type as USB and choose the drive. Once done, it will look like a bit similar to the screenshot shown below.













3. Click OK and it will begin extracting all installation files to the USB drive. The whole process will take some time(10-15 minutes), so have patience.













4. Once the installation is complete, reboot your computer.
Now while your system is starting up press the key to bring up the BIOS screen depending on your manufacture (usually DEL,  F3, or ESC).
Change the startup order to boot USB by default, usually you will have to press F6 to move the selected USB device on top. Once done, save changes and restart the system.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Adding a Start button on Windows 8 desktop

So you may have played around with Windows 8 Consumer Review and are itching to download the final version Oct 26th. (If you're a subcriber to TechNet it's available now via download). You may have experimented with the Start Screen, wandered through the Windows Store and downloaded a few apps, even created a Picture Login.

However you still miss that old friend of yours the Start Menu. Microsoft has stated several times on why it axed the Start Menu, but it seems most consumers still like the old with the new.
The company has received a lot of criticism via its Building Windows 8 blog and other resources, a fair amount from PC users are unhappy over the changes.

 If you still need your old friend there are a couple of Start Menu alternatives available*.


 Stardock, the makers of Window Blinds, has created Start8, a start menu that looks familiar with Windows 7 users. With a fully skinnable menu, users can search for Windows 8-style (Metro) apps with it, Full support for Jump Lists, a unified Search.
Additional functions are users can boot directly to the Windows 8 desktop and of course quick access to shut down, devices, music, documents, videos.



 Another alternative is ViStart 8. ViStart has all the functionality the Windows 7 Start menu has and then some more. It's completely skinable and there are already a variety of extra start menu skins and buttons available to customize your Windows look.
You can download from the lee-soft.com website. Setup is slightly complicated, but it should be doable by users of all experience levels.  Take note that it contains third party offers in the installer that you may not want to install (two on separate pages on the test system).

 *There is an issue that concerns many developers involving third party Start Menu apps.
Microsoft has stated after its release of Windows 8 on October 26, 2012 the company may not allow the circumvention of the startup process. So if you try either of these programs and upgrade to the full version, lets be hopeful that Microsoft has soften is stance with allowing users alternatives to the Start Screen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Google to expand free WiFi network


Earlier this year, Google (GOOG) partnered with Boingo Wireless (WIFI) to bring a number of free Wi-Fi hotspots to New York City. The program, which was sponsored by Google Offers, quickly expanded to eight different malls across the country.
Boingo on Tuesday announced that it will bring an additional 4,000 Google-sponsored hotspots to dozens of cities nationwide. Unlike the previous program however, it is only available to users of Android devices and Windows and Mac OS X laptops.


“Google Play is the first to take part in our newly expanded Wi-Fi sponsorship network, which reaches millions of consumers each month with place-based brand engagements,” said Dawn Callahan, VP of consumer marketing for Boingo. “Sponsorships like this give users the free Wi-Fi they crave, advertisers the consumer interaction they need, and venues the revenue to offset the costs associated with providing a high-bandwidth Wi-Fi experience.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apple releases the iPhone 5


Apple’s newest mobile juggernaut is called the iPhone 5 (despite actually being the sixth iPhone to hit the market). Looking very elegant and sleek, it’s 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S, 18% thinner, and it's two-toned frame is crafted out of (what else?) glass and aluminum.

The iPhone 5 boasts a larger 4-inch Retina Display. That means a 16:9 display runs at 1136 by 640 with five rows of icons. The battery life? — 8 hours of 3G talk time, as well as 8 hours of 3G and LTE web browsing to be precise.
The iPhone’s audio system has been built up with a smaller (but improved speaker). There are also now three microphones in the mix: one on the front, one on the back, and another on the bottom.
That oft-rumored miniature Dock Connector is real: it’s all-digital, has eight pins and it’s called “Lightning.” Yes, there’s an adapter for it, but no word yet on exactly what it will cost you.

Unfortunatly, instead of running up the megapixel count, Apple has stuck with an 8-megapixel camera. That said, the backside-illuminated sensor is smaller so performance in low light is much better.







Nothing new of course but the iPhone 5 will support 4G LTE networks. That's in addition to the current support for GPRS, EDGE, EV-DO, and HSPA data networks. LTE has a single chip for voice and data, a single radio chip, and a "dynamic antenna" that will switch connections between different networks automatically.

Samsung and Android on top of market - so far

The operating system numbers are in, and Android is clearly on top. Gartner, a top research/analyst firm reports that Android sales capped nearly 99 million in the 2nd qtr with Apples iOS in a distant second.

Sales of smartphones were up by 42.7% to 154 million units, with Apple and Samsung together accounting for 83% of all smartphone sales. (Ironic to say the two are butting legal heads in court these days).
Samsung’s Galaxy line of devices accounted for more than half of all Android sales, reaching 45.6 million devices sold.


