Saturday, February 2, 2013

Twitter hacked, 250,000 users affected

Summary: Twitter has just reported that earlier this week, it was a victim of a successful compromise of its systems, resulting in the "limited access" to user information, including usernames, email addresses, session tokens, and encrypted/salted passwords.

Twitter has just reported that earlier this week, it was a victim of a successful compromise of its systems, resulting in the "limited access" to user information, including usernames, email addresses, session tokens, and encrypted/salted passwords, affecting approximately 250,000 users.

This week, we detected unusual access patterns that led to us identifying unauthorized access attempts to Twitter user data. We discovered one live attack and were able to shut it down in process moments later. However, our investigation has thus far indicated that the attackers may have had access to limited user information – usernames, email addresses, session tokens and encrypted/salted versions of passwords – for approximately 250,000 users. As a precautionary security measure, we have reset passwords and revoked session tokens for these accounts. If your account was one of them, you will have recently received (or will shortly) an email from us at the address associated with your Twitter account notifying you that you will need to create a new password. Your old password will not work when you try to log in to Twitter.
According to Bob Lord, Twitter's Director of Information Security, the attack was the work of professionals, and Twitter is actively cooperating with law enforcement in an attempt to prevent further damage caused by these attackers.
What can you do to protect your Twitter account? Ensure that in case you receive a password-reset email from Twitter, it indeed points to Twitter's domain, as opportunistic cybercriminals could easily start impersonating Twitter, and mass mail millions of emails in an attempt to gain access to your account. If you do receive a password-reset email from Twitter, ensure  that you're using a strong password, and that you've changed it from a malware-free host.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Atari founder on Finding the next Steve Jobs [video]

TNW pointed us to this video of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell giving a speech at Campus PartyBrazil. On top of talking about the early days of Atari and the video game industry, Bushnell also told a few stories about Steve Jobs’ days as an employee at Atari in promotion of his upcoming book “Finding the next Steve Jobs.” Around 13 minutes into the video, Bushnell spoke about giving Jobs and Woz Atari parts for the first Apple computers, Jobs’ work ethic, and told a few other Apple related stories throughout his talk.

Grand Theft Auto V delayed till September

Rockstar has announced on its website that the release date for the next game in the GTA franchise—Grand Theft Auto V—has been delayed. The new release date, according to the company, is September 17, 2013. This is a four month delay from the originally planned release date.

The company says that the delay was required as, “GTAV is a massively ambitious and complex game and it simply needs a little more polish to be of the standard we and, more importantly, you require.” Rockstar has also announced that it will be showing the box art for GTAV a bit later.
What looks like the GTA version of the Hoover Dam
The beautiful vista in Los Santos

It was recently revealed through a listing on Amazon France that the open-world game will be getting a PC version, despite Rockstar’s refusal to mention details about anything but the console versions of the game.

While you can pre-order the game for EUR 49.99 (approx. Rs 3,600), there still isn't a date attached to the PC release. The website simply says "Soon" for the expected launch date. Presumably, the PC version of the game will come with enhancements, especially on the graphics side of things. The PC version may feature more detail, high-resolution textures and a greater view distance. 

Back in December, Rockstar had released some new screenshots of GTA V that showed the inclusion of underwater areas. The screenshots show some of the regular stuff, like cityscapes and cars, but the more interesting things shown include a submarine and a shark. Rockstar had previously mentioned that the game would have more to explore underwater, and it seems to be delivering on this promise with the inclusion of deadly sharks and submarines. The screenshots also show great attention to detail when it comes to the graphical fidelity of the game, like being able to make out the pilots in planes. The game also seems to feature a blimp, which could be an interesting setting for a mission, or even an aerial chase sequence.

In November, a ton of information about GTAV was revealed. Rockstar is now promising greater mission variety in the game. One of the biggest complaints faced by GTA IV was that most of the missions consisted of driving to a location, killing your target, driving back to a safe location and repeat. According to Rockstar, some missions in GTAV will feature one playable character, while others will feature two or three. The game will also follow an Ocean's Eleven-type progression, where a lot of missions will be preparing for and pulling off complex heists.