Apple’s iOS-based iPhone devices captured 18.8% of the smartphone market (versus 18.2% the year before). Gartner notes that sales of the iPhone fell by 12.6% compared to Q1. This may be likely as consumers are holding out for the launch of the iPhone5. (Apple just announced the iPhone 5 today in San Fransisco) For the iPhone release live coverage and specs check out CNET.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Windows 8 - using Win32 & WinRT side by side

October 26 will be the date Windows 8 will be available preloaded on new PCs and also to those purchasing it through one of the upgrade programs Microsoft has announced recently. Based on previous Microsoft statements, it also seems October 26 will be the date that Windows RT-based (WOA) Surface PCs/tablets from Microsoft will be available via the Microsoft Stores and select online outlets.

Why still have a desktop?
The desktop mode is present in Windows 8, and for good reason. Windows 8 running on traditional x86 systems need the desktop mode to support thousands of legacy desktop apps. These applications are written for Win32 operating system and they’re not going away anytime soon. And a desktop mode that’s optimized for keyboard and mouse input is extremly useful.




Why have a Metro* Start Screen?
The new Metro* style Start Screen in Windows 8 and Windows RT allows developers to create a new style of applications that will run fullscreen and in a sandboxed environment designed to be easy to install, maintain, and above all else, secure and touch-friendly.

Microsoft seems to be going all in on its Windows 8 Metro style apps, but yet it still wants to hedge a desktop mode on Windows RT is a good thing. WinRT solves many of the problems of Win32, from an apps perspective. (Writing NT services, drivers, etc is still handled using Win32)

Apps created for WinRT are safe, secure, and sandboxed...they can't wreck other apps, can't cause "Windows rot," and all install very quickly. They feature isolated storage, installation under single folders, and require user consent to access the general file system.
When Microsoft introduced WinRT, it's considered as a major technology shift. This is part of it, a modern, truly different app platform that is far more different from any previous Operating system. In fact the last time


*The term "Metro" is being phased out by Microsoft. This is due to trademark issues with a company of a similar name, Microsoft stated that "Metro" was only a codename and that an official name was to be unveiled. No official replacement of the Start Screen UI has been announced, however the terms Windows 8 style and Modern UI style have been used interchangeably by Microsoft employees and White Papers to refer to the new app platform.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Introducing Goophone I5, And is willing to butt heads with Apple


When is an iPhone not an iPhone? When it's a Goophone.
GooPhone is a little known electronic company based out of China, and has recently released a video showing thier latest and greatest device called the Goophone I5. Being a blatent iPhone knockoff, you'd expect Apple to run to the courts on this faster than a cell phone signal.
However the Chinese tech company has already filed a patent on the device and is ready to reverse the tables on Apple claiming patent infrigments once the iPhone 5 is released. On the video the similarities between both devices such as the case and screen are obvious but the power connection is smaller and the device runs on Android.

In China it's a huge business of being what is called a “patent troll,” or filing for a technology patent before global brands get around to it in hopes of getting paid off by the brand. Such is the case when Apple paid China tech company Proview $60 milion in July. Proview had claimed it had ownership of the iPad name in China and that trademark rights were being unlawfully used.

Physical security and tracking


A laptop is stolen every 53 seconds in the United States. To put that in perspective, one out of every ten laptops will be lost or stolen. So how do you prevent your device from joining these horrifying statistics? Beyond keeping your portable gadgets under your constant supervision, there are a few simple tools you can use.

Cables
Almost all laptops now have an industry-standard security slot. Cables that hook into that slot can anchor the laptop to a table or desk. The average cost for one is $35 to $50. The real benefit of these locks is in shared or well-trafficked spaces like dorm rooms or cubicles where a stealthy thief could slip an untethered laptop into a bag in just seconds. Cables don't provide 100% fool proof security, as the cable can be cut, but they work more of a deterrent.

As tablets become more popular, there are cases that lock onto the tablet and then hook into these standard laptop cables for similar protection.

Alarms
Another option is a laptop alarm which are about the size of a deck of cards. It attaches to the laptop and plugs into the USB port. If you need to leave your device for a few minutes (or hours) you can arm the alarm. Then, if someone tries to move it, a loud piercing alarm goes off, so loudly obnoxious that a thief would abandon his attempt in a hurry.The only problem I see is that one could just plug the USB.





Tracking Programs
If your laptop has been stolen, you can track it's location using tracking software.
Lojack costs about $40 a year, there is a free version of Prey available.
Find My iPhone offers free tracking services for iPhones, iPods, iPads, Macs and PC laptops. Lookout provides a free tracking program for Android devices. These programs will let you clear your device data remotely so that the thief can't raid your information to steal your identity.

Data Back-Up
One important note: think about the value of your data. For most people, it's worth more than the device itself. Backing it up means that all the hours of work won't be lost along with your hardware. Automatic backup programs like Carbonite or Mozy cost about $60 a year and, in combination with a physical back up of media (purchased music), they can fully protect the time, information, and media on your device.
 
 
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