The game will also feature a new inventory system. At the moment, each character has his own inventory and money, but the developers have explained that this is something the company normally addresses later in the development cycle, so the system could see a change before the game's release.

When asked if features from the previous games will be making a comeback, such as underwater areas, the developers said that GTAV will have a lot of underwater areas to explore. The developers have also mentioned that none of the characters from GTA III, Vice City or San Andreas will be making an appearance, but characters from GTA IV might visit the city.

HBO and Apple reportedly team up for Apple TV content deal, said to begin first half of 2013

According to Bloomberg, Apple and HBO will team up to deliver HBO Go content on the Apple TV.
Cable and satellite subscribers who pay for HBO will be able to watch more than 600 hours of films and television shows on Apple TV, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Apple TV is a set-top device that streams content purchased on iTunes and via other online services to consumers’ televisions.
According to the report, the HBO content will arrive on the set-top-box sometime during the first half of 2013. HBO currently offers an HBO iOS application for its subscribers.
Besides Apple’s own iTunes content, the Apple TV currently supports, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Wall Street Journal content, Netflix, and various professional sports networks.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Facebook Unveils Gift Card Users Can Send to Other Members

Facebook Inc. (FB), operator of the most popular social-networking service, unveiled a new service that lets users give gift cards to other members for purchases at retailers and restaurants.
The card can be used at four businesses, including Target Corp. (TGT) and Jamba Juice Co., Facebook said on its website. With the new service, users select gift amounts to be put on the card to be to sent their friends. Then, the recipient is immediately notified of the present and receives the card in the mail a few days later.
Facebook is investing in new products to attract users and keep them on the site longer. Earlier this month, the company announced a revamp of its search service that lets members find information on people, places, photos and interests. Last year, Facebook debuted tools that let members purchase physical gifts for friends on the site.
The latest gift feature works for members in the U.S. and the refillable cards can carry balances from multiple businesses in varying amounts. The cards can also be used for LVMH Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton SA’s Sephora cosmetics chain and for Darden Restaurants Inc. (DRI)’s Olive Garden eateries.

Top five portable drives: Mobile storage redefined

When you think of a portable storage device, you think of something that can be plugged into a computer's port to provide extra storage space. Well that's true for the most part but some can offer more, such as really fast speeds, a lot of storage, a convenient backup solution, or built-in mobile media server that works even when not plugged in.
Here are the best portable drives currently on the market that collectively offer all the goodies mentioned above, as well as something I personally find important: sexiness. They are sorted in the order in which they were reviewed, with the most recently reviewed on top.

(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
Seagate Wireless Plus
The Seagate Wireless Plus is a fast and compact bus-powered portable drive, but that's the least interesting thing about it. This is a brand-new device that's set to change the way you think of mobile storage.
The drive is the successor to the Seagate GoFlex Satellite with lots of improvements. It comes with a built-in Wi-Fi access point, a battery, and allows up to eight Wi-Fi clients to connect to its Wi-Fi network (the Satellite allows three) and stream content from it, via a network browser or the Seagate Media mobile app. The app supports Android- and iOS-based devices as well as Kindle Fire tablets, and, for the first time, also allows for uploading user-generated content from the mobile device back to the Wireless Plus. It can also connect to an existing Wi-Fi network to relay the Internet connection to those connected to its own Wi-Fi, and share its contents with even more devices connected to the other Wi-Fi network.
With more than 10 hours of battery life and 1TB of storage space, it makes a perfect companion for a tablet owner, and is totally worth the $200 price tag. Read the full review of the Seagate Wireless Plus portable storage device.

(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
WD My Passport Edge
The new WD My Passport Edge is the latest in WD's My Passport family of portable drives. The new drive is now much more compact and light, while still offering very good USB 3.0 performance. The drive is designed for Windows PCs (though can easily be reformatted for Macs) and comes with very useful backup software. With a single capacity of 500GB, it'll make a very good companion for mobile users. Read the full review of the WD My Passport Edge.

(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt
The Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt portable drive, which came out in July, was the first Thunderbolt storage device on the market to also support USB 3.0. And it was the first to come with a Thunderbolt cable included, setting a new precedent that has been followed by other drives, such as the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt above. Available in 500GB and 1TB capacities, the hard-drive-based Buffalo performed well in my testing. It also looks great. It comes formatted for Macs but can be easily reformatted to work with Windows.
The only downside is the fact that it isn't available with an SSD. Still, it's a great portable storage device, especially for those who work with both Thunderbolt-enabled and legacy computers. Read the full review of the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt.

(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
Seagate Backup Plus
The Backup Plus (available in 500GB, 750GB, and 1TB capacities) is the latest portable hard drive from Seagate, replacing the company's popular GoFlex line, which was first introduced back in 2001 and is known for being extremely flexible. Though the name has changed, the new product family retains the flexibility of the previous design; in fact, new Backup Plus drives work with the old GoFlex adapters. However, they now offer a new, easy backup approach, not just for local storage but also for your social-media personal data.
The Backup Plus drives also come in many colors to fit your tastes. In fact, the color of the backup software's interface actually changes based on the color of the drive. This isn't a huge deal, but it's definitely fun and helps you know which drive you're working with. Read the full review of the Seagate Backup Plus.

(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
WD My Passport
Western Digital's new My Passport is the first portable drive that offers up to 2TB of storage space. The USB 3.0 drive is compact and bus-powered, and offered very fast performance in my testing. It also comes with effective backup software and useful utilities for both Windows and Mac computers.
The new My Passport comes in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities and will make a great companion for those who want to carry a lot of data on the go. Read the full review of the 2TB WD My Passport.

Apple invents laser projected keyboard & depth perception system, reveals ad-hock cash dispensing network

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a couple of interesting patent applications from Apple today. One patent described various embodiments of a depth perception system and laser projection, while another concerned an “ad-hock cash dispensing network” that would turn iPhone users into walking ATMs.
PatentlyApple first covered the patent and highlighted several possibilities of using cameras and a laser source to determine the distance of an object and implement various applications based on detection of depth. The report explained an embodiment of the invention by describing how Apple could use the system integrated into, for example, an iMac. PatentlyApple also described how Apple could use the invention for laser projected keyboard applications (as pictured above):
In this example, the iMac is able to detect a user approaching it and activate a particular program, application, awake from sleep or power save mode, and the like… In patent FIG. 12, we see a user positioned in front of this future iMac such that the first and second beams 206a, 206b may at least partially intersect the user. The iMac’s updated iSight Camera will be able to determine the distance that the user is from iMac. The depth perception system increases the sensitivity of user detection for the iMac so that it could make a distinction between the user and an occupied chair… In Apple’s patent FIG. 11A shown below, we see the depth perception system incorporated into a mobile electronic device such as an iPad. In this example, the system may be used in combination with a projected control panel 115 (such as a keyboard, audio/video controls, and so on). The control panel 115 may be a light pattern projected from a light source onto a surface (e.g., table or desk), the control panel 115 may include different light shapes, colors, or the like for representing different inputs. pointed us to the “ad-hock cash dispensing network” patent published today and recently filed by Apple that would essentially allow iOS users to become ATMs for other iPhone users. Just imagine being able to withdraw cash when there simply isn’t an ATM or bank nearby. Apple’s system would allow other close by iPhone users to lend you cash, with the borrowed money returned to the lender through your iTunes account/credit card for a small fee (as pictured in the patent drawing below):
The basic idea, described in a patent application “Ad-hoc cash dispensing network” is pretty simple. Create a cash dispensing server at Apple’s datacenter, to which iPhones, iPads and Macs can connect via a specialized app. Need some quick cash right now and there’s no ATM around? Launch the Cash app, and tell it how much do you need. The app picks up your location, and sends the request for cash to nearby iPhone users.

Facebook Rips Off LiveJournal

Zuck's money mill has been on a futuristic roll, giving us the most advanced social search we've ever seen. It's advanced stuff. So why is FB toying with a feature ripped straight out of 2002? Welcome toemotional status updates.

TechCrunch picked up this niche feature being tested on a small shred of Facebook users, as tends to be the case with experimental Facebook features. But sometimes they become real. The gist is simple: instead of just typing what you're doing or feeling, you can select a helpful verb to frame your thoughts.
Kim Jong-Un is drinking Pepsi.
Kim Jong-Un is watching Workaholics Season 2.
Kim Jong-Un is feeling insecure about his rocket launch.
You get the idea. And it's that last one that's giving me serious retro vibes—it wasn't that long ago that LiveJournal users were sharing their feelings with smiley or frowny faces, their depressions, happy-weeps, and emo-joyrides. It always felt tacked on and juvenile to broadcast your mood.
Facebook's take looks a little more sophisticated than that, but it's still the same concept: the site will assist you in explaining what's going on in your life. In turn, you'll plug more searchable information into Graph Search—although a Facebook rep told TC that isn't the case yet. Yet. But it's hard to imagine why it wouldn't be: making status sharing an idiot-proof, almost child-friendly endeavor means more people are sharing, which means there's much more to find out there when you start plugging your friends into the search bar. These search results are only useful to the extent that we're pouring our lives into the FB funnel. If Facebook thinks we need smiley faces and pictures of books to help us do it, then that's what we might get.

Apple invention automatically adjusts A/V settings based on user positioning and environment

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple patent application for a system that dynamically changes audio and video settings based on where a user is located in relation to the source device, thus allowing for the best viewing or listening experience. 
Audio Enhancement

Source: USPTO.

Apple's patent application for "Devices with enhanced audio" covers not only speaker settings, but video adjustments as well. By using various sensors, such as cameras and microphones, the system is able provide an optimal experience with little to no input from the user. 

The method starts with data collected from a large variety of sensors, including imaging sensors, proximity sensors, microphones and infrared sensors, among others. By taking input from a given sensor array and processing the data, the system can determine the positioning of a user in relation to a computer screen or source device. Also taken into account is the user's environment, for example a large room with wooden floors, or a small room with drawn curtains. 

A multitude of inputs are covered in the patent, including cameras that monitor eye movements (gaze tracking) or facial recognition to calculate where a user is looking. Microphones can gauge the level of reverberation in a room and ambient brightness can be measured with light sensors. 
Multi User

Flowchart of process.

Next the data is processed to determine the best way to reach high quality output. Audio filters can be applied, the brightness or contrast of a display can be tweaked and speaker volumes can be altered. Basically any metric that can be controlled electrically is accounted for and calculated based on the data taken from the sensor inputs. 

A significant portion of the patent is dedicated to video conferencing, with the system being able to control the best way to facilitate two-way communications for both users. For example, an input such as facial recognition can be used to determine where a microphone should be "beam steered" to achieve maximum voice quality even when a user is looking away from the computer screen. Also mentioned are controls to determine how far away each person is from the camera, and the corresponding settings needed to adjust for the difference.
Multi User

Illustration of video conference call with multiple users.

The patent was first filed for in July 2011 and credits Aleksandar Pance, Brett Bilbrey, Darby E. Hadley, Martin E. Johnson and Ronald Nadim Isaac as its inventors.

Apple's laser-powered 'depth perception' system can be used for virtual keyboard, camera autofocus

A patent application discovered on Thursday reveals Apple is looking into a system that combines lasers with image sensors to measure both the distance to an object and its depth, allowing for the creation of new virtual device input and camera autofocus technologies. 
Laser System

Source: USPTO

The invention, first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in July 2011, is titled "Depth perception device and system" and calls for a two-part solution that leverages the accuracy of lasers and modern imaging sensors to determine distance and depth.

As noted in the patent's summary, the system can utilize a "fan shaped laser beam" in conjunction with an imaging system like a digital camera to calculate depth. In order to work, the laser beam must be varied in shape and intersect with at least a portion of the camera's field of view. This variation allow for an accurate determination of distance away from an object, as well as certain physical attributes of said object, based on how the laser interacts with the scene. 

Because laser light behaves in a fairly predictable way, an imaging sensor can monitor a field of view, observing how the laser reflects off of objects and returns to the sensor. After a number of variables are accounted for, like the offset of the laser source in respect to the camera, the captured reflected light is processed to determine the depth of each object. There are multiple arrangements covered for the laser, camera and lens, including one embodiment that calls for off-axis laser firing. 

From the patent's description:

In one example, the image capturing device may take a first image with the laser source turned off so that the beam is not present and then may take a second image with the laser source turned on and with the beam projected. The processor may then analyze the two images to extract an image of the beam alone. In another example, the image capturing device may include a filter such as a wavelength or optical filter and may filter out wavelengths different from the beam wavelength. In this example, the beam may be isolated or removed from other aspects of the image. The isolation of the beam may assist in evaluating the resulting shape or deformed shape of the beam to determine object depth.


Laser is within the camera's field of view.

The patent lists a number of scenarios where such technology can be applied. For example, the system can be used to create a two-dimensional representation of a scene, or a surface map of a specific object.

Going further, the system can be embedded in a computer or a mobile device, with Apple's iPhone mentioned by name. Specifically, the invention can be used in concert with a "projected control panel" to create a virtual keyboard or other types of virtual controls. In this embodiment, a light pattern is projected onto a surface and the depth perception system is used to determine the positioning of a user's fingers. 

Unlike so-called "laser keyboards" on sale today, Apple's system uses controlled laser light to determine depth as well as distance. Most products on the market use red or other colored lasers to project the virtual keyboard, while distance is determined through the use of an infrared diode.

In addition to the above uses, the depth perception system can also be used as a trigger for various functions of a laptop or desktop computer, such as power save mode. 

Computer Trigger

Illustration of computer trigger embodiment.

Finally, the patent notes the invention can be used to auto focus a camera by determining the distance away from an object and adjusting the lens element to focus at that depth. 

The depth perception system patent application credits David S. Gere as its inventor.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

BlackBerry launches Z10 touchscreen BB10 phone, unveils QWERTY Q10

The wait is finally over. BlackBerry has announced its new BlackBerry 10 device – the Z10. The phone was announced by BlackBerry during its BlackBerry 10 launch event today. The company claims that it is the best BlackBerry smartphone to date. It features a screen that has been designed specifically for touch input. The company has also announced the full QWERTY-based Q10, though not much is known about it yet. It is worth noting that the device will make it to Indian stores before it goes on sale in the US.

“Today sees a re-invented BlackBerry launching an entirely new mobile experience,” said Thorsten Heins, President and CEO of BlackBerry. “We are thrilled to be introducing BlackBerry 10 on the new BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10 smartphones, to deliver a faster, smarter experience that continuously adapts to your needs.  Every feature, every gesture, and every detail in BlackBerry 10 is designed to keep you moving.”

The company claims that BB10 and the device were designed together. The heart of the device, according to the company, is BlackBerry Flow. This essentially means that the interface is touch-based and everything is one swipe away. “Whatever you’re doing, you’re only one swipe away from the heart of all your activity,” said Heins
The BlackBerry Z10 is a full touchscreen phone running on BB10
The BlackBerry Z10 is a full touchscreen phone running on BB10

Here is a quick look at some of the highlights of the Z10:
  • 4.2-inch screen with a resolution of 1280 x 768
  • LTE, 3G, EDGE, Wi-Fi, NFC
  • GPS with A-GPS support
  • Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP
  • 8 megapixel AF camera with 1080p recording; 2 megapixel front facing camera with 720p recording
  • 16GB internal memory expandable up to 32GB via microSD
  • Micro HDMI for AV out

The phone runs on a dual core 1.5GHz TI OMAP 4470 processor and will support a quad band radio featuring HSPA+/UMTS, quad band GSM/GPRS and quad band LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 13, 17. It comes with 2GB RAM and supports all the standard Wi-Fi networks. All of this will be powered by an 1800 mAh battery. Going by the prices for the UAE, the Z10 is set to cost approximately Rs 36,000.
The BlackBerry Q10 is a full QWERTY phone running on BB10
The BlackBerry Q10 will satisfy those who insist on a physical keyboard

The OS also features the new BlackBerry Hub. The ever-present BlackBerry Hub is a single place to manage all your conversations whether personal or work email, BBM messages, social media updates or notifications, and the ability to “peek” into the BlackBerry Hub from anywhere, so you’re always only one swipe away from what matters to you.

One of the biggest selling points of BlackBerry 10 devices will be the BlackBerry World storefront. According to the company, it now includes 70,000 BlackBerry 10 apps. In addition, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare apps for BlackBerry 10 are preinstalled, and BlackBerry 10 customers will have access to apps from around the world.